Love and Monsters

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    Craig @craig

    Oh dear. And now we come to a serious misstep by RTD. It really is one of those “What were they thinking?” episodes.

    Elton Pope joins a group of like-minded people hoping to find our more about The Doctor. When the mysterious Victor Kennedy joins the group the fun soon stops and Elton discovers a darker side to his hobby.

    The Krynoid Man @thekrynoidman

    I’ve already posted my thoughts on this episode on another forum so I will just post a link.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    You know, this is the first time I’ve watched this in about five years. Revisiting it, I think there are multiple reasons you wouldn’t like it, and I can only explain mine.

    At its heart, this is a story about fandom. I realise some people don’t like the portrayal of fans as strange loner nerds, but I don’t object to it because this isn’t a broad stereotype of every fan, but a pretty adept look at certain fans. Like Russell, I think. And me. I was a fan pre-internet and used to partake in the various social clubs and associations before shouting at each other on forums became the easier route. Like the members of LINDA we met over our obsession with the Doctor and developed friendships that wouldn’t have existed otherwise, sharing love of music, books, comedy and so many other issues. There is a lot of genuine warmth in their story, and I particularly praise Marc Warren and Shirley Henderson for their parts. I think, in Elton, I recognise parts of my adolescent self. Social awkwardness, certainly.

    I’m genuinely bewildered by the appeal of Peter Kay and he appears to be pitching his performance at a show in a parallel universe with strange and unlikely Universal constants. Victor Kennedy is too Arch, and The Abzorbaloff too crass. I found myself wanting the fast-forward over every bit he was in.

    Ultimately it’s the ending I really object to. It’s not the crassness of the innuendo relating to fellatio at the end, because who doesn’t love a bit of crass innuendo?

    It’s the fate of Ursula full stop. I can’t explain to you how fundamentally wrong it seemed to me that the Doctor, who has railed against and battled innumerable enemies (such as the Cybermen) who have attempted to dehumanise humanity, or who has always understood that death is actually preferable to certain states of existence would willingly participate in that ending. I think, if you remember the Five Doctors, seeing the frozen Time Lords set in slabs as a punishment for seeking immortality you realise just how wrong an idea it is. It’s a spectacular misjudgement of what the Doctor is for a cheap laugh.

    What I’m left with is a feeling that this could have been a spectacular story about love, friendship and the amazing benefits that fandom can deliver. I really lament the result and the waste of those central performance by Warren and Henderson

    wolfweed @wolfweed

    So that we could have our 1st Xmas special (which was Dr lite), the ‘series Dr lite episode’ was invented. A slightly cheaper show with an inbuilt hurdle, but also with a licence to experiment.
    & so ‘Love-n-Monsters’. Pre-Titles, everything is fine but then we hit Red bucket/Blue bucket.
    So it’s going to be a comedy episode in the style of Scooby Doo but with dark undertones. And RTD doesn’t believe in the McCoy era?(!)
    Dr What?(!)
    Loving the Faux Police box slideshow.
    Bless Bliss. These fanatics are (annoying, yet) harmless but the World is not.
    The bittersweet-ness of how the ‘Jackie Espionage’ works out is the highlight of the story.
    Get left behind – Become hard. Powerful stuff.
    Disappointingly, the Abzorba-whotsit is not the size of a double-decker bus.
    Hopefully we’ll never have to visit Clom. You can see why he’s been considered to be a pastiche of one ‘Mr Levine…
    ‘Nobody upsets my mum.’, is funny and moving at the same time.
    ‘We forget because we must.’ Again it’s powerful but somewhat weakened by the surrounding corny comedy style.
    I do find, ‘Fetch a spade!’, funny for some reason.
    The ‘crazy-paving’ scene conjures up all sorts of images. It is the 21st century, though…
    The World is stranger, darker, madder, better…

    There seems to be the possibilty that Elton is in a fugue state, where his mind just runs away because he has lost so much. The choice is ours whether or not to accept his uncredible version of events. Is it a hopeful, cup-half-full sort of story; or is Elton actually a lost, lonely guy who’s having ‘relations’ with an ordinary paving-slab?

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    I wish Russell could’ve written The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit. Oh, well.

    Anyway, Love and Monsters. I remember how weird this episode felt when I first watched it. Just like Elton, I was waiting for the Doctor to turn up.

    Barring the Christmas Special, this was the first ‘double-bank’ episode. A Doctor-lite episode; which meant it could be filmed at the same time as another episode.

    I should say it was the first official ‘double-bank’. Series One of AG Who had a serious schedule problem. RTD has been known to joke that Series One remains the only programme he’s ever worked on where they were two weeks behind schedule at the end of the first week… they’d underestimated the number of extra shots needed for the special effects. Badly.

    So in Series One, they’d ended up so behind schedule that The Long Game and The Empty Child/Doctor Dances had to be filmed at the same time. That’s one reason you see quite a bit of John Barrowman and Bruno Langley by themselves – Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper were trying to fit in three episodes in a shooting schedule only long enough for two. 🙂 Here, they were hoping for a slightly less traumatic schedule, and planned in a low-budget episode where the Doctor and Rose would hardly appear.

    Okay, given that I’m not exactly feeling the Love here for Love and Monsters, let’s dwell on the good points. It starts off very well – a story about the Doctor, seen from the viewpoint of one of the minor characters. Elton had a bit part in one of the Doctor’s unseen stories; he’s (we find out) the small kid with no lines. It’s like telling a story from the viewpoint of the now grown up Arcadian-kid-with-the-teddybear in The Day of The Doctor.

    Secondly, it’s one of several attempts to portray the Doctor Who fandom in an episode. This (like Brian Williams) is an affectionate portrayal. LINDA start with their obsessive interest in the Doctor, but end up becoming a group of friends with interests in common. As Elton says, he has other interests – so does everyone else.

    Things start to go horribly wrong when Victor Kennedy walks in. Mr Kay, I’m looking at you. It is kind of everyone’s nightmare; a decentish script, good, experienced actors who can make it work – and then one of the guest leads gives a badly misjudged performance. Not too bad – people who liked Peter Kay’s style of comedy liked it and the audience figures actually went up after this episode. But he does create problems which another actor could solve. His Victor Kennedy is neither threatening enough nor charming enough to make it very plausible that LINDA would put up with him as long as they do. And his Absorbaloff doesn’t even reach the level of ‘ham’. Mechanically reclaimed pork products, every roared line. I suspect that a lot of the general dislike of this episode can be laid firmly at his door.

    The scenes between Camille Coduri and Marc Warren are definitely the highlight of the episode. I think that’s the shame of it – this was so very nearly a good episode. Experimental, yes. Wobbling a bit, as RTD tried to find a way of telling a story about the Doctor rather than a story with the Doctor. But it was certainly a worthwhile episode.

    Whenever you complain about Love and Monsters, remember, next year came Blink – and it came because Love and Monsters showed that an experimental, Doctor-lite episode wouldn’t cause a massive drop in viewing figures. This episode might not have worked, but it showed that there was nothing wrong with the idea.

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    By the way, I’m doubtful about reading too much into Ursula’s fate. If you know anything about ‘locked in syndrome’, you’ll know that some people can’t bear it and want to kill themselves – and others cope with it and try and live as long as they can.

    Since the Doctor is semi-telepathic, I’d assume that he guessed correctly/could sense that Ursula would be the second type. Plus, having been too late to save Elton’s mum, he’d be very keen to not be too late to save Elton’s girlfriend.

    If you compare Ursula with the uploaded people in Bells of St John, for example, you’ll see that they are lost, bewildered and unhappy. Ursula is reasonably chipper. So it makes sense to me that in the one case the Doctor would decide that – if they can’t be returned to their bodies – the uploaded people are better dead, but in the other that Ursula could cope with being a disembodied head.

    Arbutus @arbutus

    @thekrynoidman  I thought that the poster you quoted had an interesting concept and one that was very consistent with what we saw. I will admit that I hadn’t considered that aspect of the storytelling. However, for me in the end, the concept isn’t enough to save the episode.

    I actually liked the plot idea, but felt it failed in the execution. I liked what I saw as an affectionate mockery of fan groups. The depiction of LINDA was charming, and I loved the way the story showed us that their friendship became more important than their goal. But I found the writing awkward at times and the villain largely a failure, and I strongly disliked the ending. Ultimately, the fact that the Doctor couldn’t save the LINDA members destroyed the story for me. I don’t always need a happy ending, but in this case, the tone of the story was out of sync with the ending.

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    @arbutus – yeah, I’d agree that the ending was out of keeping with the tone of the story. I think RTD was trying to equate Elton with the Doctor’s arc in Series 1 and 2. So he had him start with a tragedy, and end with one. But it didn’t fit with the comic tone of the rest of the piece.

    @thekrynoidman – that poster you quote has an interesting and possible interpretation. However, I’d say that they’ve got it precisely the wrong way round; they’re confusing ‘what happens on camera’ with ‘objective evidence’.

    But Elton is performing to camera. His video diary and voice over narration are the unreliable narrator – he keeps reminding us that he’s selecting the evidence. He starts with the monster, because it’s exciting. He talks about the problem with not having an automatic zoom, then later on we see that he’s bought one.

    Look at the scene where he’s searching for Rose. The voice-over narration is a dramatic recital in noir style. The non-video-diary scene shows that he found someone who knew her almost straight away. Similarly, compare the narration with the scene in the launderette.

    It’s when Elton isn’t on his video diary that we find out what really happened.

    We know RTD watched Buffy – I’d say he’s picked up a trick from Storyteller. In that, the sign that Andrew’s finally starting to grow up is when he switches his camera off at the end. Real life, he’s discovered, isn’t a story.

    janetteB @janetteb

    I am not sure what I can add having just read through the above posts. @phaseshift and @bluesqueakpip have both covered much of what I wanted to say, (and a whole lot more), about this episode.  I too really liked the concept of an episode featuring the Doctor’s fans. The concept and depiction of LINDA had a lot of potential. I suspect this episode began with the setting and characterisations and the action/story was tacked on to make it interesting only unfortunately it failed utterly. The intention of the story, to show the impact the Doctor has on those lives he brushes against, is excellent and long overdue. It adds to the depth of the overall story. The LINDA scenes were touching and all credit to Marc Warren, (soon to be seen in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell) and Shirley Henderson who certainly deserved a better ending. As for the Absorbalof, well until last year I simply thought he was crap but then I encountered his twin, or at least first cousin, an individual who joined social groups and tore them apart. Maybe RTD had a similar experience. I am certain that the “monster” looked fine on the page but simply did not work on screen. I think that was due to a number of things, the poor visualisation, the performance and perhaps in part the script too. Unfortunately I suspect it will be a long time before anyone dares to depict Dr Who fans in an episode again which is a shame.



    Anonymous @

    Love and Monsters. This episode that seems to be universally hated but I have to admit I really like it! Seriously, it’s wonderful!

    Ok, perhaps not that wonderful. What ruins it for me is Peter Kay. Like @phaseshift, I also struggle to see his appeal. He played Victor Kennedy as though he were a character in a really bad episode* of Phoenix Nights.

    I don’t really have a problem with the Abzorbatrix, Abzorbathon or whatever it’s called – I found it quite amusing really and remember, it could have been worse. Slitheen. That’s all I’m saying.

    The real problem is Victor Kennedy. If he’d been portrayed as an ordinary man**, indistinguishable from the other members of LINDA just more organised, it would have given a better contrast between VK and the Abzorbawotsit.

    I found myself so engrossed with the rest of the story though, that I barely noticed that The Doctor and Rose were absent for most of it.

    The members of LINDA were charming and likeable and Jackie’s attempts at wooing Elton had me chuckling throughout. Poor Jackie.

    OK, it’s not the best episode ever but it’s one that I’ll happily watch unlike ‘Fear Her’ which I avoid at all costs.

    * There’s never, in my opinion, been a good episode of PN
    ** I don’t think Peter Kay is capable of ‘ordinary’

    SuzanneMS @suzannems

    So, I found this discussion forum solely so that I could express how much I really dislike this episode. Feels pretty good to find out that I am not the only one, and that we pretty much all like and dislike the same things. They had a winning idea with LINDA, then spoiled it with a nonsensical monster story. It’s obvious they didn’t know where to go with it, and didn’t want to go with the obvious, which was that the members of LINDA pair off and actually get a life.

    In addition to everything mentioned above, there’s the ridiculousness of the Absorbaloff. How would such a creature even evolve? It absorbs every living creature it touches — so how is there more than one of them? And why? Other aliens are part of a species and culture; they have a backstory and purpose as a species. This thing is a one-off. It exists solely to give the writers an easy way out. That’s why the doctor doesn’t even pretend to give it a chance.

    Anonymous @

    @suzannems – Hello and Welcome to the DWForum.  Once I read your comments that no one likes this episode, I had to come and post. It is one of my all time favorites.  Please feel free to cut me to shreds for saying that but I can’t help loving this episode.

    It is the best episode for seeing Jackie at home, and what she goes through while her daughter was away.  That would not be a story I would want to see all the time, or even more than once, but I thought it was an interesting backstory that we had not seen before.  We had seen her with Rose and the Doctor there, but not completely alone like this. 

    “Everybody loves a bit of ELO” – I know I do and it might be my favorite part of the episode.  Seeing Elton get down in his room cracks me up. And the monster, Rose, Doctor water bucket chase is good too.

    I liked the idea of LINDA, how they just got together for one reason, and then sort of like this forum, eventually branched of into different areas (like the ELO jam session), kinda like @whisht“s Music thread. 

    The way Elton talked into his computer to tell the story was different and interesting to watch, IMO.

    Absorbaloff was not the best monster I agree, but when Rose and Doctor show up, they first try to get Elton for hurting Jackie, not the monster.  😆

    And good happy ending.

    SuzanneMS @suzannems

    Actually, I said that we pretty much all like and dislike the same things (about this episode) — and your comment just supports that. I think we all like — even love — seeing Jackie at home and how she’s affected by never knowing exactly where Rose is or when she’ll see her again (if ever). I think this is the first time that any writer has ever considered the people whom the companions leave behind.

    Yep, Elton is a great character. So is Ursula. So are the other members of LINDA.  I already said that they had a winning idea with LINDA. Having been in more than one sci-fi/fantasy fan club in my day, they were spot on with the character types and also the arc of a group such as that. I met my husband via a fan site — although it was for a television Western, not sci-fi show.

    And none of us really care for the Absorbaloff. The reason I dislike it is the ending; it’s out of balance with the beginning. It doesn’t fit with the beginning and its lighthearted humor. It should have had a happy ending.
    Even if none of that were true, why would I cut you to shreds for having a different opinion?

    Anonymous @

    @suzannems – Hello again and very glad to meet you.  TY for not ripping me to shreds, especially for misinterpreting you.  I definitely jumped to the wrong conclusion, when I read:

    I found this discussion forum solely so that I could express how much I really dislike this episode. 

    Then I kinda rushed to the rescue of this episode.  I didn’t want you to think I was trying to shred you for your opinion either.  I just wanted to have at least one post that liked this episode, but in my haste I didn’t look to see if there were supporters already.  

    Even if none of that were true, why would I cut you to shreds for having a different opinion?

    Oooh, someone I know might do that sort of thing on occasion.  😳

     Thank you for being so nice.  😀

    Enjoy the DWForum,


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