Doctor Who: Love and Monsters
by Martin Conaghan, posted Jun 28th 2006 9:09PM
(S02E09) When the X-Files was at its height, one of the episode types I really liked were the ones that didn't actually involve Mulder and Scully in a prominent capacity. You know what I mean, those episodes where a central character told the story through their own eyes and the main players were really just incidental to the plot.
Star Trek: The Next Generation (and its ilk) were good at it too; peripheral characterization -- which probably arose from the main actors requiring a break from the shooting schedule.
Well, Love and Monsters was like this; a Doctor Who story without The Doctor. A quirky, romantic tale with enough excitement and mystery to bridge a gap between episodes and entertain in the usual way.
Warning: spoilers after the jump.
This week's story concerned an ordinary chap called Elton Pope and a group of his friends who shared a common experience; each one of them had encountered The Doctor at some point in their lives. With Elton, he met The Doctor as a child in the middle of the night, in the downstairs living room of his house.
The group start meeting regularly in the basement of a library and dub themsleves "London Investigators 'N' Detective Agency", or LINDA; a group which gradually transforms into an entertaining social gathering of misfits. That is, until the mysterious Victor Kennedy (played brilliantly by Peter Kay) joins their group and starts to lead their investigations into tracking down The Doctor and Rose.
Unfortunately, upon Kennedy's arrival, members of the group inexplicably start to vanish without a trace (including Elton's romantic interest, Ursula), as they up their search for The Doctor by persuading Elton to infiltrate the home of Rose's mum Jackie, in an attempt to learn more about their mysterious quarry.
However, Jackie catches on to Elton's ruse and throws him out, and upon his return to the library meeting place, the group discover Kennedy's true identity; the Abzobraloff, a hideous morphing creature that consumes his victims by absorbing them into his own body (not unlike that Billy Warlock movie Society).
Cue a chase sequence as Elton tries to outrun the Abzorbaloff until he finds himself cornered in an alleyway, only to be rescued by The Doctor and Rose, who encourage the absorbed members of LINDA to push together to break the creature's hold on them and free their spirits from its absorbing grasp. Sadly, the Abzorbaloff's broken cane was holding the group together with a cohesive energy field, and a distraught Elton witnesses his love Ursula being absorbed into the pavement as the creature explodes.
Fortunately, The Doctor manages to save some of Ursula's spirit, encased in a slab of concrete, but still able to communicate with Elton.
As Elton is comforted by Rose, he discovers why he met the Doctor as a child; an elemental shade had escaped from the Howling Halls and took up residence in Elton's house. The Doctor managed to stop it, but was too late to save Elton's mother, who died at the hands of the creature.
Elton's story concludes with the notion that the real world is so much darker and stranger than the ordinary goings-on we deem to be life, and also so much better.
It's almost certainly guaranteed that my thoughts on this episode will split the viewers. Personally, I liked it. As a stand-alone episode, it was a pleasant diversion from the usual hum-drum Doctor-saves-the-planet again fare we've been served up recently, and it combined some light-hearted humour with an emotional subtext of inexplicable lonliness, lost souls and the random connections in life that we should never take for granted.
Up next: The Doctor and Rose land right in the middle of the 2012 Olympics in London.