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Thursday, 10 July 2008

Doctor Who: Love & Monsters

...And then everything went wrong! This season of Doctor Who was going great guns, with a run of some of the most magnificent episodes in the show's new history and then it hit Love & Monsters.

Where to begin?

The Doctor Who production team employs some of the best writers and designers in the industry to come up with multi-faceted alien creatures such the cybermen, Ood, the daleks, the Sontarans, the Sea Devils and the Zygons, ... except for Love & Monsters, which centres around a stupid monster designed by a nine-year-old for a Blue Peter competition.

It's at times like this you wish there was someone higher up the Doctor Who food chain to just say to Russell T Davies: "Waitaminute, what's this rubbish?"

The Abzorbaloff (it "absorbs" "alot") is simply the worst monster ever to disgrace the Whoniverse. Making even the oft-ridiculed Myrka (from the Fifth Doctor era Warriors Of The Deep), look like a well-designed foe, this dumb monster supposed evolved somehow with the fatal flaw that it needs to keep its cane at hand so it can held together by a 'limitation field' the walking stick generates.

Did this Blue Peter competition only have one entry? Was this really Britain's imaginative youth could come up with?

I hadn't watched this Doctor-lite episode (the first of its kind) since it was first aired and began to wonder if, perhaps, it wasn't as bad as I remembered (or the entirety of fandom said). It was.

Even skipping over the awful Scooby-Doo sequence with the Hoix at the start of the episode, it was very gratifying to see incidents from several earlier episodes - namely the autons from Rose, the engineered crash from Aliens Of London and the Sycorax ship from The Christmas Invasion - from the perspective of 'the man in the street'.

But this gimmick was used to much better effect a couple of years later, in Turn Left, when the 'man in the street' was someone we were actually interested in - namely, Donna (Catherine Tate).

In an episode packed with gimmicks that wear thin quickly, we are also treated to LINDA (London Investigation 'N' Detective Agency), a gathering of banal stereotypes who have bonded through their fascination with the mysterious character known as The Doctor.

As a sub-plot for a 'proper' Doctor Who story, this might have had some interesting possibilities, but it's too thin an idea - and the personalities are too blah - for it to warrant a whole episode.

Matters aren't helped by the tragic stunt casting of the great comedian Peter Kay as Victor Kennedy aka the Abzorbaloff. Legend has it, he wrote a fan letter to RTD asking to be in the show and was originally considered for the lead role in this episode, Doctor-obsessive Elton Pope. But then he reconsidered and requested the role of the villain... to test his acting prowess.

Peter Kay is a funny, funny man, and while there are occasional moments of light humour in this role, Victor Kennedy is so two-dimensional that the part was a criminal waste of a celebrity guest star'.

Given The Doctor's passion for preserving human life, the story's ending - where he restores Elton's girlfriend as an 'animated paving slab' - just seems out of character as well. How does she survive? Will she age? Is she, like Captain Jack, now immortal? And the whole suggestion of a "love life" is just the wrong sort of creepy.

It's sloppy writing like this script that soils the sometimes child-like innocence of the Doctor Who oeuvre with childishness and unsophistication. If it had been from the pen of an unknown writer, I might have thought they knew nothing about the show or, perhaps, were mocking it as "just a kid's show". But we know RTD adores everything about Doctor Who, so you have to wonder where it all went wrong with Love & Monsters?

The only beacon of sanity in this whole sorry affair is Camille Coduri giving one of her finest and most moving performances as Jackie Tyler, Rose's lonely mum. Don't quote me: but, strangely, she's actually quite sexy as well.

Blink and Turn Left proved you don't need The Doctor in an episode to tell a good Doctor Who story, but at the time Love & Monsters was so awful, we dreaded their coming... which is probably what made helped them all the more sweet.

However, it was easy to think that Love & Monsters was just a temporary blip, given the excellence of this season to date. Surely things must get better with the next episode...

3 comments:

  1. We call it "The episode which must not be named". Think that says it all, really.

    When my 6-year old decided that it was "silly and childish" 10 minutes in, we knew it would be The Worst Dr Who Episode. Ever.

    Even Children in Need specials have been an order of magnitude better than this one.

    The sad thing is that under all the gawdawful script, stupidity and the very existence of Peter Kay there's the potential for the child's competition-winning entry to have been a half-decent monster. After all, Dr Who has managed to pull off worse concepts in it's time and make 'em work - the Adipose being a case in point.

    But hey, one bad episode out of countless hundreds. That's not a bad average, eh? :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. But hey, one bad episode out of countless hundreds. That's not a bad average, eh? :)

    Have you forgotten what came next?

    ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. There were so many things wrong with this episode on so many levels.

    And yet...

    ...and yet...

    ...I dunno, there was a certain amount of quirkiness I found endearing about this episode.

    (Please don't hurt me!)

    ReplyDelete

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