When the revived Doctor Who came in 2005, I was like so many NuWhovians are today. EVERY episode was BRILLIANT, every story was EPIC, everything was THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME. OMG Rose Tyler is the GREATEST COMPANION OF ALL TIME!! OMG Christopher Eccleston is the GREATEST DOCTOR OF ALL TIME! OMG David Tennant is the GREATEST DOCTOR OF ALL TIME!! OMG! Lady Cassandra is BACK! OMG!!! Sarah Jane Smith is BACK!! WOW...The Doctor met Madame De Pompadour!!!
DOCTOR WHO IS THE GREATEST TELEVISION PROGRAM OF ALL TIME!!!!!!!!
Then came Love & Monsters, and I was violently awakened from my Doctor Who slumber. For me, Love & Monsters marked a demarcation line. After this episode, I became more cynical, more ambivalent, more suspicious, towards this sci-fi program. I realized that I could no longer give Doctor Who a free pass just because I was a fan. Love & Monsters is more than appallingly bad. Love & Monsters is a flat-out insult to Doctor Who fans, and ever since I have looked on NuWho with a jaundiced eye.
I had not seen Love & Monsters since it premiered, and looking back at it the memory of Love & Monsters is actually worse than the episode itself. That doesn't mean Love & Monsters will ever be reevaluated: it is still a simply inexcusably bad episode. However, it is not as horrifying the second time round as it is the first time. Still, Love & Monsters will never an episode which a non-Who watching person should ever see as their first Doctor Who story.
Told primarily through the video recording of Elton (Marc Warren), we hear of Elton's fascination with The Doctor (Tennant), whom he has crossed paths with on many occasions. He was there when the Autons attacked, when the Slitheen arrived, and when the Sycorax threatened the world. He also has an earlier encounter with Tenth, but more on that later. Online, he manages to contact Ursula Blake (Shirley Henderson) who is also a believer in The Doctor ("Doctor What?", Elton asks, showing that Steven Moffat didn't write this episode). Soon Elton and Ursula meet other believers: the quiet Mr. Skinner (Simon Greenall), the chatty Bliss (Kathryn Drysdale) and the endearing Bridget (Moya Brady). They begin at first to try to find the mystery of The Doctor, but soon LINDA (London Investigating N Detective Agency) starts becoming a bit of a social club and soon all but forget looking for The Doctor. They bring snacks, Bridget shares about how she comes to London to find her drug-addicted daughter, Mr. Skinner begins reading from his unfinished novel, and soon they all form a garage band of sorts (Elton, despite his name, is a big Electric Light Orchestra fan).
The fun and games (not to mention their rendition of Don't Bring Me Down) comes to a brutal halt with the arrival of Mr. Kennedy (Peter Kay). This mysterious figure, all draped in black and who cannot touch or be touched due to a skin condition he says, tells them he will bring them back to their mission. They soon begin to do hard work, following every lead that comes their way. Among those is the beginning of Love & Monsters: Elton's encounter with the Doctor and his Companion. After a quick investigation, we find this Companion has a name, Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) and her mother, Jackie (Camille Coduri). The ever-tarty Jackie takes a shine to Elton, even going so far as to attempt to seduce him and getting him through subterfuge to get his shirt off. As Elton contemplates a romp, Jackie calls it off after receiving a call from Rose, which puts her out of a romantic mood. Elton by now has decided to give up these espionage ways and start a platonic friendship with Jackie, but she finds a photo of Rose and the TARDIS in his jacket, and promptly throws him out.
By this time LINDA has been reduced to three members. Bliss and Bridget have disappeared and the others don't really question or follow-up on their friends. Elton, backed up by Ursula, tell Kennedy to get lost and begin to leave. Kennedy manages to hold Mr. Skinner back, saying he has news on Bridget (with whom Skinner has fallen in love). However, we find he disappears when Ursula and Elton return almost immediately to get her phone. Here, we discover that Mr. Kennedy is really a monster, literally. He is an Abzorbaloff, a monster who absorbs other creatures. He has absorbed the other members of LINDA, and managed to absorb Ursula due to his touch. The Abzorbaloff goes after Elton, but he is saved by the Doctor and Rose, who have tracked him down so Rose can give Elton a right dressing down for having upset Jackie. The Abzorbaloff threatens Elton, but Ursula, Mr. Skinner, Bridget, and Bliss (all of whom are still within the Abzorbaloff) pull together to pull him apart. Still, it is too late for them save Ursula, who through the Doctor's 'magic wand' (Elton's words, not mine), is able to restore her somewhat.
As for Elton's first memory of the Doctor, it seems that the Doctor had chased down some creature to Elton's home, but was too late to save Elton's mother. Still, Elton quotes Steven King, "Salvation and damnation are the same thing," and at least Elton and Ursula are together. They even have a bit of a love life...or as much of a love life a man can have with a woman who is basically a large piece of cement.
Talk about giving head...
Doctor Who has had some real clunkers in its fabled history. Starting from the First Doctor story The Web Planet right on through the Second Doctor story The Dominators or The Fifth Doctor's Time-Flight and the Sixth Doctor's Timelash, it would be fair to say that every Doctor has had at least one bad story (though Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor has more than his fair share). However, I have seen the Doctor Who episode so atrocious, so hideous, so repulsive, that it killed the series for me.
How HORRIBLE was Love & Monsters? It was so bad...HOW BAD WAS IT?...It was so bad I refused to watch the succeeding episode Fear Her because the trailer came out at the end of it, and I wanted NOTHING to do with anything connected with Love & Monsters.
How HORRIBLE was Love & Monsters? It was so bad...HOW BAD WAS IT?...that after stumbling through Doomsday Parts 1 & 2 (Army of Ghosts/Doomsday) I flat-out REFUSED to watch Doctor Who.
That's correct. I QUIT watching Doctor Who. It wasn't until The Waters of Mars that I returned, and that was only because I knew David Tennant was leaving the series. I missed the Master, all of Martha Jones and Donna Noble, and the 'meta-crisis' Doctor, all because I was so utterly disgusted by Love & Monsters that I could no longer give my time to something so flat-out hideous.
It isn't even the oral sex thing that damns Love & Monsters (though frankly that doesn't help). It as if Davies wanted to deliberately insult Doctor Who fans, not just with this story, but with the whole LINDA concept. The members all seem to be rather lonely, a group of misfits who find little outside their fixation on The Doctor to fill their lives. Even the things they do have seem rather sad (did Davies think Bridget looking for her drug-addicted daughter shouldn't have a resolution). All I could think of was that poor Bridget's daughter was out there, homeless, high, with little hope of ever recovering and no chance of they ever reuniting. Is it me, or am I the only one who finds that cruel? Putting these people and have them come to grisly ends is so, so wrong.
However, the story itself is idiotic and illogical on so many levels. Who exactly is Elton relating this story to? It looks like he is putting this video online, so we have to ask who exactly is his target audience? Furthermore, why is he talking at all, and why does he interrupt his video with his dancing to Mr. Blue Sky...twice? With Elton telling us about his encounter with the Doctor and Rose, the story starts off well, but as soon as we cut to Elton telling us the story, all the menace is lost. Instead, we get treated to Doctor Who doing a Benny Hill skit with the Doctor, Rose, and a monster running around. I really was waiting for Yakety Sax to start playing as they ran across the various doors.
I also question why Kennedy would so easily take power over LINDA. No one objected to him bullying his way and taking the fun out of things, no off-sight meetings where they talk about how unhappy they are with him there, and no sense where any of them asks whatever happened to the missing members. You'd think they would have each other's e-mails or phone numbers, but apparently they didn't. We also get the rather horrifying sight of Jackie so nakedly trying to get at a man she barely knows (though in fairness, even though Warren and Coduri are the same age, he looks much younger, so at least it is no longer as sick as I originally thought when I thought he was somewhere between Rose and Jackie's age). Throw in the flat-out insulting bit of Rose dressing down Elton when he's about to be devoured by the Abzarbaloff. Is she stupid or just so whiny that she misses the point of all this? Even the Abzorbaloff looked at her with a puzzled expression, as if he himself couldn't believe the Companion could be so daft.
Finally, the entire "Oh, I saw your Mommy get killed thing" is so appalling on so many levels. How does Elton forget his mother getting killed, and why is the Tenth Doctor involved? Was Rose with him in all this? Given that Nine regenerated to Ten with Rose with him, and there hasn't been evidence she has left him for any period of time, where does Mrs. Pope's death fit within their adventures? Come to think of it, Elton shouldn't be obsessed with the Doctor. Elton should try to kill him. The Doctor has been inadvertently responsible for his mother's death, his friends death, and his love interest's death. Given all that, why does Elton LIKE the Doctor?
A big hurdle for Love & Monsters was that the monster was created by a nine-year-old boy. William Grantham (no relation to Downton Abbey's Lord Grantham) won the Blue Peter "Design a Doctor Who Monster" Contest. The obvious question is, "Why?" How bad could the other entries have been if the winner turned out to be so horrendous? It doesn't seem fair to beat up on a child, but the entire decision to hand over a major part of a Doctor Who story to a child seems like a daft decision. It certainly opens up the production to charges that, "it's so easy even a child could do it", which in this case, a child did. Grantham stated that he envisioned the Abzorbaloff to be the size of a double-decker bus. I would have hoped it would have been envisioned to be...well, interesting. The Abzorbaloff (I always wonder whether he should have had a Russian accent) has only the vaguest reason for being an antagonist, and a pretty weak one too.
The performances were almost all bad. I thought well of Warren, but apart from him everyone else was either awful (Kay) or slumming it (Tennant, Piper). The comedy fell flat, the drama was overwrought, the horror was not, and in short Love & Monsters is an ugly mess all around in every manner.
Love & Monsters was a deeply troubling and traumatizing episode, and not just for the 'love life' bit Elton threw in at the end. Put it down to my hopelessly naïve nature, but the first thing I wondered when Elton said that was, "How could they have a love life?" It took a while, and then I thought, "Eww...". Russell T Davies may deny it all he wants, but the inclusion of an oral sex joke in a children/family show is the lowest point in Doctor Who history.
In the final analysis, the actual memory I have of Love & Monsters is uglier than the actual episode itself. Time has healed the horrifying, traumatic experience I had with this episode. I can look back at it without actually vomiting (as I did the first time, which was my exact reaction when I saw Hayden Christensen at the end of Return of the Jedi). However, while the passing of the years has softened the actual viewing experience of Love & Monsters, the story itself remains a sad and sorry embarrassment to all concerned. I would rather watch River Song in a ménage a trois with the Eleventh Doctor and Madame Vastra (which I figure many Whovians would LOVE to see) than watch Love & Monsters.
I survived Love & Monsters, and thank God I NEVER have to watch it again...
|I'm sorry. I'm so sorry...|
Well, you should be!
Next Episode: Fear Her