Sunday, November 10, 2013

Love & Monsters - "You got me thinking that I'm wasting my time. Don't bring me down."

Love & Monsters (TV story) - Tardis Data Core, the Doctor Who Wiki

Series 2, Story 10 (Overall Series Story #175)

Hard to imagine an episode that was structured to allow the leads some time off from a busy filming schedule *and* is the one where they used a child fan's contest winning monster could turn out to be any good. The monster, by the way, is the Abzorbaloff. And it is, with apologies to and no fault assigned William Grantham, kind of a rubbish monster. But, y'know, considering a 9-year-old designed it you can credit the imaginative effort. (I wonder if young Mr. Grantham gets to use his Doctor Who credit get credentials at conventions or anything. Here's hoping there're still some dividends being paid for winning the contest. I imagine it might be a bit tough having your entry win only to be slagged by fandom years later. Seems there ought to be a lingering benefit to balance any of that out.) You can make a case for this one not only turning out to be decent, but nearly being one of the better episodes of the new series. I say nearly, because there are a just a few elements that needed to be tweaked to make that happen, but they were also significant elements that getting wrong inevitably resulted in this being far from one of the more successful stories.

That this episode is not a train wreck is a credit to Marc Warren, who carries it as the good-hearted, if somewhat dopey, Elton. No mean feat to lead an episode of Doctor Who when you're not the Doctor, or even a companion. With the exception of Victor Kennedy/Abzorbaloff, all the supporting ... well, featured, actually ... characters are charming. The Victor Kennedy character is not only not charming, not even in the ooh-I-like-this-villain-despite-its-villainy kind of way. The character is miscast and distracting. He's bad enough that he detracts from good work done by the other actors, even the ones he's got no scenes with. This is one of the best stories for Jackie Tyler. She's fleshed out a bit here, as sympathetic as she's ever been. We'd have been better served if Camille Coduri had been given these scenes in stronger episode.

Scooby Scooby Doo, where are you?
The Doctor, without much to do in this one -- except Scooby-Doo around for fun with Rose at the beginning, then show up at the end to not do much but give the Abzorbaloff's victims an idea they probably should've had much sooner anyways -- at least gets to save Ursula, somewhat improbably into a paving stone. Elton, not knowing its technical name, calls the Doctor's sonic screwdriver a 'magic wand', which may be a hint we should be revisiting the argument over whether Doctor Who is sci-fi, fantasy, fable, or some hybrid genre because the explanation of what he's doing makes no real sense and might as well be an incantation. Ursula in the paving stone sure looks like she belongs in a fairy tale, as if a witch had cast a spell on her. For all the heart this episode has, Billie Piper makes the most of brief screen time to rival Elton as the most compassionate character in the show, comforting Elton when he's down, even though she was cross with him for upsetting her mum.

For an analysis of what it means for the show to crack a joke about Elton and Ursula's love life (when one is a face in a paving stone), see Sandifer.

For an expanded analysis of the same that uses the lens of society's perception of the disabled, see Shabogan Graffiti.

Elton told us it would get scaaaary. It got effed up.

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