Saturday, 16 May 2009

Doctor Who: Love And Monsters

Jackie: 'She's so far away. I get left here sometimes and I don't know where she is. Anything could be happening to her, anything. And I just go a bit mad.'

Three years on and I'm still in two minds about 'Love and Monsters'. Was it a clever experiment which paid off, or ill-conceived filler necessitated by a tight schedule and Tennant's inability to be in two places at once? I don't have a problem with the Doctor-lite episodes, but tonight's offering had more than its fair share of problems, and the source of those problems can be summed up in one word... Abzorbaloff.

I can't lay the blame entirely at Peter Kay's feet. He wasn't responsible for the unconvincing fat suit they made him wear (which made him look like Fat Bastard's poorer cousin.) I'm aware too that Abzorbaloff was the creation of 9 year boy from Colchester—so likewise, it would be disingenuous to point the finger of blame at the costume department. But Abzorbaloff was a terrible villain. He never came across as anything other than Peter Kay in a rubber monster outfit, and when he started to fart—well—we were suddenly back in Slitheenville again. Only Abzorbaloff made the Slitheen look positively dazzling in terms of social etiquette and realism. Which, rather than being praise for the Slitheen, is a kick in the pants for Abzorbaloff. He was just fucking awful.

Initially, Russell T. Davies intended to cast Kay in the role of Elton, but Kay, concerned that the character was too much like a role he'd already played (that of Eric Gartside), asked to play the villain instead—a request which Davies duly granted. Was it a decision which paid off? To my eyes, it was hard to see past the fact that underneath all that blubber was Peter Kay—from his shout of 'avanti' (culled from the John Smiths bitter ads), to his broad Lancashire accent. Once that kicked in, all I could hear in my head was 'Garlic bread? Garlic? Bread? Dirty Bastards!'

Admittedly, the episode was mostly played for laughs, and for the most part hit the mark. There were some funny gags on offer, and Elton was an amiable enough character, with kooky friends and an unusual obsession. It was a clever idea, too, to weave Elton through the Doctor's earlier adventures, giving us a unique insight into the life of an ordinary individual who, through no fault of his own, gets caught in the Doctor's wake. In truth, Elton's story was a sad one. It started out promisingly enough, with his interest in the Doctor bringing him into contact with other like-minded individuals who eventually became his friends (and in the case of Ursula, his lover). Unfortunately, they all ended up getting absorbed by Abzorbaloff—all but the lovely Ursula, who managed to survive the experience, albeit in the form of a paving stone. (What the actual fuck?)

But the mixture of comedy and tragedy, just seemed totally off kilter. It was impossible to be afraid of Abzorbaloff because of the sheer absurdity of his appearance (just how small were those damn underpants!!!), and it was hard to be moved by the death of Elton's mother and the loss of his new friends, with an obese, farting alien on the loose. A farting alien with a face growing out of his arse, no less! No doubt the shows younger audience found it all pretty hilarious, but it was a retread of an old plot gag I'd sooner have not seen revisited.

On the plus side, Jackie had a great week in terms of character development. We're so used to seeing her as Rose's mum, that it's easy to forget she's a person in her own right. It was just sad to see how lonely and vulnerable she's become—reduced to picking up strange men in a Launderette. Yet, despite her semi-disapproval of Rose's way of life, it was heartwarming to see her defend her daughter, and equally gratifying to see Rose reciprocate. There were some fascinating closing remarks from Elton, too. Apparently there's a price to pay for touching the Doctor. Elton's mother paid that price with her life, as did Elton with the loss of his friends at L.I.N.D.A. The question is, how long can Rose and Jackie go on before the cold fist of inevitability comes knocking at their door?

I'll give it another 2 weeks.

Other Thoughts:

—All that running around at the start was a bit Scooby Doo,

—The reason this episode doesn't have much of the Doctor and Rose in it is because they were off filming another episode.

—L.I.N.D.A. stands for London Investigation N Detective Agency.

—No more Blue Peter competition designed monsters please!

—Victor Kennedy mentions the Torchwood files and the Bad Wolf Virus.

Quotes:

Elton: 'I'm into all sorts of things. I like football. I like a drink. I like Spain. And if there's one thing I really, really love, then it's Jeff Lynne and the Electric Light Orchestra. 'Cause you can't beat a bit of ELO.'

Ursula: 'His name is the Doctor.'
Elton: 'Doctor what?'

Bliss: 'What I'm trying to do is sum up the Doctor. What he means to us. What he could represent and what he should represent and what he... never won't represent... sort of thing.'

Elton: 'I wasn't after her. I was looking for the Doctor.'
Jackie: 'Oh, I know that. I worked that out. 'Cause it's never me, is it?'

Rose: 'Is it me, or is he a bit Slitheen?'

Doctor: 'What's the twin planet of Rexicoricophalvitorius?'
Kennedy: 'Clom.'

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