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24 January 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 754: Love & Monsters

Dear diary,

Has there ever been a more contentious episode of Doctor Who than this one? The summer of 2006 was when I first sort of stumbled into online fandom, finding discussions of the programme on various forums, and enjoying the opportunity to connect with other people who loved the show. When Love & Monsters is one of the first episodes to air after you’ve joined an online forum, you get something of a baptism of fire in the extreme reactions of fans. Generally, this episode seems to split the fandom right down the middle - there are some who would tell you that this is one of the biggest blemishes on the programme’s long history, while there’s others who’d say it shines as a prime example of just how malleable this format can be - allowing writers to tell a story which is so completely off-the-wall, and yet still make it fit neatly within the world of Doctor Who.

So, where do I fare with this one? Well, at the time, I remember not dis*liking the story, but not being especially blown away by it, either. Largely, I suspect that I was slightly disappointed by the lack of the Doctor from the tale (certainly, when the story was announced in *Doctor Who Magazine, I recall feeling a bit put-out that we’d be getting an episode of the programme with so little of it’s leading characters, even if I understood the practical reasons for producing it), and that coupled with my general apathy towards this series just meant it washed over my head. I’m not entirely sure if I’ve seen it in the years since first broadcast - though I’m fairly certain that I haven’t - so this is a chance to sit down and give it a shot as new.

Overall, I’m not particularly bothered. I certainly don’t hate the story, but I can’t say it’s ever likely to become one of my favourites, either. The lack of the Doctor lends this one a slightly strange feeling of not ever quite feeling like an episode of Doctor Who, even though there’s plenty in here which also makes it perfectly in keeping with Doctor Who (bear with, I’ll come to that, and I’ll try to make a bit more sense). No, instead, this feels almost like an extra-long mini-episode, or prequel to a story, rather than standing as a story in its own right. Series Two was the first time that they started to experiment with the idea of small prequels without the main cast, serving as a set-up to the story-to-come; Love & Monsters feels like this idea, expanded to fill a full 45 minutes*.

Still, that doesn’t mean that there’s not some rather nice elements to this story which make it worthwhile - and largely, it’s the fact that we get to spend so much time with Jackie Tyler, and see her when she’s left on her own. I spoke a lot during Series One about the fact that there’s various episodes which are perfectly placed to serve a purpose, and this is another one like that - we’re going to be seeing a strong role for Jackie in the series finale, so this is a great chance to catch up with her, and get a good look at the way she’s been affected by the Doctor. Plus, there’s few things funnier than her flirting!

I also can’t help but feel that this works very much as a Doctor Who episode because parts of it are completely ridiculous. There’s that scene with the Doctor and Rose chasing the Hoax creature in a full-blown parody of Scooby Doo, and you can’t help but think that that sequence must be exactly what Doctor Who looks like to people who aren’t all that interested by it - lots of running around, chasing weird monsters, and generally being a bit silly!

 

*While I’m on the subject of the TARDISodes, I should point out that I’ve not been watching them as I go along - and I didn’t watch them first time around, either, truth be told - but I did sit and view them this afternoon, which is possibly what’s made me associate this episode so strongly with them. Overall, I’m not entirely sure they work. There’s not any music on the majority of them, which leaves you with the sense that you’re watching something a bit half-finished, and makes them stand out as being a bit… well, rubbish. It’s a pity, really, because they’re nice little scenes on their own, and they serve as brilliant teasers for the stories to come. If anything, they’re even more impressive in hindsight; 60-second teasers which were primarily designed to be watched on your mobile phone. These days, that doesn’t sound out of place at all, but it was quite forward thinking at the time, and it’s a bit of a shame that we’ve not seen the return of something like this in recent years, when smartphones and tablets are all the more prevalent!

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