So, Love & Monsters. I said I’d go back to it, and after putting it off for several weeks, I have. It’s an episode that I loved and hated in equal measure when I first saw it… so what would I think this time round?
I will be entirely open about my initial issue with it: Marc Warren. I can’t stand him. He was OK in Hustle, although then he was playing an over-confident, self absorbed crook and was surrounded by seriously good actors. Here, presumably, he’s meant to be likeable. But I’m afraid that if you want a likeable character, you shouldn’t cast a man with a ridiculously smug face.
But looking past that, there are plenty of things I like about the episode. For instance, I love the way that Elton’s life has been framed by encounters with the Doctor (the ending, when he finally finds out what the Doctor’s connection to the death of his mother is particularly good… very poignant) – and the way they used flashbacks to show his part in unbelievable events (the spaceship crashing into Big Ben, the Auton invasion from Rose). It’s something that came up very obviously in the latest series – why doesn’t anyone remember any of these things? Well, here’s a group that do, and let it all bind them together.
Having duly noted RTD’s slight obsession with referencing his own show by having human characters obsessed with the Doctor and tracking him down, I have to say that every time there’s been this kind of meta-textual plot, it’s been from a separate angle. And in this case, the L.I.N.D.A angle on the story is pretty endearing, and the characters are likeable. They’re a little like an enlightened resistance. That have a bash at playing ELO songs to make them happy.
Peter Kay is pretty good as Victor Kennedy, precisely the right mixture of camp and creepy. But not as the monster. Don’t get me wrong here, I love the concept of the Abzorbaloff – it’s the kind of great idea that could only have come from a Blue Peter viewer. I’m just not keen on the way they realised it on screen. The idea might be funny (a green slobbering blobby thing trundling after Elton while threatening him in a digitally-treated mancunian accent), but it was those last couple of scenes that spoiled it for me completely. It’s a completely underwhelming resolution to the mystery that’s been set up. Having said that, I like the fact that it’s not the Doctor that defeats Abzorbaloff, but the people he’s eaten that do.
But my main gripe is with the comedy. Comedy and Doctor Who can go well really well together, but there’s a certain pitch you need to hit, and certain performers it works with. The scenes in Partners In Crime where Donna finally finds the Doctor are brilliantly performed, but there was an obvious comedic spark between David Tennant and Catherine Tate. The scenes in the warehouse in Love & Monsters, with the Benny Hill style chase involving Rose, the Doctor and the Hoix, are awful (in my opinion) – it works in Scooby Doo, but not really here… I’m just not convinced Billie Piper is suited to funny things.
But contrast that with the “bit of a love life” line at the end… and the almost-sweary line Abzorbaloff dies with (which, admittedly, made me laugh again). My problem isn’t the slapstick or the ruder references, but that it never found a balance between the two, and they just can’t sit together.
My view of Love & Monsters then, is the same as when I first saw it. I like it a lot, but the ending – with the comical Northern green blob and the pavement love – kind of ruins it.