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10 January 2015 @ 04:21 pm
NuWho Rewatch: Love and Monsters  
I warned NLSS Child before we started watching this that a lot of people hadn't liked it. At the end she wanted to know why people had disliked it so much and, to be honest, it is difficult to understand the vitriol it created in some quarters.

I think the dislike can be attributed to three overlapping causes:

  1. The Doctor and Rose don't appear much.
  2. The story is basically about fandom and although it is portrayed with much affection, there is criticism of the obsessive BNF.
  3. The monster was designed by a child in a Blue Peter competition and could be considered a bit rubbish, if you were so minded.

So, if you think that Doctor Who should be focused on the Doctor, or you feel protective of the way fandom is portrayed in the media, or if in some sense you think Doctor Who is sufficiently serious that it should not be influenced by kids competitions (and there are a lot of fans who think or feel one or two things on that list) then it is easy to be alienated by Love and Monsters.

Which is odd really because it is, I think, a rather lovely, bittersweet and mostly affectionate piece of story-telling. It's not just about fandom, but in general about being in a group of friends and how groups of friends can get disrupted and torn apart by one individual. It has some great funny moments. NLSS Child loved the scene were Jackie works her way through Victor Kennedy's list of infiltration moves and even though NLSS Child has no real comprehension of fandom, she understood and was saddened by what happened to LINDA.

The monster is a bit rubbish in appearance, but no more so than the Slitheen which, to be fair, lots of people didn't like either.

We're obviously well-used, now, to Doctor-lite episodes. That said, I note that recent seasons have tended to opt for a pair of episodes, one of which is Doctor-lite and one of which is Companion-lite which suggests that the powers that be are not entirely convinced of the show's ability to present stories in which the main characters only appear tangentially (the success of Blink presumably notwithstanding).

I liked this as much second time around as I did the first. Compared to the previous time Dr Who had attempted to portray fandom (The Greatest Show in the Galaxy) it is much more generous. It also has a much wider resonance for anyone who has watched a group of friends fall apart.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/136367.html.
parrot_knight: QueenBat4parrot_knight on January 10th, 2015 04:42 pm (UTC)
I think producer Susie Liggat acknowledged one of the flaws in that the actors' portrayals of socially awkward people can come across sometimes as rather mannered. Otherwise I was happy to enjoy it as an affectionate tribute to the fan world and a warning about the personalities who can cause damage to friendship circles.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 10th, 2015 04:58 pm (UTC)
Hmm, I'm not sure they're that mannered or even that socially awkward. They're not glamourous and self-assured (which arguably people on TV tend to default towards) but they seem a lot less caricatured than, say, what I've seen of the characters in The Big Bang Theory (which admittedly I'm not remotely familiar with).

Fandom is naturally touchy about how it is portrayed, for obvious and entirely justified reasons. However I felt this was mostly pretty fair up until the appearance of Victor Kennedy who is obviously signified as over-the-top and hyper-real. I think fandom (segments of) over-reacted here, basically.
(no subject) - parrot_knight on January 10th, 2015 05:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
eve11eve11 on January 10th, 2015 06:35 pm (UTC)
I know lots of people didn't like Ursula's fate, nor the suggestion that she and Elton had a physical relationship with her being just a face in a slab. That was the hardest part to swallow for me. I wasn't hugely enraged about it, but some were. it's one of those things that takes on darker perspective in an adult context than from a kid's perspective.

Edited at 2015-01-10 06:36 pm (UTC)
philmophlegm: Sid Jamesphilmophlegm on January 10th, 2015 10:17 pm (UTC)
"That was the hardest part to swallow..."

Unfortunate choice of words...
(no subject) - eve11 on January 10th, 2015 10:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 11th, 2015 10:26 am (UTC)
Hmm... I don't know. I can see why you might feel a reference to oral sex was kind of out of place in Doctor Who, but I find it hard to imagine a line like that ruining a whole story for someone.

I'm interested that so many people have brought up Ursula's fate as the sticking point for them. Would it have been better if she was dead? If this was a straight up tragedy? I think the message of the story was supposed to be that terrible things happen around the Doctor but that he is still a good thing and there is still a lot of wonder around him. Although Ursula is not brought back in full health as she was, she is brought back, and the ending implies that she and Elton are happy.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on January 10th, 2015 07:31 pm (UTC)
Aside from Ursula's fate, I really liked this. It makes me nostalgic for the Doc Soc! It's clever and funny and moving and is virtually the last time Russell T Davies and I were on the same page about what makes good Doctor Who.

That said, repeated viewing did make it clearer that LINDA are happiest when NOT thinking about the Doctor, which might be assumed to be telling fans to grow up and get some friends/romantic partner, which would be somewhat offensive.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on January 10th, 2015 07:45 pm (UTC)
I just remembered I wrote a fairly long review many, many years ago on the doctorwho community, where I argued that part of the problem was the unusual style of the episode and its pushing against the programme's (and television's) normal conventions. It can be found here.
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 11th, 2015 10:32 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - daniel_saunders on January 11th, 2015 12:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 11th, 2015 12:25 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - daniel_saunders on January 11th, 2015 12:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 11th, 2015 12:45 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - daniel_saunders on January 11th, 2015 02:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 11th, 2015 02:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - daniel_saunders on January 11th, 2015 02:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 11th, 2015 02:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - daniel_saunders on January 11th, 2015 03:45 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 12th, 2015 09:53 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - daniel_saunders on January 12th, 2015 06:46 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 11th, 2015 10:27 am (UTC) (Expand)
Susan: this is horriblelil_shepherd on January 10th, 2015 08:05 pm (UTC)
I hated it, and for none of those reasons. I thought the portrayal of fandom quite hideous and unrecognisable. If Who fandom is like that - I am not a Who fan per se - then it is not place I want to be part of.

I also loathe both Tennant's Doctor and Rose, so their absence actually would be a plus for me.

The ending was entirely inappropriate for a family show. Or, in my opinion, for any show before the watershed.

The script was unfunny and illogical and crap.

These are, you understand, the memory of my reactions at the time. I have not watched it since and have no intention of doing so. It is on my list of "episodes where I'd rather watch 'The Horns of Nimon.'
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 11th, 2015 10:34 am (UTC)
I'm interested that everyone who has commented here, came unstuck at Ursula's fate. As I mentioned to daniel above, I don't think either her death or her full restoration to life and health would have worked in the context of the message about encountering the Doctor being both terrible and wonderful at one and the same time. I find the sex-life line to be a bit tasteless and out-of-place but not a deal-breaker - NLSS Child frowned slightly and then dismissed it entirely.
(no subject) - lil_shepherd on January 11th, 2015 07:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 12th, 2015 09:58 am (UTC) (Expand)
shivver13: Ten with kittenshivver13 on January 11th, 2015 04:25 am (UTC)
I have to admit that I have only seen the episode once, and that I'm a recent fan, so I didn't see it when it first came out. I remember thinking the episode was brilliant until the Abzorbaloff appeared. The monster was rubbish, and what it was there for and its story was rubbish. A rubbish monster can really throw the entire episode for me (which is why I feel that "The Time of Angels"/"Flesh and Stone" and "The Angels Take Manhattan" are terrible episodes, because the Angels are rubbish).

However, what really ruined the episode for me is the ending. It's not the comment about Elton and Ursula's sex life. It's that the Doctor locked her in the slab at all. The Doctor knows the difference between "living" and "existing", and should never have even considered doing it - it amazes me that both RTD and Tennant allowed that to happen.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 11th, 2015 10:37 am (UTC)
I guess, as a classic Who fan, one has to be pretty tolerant of monsters that look a bit rubbish.

I've talked about Ursula's fate with pretty much all the commenters above. But I take issue with the idea that she is only "existing" and not "living" - there are many people with severe disabilities who would, I think, contest that they are still living even though they are limited in what they can do and experience and would certainly object to the suggestion that they would be better off dead. Ursula and Elton tell us they are happy and I'm quite prepared to accept that.
(no subject) - shivver13 on January 11th, 2015 07:20 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on January 12th, 2015 10:03 am (UTC) (Expand)
a_cubeda_cubed on January 11th, 2015 01:27 pm (UTC)
I've just skipped this (and Fear Her) in our rewatch. I fully subscribe to the "unreliable narrator" concept, that this is Elton telling the story from his incredibly unreliable viewpoint. From that view the bits I found very cringeworthy (the "playing together in a band" bit in the montage) for exxample, fit very well with his wish-fulfilment. Still, the monster is crap in a way even most classic Who didn't plumb (IMHO) and I think Blink got the idea of a Doctor and companion-less episode much better.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 11th, 2015 02:50 pm (UTC)
I think memory is cheating re: rubbish monsters in classic Who: Off the top of my head Erato, Mandrils, Plasmotrons (and that's without having to think hard)

There are also plenty of decent stories with really naff monsters, if not quite at the level of Erato et. al - e.g., the eponymous Loch Ness Monster. Being a bit forgiving about the monsters is a requirement to enjoy a lot of classic Who though, of course, it maybe isn't something that should be asked of viewers of modern Who.

The Abzorbaloff is definitely no worse than the Slitheen though, I'll give you that that is a pretty low bar.
John E: crichtardisjohn_amend_all on January 11th, 2015 07:10 pm (UTC)
Love & Monsters is, I think, the only episode where halfway through I said "I don't care what happens to these people" and fast-forwarded until the monster showed up. I presume, then, that puts me in camp 1.

Regarding some of the other criticisms you cite:
  • I don't think the monster's flaws arise from it being designed by a child; the child's drawing is far more menacing than what we actually got. That suggests the problems are in the realisation of it.
  • What bugged me about the paving slab was that one line says Ursula is supposed to be immortal. That means she'll outlive Elton and everybody else she ever comes to love, and sooner or later will surely fall into the power of someone or some organisation who won't treat her kindly at all. There's a reason that in The Five Doctors, the punishment Rassilon doled out was immortality as a face on a slab.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 12th, 2015 10:06 am (UTC)
I hadn't picked up on the suggestion she is immortal until shivver13 mentioned it above and I agree it is odd. I still think we are supposed to consider this a fate that is better than death - so maybe the Davies thought immortality would be a plus (even though WTF?). In principle I don't think Ursula would have been better off dead than as (essentially) a paraplegic, but I agree that some of the way it is framed is distinctly peculiar and a little distasteful.