Cast of Characters:
Elton (Marc Warren) – A lonely, insular young man with a fetish for dancing to ELO and video blogging. The main character in an episode of a series called Doctor Who.
Ursula (Shirley Henderson) – Elton’s friend/girlfriend. She wears glasses to make her look geeky, but is clearly a hottie. The supporting character in an episode of a series called Doctor Who.
LINDA – A support group of people who are looking for a man known as the Doctor, the star and main character of a series called Doctor Who, but whom we might as well dub Sir Not Appearing in this Story.
Victor Kennedy (Peter Kay) – A KOMEDY! goldmine! He’s fat, he’s obnoxious, he’s offensive and later turns into a hideous green monster which slightly improves his looks.
Jackie Tyler (Camile Coduri) – The mother of the primary supporting character on the series. Has more of a role in this story than either the main or supporting stars of the show.
The Doctor (David Tennant) – The tenth incarnation of an alien traveler through time and space. The main character of the show. Clearly added as an afterthought.
Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) – The Doctor’s human companion. Default state is vaguely weepy. She’s the supporting character in the series. Also added as an afterthought.
And so the Worst of Doctor Who gets ready to drop its first stink-bomb on the new series!
The original series of Doctor Who went off the air in 1989 after 26 years and 159 stories. The last episode, “Survival“, aired in December of that year, and lead to a drought of the show on TV that ended briefly with the backdoor pilot movie imaginatively called Doctor Who. It’s failings are many and have already been chronicled by me, but they did at least keep the show going and introduced the 8th Doctor. But it was still a long wait before the show would return to TV on a regular basis.
Finally in 2005, after years of speculation, starts and stops and general confusion, noted television producer Russell T Davies (known for creating Queer as Folk, and also someone who wrote a Doctor Who novel), finally got a new series into production! With future Destro actor Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, the show took off into high ratings and generally pleased most fans, old and new. Sure, it had it’s failings (farting aliens, anyone?), but it had its good moments and many were disappointed when Eccleston stepped down after only one season to be replaced by David Tennant who, fortunately, ended up being one of the best Doctors the show has ever had.
I like the new series (sometimes referred to as “New Who“, cause that, you know, rhymes. Kind of like New Zoo Revue only with no talking frogs. Well, usually none). It’s kind of goofy and stupid at times, but it has its charms. I don’t know that I would watch it had I not been such a fan of the original series, but perhaps. Some of the stories have, after all, been among the best in science-fiction, with stories such as “Blink” and “Human Nature” leading the way.
Sadly, the series has been saddled with one major problem since its relaunch, and that problem is a chap named Russell T Davies.
See, he’s not a bad producer or even a bad writer, but like many fans, I kind of twitch when I see the episode I’m about to watch is one written by him. Why? Because his episodes tend to be the most self-indulgent, cringe-inducing, vaguely nauseating episodes. All the really good stories are ones he didn’t write, while the worst of the series are ones he did. Those worst episodes include today’s crime, Love and Monsters.
“Love and Monsters” occupies an odd place. It’s an episode of Doctor Who that doesn’t really feature the Doctor or Rose very much at all. They’ve started doing stories like that once per season and it worked well with “Blink” and “Turn Left“. It does not work well with this episode. It’s too bad, too, cause it had the potential to be the best show of the series, and some scenes work incredibly, wonderfully well, but it’s still a dreadful, awful episode, and as we delve into why, keep in the back of your mind: it was written by Davies.
The story begins with a not-unattractive fellow, later revealed to be named Elton, running through some sort of factory-type of place. We are unsure what he’s doing, but we see the TARDIS. He runs over to it, and then hears the voices of the Doctor and Rose. He runs towards the voices and comes to a mysterious door with light leaking out of the bottom of it. It opens, revealing a character illuminated heavily by the Backlight of Rassilon. We cut to the opening credits.
The character turns out to be a rather impressive looking monster, and I’ll say this for both the old and new series: at least they had unique and interesting alien designs, often involving full masks and costumes. When this worked, we got cool looking monsters like the Ood, the Sontarans, the the Daleks, the Cybermen, and Sil. It didn’t always work (the Zarbi are a great example), but it was reasonably creative and daring and far more interesting in many ways than what the higher-budgeted Star Trek series managed to accomplish, since most of their aliens were clearly humans with bumpy bits added.
Anyhow, the Doctor turns up as the monster is about to, possibly, munch on Elton. He distracts the monster with some steak while Rose comes up and throws what appears to be water from a blue bucket at it. The Doctor tells her, no, it was meant to be the red bucket and then we get our first sign that, just possibly, this won’t be a great episode, as the monster, the Doctor and Rose (astonishingly not weeping at the moment), run back and forth through a series of doors in the kind of corridor gag that was old and stupid when Scooby Doo did it. Now possibly it didn’t really happen like that, and Elton is a unreliable narrator. If this were a better episode, I’d presume that was the case. Instead I just chalk it up to Davies’ crap writing.
The chase sequence ends abruptly, thank the FSM, and Elton goes back outside. We then go to him in his bedroom as he talks into a video camera about all the experiences of his life and how it’s intersected the Doctor in various ways. This starts with him seeing the Doctor when he was a little boy and then goes up to reference various new series episodes, like “Rose”, “The Christmas Invasion” and “The Aliens of London” (yeah, thanks, Davies, I really wanted to be reminded of the Slitheen). There were apparently plans to reference various original series episodes, and I’m rather disappointed that didn’t happen, but, oh, well.
Anyhow, Elton talks about his love for ELO (and subjects us to a dance, continuing Davies’ and company’s drive to
shoehorn incorporate as many elements of the real world as they possibly can into their stories), talks about the Internet crashing during the Sycorax invasion (which somehow causes his computer to explode), and then starts talking about Ursula and the group they are a part of, a group that meets in the basement of an old library and hangs out talking about their interest in the Doctor.
As everyone gets to know each other, they begin to bring in food, start playing music together (looking very much like Elton and the Pussycats), and generally bond. I must say, the character building scenes between Elton and his friends actually work really, really well and work to the point where one can start feeling some response when Bad Things start to happen to them. It’s a great example of what this story could’ve been, if only they’d tried (or shot Davies on sight).
Eventually the group decides they need a name, so they call themselves the “London Investigation ‘n’ Detective Agency”, or NAMBLA. All is going well for these folks, and going reasonably well for the story, until Victor Kennedy (illuminated by the Backlight of Rassilon), shows up and, in true Davies-style, begins to display all the fine attributes that will bring this episode crashing down to Earth.
Victor Kennedy is an odd looking fat man with a blonde goatee. He tells the group he’s there to help them and please don’t touch him, as he has a rare skin disease. The group accepts him as their new leader and are soon doing everything he tells them to, including homework and the like. They do this all without question, and I’m guessing they feel guilt over having gotten sidetracked from the original project, but the story isn’t really clear on this.
One day not long after his arrival, the group has a meeting, and when they leave, he asks Bliss, one of the groupies, to stay behind. She does, and we see everyone else leave. We get an exterior shot of them departing when a blood-curdling scream rings out. Clearly there’s no way that the group could’ve failed to notice this loud cry of misery. Just as clearly, there’s no way she could’ve screamed loud enough for us to hear her outside the building. Obviously, it was a scream added in post to make it clear that Something Bad was happening, but frankly I feel that silence would’ve been more effective.
The gang come back for their next meeting and are told that Bliss has run off to get married. They blindly accept this and prepare for new assignments. It’s during this time that Elton has his run-in with the Doctor and Rose at the factory. Back at base, Victor berates him for having frozen-up, and Elton tells him, “Fuck off and die, you fat bastard.” Actually, he doesn’t, but he should. Instead he just meekly accepts the criticism and moves onto his next goal; finding Rose’s mom, Jackie.
Victor explains that due to the “Bad Wolf” virus (cute), the files on Rose that are held by Torchwood (cute), are very incomplete, and for some reason in this scene, Elton is so badly lit that he looks like he’s got hepatitis. Seriously, he’s got this yellow tinge to him. Very weird.
Elton gets into it with Victor and Ursula responds, threatening Victor, who backs down after making some comments about how she’s been considered the one most likely to fight back. Hmmm. If that’s the case, one wonders why he didn’t off Ursula first, but never mind. He does, however, take the time to off Bridget right after we see that her and Mr Skinner are falling in love. Great. Nothing like a little pointless pathos.
So Elton heads off on his impossible quest to find Jackie Tyler. This impossible quest takes all of about a minute. He-he. Then as he’s doing laundry next to her (don’t ask), he’s pondering the four steps he needs to undertake to make contact with her. “Hilariously” as he thinks them, she does them for him. KOMEDY! Anyhow, her washing machine at home is broken, so she eventually entices Elton to come back to her place and fix it. We see it sitting in the kitchen.
I don’t understand this about the English. I’ve watched quite a bit of How Clean is Your House? and invariably the washer and dryer are located in the kitchen. What’s up with that? Surely that can’t be the most sanitary arrangement. It may just be due to the convenience of the water pipes, but a: a newly-built place (like in the last 50 years), would likely take washers into account, and b: there’s plumbing in the bathroom, and if I had to choose between washing my clothes in the kitchen or the bathroom, it’d be the bathroom every time.
So Elton then finds himself spending a lot of time around Jackie with her being painfully obvious about how attracted she is to him, and how much she wants him to tend to her plumbing, if you know what I mean (believe me, I wish I didn’t know what I meant there). She also turns up in a close-up shot of her bum in a miniskirt, giving me a new reason to dislike Russell T Davies.
The good thing about these scenes is that it does nicely illustrate how alone Jackie is and how much she misses Rose, and so I can’t totally hate the scenes. I just wish they’d been handled better, with a little more emotion and a lot less attempts at KOMEDY!.
Moving on, we see Jackie make a very clumsy, obvious attempt at getting Elton into the sack, which does at least result in him removing his shirt, so my hatred for Davies’ work decreases slightly. He approaches Jackie shirtless, making it clear that he’s go for the Moon, as it were, only to find her sitting talking on the phone to Rose. Jackie finishes the call, gets as vaguely weepy as Rose usually is, and suggests Elton go home. He instead offers to go buy pizza and spend the evening hanging out with her as friends.
This plan is thrown slightly when, as he’s coming back with the pizza, she approaches him with a photo of Rose he’d been carrying in his pocket for the last couple weeks. He explains that, no, he’s not some creepy stalker after Rose, he’s actually after the Doctor. Oddly, this fails to move Jackie, she tells him where to go, and we have the last, the very last, of the really good scenes in the entire story. I mean it. It’s downhill from here, folks.
Elton goes back to the group disconsolate. He makes a little speech to Victor about how he’s had enough, and it’s not fun anymore. He says he’s leaving, as are Ursula (who he invites to dinner), and Mr Skinner (who he does not). They get ready to storm out and Victor asks Mr Skinner to hang back a bit. Astonishingly, he does, and is of course killed right after Ursula and Elton leave. Proof if any was needed that natural selection is alive and well in the human species.
Ursula realizes she’s forgotten her cell phone. Her and Elton return to find Victor sitting behind a newspaper which he is holding with light green fingers. They don’t believe him when he says Mr Skinner has gone the toilet (especially when they hear his voice), so Ursula pulls down the newspaper and sees that Victor is actually a rather unpleasant green alien who looks not unlike a Vogon. Actually, he really resembles one quite a bit. He also faces sticking out of him, including the faces of Mr Skinner, Bridget and Bliss (who is apparently on his ass. KOMEDY!).
I must say in many ways the design of the creature, which Elton dubs an Abzorbaloff, is actually rather creepy and interesting. It’s apparently based off this picture:
The picture is a contest entry from a nine-year-old boy who won a “Design a Doctor Who Alien” contest. The kid was apparently somewhat disappointed because he’d pictured the creature as being the size of a bus. That’s alright, kid. The rest of us were disappointed cause he was used in such a sucky episode.
Anyhow, the Abzorbaloff apparently absorbs people into itself for… uhm. I don’t know why, actually. It’s never said straight out. Sucking up their knowledge, possibly, since that’s what he appears to want to do to the Doctor. No explanation is offered for why he did it to these people.
Ursula threatens to hit him with his cane if he doesn’t release everyone. He says he can’t and grabs her arm. The act of him touching her is enough that she starts to get absorbed into the monster as well, saying goodbye to Elton and mentioning that she wishes she could touch him one last time before she dies. She also helpfully informs him that he’s next on the chopping block, something someone with the IQ of a turnip could figure out. Then she’s sucked inside, clothing and all, and appears on Victor’s chest as a face… that can talk. And see. And has glasses. And makeup. None of which makes any sense, but ok.
Victor chases after Elton and eventually corners him. Elton is cowering and basically gives up, but then the TARDIS appears, generating some strange wind that it generates when the script calls for it to do so. Rose and the Doctor get out and Rose starts to take Elton to task for upsetting Jackie. Elton and Victor exchange the sort of looks that anyone, including viewers, might exchange under the circumstances.
Rose then makes some remark about how Victor looks rather like a Slitheen. Victor apparently comes from a planet called Clom, which is a sister planet to the Slitheen planet, Raxacoricofallipatoris. Which explains the resemblance, or rather it doesn’t, in fact, since the two species look nothing like each other! See, here’s pictures!
Nada! Nothing alike, aside from a vaguely greenish skin color. Argh, this show is pissing me off! It can’t even stay consistent within it’s own universe! It’s enough to make me wager that, should we see the Slitheen again, they might be retconned to look like this happy fellow.
Anyhow, Victor is about to absorb Elton when Ursula and the gang realize they have limited control over his body. They pull hard inside him and keep him from killing Elton as Elton grabs Victor’s magic cane and breaks it in half. This apparently reverses the polarity of his neutron flow, or some such, and causes him to collapse into a wet blob that gets absorbed into the dirt, leaving Elton sad that his friends are all dead and leaving Rose looking, yes, weepy, as she tries to comfort him.
After this we have more of Elton sitting in front of his computer talking about how the first time he’d met the Doctor, it turned out he’d been chasing a shadow elemental that had gone into Elton’s house. The Doctor stopped it, but not before it killed Elton’s mother, and then follows a rather touching series of shots with his mum that actually make me feel a little sad, especially when we have the final shot of them in the park together, her waving goodbye and walking off. It’s a very wonderful, and effective scene, as is Elton’s comments after on the nature of life and how darker, madder and better it is than anyone ever tells you.
And this is where it should’ve ended. If the episode had ended there, I would’ve forgiven a lot of what had gone before. I would’ve chalked it up as an imperfect, but actually pretty good, episode with a nice emotional core to it and a sweet, touching ending. But no. Like so many other works of fiction such as A.I. – Artificial Intelligence, Nowhere, and many others. But that’s not what happens. It doesn’t end. It keeps on going.
*sigh* Prepare yourselves, dear readers, for I can barely force myself to type out what happens next.
See, we hear the voice of Ursula from off-camera, talking to Elton. It turns out the Doctor wasn’t able to save her, but was able to, somehow, reconstitute her DNA with his sonic screwdriver (a bit of whatever tech if I’ve ever seen it). Her DNA is mixed in with a paving stone (which I am 100% sure is impossible), and this turns her into a talking paving stone, complete with a face, makeup and, yes, still glasses. No visible ears, but she somehow hears everything anyhow. Then it gets even uglier as Elton makes an allusion to the two of them having “a bit of a love-life”.
Oh, almighty Zarquon, did we really need this? Did we really need an oral sex joke on Doctor Who? Yes, ten out of ten for being modern and edgy, but minus several million for appropriateness.
Further, what the hell is up with this paving stone business? How does she breathe? How does she eat and (ulp), excrete? And why would anyone want to exist as a bit of talking paving stone? I’d ask Elton to get a sledgehammer and be done with it.
This ending really, truly kills the story. We didn’t need to see Ursula revived as a paving stone, that’s just stupid. Upon seeing that, we really did not need an oral sex joke. This just pisses me off! It takes what was, at one point, a decent, if not great, story that had a wonderful potential ending and totally ass-rapes it leaving it as a stinking pile of yuck.
New Who has done some wonderful episodes. The aforementioned “Blink” is one of the best bits of science fiction out there. Hell, even this series of the show had a few total winners, like “School Reunion” (cause who doesn’t like seeing Sarah Jane and K-9?), and the really great “The Girl in the Fireplace”, but then it also had this stinking pile sitting in the middle the schedule like a lead weight on a sheet, dragging down everything around it. Argh, I could’ve written a better episode than this in my sleep!
The good news it that Russell T Davies is leaving the show. Hopefully once he’s gone we’ll move past a lot of the stupid, juvenile humor that’s permeated the show since its return. One can hope anyhow.
Next time, on “The Worst of Doctor Who“, the Doctor meets… the Doctor! Yes, friends, it’s “The Two Doctors“! Brace for unpleasantness and food!