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LOVE AND MONSTERS!! Four Reviews of DOCTOR WHO 28.10!!

I am – Hercules!!

While we here in the great United States just finished watching the 27th season of “Doctor Who” on the SciFi Channel, the wily Brits have already seen “Doctor Who” 28.10 on the BBC. The verdict over there…

“Doctor Dan” says:

DOCTOR WHO – 2.10

"Love & Monsters"
Writer: Russell T. Davies
Director: Dan Zeff

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Codouri (Jackie Tyler), Peter Kay (Victor Kennedy/Abzorbaloff), Marc Warren (Elton Pope), Shirley Henderson (Ursula Blake), Simon Greenall (Mr Skinner), Moya Brady (Bridget), Kathryn Drysdale (Bliss) & Bella Emberg (Old Woman)

An ordinary man named Elton Pope becomes obsessed with The Doctor and joins a group of like-minded people in hopes of finding him. But when the mysterious Victor Kennedy joins the group, the fun soon stops and Elton discovers a darker side to his hobby…

Russell T. Davies eschews the Doctor Who formula for "Love & Monsters", an episode that removes the emphasis on The Doctor and focuses on obsessive loner Elton Pope (Marc Warren, a sort of younger-looking Malcolm McDowell). It transpires that Elton met The Doctor when he was small boy and has become obsessed with finding him ever since – so much so that he joins a group of like-minded people who call themselves the London Investigations 'N Detective Agency (L.I.N.D.A).

"Love & Monsters" walks a fine line between being agreeably different and embarrassingly awful. For the most part is succeeds on a silly level that kids will enjoy, and Davies is clearly having fun with the chance to fool around with Who conventions. The episode also gives Davies a chance to flex his comedy muscles with more success than when he shoehorns gags into dramatic stories. Here, the emphasis is clearly on comedy from the opening sequence (which includes The Doctor, Rose and a monster… in homage to Scooby Doo!) I still don't find Davies particular brand of family-friendly comedy particularly amusing, but there are some nice scenes and a few gags that hit their targets.

Peter Kay makes an impression as Victor Kennedy (a posh eccentric with a cane), and his alter-ego The Abzorbaloff (a sort of cross between Fungus The Bogeyman and Fat Bastard from Austin Powers). Marc Warren performs well in a comedic role, managing to keep the right level of dramatics and comedy bubbling along. The supporting cast are mainly inconsequential, although Shirley Henderson (Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter films) was a memorably geeky love-interest. Camille Codouri also returned as Jackie Tyler, a character that can veer from extremely irritating to lovably real in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, Davies wrote her particular subplot with just the right combination of laughs and humanity –- as Elton infiltrated her life to find Rose, while Jackie had more romantic thoughts in mind…

The effects are fairly good, particularly the rubber-suit of the Abzorbaloff with its CGI-assisted faces of past victims appearing all over its body. Quite a freaky effect and expertly achieved. However, later sequences when the Abzorbaloff is called upon to run around outside should have been abandoned. There's nothing quite as silly as seeing a full-body shot of a man running around in a rubber fat-suit (but maybe that was the intention…)

In essence, I was entertained by "Love & Monsters" most of the time, particularly in its first-half, but the joke began to wear thin after awhile. Davies is still completely out of his depth when it comes to plotting science-fiction, and the whole Kennedy/Abzorbaloff plot was obvious and sign-posted at every turn. The Jackie/Elton romance was far more interesting, yet tragically underused. Davies is also a writer clearly in love with his own written mythology, so there are lots of comments about past Davies-penned episodes and flashbacks. Luckily, in the context of the plot these worked much better than you'd expect –- particularly the scenes where Elton witnessed key events such as the Auton attack ("Rose"), the alien ship crash-landing ("Aliens Of London") and a giant spaceship appearing overhead ("The Christmas Invasion").

Overall, this was a brave episode for daring to think outside of the box, but a stronger overall plot would have made all the difference. "Love & Monsters" was just too frivolous and empty most of the time, lacking an emotional bite -– despite a ham-fisted attempt to provide one when Elton's relationship with The Doctor is finally explained. I can't say I hated this episode, because at least it attempted to do something different and it did provide a few cheap laughs along the way, but ultimately it was just too unsubstantial and light-hearted to make much of an impression.

However, I suppose Russell T. Davies does deserve some kudos for managing to allude to a face-on-a-paving stone giving its boyfriend a blowjob…

The Good:

1. Performances – Kay was a little hammy most of the time, but decent enough. Marc Warren was very good as Elton, while Shirley Henderson made a ditzy side-kick. But it was Camille Codouri who really stole the show for me; funny, sexy and fragile all at the same time.

2. Format – it was just very pleasing to see Doctor Who try something different. I just hope similar episodes in the future improve on the storytelling.

3. Jokes – some miss their mark (the "n" in L.I.N.D.A), some were very predictable but amusing (the laundrette scene), but a few were very good (the paving stone gag…)

4. Make-up – the team are really excelling this year with the make-up! Excellent.

5. The TARDIS on an Egyptian hieroglyphic!

The Bad:

1. Plot – the actual story was underwhelming and humdrum.

2. Characters РVictor Kennedy and the L.I.N.D.A team were just too clich̩d to be believable.

The Geeky:

1. According to Doctor Who Magazine #370, this episode had the working title of "I Love The Doctor".

2. This is the first episode in which Jackie Tyler travels in the TARDIS.

3. This is the first Doctor Who episode that contains an ampersand instead of the word "and" in its title.

4. The Abzorbaloff was created by 9-year-old William Grantham of Colchester, Essex, who won a "Design a Doctor Who Monster" competition, held by the children's television programme Blue Peter. The prize was to have his creation appear in an episode of Doctor Who. Conditions of the competition meant that the monster had to be able to be made from prosthetics and not require CGI.

5. Russell T. Davies cast comedian Peter Kay in the role of Victor Kennedy after Kay wrote a fan letter to him in praise of the show. Kay was originally to play Elton Pope, but he felt that the role was too similar to roles he had played in the past, such as Eric Gartside in Coronation Street. Consequently, he got back in contact with Davies and asked if he could stretch himself as an actor and play the villain, hence his casting as Victor Kennedy/the Abzorbaloff.

6. Actress Bella Emberg has previously had uncredited roles in the Third Doctor serials "Doctor Who And The Silurians" and "The Time Warrior".

7. The idea that some people in the Doctor Who universe follow the Doctor's real adventures in a similar manner to the programme's fans was hinted at with the character of Clive in last year's Rose. It was also used in the Virgin New Adventures novel "Return Of The Living Dad" by Kate Orman.

8. Totally Doctor Who presenter, Barney Harwood appears in this episode wearing a red hat. The latest episode of Totally Doctor Who implied he would appear in a supporting artist capacity. The transmission of the episode will confirm or disprove this either way.

RATING: 3 / 5

“Kelvington” says:

Doctor Who - Love & Monsters (Just A Review - Major Spoilers)

People are either going to love or hate this episode. I had to watch it twice to get my thoughts about it in check. I give the production team credit for trying something completely different, something that strays from the mold of a typical “Doctor Who” episode, so wildly as to be unrecognizable as “Doctor Who”. But that’s where the rub is, it’s so different it barely feels like a Who show.

A couple of things should be noted here, first, that the monster in tonight’s episode played by Peter Kay, was created based on a child contest winner from “Blue Peter”, unfortunately this week, they showed so much of it, that it really ruined a few of the surprises in the episode for me.

Also this week we found out for certain that Billie Piper would be leaving the series at the end of it’s current run. If you were smart, and paid attention, you knew that already. How you ask? Simple, first Russell T. Davies has been saying over and over, that Rose and The Doctor will pay a terrible price for some of their indulgences this year, in the show’s commentary tracks. Second, Billie Piper has been in the Confidentials, which means she must have had some free time to do them, something she didn’t do too much of last year.

Those things aside, here are my thoughts about tonight’s outing. This could have easily been a pilot for another series. Except for the fact that all the major players wouldn’t really make it to the second episode, still it feels very pilot-ish, sort of like “K-9 & Company” sans the polish and wit. The Doctor and Rose, walk through the episode and wave a bit, but do little else. I suspect that if the Doctor were real, this is exactly how it would feel to the average person. Brief glimpses, short moments, and no happy endings.

The episode is based on memories and is told AFTER everything of consequence has happened. This is not typical for “Doctor Who”, in fact it’s very jarring. It’s told from the perspective of Elton Pope, think Freddy from “Scooby Doo”, as he sits in front of his computer telling his tale. We see him gather a gang of people who want to find out more about “The Doctor”. The parallels between this gang and “Scooby Doo” are totally obvious. This episode show tons of flash backs to moments when the gang met up, to their meetings, to them forming a band and singing songs… I’M NOT JOKING!

The episode also draws heavily from “Back To The Future: II” with Elton being shown during the events that happened not only on Christmas day, but other events from the Doctor’s recent history.

The main baddie in the episode is the Abzorbaloff, again the name and concept developed by a small child. Whom, absorbs his victims and they become part of his epidermis. Why he chooses to absorb these people and not just random ones is beyond me.

We get to see Elton through various stages in his hunt for the Doctor, from first meetings, to direct contact. To him wooing Jackie Tyler, played even more sexy than usual, complete with mini-skirt and sexual innuendo.

As Elton gets closer and closer to the Doctor, the price becomes higher and higher. Right up to, and including the point where he loses the woman he loves.

I think overall, this is either the worst episode in the last twenty years, or the riskiest episode ever. While I didn’t enjoy it, I have to say I was fascinated by how odd it was. If this is the direction “Doctor Who” is going to take over the next few series, then I’ll stick with my video collection, thank you. If this was a one time aberration. Then OK, it could have been worse. Of course the idea of having sex with a slab of concrete, which is discussed while holding the face of that slab crotch high is one of the lowest points of the series so far. But I did laugh, so what does that say about me.

Oddly, I couldn’t bring myself to write a recap of this show, a first this year for the series, I don’t know if it was because it was so unusual, or because it left me with such a sad feeling that this is what “Doctor Who” might become. Either way, I won’t be looking forward to seeing it again any time soon.

Just my 2¢,

“Napier” says:

Blimey. How weird was that?

Not the fact that the Doctor & Rose were in this episode for the whole of about five minutes. Nor the fact that for the first time in the show's 43 year history the story was told from the perspective of one of us - an ordinary (non-companion) schmoe. Or the fact that the baddie was designed by a nine year old Blue Peter competition winner.

Nope. All of that was expected, let slip by Russell T. Davies & the Beeb, basically being up front & saying "this is the episode where we save the money for the finale." Yep, two seasons in and already the budget saving episode has become a tradition!

No, what was suprising was that beyond all expectations and/or fears - it actually worked.

Not to say it was a resounding success. The pre-credit Scooby Doo corridor nonsense had me dreading what was about to unfold. Yes, this was a "comedy" episode but that sequence was just way too broad - I mean why not throw in the Benny Hill music & be done with it? A little too far for me.

But then, within the first ten minutes post credits, a strange thing. You began to get hooked into Elton's tiny little world. The modern story telling style (the Elton John clips/ELO montage/sharp editing) drew you in to this life of the wide eyed innocent & his quest. The cameraderie within his support group and the blossoming romance with Ursula was another example of the characterisation that this new incarnation of the show brings (& I think Russell T. Davies' greatest strength - he may not have the greatest sci-fi brain but he does the small human things so well). And suddenly the Doctor & Rose were not so missed.

Peter Kay's Victor Kennedy was well played - not so much the well hyped straight role, more a little skewed (the pronounciation of eczema was classic), and nowhere near as "it's Peter Kay in a funny wig" as I thought it would be. His performance as the Absorbalorff on the other hand.... well, sod it. If you're going to have Peter Kay then you might as well make the most of it! The fact that his alien persona shifted back to his native Bolton simply added to the surreal nature of the episode. Although, credit where due, he did manage to remain pretty scary when confronting Elton & Ursula at his desk (nice turn of speed) & you can bet those talking faces in his stomach (and, er, elsewhere) will be giving kids some pretty wacky nightmares for a while at least. For me though, his rant at his twin planet was pure quality ("I spit on 'em!). Straight out of Phoenix Nights.

The other role that suprised me was that of Jackie. Brilliantly played & written you get a true sense of her life in between the dramas that the Doctor & Rose bring her way. The loneliness, the despair, and the way that she reaches out for company. Her seduction of Elton was a neat touch. You can see why she always has men friends around. However, the putting into perspective of her outragous flirting by Rose's phone call was even better. And of course her loyal defense of the Doctor and Rose.

And again, more dark foreshadowing, this time from Elton as he reflects ruefully in the aftermath of his contact with the Doctor. If just a brief time in the Doctor's life can bring such upheaval and destruction to his life, think what the consequences might be for Jackie & Rose. Hmmm. It's all heating up for that finale.

So a strange beast then (and not just Peter Kay.) Beforehand my wife told me she wasn't up for this one (she likes Doctor Who, but more sort of caught up in my geek slipstream). Afterwards she told me it was her favourite episode of this series. So that's the casual perspective.

The hardcore fan? Will probably hate it. I get the feeling I'll be the exception to the rule. Not a classic but a brave experiment that pretty much succeeds. (oh, and if you get the chance, check out the Doctor Who Confidential that follows - Peter Kay in full costume, standing next to the nine year old Blue Peter winner in the Tardis doorway and describing the contents of the Tardis...which apparently includes a "Little Chef." Priceless.)

So what works?

The fresh approach. The new Who history from the dweeb point of view. L.I.N.D.A. Victor Kennedy. Eczema. The Abzorbalorff suit. Jackie Tyler. "We still have a love life." Klom.

And what doesn't?

That "wacky" pre-credits sequence.

My Rating?

3.5 out of 5

Cheers Herc.

“Corwin” says:

Hi Herc -

Love and Monsters - written by Russell T Davies (this is significant)

The episode starts promisingly enough with a young bloke stumbling across some wasteground towards a derelict warehouse in London (or probably Cardiff), happening across the Tardis, hearing the voices of Rose and The Doctor inside and chasing after them.

Inside the warehouse, he opens a door and is face to face with a generic creature with lots of teeth. It roars.

Cut to ... bloke's bedroom where he's making a video diary about the times his and the Doctor's paths have crossed. After some cuts (think "clip-show") to Rose, Aliens of London and The Xmas Invasion, he mentions he likes football, drinking and the Electric Light Orchestra. Cue bloke dancing around flat playing the air guitar to ELO's Mr Blue Sky.

About now you're probably thinking it sounds like things have gone suddenly and horribly wrong with the series. Congratulations, you're absolutely correct! And it gets so much worse.

Bloke gets involved with a bunch of sad-a-likes all searching for The Doctor and Rose (a-la the guy with the shed from "Rose"). Things go pretty good (from their perspective!) at first and they evolve into a sort of self-help group. Eventually forming an unpublicised tribute band to ELO. [No, really, I'm not kidding.]

Then Mr Kennedy shows up - looking like Orson Wells when he advertised (Sandeman's Port?) - big, wide brimmed hat, cape, cane. He takes over the group and starts ordering them about on the basis that he's got better intel and no manners. Oh and by the way, he's got a terrible "skin condition" so no-one should touch him.

Bloke gets a lead on Rose and meets up with Jackie. He insinuates himself in her favours by doing odd jobs around the house and generally being "nice-guy" to the point where Jackie actually thinks he fancies her. Then she finds a pic of Rose and the Tardis in his jacket.

Actually felt sorry for Jackie here - she figures out exactly what's going on and tells Bloke to sling his hook. But is obviously really hurt.

All the while the members of the wannabe-Scoobies are being whittled down one by one when Mr Kennedy asks them to "stay behind for a moment" after a meeting.

Then, after the last meeting, Bloke and Velma-look-alike would-be-girlfriend go back to their meeting place (she's forgotten her phone) to find Mr Kennedy having just had lunch.

I believe that the monster-design for Kennedy - aka "The Absorbalof" - was the result of a viewer's competition. The BBC effects team must have been feeling lazy though. They apparently just recycled the Vogon makeup from the TV version of Hitchhikers. Only with pink skin instead of green. And with a mohican haircut. [I really, really am not kidding!!]

And with the faces of Bloke's friends sticking though his skin a-la the Rover from The Prisoner. One of the faces is on the Absorbalof's backside - cue obligatory Russell T Davies fart-joke.

Of course Velma gets absorbed too - Absorbalof/absorbed geddit? - while professing undying love for Bloke. Who runs away, pursued by Absorbalof.

Trapped in a back alley and about to be absorbed, Bloke is rescued by The Doctor and Rose (who is pissed off that he upset her mom). Absorbalof wants to absorb The Doctor (why he'd been running the group in the first place) but Doctor tells him to sling his hook.

Scoobies inside Absorbalof rebel and tell Bloke to break his cane. Absorbalof melts into ground. Bit more video-diary then:

Bloke explains how The Doctor partially saved his would-be-girlfriend with his sonic screwdriver. Velma's voice heard off camera then Bloke picks up paving slab from behind camera (this is back in his flat) where we see Velma's animated face coming out of it and chatting to him.

While holding said paving slab on his lap (with Velma's face towards him) he mentions that they "have a love life ... of sorts".

Episode ends with some heartfelt cod-philosophy from Bloke about how the universe is so much better and wild than anyone thinks. And there's some more ELO music.

PERSONAL NOTE: RTD deserves infinite kudos for resurrecting Doctor Who. And by all accounts he's an excellent script- and story-editor. But for the love of all that's Holy will someone for fuck's sake stop him writing the scripts himself. PLEASE!!!










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