Monday, January 24, 2011

"Love & Monsters"

I remember that upon first transmission "Love and Monsters" was derided by many people within hours as the 'worst Doctor Who story ever created' and although it has a bit of competition for that particular low podium its sheer wasted potential is probably its most damning characteristic. While RTD gives himself plenty of opportunities to explore the admittedly underexamined notion of how the Doctor affects normal people's lives, whatever point he tries to make he squanders with his normal cack-handedness in juvenile stupidity such that the story ends up feeling at best that it was, as intended, purely something to hasten the production block and at worst that it's taking the piss out of its own show.
Scenes like the Doctor and Rose having an absurd Scooby Doo-style chase in and out of doors and using a monster designed in a Blue Peter competition serve to massively cheapen the message it tries to broadcast about people's exposure to a greater world. They mischaracterise the events of Doctor Who as inentionally ridiculous and absurd and it's obvious that RTD was too amused at his own cleverness to avoid putting these nonsensical elements into what could otherwise have been an entirely dark and even tragic story about one man's experiences.
Marc Warren does a very good job with the role of Elton Pope and his performance is entirely naturalistic and believable as he comes to learn about himself and his past. I could at this point say that the LINDA gang is made up of a con man from Hustle, Moaning Myrtle, the receptionist from The Bill and two others but I think that the way their group evolves is also put forward effectively. It's only unfortunate that the development of their friendship and the mystery of Elton's past with the Doctor have to be painted over with a silly green monster played by Peter Kay and the Doctor resurrecting Ursula from a paving slab. Besides the fact that the technobabble is absolutely appalling, the very notion that endless life as a face sticking out of a piece of concrete would be preferable to just letting her go is tasteless and seems to exist purely so that RTD can make a fairly inappropriate sexual joke.
Personally I think that it would have had a much greater effect if Elton had ended up alone and had to reconcile that with his broader and supposedly better knowledge of the universe, and that if RTD was obliged to use this stupid monster designed by a 9-year-old then it was a cheap cop-out of him to a) reduce it to human size unlike the gigantic size the child originally intended and which could maybe have been used for something other than a Slitheen rehash, and b) use it in this episode where the Doctor barely featured. In the end I'm not sure there's much more to say about this one. You could try to analyse it but ultimately the point is lost and its wildly inconsistent tone actively works against any establishment of meaning. If you're not going to use the Doctor as the main character, you have to have a reason for us to respect the story nonetheless and the paving slab and the whole Abzorbaloff plot completely spoil this possibility. As I say, it could have achieved so much more had it adopted a more thoroughly serious outlook and avoided characterising itself as a piece of filler but obviously RTD couldn't avoid the temptation and we get left with something which stands out as one of the particularly great downfalls of the already dubious second series.

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