Love & Monsters is a brave attempt to put a spin on Doctor Who by telling a story from the viewpoint of an onlooker. It won’t be the last story to do this, and arguably it’s not the first one either – ever since Rose, Russell T. Davies has wanted NuWho to be about the people who are caught up in the Doctor’s life, more than about the Doctor himself. However, Love & Monsters is even less traditional in its storytelling, taking place by way of flashbacks and video diaries, and revealing how poor Elton has had his life irrevocably changed by merely brushing against the Doctor’s.
There’s a good story struggling to get out, I believe. Down-to-earth characters are where Davies excels and, I have to admit, this new guy and his gang of Doctor-hunting nerds are easy to like. The dialogue is, by and large, fairly good. Peter Kay’s character, on the other hand, is more of a pantomime villain, and his ‘abzorbaloff’ persona is the exact wrong sort of disgusting. If it looks like a creature designed by a nine-year-old, it’s because it was. Also, fart gags? Still?
Oh, it’s full of silly situations, but we have to take some of it, such as the Doctor and Rose running back and forth like they’re in a Scooby-Doo episode, as Elton’s unreliable testimony, rather than something they literally do. But when you have these daft moments happening, it’s hard to take the drama seriously. Jackie Tyler, though not endearing herself by flashing her underwear around, suddenly becomes a real person when she starts talking about protecting Rose no matter what and how the people the Doctor leaves behind are the ones most affected.
Perhaps this is something that could be explored better in future, perhaps the Doctor could face the consequences of his actions and see how he affects those around him, but this is not the time for it. He and Rose are barely in it, and so Love & Monsters feels like a story made by necessity of their absence more than it does a genuine attempt to ask these sorts of questions.
I suppose the ‘LINDA’ group represents Doctor Who fans, conspiracy-theorists, and general nerdy cult groups who get together to talk about stuff (if Clive had survived the Autons, I imagine he’d’ve been leading them himself – assuming he’d twigged that the Doctor changes his appearance). The transformation from an investigative group into a company of friends (and a band!) is sweet, and yet another thing that the Doctor’s involvement sadly destroys, as all of Elton’s friends are killed in an unfortunate fashion. Er, except for Ursula, who survives in the form of a paving slab, with inappropriate oral sex connotations. You couldn’t make it up! (Well, evidently you could.)
Doctor Who can be many things, and I appreciate on the one hand that they wanted to try something different. It shows how verstatile the premise of the show is that this can almost work. On the other hand, it’s just not very good. It’s not quite as dreadful as I remember it being, but my lasting impression of Love & Monsters will continue to be Peter Kay in a big green rubber suit with his tongue sticking out and Moaning Myrtle’s face on a paving slab. Its saving grace is the ELO soundtrack, I guess.