Sunday, June 18, 2006

Doctor Who - Love & Monsters

It is so tempting to do this review/blog in the style of someone from the show, but I'm resisting. I'm also really not sure whether Love & Monsters is either the best thing or the worst thing that Doctor Who has presented. I feel that perhaps it sits in the middle really, as deeply average. Trying so hard to do something new and yet failing on almost every count. What is telling, is that my notes on this episode cover just 4 sides of a secretary's notebook. The Satan Pit for example had 7 sides. I suspect the reason is that this episode has very little plot to speak of, and the absence of plot is made up for with 'comedy' scenes. So we kick off with our hero Elton. Not Elton John (I quite liked the clip of the singer in there though) but another Elton, and as he was the lead, he had to be well played. Marc Warren made a good attempt at this but at times came over as someone from one of the miriad 'teen' shows - many created and directed by Daniel Peacock - which is what this episode most resembled, even down to the group creating a 'band' (most of the Peacock shows feature a group of kids who are in a band and seem to be sub-SClub attempts to fuse teen entertainment with reality TV and pop). So Elton is telling us his story, how he first saw the Doctor in the middle of the night, standing in his front room when he was 3 or 4. We get flashbacks to him when the Nestene Consciousness attacked (2 years ago); when the Slitheen ship crashed in the Thames (12 months later); and when the Sycorax ship appeared over London. My family immediately decided that this was a cheap clips episode that all series seem to do at one point or another - usually without the main cast. And I have to say that I can see the similarities. Anyway, Elton meets up with Ursula having found her blog online about the Doctor, and through her meets Mr Skinner, Bridget and a girl called Bliss. They form a group called LINDA (London Investigation 'n Detective Agency) and start straying from the path of tracking down the Doctor by becoming friends, that is until the mysterious Mr Victor Kennedy arrives. Kennedy puts them back on the track of the Doctor - and this is where the opening sequence of the Doctor and Rose fighting an alien fits in. It's apparently called the Hoix and comes over like a Scooby Do sequence crossed with the Chuckle Brothers with the old 'running across the screen from different doors' gag, and Rose chucking blue or red buckets of liquid over the hapless alien. Very daft. But now the pace slows to a total crawl as Elton meets Jackie and she tries to seduce him. While amusing initially (only the scene in the Laundrette), this was way off beam for the timeslot and the audience and by 27 minutes into the show I was bored. When was something going to happen? Nothing had developed so far and all the talk and flirting and stuff ... sheesh. But then Elton and Ursula confront Kennedy who reveals himself as a green alien which has absorbed their friends. Quick as you like, Ursula is absorbed as well, and the talking faces on the creature's body was very unsettling, as was the revelation that the process was irreversible. Nasty. Especially for poor Bliss who seems to be on the creature's buttock. But now I was starting to see and hear Mike Myer's grotesque creation Fat Bastard from the Austin Powers movies. Especially the line that Ursula tasted of chicken ... So Elton runs, Fat Bastard chases, and we're back in Chuckle Brothers territory with a race through the streets. Until Elton gives up ... the Doctor of course now arrives, but only because Rose wants to give Elton a piece of her mind for harassing her mum! The creature (which seems to like being called an Absorbaloff though that's probably not its name) is identified by Rose as being a bit 'Slitheen' but which comes from the twin planet of Raxacoricofallapatorius, a place called Clom (good comedy value there), and the Doctor encourages those absorbed within to fight against the creature, Elton grabs its cane, smashes it, and it does what most aliens do at the end of an episode written by Russell T Davies, it explodes in green slime. Now we learn that the Doctor was in Elton's house all those years ago because his mother had been killed by an elemental shade which had escaped from the howling halls ... I think I'd assume that a stranger in my house, standing in a room with the corpse of my mother would be cause for intense therepy and probably repression of the memories ... I would not assume that the Doctor was some sort of friend. The sequence of young Elton and his mum on flashback cine film was nice, and the ELO's 'Mr Blue Sky' a fitting piece of music for that sequence. The show should have ended here. But it didn't. Instead we get a coda where the Doctor 'rescues' Ursula by condemming her to live forever, without aging, in a paving slab. Lovely. Does the Doctor never think about the consequences? The quip about Elton and Ursula having a bit of a love life (which I thankfully missed on the first viewing) was totally unneccessary and unwarranted - where are you when we need you Controller of BBC1? The final philosophising from Elton was also a little too much - more foreshadowing that something nasty is going to happen to Rose and Jackie and indeed everyone who touches the Doctor, even a little. So overall, an episode with high comedic value. One which seems so out of place in the series as to be unbelievable, and which takes the art of not having a plot to the extreme. I think for me, this is the season's Boom Town, and it's probably no coincidence that it's in almost the same position in the running order. Can't say I liked it or loathed it really. It's not Doctor Who - the first episode that feels like it's from another series and which just happens to feature the Doctor and Rose as guest stars. Even the X-Files like music encouraged and enhanced that feeling. Next week ... we seem to have a riff on the old favourite children's novel Marianne Dreams, filmed as the superb Paperhouse. I do hope it does something new with the idea and isn't just a retread.


Anonymous said...

I more or less liked it! Treat it as a bit of fun and not to be taken seriously and it works great, it's almost spoof really - I personnally loved the Scooby Doo homage! It worked for me.

However I think you made good points David especially in the badly judged finale which was excellently bittersweet and would have made it a treat... until the revelation of Ursula as Paving Slab. That one Terrible move that sunk it all IMO.

It WAS frothy, typical RTD and it's become clear he can't write an intelligent plot to save his life! This new series is not very big on consequences or people taking responsibility, no matter what some think...
I do think the Earth fixation is getting TOO much - next week looks more of the same, and the same after that... The Doctor is like a ship without a rudder. Aimless.

Anonymous said...

Your much more complimentary than me, David!!


SAF said...

Interesting - I was within a thought's breadth of describing this one as 'this season's Boom Town' myself. You share some other similar views to mine, but on the whole I can safely say my final assessment was less complimentary:


Anonymous said...

I agree with you 100%. I thought the first 20 minutes was extremely similar to episodes of RTD's Queer as Folk series. And only thought it really took off in the last 15 minutes.

I described it to my friend Dan and he also said "So it's this year's Boomtown".

I think it was a good idea, but poorly executed.

And I thoguht the whole Jackie seduction thing was out of place in a pointedly little kids show.

Then again, Shaun Lyon last night at Dinner told me he really liked it, so I guess there's no accounting for taste. ;0)

-Erik Engman

Andrew Glazebrook said...

I thought this episode was great fun !