Thursday, July 02, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 2x10: "Love And Monsters"

Written by Russell T Davies
Directed by Dan Zeff

Do I review this episode with a straight face or do I behave like a total pro? I ask this question because this episode had me in stitches because this episode was genuinely funny and not ridiculous or embarrassing to watch.

Taking a change in pace in every way possible, The Doctor and Rose are largely ignored in this week’s adventure in favour of Russell turning his attention on an ordinary but geeky thirty something man named Elton Pope who opens up our episode by running for his life as he witnesses The Doctor and Rose trying to defeat (but mostly fleeing from) an alien. It doesn’t hurt to note that this scene felt like a weird parody of Scooby Doo if I’m being candid.

Elton witnessing this incident is in the latest of bizarre connections he has had with The Doctor as he happily tells viewers by filming himself and narrating the episode. For instance, did you know that when the Autons attacked London in “Rose”, Elton was out shopping that evening? Did you also know that he was walking in the street when the Slitheen spaceship crashed into Big Ben in “Aliens Of London” or that his attempts of having a lie-in were disrupted by the Sycorax in “The Christmas Invasion”? No, me neither but I do now.

Some people would be freaked out by these series of events and probably skip London. Others might not think much of them and they are probably a few would put them down as inconveniences and nothing more. Elton however doesn’t fall into any of those categories and therefore this is just another incentive for him to learn more about the Time Lord, who he met as a child but doesn’t remember why The Doctor was there on that particular night.

A sudden blog post from a girl named Ursula, who turns out to be an equally geeky Doctor Who obsessive and instantly believes Elton’s claims of meeting The Doctor really helps to do wonders for this story. Not only is Ursula a tough as nails type of girl (in a less obvious way compared to Ana-Lucia on Lost folks) but there’s also a wonderfully subtle attraction between her and Elton that is dealt with nicely and before you can almost catch your breath, we’re soon introduced to Bliss, Bridget and Skinner.

Yes, this band of geeks (Elton quickly included) are all obsessed with The Doctor and decide to solidify their group by giving themselves a name. Bliss makes a good point about names being important, which leads to Elton suggesting that they call themselves LINDA, which effectively means London Investigation N’ Detective Agency. I have to admit I quite like the name myself, so cheers for no-one objecting to it.

However for a group that are obsessed with the legendary Time Lord and view themselves as detectives, it’s great to see that these Whovians (the popular phrase for Doctor Who fans/fanatics) also have fun as they distract themselves with cooking and singing 70’s songs. It’s also good for us as an audience that Marc Warren, Shirley Henderson and company who play LINDA are good singers otherwise the series of musical interludes throughout the episode would’ve an unpleasant experience. Sadly for them, their fun gets kicked into touch as their latest member becomes their leader. I want the 70’s music back. This episode really does make you hate party poopers.

As for our latest member, I will happily admit I was dreading the idea of Peter Kay appearing on Doctor Who as an alien and given that 80% of this instalment was fun filled, I was even more apprehensive. However credit given where it’s due, I will turn around and admit that while Peter Kay wasn’t my favourite thing about this week, he certainly pulled in a great performance as the enigmatic Victor Kennedy, who in actuality a monster called Abzorbaloff. The phrase “enough said” couldn’t be more appropriate here.

Abzorbaloff is able to make himself look human long enough to matter but his true interest lies in absorbing humans to survive. He does this both Bliss and a grieving Bridget by the first half of the episode while telling everyone else not to touch him due to sever eczema. Not that I would want to anyway pal.

Kennedy’s infiltration/takeover of LINDA happens so swiftly. I mean one minute the gang are singing, the next they are being designated assignments on how to find The Doctor. We don’t actually get to see anyone else’s tasks as such being realised out, so it makes sense that Elton’s is the only one explored and it’s a good one.

Because in order to learn more about The Doctor, the gang need to learn more about Rose and in order to do that, Elton needs to get information out of Jackie. The poor lad must’ve thought that this would be a hard task getting Jackie to talk when it’s getting her to not talk that proves more challenging.

The plan kicks off at the laundrette where it is Jackie doing all of Elton’s four step plan and not him. She asks for a change of 50, tells him her name and gets his, before asking him over to her house to fix her washing machine, among many things which also includes the most hilarious seduction scene since Bree’s red lingerie moment in Season One of Desperate Housewives. Though this being a 7pm type of show, you’re not going to see that much flesh, so sorry lads but you’re going to have to use your imagination on this one.

If you think this is all fun and games or if something truly murderous is going to happen, then you’re in for a bit of shock as the games between Elton and Jackie take a fantastic turn as the former’s guilt of being deceitful is brilliantly played out.

Camille Coduri who plays Jackie has been a good presence on the series but hasn’t exactly been given much to do that really stands out and makes you really pay attention to her as an actress. This isn’t a new feeling as most viewers felt that way with Noel Clarke, until the “Rise Of The Cybermen”/“The Age Of Steel” two parter, which gave Mickey all the backstory and depth as a character that he had somewhat lacked in the first season.

Coduri got her turn tonight as not only did we get to see Jackie at her comic best but we also got to see the emotionally vulnerable and lonely Jackie, who talked about missing her travelling daughter Rose and the effect that being left behind has had on her. If I didn’t like Jackie before, then this episode certainly would’ve changed my mind. Her attempts to seduce Elton and her realisation that she was making a fool of herself were touching moments and it was nice that she learned what Elton really wanted from her; she stood her ground and proved her loyalty to both Rose and The Doctor.

Not that Elton was all bad with Jackie. He may not have gathered anything in terms of Intel for Victor but he certainly proved to be a decent bloke in how he dealt with Jackie. The going out for pizza gesture was nice and upon being caught out, he appeared sincere when apologising to her. It also gave him the nudge to abandon crazy Victor and Victor’s crazier plans.

It’s just such a pity then that Victor had turned into his true form and absorbed poor Skinner and Ursula who made the grave error of trying to force him to release everyone else beforehand. I give major props to the design who made the little boy who entered the Blue Peter competition and won nifty monster for bringing Abzorbaloff to life but both the monster’s destruction (though pretty cool), his brief interaction with The Doctor and Rose as well as the short presence between the TARDIS Team were dealt with a little swiftly for my liking.

That being said, I did continue to like Elton’s courage for trying to stand up to Abzorbaloff and his grief for Ursula as well his reaction to Rose busting his chops over how he treated Jackie. The best part however is learning that Elton’s interaction with The Doctor as a child coincided with a shadow that killed his mother. In my opinion, I found this revelation satisfactory.

As for the end, well Elton’s closing narration is painfully ironic in a few ways as he touches upon the pros and cons of being close to The Doctor, which I’m sure that everyone is watching this series will be aware that this revelation will bear fruit in three weeks time. I liked the fact that despite all the bad stuff that has happened to Elton, somehow he has still managed to remain fairly optimistic about things. It also helps that parts of Ursula were salvaged and for us as an audience that Hustle actor Marc Warren was brilliant as Elton from start to finish.

Also in “Love And Monsters”

This episode began and ended with Elton and his video camera. His bedroom looks to be the same size as mine, albeit slightly more together.

Elton: “That’s how I met Jackie Tyler.”
Jackie: “Oh you don’t meet that many Eltons.”

Personal bits about LINDA: Bliss is an artist/good cook, Bridget lost a daughter and Skinner seems to be a writer. We also learn that Elton works for a haulage company and likes football, booze, Spain and the electrical light orchestra.

Ursula (re LINDA): “Did you think of that one on the spot?”
Elton: “No. I’ve wanted to use it for years.”

Elton: “Who are you?”
Victor: “I am your salvation.”

This week, the Torchwood files were mentioned along with Rose connected with a Bad Wolf virus. This season, like the last one has become a “spot the phrase/message” thing. I don’t mind really.

Ursula (to Victor, re Elton): “Use a cane on him and you’ll get one hell of a smack from me.”

Elton (re Jackie): “She keeps everything close to her chest.”
Ursula: “It’s a very big chest.”

This episode was similar in tone to the Buffy episode “Storyteller” (my teaser as well). It was also better than said episode.

Jackie: “I thought you liked me.”
Elton: “I do.”

Rose: “You upset my Mum.”
Elton: “I’m being attacked by an Abzorbaloff and you’re having a go at me?”

No talking over the end credits this week and this was the first episode where Jackie didn’t interact with either Rose or The Doctor. That’s pretty cool on both accounts.

Victor (re Elton): “He’ll die Doctor.”
The Doctor: “Go on then.”

What happened to Victor’s cane after he was defeated? Did The Doctor/Rose destroy it or does Elton have it as a souvenir?

Rose: “Who was she?”
Elton: “That was Ursula.”

Elton: “We forget because we must.”

Standout music: The wonderful 70’s soundtrack (ELO’s “Mr Blue Sky” in particular) and admittedly the Ill Divo version to “Unbreak My Heart” is tolerable, even if they did ruin it by using it as a World Cup anthem.

I didn’t think that I was going to like “Love And Monsters” as much as I did, but this was a brilliant episode. The overemphasis on Elton and LINDA, along with Peter Kay as a monster and a reduced role this week for The Doctor and Rose could’ve been a major disaster but it worked wonderfully well. Also like with “The Satan Pit” last week, the seeds are being sown for a certain event to happen in the finale.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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