Monday, 20 February 2017

Story 175 - Love & Monsters

In which a young man whose life has intersected with that of the Doctor records on his video diary his experiences of love - and of monsters. Thinking about who might one day watch his diary, Elton Pope first recalls an encounter with the Doctor and Rose in an abandoned warehouse, where he was confronted by an alien creature. He first saw the Doctor, looking exactly the same, when he was a child, and has been obsessed with him ever since. He has other passions - like football, a beer, and the music of the Electric Light Orchestra.
He was a witness to the attempted Nestene invasion of London in March 2005, getting caught up in an Auton attack whilst out shopping. He was in Whitehall a year later when the Slitheen spaceship crashed into Big Ben, and his windows were blown in when the Sycorax spaceship arrived over London on Christmas Day, 2006. Scanning the internet after this latest alien encounter, he found a blog about the Doctor, with a photo of him taken in Trafalgar Square. The blog writer lived locally - Ursula Blake. He met her, and she introduced him to a number of other people who were keen to learn more about the Doctor. These were Mr Skinner, a girl named Bliss, and a woman named Bridget. They would all meet up in a derelict library basement one evening a week to discuss their obsession. It was Elton who came up with a name for their little group - the London Investigation 'N' Detective Agency, or L.I.N.D.A.

Over time, they began to talk about other things. Bridget revealed that she had an ulterior motive for her weekly visits to London - the search for her drug-addicted daughter. Mr Skinner wrote pulp fiction, and Bliss created sculpture and poetry. They brought in their home cooking, and even formed a band. ELO covers were regularly featured. Then one day a new arrival entered the frame. A man named Victor Kennedy turned up at their meeting. He had information about the Doctor, and pointed out that they had lost sight of their initial purpose. He urged them to concentrate their efforts in locating the Doctor, using structured and methodical means. A sighting of the TARDIS in an industrial area led Elton to the encounter which he used to open his video diary. Elton ran away, and Kennedy was furious with him. One week, Bliss did not come to the meetings - nor any of the following weeks. Kennedy claimed that she had found a boyfriend and gone off to get married. He decided that they should pursue Rose Tyler instead of the Doctor. Elton met a woman, Mrs Croot, who recognised her, and shortly afterwards he encountered Jackie. He befriended her, in order to learn more about Rose.
She was heartbroken to learn that he was not interested in her at all, but was simply trying to get to the Doctor and her daughter. This had been Elton's initial intention, but he had formed a genuine affection for her. Bridget stopped coming to the meetings.

When Kennedy was angered by Elton's failure with Jackie, the group rebelled against him. He had sucked all the fun out of their meetings with his obsession to find the Doctor, and they felt he had caused Bliss and Bridget to stop coming. They staged a walk-out. Mr Skinner stayed back as Kennedy claimed to have an address for Bridget. Ursula realised that she had left her phone behind and so she and Elton went back. Mr Skinner was nowhere to be seen, but Kennedy was still there, hidden behind his newspaper. His voice seemed to have changed, and then Ursula saw his hands - now large green claws. He was really an obese, green alien. The missing members of the group were merged with his corpulent body. Kennedy had always shunned physical contact, and now they knew why. He absorbed people into himself - like some kind of Abzorbaloff. Ursula fell victim, and Elton ran for his life. He was chased to an alleyway which proved to be a dead end. He was saved by the sudden arrival of the TARDIS. Rose was furious with Elton for having upset her mother. The Abzorbaloff wanted to consume the Doctor, to take on all his knowledge and experience. He revealed that he came from the sister world to Raxacoricofallapatorius - Clom. Elton's friends had influence over the creature, and disabled him long enough for Elton to break Kennedy's walking cane - which housed a mechanism which limited his absorption. Without it, he couldn't stop and was absorbed himself into the earth. Elton revealed that he had first met the Doctor on the night his mother had died. He had come to stop an elemental shade but had been too late to save her. The Doctor was able to partially save the Abzorbaloff's final victim - the love of Elton's life. Ursula's face was preserved in a paving slab, her mind and memory intact.

Love & Monsters was written by Russell T Davies, and was first broadcast on 17th June, 2006.
The idea of a story about the Doctor as he is seen by an ordinary person was an old one for Davies, and he had suggested it as a DWM comic strip. Series 2 of the programme had to accommodate 14 episodes instead of the previous year's 13, due to the addition of the first Christmas Special. It was necessary to "double-bank" a couple of stories - meaning that two adventures would be filmed at the same time. This would mean that the Doctor and Rose could only feature briefly. Tennant and Piper were making the Impossible Planet / Satan Pit two-parter when this was made. Davies could concentrate on the everyman character of Elton Pope and his brief encounters with the Doctor. A group of friends were built up around him. Davies looked to local Doctor Who fan groups for inspiration - something which would lead to some criticism of this story.
Many fans would often start off obsessing over the programme, but then would begin to share other interests and become much more of a social group - but there was always the odd member who didn't like this move away from talking exclusively about Doctor Who. Victor Kennedy was the real fan-obsessive, who could suck all the joy out of the gatherings.

Davies held back writing this script until after Blue Peter had run a design-a-monster competition, as he was going to use the winning design. The Abzorbaloff was created by nine year old William Grantham. His only criticism of the finished costume was that he had intended the creature to be the size of a double-decker bus - but his winning drawing hadn't given any sense of this scale. To play Kennedy / the Abzorbaloff, the production team turned to the hugely popular comedian Peter Kay. He had previously written a massive fan letter to Davies. It was Kay who decided on using his natural Lancashire accent for the creature, whilst Kennedy spoke in more RP tones. It was also his idea to mispronounce Eczema, to make it sound like he had a more exotic disease.
Kay's performance, and the Abzorbaloff in general, garnered more criticism for this story. Some of the humour was also frowned upon - in particular Elton's assertion that he and the disembodied Ursula had a love life of sorts...
The main guest artist is Marc Warren as Elton. At the time he was best known for BBC TV's Hustle. Making up the rest of L.I.N.D.A. are Shirley Henderson as Ursula, Simon Greenall as Mr Skinner, Moya Brady as Bridget, and Kathryn Drysdale as Bliss. Henderson was famous for a role in the Harry Potter movies, but had appeared in many successful dramas, initially in her native Scotland. Greenall was best known for his appearances alongside Alan Partridge. Drysdale was in comedy Two Pints of Lager..., which BBC3 used to show on a perpetual loop.

Tardisode: An unseen figure is using a computer to search for references to the Doctor. He comes across a homepage for a group called L.I.N.D.A. He uses this to track them to where they meet, on Maccateer Street. An old woman enters the room with a tea tray, and she is suddenly bathed in a green light. She cries out and we hear horrible slurping sounds...

Story Arc: 
  • Kennedy's computer is unable to get any more information about Rose due to a block by Torchwood. and he mentions a Bad Wolf virus.
  • Kennedy's newspaper tells of someone named Saxon being ahead in the polls.

Overall, it is the Marmite of Doctor Who stories. You either get it or you don't. You either love it or you hate it. Personally, I find it funny, clever, and moving. The material with Camille Coduri is fantastic, especially the way Jackie preempts each of Elton's various stages of establishing contact.
The DWM 50th Anniversary poll had it at 220nd out of 241. There are clearly a lot of Victor Kennedys out there.
Things you might like to know:
  • Davies originally intended that Elton would have experienced more of the Doctor's adventures throughout his life - including events from the Classic Series. A birthday party would have been interrupted by the Dalek incursion at Coal Hill School, his mother would have been killed by a Nestene daffodil, and he would have seen the Skarasen surface on the Thames.
  • Elton's alien experiences make use of footage from the episodes Rose, Aliens of London, and The Christmas Invasion. The Auton attack was intercut with new footage featuring Warren, and some people find it more exciting than the original material.
  • Davies had used the acronym L.I.N.D.A. in a previous writing job. The children's series Why Don't You...? had featured the Liverpool Investigation 'N' Detective Agency.
  • Mrs Croot is played by Bella Emberg, for many years a foil to comedian Russ Abbott - such as Blunder Woman to his Cooperman (a cross between Superman and comic magician Tommy Cooper, for those lucky enough not to be in the know). She featured in the Classic series on a couple of occasions - as a nurse outside the hospital in The Silurians when Major Baker dies, and as one of the kitchen wenches in The Time Warrior. She was supposed to reappear in The Runaway Bride, but the sequence on a London bus was cut.
  • Further inspirations for this story from Davies, knowing that the Doctor and Rose would be largely absent, were episodes of Buffy and Star Trek: TNG, in which the main characters were only briefly seen whilst the plot focused on minor characters observing them from a distance.
  • Peter Kay did not feature in the Tardisode. In the actual episode, there is no green glow when the Abzorbaloff attacks, but it may occur when he transforms from his Kennedy disguise.
  • First mention of what will be Series Three's story arc - mention of the politician Mr Saxon in Kennedy's newspaper. Torchwood will also prefigure this, with "Vote Saxon" posters visible in the latter couple of episodes.
  • The alien creature in the abandoned building has come to be known as the Hoix. It was made up of miscellaneous bits and pieces created by monster maker Neil Gorton's team. It was producer Phil Collinson who insisted that it be given a name. The name only appears in the credits, and it won't get called a Hoix on screen until the finale of Torchwood's second series, when Owen Harper encounters one. We'll see it again as part of the Pandorica Alliance.
  • A lot of people criticise the blue bucket / red bucket Hoix sequence, as it looks silly. The whole point is that this is how Elton is remembering it for his video diary. It isn't necessarily what actually happened. Besides, if it's good enough for Scooby Doo...
  • The scene where Elton describes having to devise a rudimentary pulley system to get out of bed after the Sycorax spaceship blasts in his windows was going to be cut, but Executive Producer Julie Gardner insisted it be kept in.
  • At one point Elton was going to be female. The role was then offered to Peter Kay, but he had just played an "anorak" character on Coronation Street and thought the roles too similar. Besides, he wanted to play a villainous role.


  1. I don't like this episode at all. It comes across as mean-spirited, and pushing a point of view. Many years later, in the American sitcom 'The Big Bang Theory', there's a scene where Sheldon Cooper walks out of a party, and says that "I had to leave. They were having fun wrong". That statement reminds me of Love & Monsters.

    Yes, some of us were "Victor Kennedys". But it was never being antisocial, or violent or anything like that. Before the interweb people genuinely loved discussing odd trivia, arguing over continuity etc. There were other discussions and interests, but Who was what brought these people together, sometimes Who was indeed the only common love. There were also other types who thought that "cruising" groups of (sometimes) socially awkward people was a good way to get a shag. Or maybe in Davies' eyes those people are the "normal ones"?

    Love & Monsters is one way of looking at things. Although not Davies' fault, there's a nasty essay in one of the About Time books, which is now forever part of the experience of this episode.

    And yes, the paving slab......

  2. Thanks for your comment. As far as I know RTD wasn't all that involved in organised fandom, so he may have been listening to other writers (the New Adventures lot or his own series scripters) regarding the VKs. Coming from a small town in Scotland I wasn't part of this either, so am not writing from personal experience. As I said, a Marmite episode. It's not the greatest story, even in that season, but do quite like it. Each to their own. I do recall that About Time essay, so it has probably stuck in my head.