An ordinary man becomes obsessed with the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler, and uncovers a world of living nightmares.
The pre-title sequence sets up Love & Monsters to be such a great episode. A normal bloke running around, looking for a Time Lord and his companion, a great looking monster in the Hoix, a monster I’m gutted wasn’t put to better use in this episode, or any other episode for that matter. And vlogging; who doesn’t love a vlogger in this day and age? Sadly, things go down hill rather fast. Very fast. Extremely fast.
What’s more upsetting for me is the fact that during the titles you realise that this episode is written by none other than show runner at the time, Russell T Davies, a writer who’s work is held with such high regard, not just in the Doctor Who community, but with his other bodies of work. A writer who, in the eyes of many Nu-Whovians, is like a god, the man who brought back the monsters to Saturday night TV and the man who brought back the man who fought those monsters.
If you go into this episode with no foreknowledge whatsoever, you will be lulled into the false sense of security that the villain for this episode is in fact the Hoix, but as soon as the titles have rolled, this impressive looking beast is reduced to nothing more than unnecessary comic relief when, for no apparent reason other than Rose throwing the wrong coloured bucket of liquid on it, there is a Scooby Doo-esque sequence of running through doors and appearing elsewhere during a chase which has no conclusion.
As soon as you think you’ve understood the pace of this episode it changes again, going from Elton talking into his camera describing the great times he’s met the Doctor, to him being outside his childhood home with his friend Ursula Blake operating the camera. One thing I did enjoy from this episode is the Doctor’s appearance in Elton’s home as a child, with the Time Lord looking ominously down toward the young unseen Elton.
Most people absolutely hate this episode, but on reflection it does have it’s good points; the main one for me being all the callbacks to the invasions that happened in the previous series, starting right from Rose and the Auton invasion, to the Slitheen crashing into Big Ben, to the Sycorax ship shattering into the Earth’s atmosphere. After the great short scene showing Elton’s whereabouts during these events, there’s suddenly a totally random musical interlude featuring Elton pratting about like he’s some sort of petulant child when he is, in fact, a grown man. Another thing that really annoys me about how the internet being used heavily somehow manages to make a computer blow up, but then, literally ten seconds later, the exact same computer is totally fine and able to access the internet no problem. To me, this marks either careless writing on Russell’s part or careless direction on Dan Zeff’s part. No offence to Zeff, as he didn’t have the strongest episode to start his Who directing career, but it’s clear why he’s not directed another episode since.
The main part of Love & Monsters that had potential, was LINDA, or the London Investigation ‘N Detective Agency. A small collective comprising of Mr. Skinner, Bridget, Bliss, Ursula and Elton. Five ordinary people who’s lives were all affected by the Doctor, who joined together to form a strong friendship. In my eyes, LINDA had the potential to have been another spin-off show aimed at children that didn’t always focus on alien invasions and planet wide threats, but showed that you can have a mutual interest and make your local area a much better place, but I digress. Bridget’s backstory about using LINDA as a retreat from the fact she lost her daughter to drugs is something that is very mature for Doctor Who, and is something I feel should have been explored more, preferably instead of the ‘musical LINDA’ scene where it’s overly apparent that none of the cast are playing any of the instruments at all. Thank goodness the power was cut.
The introduction of Victor Kennedy is once that is, I feel, supposedly was written to be threatening was more of a joke than some of the written jokes actually are. The following scenes of LINDA working for Kennedy are stupidly unrealistic, with Kennedy’s excuses for their teammates disappearance so juvenile, it’s like the script was written by a child who’d been told to write a funny TV show for their homework. And it just scraped a C at GCSE. Another moment of what I consider failed comedy is when Elton is sent to search for Rose, who could be anywhere in London, after a thirty second monologue about how this ‘impossible task’ was ‘so great’ with ‘such little chance of working’, the first woman that Elton talks to doesn’t just coincidentally know exactly who it is, but also knows where she lives and for some unknown reason also tells Elton about Rose’s mother, Jackie.
One thing I have to give credit to this episode for, is showing Jackie’s more vulnerable and lonely side whilst Rose is away travelling the universe. This idea could have easily been a whole episode, with the friendship between Elton and Jackie slowly blooming and Jackie confessing that, whilst she does have a tough exterior, inside she still cares deeply about her daughter, and misses her terribly. For me, the fact that Jackie falls for Elton so quickly and so heavily just shows to the audience what a vulnerable, lonely character she can be, as she latches onto the first person who gives her any attention. One thing Russell T Davies does really well is show how families can be effected by the adventures of the Time Lord when it’s their daughter involved. If anything is proven in this episode, it’s just how much Jackie cares, not only about Rose, but about the Doctor too. When she finds the picture of Rose in Elton’s jacket, she goes from having a soft spot for Elton to being the protective mother who would do anything to make sure that her child is safe.
The fact that the monster of the episode isn’t seen until two thirds of the way through the episode shows how little faith that they had in it. I know the Abzorbaloff was the winning entry of a Blue Peter competition, and the premise of the creation was rather brilliant, an alien that absorbed everything about you, from your intelligence and personality to your actual form is rather sinister, it’s just a shame it wasn’t used to it’s full effect.
The ending of Love & Monsters is one of the most bizarre endings of Doctor Who history, not only has every member of LINDA minus Elton been absorbed into the Earth, but the Doctor managed to partially rescue Elton’s love interest, Ursula, making her a face on a paving slab. The thing that’s most odd is the fact that, whilst Elton and Ursula are still in a relationship, Elton admits that they still have ‘a bit of a love life’. As a kid watching this episode, I thought it would be just kissing, but, as an adult, I’m aware of the more… mature meaning to that statement. I’m all for the LGBT characters in Doctor Who, I think it’s a great way to make children watching aware of these communities, I love Jenny and Vastra from the Paternoster Gang, but a relationship between a human and a piece of concrete with a face is a difficult one to explain to younger viewers.
Overall, Love & Monsters is an episode that apparently will never be forgotten, albeit for the wrong reasons. Whilst is does show Jackie as a fuller character, it’s a shame that wasn’t the premise of the story, and the Abzorbaloff could have been used to much greater effect.
The rating system on the Gallifrey Archive is achieved with on a scale of 1-10.
For Love & Monsters, I will give a rating of: