5/13/13

Doctor Who Reviews: Love & Monsters (SPOILER WARNING!)

By: 14th Lord



Love and Monsters is written by the lead writer of Doctor Who from 2005-2009, the famous, or infamous, Russel T Davies. Love and Monsters was the first of the “Doctor-lite” stories put out in the 2005 revival, and boy did it drop the ball.

What's a Doctor-lite episode you ask? Well to put it simple, TV shows can sometimes put out a small budget episode designed to cost little by not featuring the high paid actors, or at least to a minimal extent. Instead of seeing the featured class of actors, we meet low budget actors, usually those without much of a resume to speak of, leading the show. Another method of cutting costs are often called bottle episodes, where most the show takes place in a small set, usually something they already have lying around so they can save money from locations. A final method of cutting costs are usually referred to as flashback episodes, where the team uses clips from episodes throughout the run of the series while interlocking it with some contrived events to make it explainable. Regardless of the budget cut method used, this is an effective way to save money for season finale's so that they could even look more grand. Personally of these three methods, just keeping the big budget actors like David Tennant (The Doctor) and Billie Piper (Rose) to a minimal seems the best.

Since its aired, Love & Monsters has earned its place on countless Top 10 lists for worst Doctor Who episodes, with good reason. While some might say it's because the Doctor is barely in it, we also have the episode Blink from series 3 at the opposite end of the spectrum! Unlike Love & Monsters which is pretty universally hated, Blink is wildly heralded as one of the best episodes of modern Doctor Who!

Despite the largely poor reception though, I actually didn't find this episode as painful to watch as many seem to have. While this episode is definitely a lower quality episode than some, it's by no means terrible, and this is coming from someone who's a pretty strong critic of Russel's writing.

The episode begins with a odd mysterious feel, a man rushing over a dirt hill before finding something odd and out of place, something with a ominous aura. Two us though, we know this to be the Doctors Tardis that our stranger has found. The moment of awe and ominous wonder is quickly dispelled as we hear a familiar voice, screaming out for the Doctor. With that, we're off on a chase inside a warehouse!

Screams are abundant before at last we meet the first beastly of this episode, and isn't he a beauty?



Right after getting a good look at our full glories dental records, we discover that this isn't presently occurring. We see our Stranger now in front of a camera, iterating the story of the misadventure through a fish eye lens, because shut up that's the lens that comes with home sold cameras. With that, the title score plays.

Let me start out by saying that I found this right off the bat a very interesting premise for an episode. Someone telling of his adventure meeting the Doctor. We almost never get to see or understand it in the point of view of non-companions meeting the Doctor, and how their everyday lives are rocked by his pretense, so this to me would make a unique and fulfilling viewer experience.

Getting started with the actual episode, we're quickly treated to some very enjoyable Doctor and Rose antics that this pairing was most famous for. Before long we're treated with a Scoobydoo style chase scene, back and forward between rooms of a corridor. All that's missing is benny hill playing in the background.

We eventually come to learn the name of our Stranger to be Elton, and the name of his lady friend / cameragirl to be Ursula. Elton tells the camera in a documentary format of how and when he first met the Doctor as a child, never knowing why he found him in his house. Soon we come to learn he had practically front row seats to many of the crazy alien events that’s been occurring throughout the series. We see flashbacks of the plastic invasion back in the series intro with Rose, the alien ship crashing into Big Ben during World War 3, and even the Christmas invasion.

With the recent onslaught of alien invasions, Elton browses the internet for anything he can find when at last he comes across Ursula's blog. They had their first meeting as on her blog, she had a photo of the Doctor, who he first met as a child. While Elton had met the Doctor as a child, the photo was recently, and he looked exactly the same. To the viewer, that's an “Of course!” moment, but to some everyday man who only the face to being something he saw briefly in his childhood, it was a mystery that perhaps would of never been answered, yet with the alien invasions he learned his name. First name The, last name Doctor.

One curious thing about this though struck me. The photo was supposedly taken during the Christmas Invasion, but during the ENTIRETY of the episode, he was in a blue bathrobe and PJ's, yet in the picture he was in full brown suit and coat. It's only at the end when he's back at Rose's place did he took the outfit, but he spent all of 10 minutes tops outside Rose's apartment. Did Ursula just chill outside Rose's place to sneak a picture of him? Kind of a odd place to be taking pictures when there's alien space ships over the skies of London but ah well.



It was Ursula who told Elton who the Doctor was, well, at least his alias, causing him to respond in a manner that made me scream in joy. Whenever the Doctor introduces himself, it's a ongoing gag of the show for them to ask “Doctor Who?” but to me, I always thought that was odd, I'd ask “Doctor What?” instead. Good old Elton though didn't fall for the Doctor Who gag, and instead asked “Doctor What?” much to my endearment.

Ursula begins to tell Elton of what sounds like a cult society, the “Inner Sanctum” as she put it, who studies the Doctor. We get another view of the Elton before the camera who's telling us of how he first met Ursula before making a comment that's a bit on the strange side, “Poor Ursula” followed by a clip of her screaming. How ominous.

The lead member of the group is a Mr. Skinner, who was the one to recognize the importance of Ursula's supposedly random picture of the Doctor that she took during the Christmas Invasion. We get a quick scene where he discusses the Doctor in front of a diagram. Then we meet bridget who expands on this, claiming that there are many different Doctors, but always a blue Police Box cropping up throughout history, even in egytion hieroglyphics! At last we meet Bliss, who's obviously the artistic type, making a highly abstract sculpture that she claims to be or represent the Doctor, though to me it more closely resembles a abstract sort of tentacles. Perhaps she just has those kind of fantasies about the Doctor.

They discuss forming a name for their cult-like group should have a name, a strong, manly one! Like Linda! Surprisingly enough, everyone agrees with Elton on the name. Apparently he's been wanting to use the name Linda for years. Ah well that explains a few things about him I suppose.



It isn't long before Linda devolves from a investigative group of the Doctor's activities to a casual hang out group of friends, bringing food, reading their stories, a band, and even a therapy group for one and another. While this is all done in brief scenes, it gives effective character building, and makes every member feel that much more real. It's then while playing in their band together, that they meet Victor Kennedy.

Victor Kennedy brings new information, video and sound clips about the Doctor to the group, restarting their investigation on the Doctor's activities. He quickly takes command of the group, sending them all out on elite missions, but not before asking Bliss to stay behind for a quick chat. As the make off discussing the his new management, a scream is heard, not that our Linda gang hears it. After that, Bliss inexplicably goes missing. Getting Married, so Victor Kennedy claims. It is then that they head out on a mission to track down the Doctor, bringing us through a quick montage of the events at the beginning of the episode.

Angry at Elton for running off when he confronted the Doctor, Victor quickly shows his colors and becomes violent, threatening to beat him for his failure. After a quick confrontation with Ursula threatening Victor back, he concedes and forms a new plan, to find the Doctor's companion. He begins showing pictures of Rose on power point, mentioning the “Torchwood Files” for the second time in this episode. While these files held information on the Doctor, it was a bit lacking when it came to his companions, thanks to a Bad Wolf Virus.



As we've learned in previous episodes, the Doctor gave a virus to Mickey to unleash, that would erase all information of his existence. Apparently the virus has quite a bit to be desired as there's more information on him than his companions but ah well. This brief mention does make a nice good continuity nod, while foreshadowing the events to come in this season.

Victor gives them the impossible task of finding Rose by foot, armed only with a photo. A seeding task, finding a girl in 10 million. A task that demands the impossible made possible. So of course Elton near instantly discovers someone who not just recognizes her, but point out her house which is within walking distance of where he is. Even knows her mother! Well, that was anticlimactic. A quick jog away and he just happens to hear someone calling for Jackie, Rose's mother who Elton just learned of. What luck. Not only that, she quickly enters the laundromat and with him on her heels, thinking of ways to create an interaction between the two, she initiates conversation. Jackie by the way is very talkative. As Elton begins his infiltration of Jackies household, Victor Kennedy is seen asking to speak to Bridget in private. Of course, another scream is heard, none to Linda's awareness.

I find it amusing how they continuously build up a tense moment of how Elton would do such daring and difficult tasks, only to have him effortlessly accomplish it thanks to wonky coincidences.

Quickly infiltrating Jackie's household, well, by infiltrating, I mean Jackie invites him over regularly for handyman work. Soon Elton found himself a regular visitor of Jackie's apartment as she begins attempting to seduce him. Wow does Jackie like them young. Elton looks half her age easily. Though I suppose looks can be deceiving as in reality the actor playing Elton is only 2 years younger than the actress playing Jackie, even if to me he looks to be in his mid 20's while Jackie is in her late 40's.



It's during her seduction that Jackie gets a phone call from Rose, which kills her libido. Funny how 5 minutes could of saved Elton's now wine stained shirt, and not leave him topless in front of her. Though to be fair, if he wasn't topless infront of her, he may of not had his revaluation that finding the Doctor no longer truly mattered to him, but instead Ursula was what mattered most to him. We get a cheesy montage of Elliot thinking back to Ursula and the fun times he had with Linda. Well, that sentence could be read a bit awkwardly. Anyway he remembers all the fun times in Linda and we even see clips of him boogieing out in front of the camera at home, perhaps to show he was happy? Alas he runs off to get a pizza to cheer up Jackie, but alas in his absence, she finds a picture of her daughter in his coat.

Elliot goes back and rampages over Victor Kennedy's aggressive management, leading to the exodus of Linda out of Victors clutches. As they make their leave though, Victor bribes Skinner to stay, claiming he'll help find Bridget who's since gone missing if he continues to help him.

As Elton and Ursula leave together to begin their romantic affair, a scream is heard once more, this time it's Mr. Skinner. Still no one hears it, and it's only a coincidence that they forgot something inside, that leads them to return, only thanks to Ursula forgetting her phone. I'll mention this now since this is the last time we'll hear it, but what's the point of giving a agonized scream every time, in a way it seems Elton should hear, when it's obviously purely for the viewer to acknowledge? It destroys any suspense or mystery, and makes the characters look like complete sods for not noticing.

They take the elevator back up to the meeting room, when they notice something amiss, at last. Mr. Skinner is missing, and Victor Kennedy is acting very suspicious, hiding behind a newspaper he has propped up, covering him completely. Victor attempts to pursue them away, but the faint murmur of Mr. Skinner crying for help is finally heard. At last the truth is out, and they discover that Victor Kennedy is a Alien who absorbs people, and has been absorbing them one by one. An Abzorbaloff. Oh and Bliss, our resident hippy off the group, has had the misfortune of having her face appear on the creatures rear end, and I don't mean his back. All the while the creature tries being as disgusting as possible, lapping its tongue around in a nasty manner that makes you just want to vomit.



The monster design in this episode, needless to say, is subject to high amounts of criticism. The design and name actually came form a nine year old who entered a competition and one, which explains the simplistic design, though I'd like to note the Abzorbaloff was originally supposed to be far larger.



At last regardless to why the monster design was chosen, doesnt change the fact that it came out looking like a disgusting obese mess of a creature. It manages to grab Ursula, absorbing her into its mess of a body before Elton makes his a run for it. Apparently, Ursula can read his mind thanks to having been absorbed, and used the talent to warn Elton he was next, not that it shouldn't be painfully obvious. That little talent would have been a bit helpful if anyone else had decided to tell Ursula what it was thinking before it ate her.

As Elton Is cornered and waits for his demise, the Tardis is heard, the Doctor and Rose making its way out in a scene that looks quite legendary. That is, until Rose opens her mouth, upset with Elton over her mother. Typical Rose and Doctor antics begin. In a continuity nod, Rose asks if the creature is Slitheen, not that I can see the similarities. At last her guess was sort of correct, as the creature came from a twin planet of the Slitheen, Clom. Well, simple name, especially since the Slitheen had a long complex name. It isn't long before the Doctor manages to defeat the monster of the week, with only a single nonchalant line.

The creature dissolved and the Linda gang are gone, all but Elton remaining. The Doctor explains why he was there that day, all those years ago when Elton first met him. He tracked down a creature, but not before it killed his mother. We see a montage of her, in a fashion of old family film that helps make her feel real, and like her loss seems heartfelt.

Elton foreshadows on the dire fates of those who come into contact with the Doctor, wondering how long it will be before Rose and Jackie feels it as well. As he lamnents, a familiar voice is heard consoling him. The Doctor apparently managed to rescue Ursula! Leaving her as a heavy stone tile. A face in a stone tile. And apparently they have a love life. Ew.



Love and monsters would begin a tradition of Doctor-lite episodes, thanks to how successful it was at both lowering the budget and speeding up production time as they could film two episodes in the same time as one. While it was a casual fun episode, with solid directing, it came off pretty hammy often enough.

Non-Reoccuring Characters 9/10
Perhaps it helped having a cast entirely of guest stars, allowing more focus to be spent on them and their lives, making them all feel very real. Their losses seem real, and isn't brushed off like it often is, and the characters are likable all around.

Plot 6/10
While there's nothing wrong with the plot, even making continuity nods hear and there, there's no real revelations throughout the story and no development for the series as a whole is made. It relies pretty heavily on the viewer assuming the characters are too stupid to notice everyone's going missing one by one after the monster asks to speak with them in private. It's a pretty standard in means of a story, with a simple victory and conclusion. Though the Ursula becoming a stone tablet thing is pretty disturbing. How can anyone think that's a happy ending, even if they try to write off Ursula as being happy with it?!

Fun Factor 7/10
The episode is pretty decent and fun to watch, even without the Doctor's presence. This episode is a solid fun viewing experience, even if just watching once.

Directing and Writing 6/10
While the directing and writing was standard, there's nothing here to wow or awe you, with the awkward screams and the overall dealings with the Abzorbaloff just awkward and disgusting to the point that it's a bit disturbing to watch out of how vomit-inducing the material is. I can understand trying to make this creature as disgusting as possible, but did they really need to make an ass joke, and have it licking the air for no other reason besides to look disgusting?

Overall 7/10
While many might disagree with me, Love & Monsters is a solid watching experience, though I wouldn't recommend watching it more than once. The last 15 minutes of the episode can be pretty difficult thanks to the crude jokes revolving an absolutely disgusting mess of a monster. Overall, the episode adds nothing to the overall plot and story arch, and while largely can be skipped, it's still worth a viewing, at least to know the infamous scenes from the end.

Watch Vote: Watch once. While it's alright to watch once, it doesn't hold up to being rewatched or thought about.


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