"Funny the things you think of with your shirt off."
IN THIS ONE... Elton's video diary.
REVIEW: There have been Doctor-lite and even Doctorless stories before, in the black and white era when schedules were long and actors had to be given vacations, so Davies brings the idea back in response to the equally grueling schedule of the new series. And I'm delighted. These off-beat episodes, usually shifting the show's point of view to another character, are among New Who's most inventive and charming. So it is with the first of these, Love & Monsters, a story with clever structure, using Elton's video diary/narration to play around with scene order, tease out future elements in montage, exaggerate some moments (the Internet meltdown, for example, and the whole Hoix sequence) and create humorous shifts from running commentary to visual (the scene where Jackie does all the "infiltrating" herself is classic). The do-it-yourself nature of the episode is perfectly in line with its theme too. It's a sort of fan artifact, and L&M is quite transparently a love letter to Doctor Who fans. LINDA is made up of very different people who all have one thing in common, their fandom, but through that common interest forge close friendships, romantic relationships, and get into all sorts of OTHER activities. RTD may be contrasting this "proper" fandom with Victor Kennedy's corruption, but I'm not sure what he's meant to represent in that allegory, if anything. Possibly those who denigrate others' expression of fandom (attacks on geek girls and cosplayers, for example), but it sort of falls apart at that level and I prefer to look at it simply a story about lovely people who get to know each other while discussing the mysterious appearances of the Doctor.
Only Elton (played by the engaging Marc Warren) has actually crossed paths with the Time Lord, and more than once. The truth behind the Doctor's visit during his childhood is heart-breaking (and the monster evocatively described by the Doctor), using the ELO soundtrack to great effect as Mr. Blue Sky - the episode's upbeat main "theme" and easily "Doctorish" - ends on melancholy notes. Beautiful. The tragedy is kept from us by the bouncy comedy, return visits to earlier Earth-centric episodes from Elton's POV, and a peek into Jackie Tyler's home life that goes a long redeeming the often cartoony character. Jackie is a "cougar" obviously breaking her own things so the handy Elton will have to come over and fix them, and soon aggressively puts the moves on him, but after a call from Rose, she withdraws, and I think we see how driven she is by loneliness. Her angry defense of Rose AND the Doctor when she realizes Elton's betrayed her shows her worth and is really rather touching. Even more so because Elton doesn't actually deserve the treatment.
Sounds like a great episode, right? Well, no, not quite. 31 minutes in, the Abzorbaloff happens and we're witness to the very worst of Doctor Who. Victor Kennedy wasn't a particularly welcome character before this point, but that was the point. He interrupted the charming stuff LINDA was up to, threatened violence and did away with the characters one by one. All he was good for was the obligatory Torchwood and Bad Wolf references. Once he turns into the monster created by a kid in a Blue Peter contest, it all goes dreadfully wrong. Peter Kay plays him just like Mike Meyers' Fat Bastard from the Austin Powers films (no thanks), and is closely related to the Slitheen, so he farts. Through one of the characters' absorbed faces. We've crossed the line into tastelessness. So while we're over there, let's have dull jokes about people tasting like chicken, and Ursula being "saved" as pacing stone that apparently gives Elton blowjobs. No really. They went there. Just awful. Why the Doctor would save her in this form when he was just recently euthanizing hundreds of Cyberpeople is just part of the nonsense that goes on in the last act. Except for the reveal about Elton's mum, those last 15 minutes are just irritant on top of irritant. It was all going so well before RTD decided to be naughty.
VERSIONS: The DVD holds deleted scenes that extend a number of moments and includes a fake-out where Elton seems to have a mom, but it's the landlady shouting from downstairs. More is spoiled in the opening monologue. And Ursula has her own ideas about the group's name.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: In the TARDISode, the Abzorbaloff tracks down LINDA on his computer before absorbing his own landlady.
REWATCHABILITY: The first 30 minutes High, the last 15 Low - A clever, offbeat episode with a fun pop soundtrack and endearing characters, completely let down by tasteless, repulsive jokes in the last act. Shame.