17 June 2016

Love and Monsters

Playing with the format of Doctor Who yields surprising results.
There’s something quite prescient about `Love and Monsters` that has only become apparent since it was broadcast. YouTube had only been going for less than a year when the story was written and made yet the episode presents it’s main character Elton’s story like a vlog even taking time to comment on the fact. Elton has to lean over to do a zoom in (but gets a remote control zoom at the end) and he offers his story with an awareness of the form in which he is doing so mixing it like a tv series. Like Doctor Who I suppose. The episode has become synonymous with being a comment on fandom and fans but it is actually not specifically about that at all. Russell T Davies writes here passionately (well he always writes with passion) on friendship through shared interests, on how such relationships develop and also how fame can affect things for the worse. LINDA’s happy gatherings, though initially intent on tracking down the mysterious Doctor, develop into more conventional activities like baking or making music. It’s only when the original aim is hijacked by Kennedy that everything is spoiled. 

Elton is one of the most interesting guest characters from an era of the show which is packed with them. Due to his considerable screen time though he becomes more familiar to us than most other one off characters and we find someone very ordinary whose original encounter with the Doctor when he was a child is a foggy blur because it coincides with a dramatic incident his sub conscious has blotted out. It helps that he’s played by Marc Warren an actor we’d normally associate with less sympathetic characters. Elton’s only unusual trait really is his name, otherwise he is Joe Bloke and such characters are rarer than you might think in the show. We always say Rose is just an ordinary girl but really she isn’t. Elton is an ordinary guy though and this episode highlights how encountering the Doctor doesn’t always end up with such Universe changing results as his companions. Elton’s `mustn’t grumble` attitude lights up the episode. Have there been many more simple joyous moments in the series than when the gang  are unsteadily running through ELOs’ `Don’t Let Me Down`.
RTD’s ability to shift the mood from chatty to friendly to menacing to sad is in evidence throughout the episode. This is no more so evident than when Elton meets Jackie Tyler which gives Camille Coduri one of her best performances.  The storyline even manages to give Elton enough hopefulness to enjoy a sort of happy ending despite all that’s happened. He’s saying `life goes on, whatever` The direction nails the early video making approach completely but Dan Zeff also affords the well written interaction between the gang to flow smoothly. The episode plays with visuals in other ways too. Elton’s point of view is well realised too- I’ve always thought that rather than deliberately playing the whole `buckets` scene for laughs this is Elton’s interpretation of events too odd for him to properly assimilate. 
A lot of fans have an issue with this episode which I can understand. It does sag in the middle and though his accent is funny the disconnect between the Abzorbaloff’s demeanour and method of feeding is just too great to work as well as it might. Peter Kay is no more or less OTT than any number of evil creatures, it’s just that the episode makes the mistake of showing him running down the street chasing Elton and it conjours up uncomfortable memories of mid 80s cheap looking Doctor Who. It doesn’t help that the briefly glimpsed monster earlier on had looked so good. Maybe having the public designing monsters is not such a sound idea. It’s a shame because elsewhere this is an intelligent, loveable piece of work that carries on from the previous story in pricking at the assumptions we have of the show and of the Doctor as well as viewing his adventures from unusual perspectives.
Tardisode: This shows how the Absorbaloff found LINDA by hacking their primitive website before he absorbs the tea lady. Judging from the surroundings he seems to be in some sort of posh office so perhaps the alien was masquerading as an MP. After all where else would there be a tea lady in this day and age?

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