Sunday, January 1, 2017

TV Review: Doctor Who- Love & Monsters (S02E10)

One of my favorite films of all time has to be Interview With a Vampire, based on the novel of the same name by Anne Rice. Like most things that become our personal favorites there are some scenes and certain dialogue which will always stick out in our minds and this film has one that has relevance when we are preparing to discuss one of the most controversial and dividing episodes of Doctor Who since it returned to television in 2005:

“Vampires pretending to be Human pretending to be avant garde.”

It always seemed to me the line could be paraphrased to describe the episode Love & Monsters from Doctor Who's second series: “A fan writing for fans about actors pretending to be fans.”

When Doctor Who entered its second series in 2006, the glow of seeing it back on television had started to wane slightly, and that of course meant the ugliness that is a bitter and unsatisfied section of fans began to loudly protest some of the elements of the programme that they disagreed with.

Funny thing is the adventure from that series that would get the most hate was also partially written with those very fans in mind, as it partially an in universe jab at fans that sit hunched over their keyboards for hours, only to become so 'absorbed' in the series that they take it too seriously.

So serious in fact that when blended together they might even resemble a horrible green monster, most likely from the planet Klom.

As we all might have heard someplace or other, the past is a foreign country and back then I was right along with that section of fans that felt Love & Monsters was a bit too silly in some places and that if Fear Her was not broadcast the very next week, it would have been for me personally the worst episode of series two.

Fortunately one mellows with age (I have no idea where I am getting these bits of knowledge).

Today I see Love & Monsters for what it is, a brilliant script that is a celebration of Doctor Who fanaticism, both the good and bad bits. Even the 'monster of the week' is a fan creation born of a Blue Peter avant garde.

The story concerns Elton, who bumps into the Doctor by accident one night in his childhood, only to find others who know of him as well, leading to the creation of a small group of people that over the course of time become friends, becoming much more than a group that just focuses on the Doctor himself.

They bond over a common interest, an amazing man of mystery who's secrets brought them together but through that connection they are able to shed some of the loneliness and tragedy out of their own daily hum-drum existence. This is how the Doctor has saved people in the real world for a very long time now.

Every story needs a villain of course and Love & Monsters has one that may hit close to home to anyone who has ever visited a forum or comments section related to their favorite television series or film: Victor Kennedy.

Kennedy comes into the fold of the small group of friends and immediately the tone is changed to be overly serious, no more mucking about, no singing songs or home made snacks. This is serious work after all, this is important, too important for it to be enjoyable anymore right?

There in short is the beauty of Love & Monsters put plain and simple. It is almost a guide of how not to enjoy Doctor Who or any other interest people tend to take too seriously. Quit noticing the mistakes in continuity, stop poking the plots till you make a large hole and for god's sake quit saying the latest episode ruined your childhood for the fifth time this year!

Now, I also love playing devil's advocate, mostly because they have these really comfy chairs and those little Hors d'ouevres made with cream cheese and bits of pickle, but I digress. Admittedly I will say the 'Scooby-Doo' homage chase at the start of the episode is still a bit too much for me to handle and the fact that the Doctor would let poor Ursula Blake live out eternity as a face in a small square slab of concrete is pretty confusing (Not to mention the infamous sexual joke I won't go into detail about on a website that is family friendly), but they are small points in an overall great episode.

Love & Monsters also has the distinction of being the first 'Doctor-Lite' episode ever made, which were put into place to serve as a break for the recurring regular cast of Doctor Who, after some issues in workload and scheduling were causing strife during production of series one.

Personally it is the second best of the Doctor-Lite scripts second only to the modern classic which is Blink from series three.

 Although the Doctor and Rose are only present for a short time on screen, the story keeps your interest and a clever use of revisiting major events that took place on Earth since Rose re-launched the series in 2005 makes sure you knew you were still very much in the Doctor Who universe.

This is also true of using Rose Tyler's mother, Jackie Tyler in the script, which also allowed Russel T. Davies to use his amazing gift of always focusing on the emotions and motivations of his characters to allow Jackie to grow a bit as well as she vocalizes the story of being the loved one 'left behind' while her daughter continued to travel through time and space.

When all's said and done Love & Monsters is an episode that deserves praise not just because it is one of those tales that becomes infamous in Doctor Who fan circles for the way it divides fan opinion but also because if you do decide to criticize or hate the story it throws that hatred right back at 'spades.'

-Thomas Spychalski

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