Dear Russell T Davies,
What the hell do you think you're doing to Doctor Who?
With “Love & Monsters” you've written a story where the Doctor and Rose are on-screen for all of ten minutes. Our primary character is a disconnected, internet-surfing social misfit and the people around him appear to have even less of a grasp on reality. The soundtrack overdoses on the nerdiest, niche pop band of all time. The villain is a third-rate huckster framed by a cheap suit and a wispy beard. Oh, and perhaps most mind-boggling, you give Camille Coduri's Jackie Tyler ample amounts of screen time!? Golly gee whiz Davies, you even have the balls to begin with a Scooby-Doo chase scene and end with a Stephen King quote and a thinly veiled blowjob gag.
Russell, Russell, Russell…I love you for “Love & Monsters.” For every poignant, wisecracking & emotion-drenched minute of it.
Mister Blue Sky, please tell us why
You had to hide away for so long
Where did we go wrong?
I've read the criticisms, sure, and while I disagree with them, I can see where they're coming from. Some people just don't like their Doctor Who served this rare. With “Love & Monsters” you've brought the series kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Should every episode be like this? Of course not, and you know that. But you also know there's no reason the series can't do something this quirky and beautiful when an inspired mind conjures up such a scenario.
Some have claimed that through “Love & Monsters” you are taking a swipe at fandom. I don't see it that way. Isn't it your celebration of and tribute to genre fans of all types? Marc Warren's Elton Pope is a bruised introvert. Life has led him to sequester himself from other people. Even though he'd like for us to believe otherwise, Elton's clearly a computer geek obsessed with the Doctor—I can relate to that. The way you write Elton, it's obvious you don't pity him, but care for him. An assessment of Elton as pathetic would say more about the viewer than the character. When we watch Doctor Who, it's natural to want to be the Doctor or Rose; to believe that the power of good will win out. But the reality is that most of us are far more Elton than we are the Doctor. We live the so-called lives of quiet desperation and the search for good is a frustrating chore. We look for answers and don't usually find them, and on the rare occasions we do, it's not generally what we wanted to hear.
Hey there Mister Blue
We're so pleased to be with you
Look around see what you do
Ev'rybody smiles at you
There are very real truths in your depiction of the value of meeting people through the Internet. While a certain topic may be the common ground, people will eventually trade deeper and more important thoughts and ideas. They will grow and learn and experience through trust. Such relationships may remain confined to cyberspace, but they may also eventually come together in the “real” world. While the Internet has frequently been depicted as a breeding ground for stalkers, child molesters, identity thieves and other ne'er-do-wells, you show a larger reality: It's also a place where the lonely can make vital life connections.
And Peter Kay's Victor Kennedy? He represents the worst type of troll. The guy who bitches and attempts to moderate those veering away from a group's charter issue(s). He shouts “Off Topic!” at the expression of individuality, controlling cyber forums by preying on feelings of insecurity. He's the sort of dude who takes all the fun out of it by trying to absorb everyone into his way of doing things. Unfortunately, these types frequently wield an absurd amount of power and, as the members of L.I.N.D.A. demonstrate, they can be dressed down to size.
You wisely bestow upon Jackie Tyler more depth and character than she's previously been allowed. Freeing her from the immediate presences of the Doctor and Rose permits Jackie to finally show the three-dimensional character that's boiled beneath her surface, begging exposure. Camille Coduri imbues her with dual senses of strength and vulnerability. It's as if both you and Camille have always viewed Jackie as she's presented here, but have patiently waited for the right time to showcase her; there's an evident synergy of character, writer and actor. Oh, and she looks freakin' hot: The British MILF equivalent of Stifler's Mom (but even hotter!). As shallow as it sounds, for those of us who lusted after the twentysomething Camille of King Ralph and Nuns on the Run, that may be the episode's most tangible gift. When Elton decides to go for it, we root for him, and when circumstance prevents the conquest, we feel for them both. Her speech about “Those that get left behind” is defining, Jackie 101; it's her painful reality that she's never expressed to either Rose or the Doctor himself.
Mister Blue, you did it right
But soon comes Mister Night creepin' over
Now his hand is on your shoulder
Never mind I'll remember you this way
It's often been said that one of Doctor Who's strengths is its flexible format, allowing for it “to be anything it wants to be”. Now I don't know if that's necessarily the case, but with “Love & Monsters” you put the theory squarely to the test. Never before has the series adhered less to the established formula—which seems to demand the involvement of its central figure—and yet the Doctor's shadowy presence hovers above the proceedings like an angel of doom. Elton's realization that the root of his obsession is directly tied to the loss of his mother is heartfelt and real. It works because there exist countless, unrecognized Eltons scarred by the imprint of this stranger who is so often accompanied by death.
And yes Mr. Davies—the Doctor's machine is the most beautiful sound in the world. Well, it and the musical symphony of Jeff Lynne and the Electric Light Orchestra.
Elton Pope: “What I wanted to say is, you know when you're a kid, they tell you it's all… grow up. Get a job. Get married. Get a house. Have a kid, and that's it. The truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It's so much darker. And so much madder. And so much better.”
NEXT WEEK: The co-creator of Life on Mars scripts a story featuring non-bipedal aliens, a child's drawings and the 2012 Olympic Games in “Fear Her”.
Classic Who DVD Recommendation of the Week: “The Two Doctors”, starring Colin Baker and Patrick Troughton.
Ross Ruediger is a San Antonio-based critic and columnist, a contributor to The House Next Door, and publisher of The Rued Morgue.