Darker, madder, better!

This week Whovian Leap looks back at “Love and Monsters”

Whenever anyone asks me my favourite classic Doctor Who story, I confidently state, without a shadow of a doubt…drum-roll…”The Caves of Androzani”! Simples! Set in stone, it’s a decision made years ago, before I care or even dare to remember. But my favourite “Nu-Who” story? That’s a different kettle of pilot fish. Lots of stories are worthy of that honour. Rose? Doctor Who back on our screens again! The Empty Child? Doctor Who is scary again! Human Nature? Doctor Who does scarecrows for the first time since Troughton’s glorious comic strip! So what can I say? What is my favourite modern-day Doctor Who story?

We have a winner. A story chosen simply for its sheer entertainment value. An episode which makes me feel “blissfully sad”. Set piece after set piece, bursting at the seams with dialogue triumphs and delightful characters. An episode which puts the “Who” back in “Doctor Who”.

I am of course referring to “Love and Monsters”, as my post’s title somewhat clumsily gives away. This Doctor-lite runaround is exactly what it says on the can. In this oddball tale we experience love in its deepest and rawest forms and the monsters are the characters’ own personal demons. The episode celebrates fandom and gently mocks it, unlike “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy” which was quite cruel in its representation of the geeky talentless “Whizz-Kid”. I recently heard a podcast mocking fans for their level of nerdiness and excitement over Capaldi’s costume. Those who live in glass Tardises… As a fan from the dark days of the Eighties and beyond, I consider myself something of a connoisseur when it comes to Who-bashing. How Whovians were mercilessly mocked! Fortunately we developed a skin so thick it rivalled that of a Judoon. “Love and Monsters”, on the other hand, confidently flaunts the joy of being a fan and shines a light on how much fun it can be to dedicate your days to Whovia, light years away from the attacks on all the wonderfully eccentric überfans in our midst. May they wear their celery with pride!

Why do I love this 2006 gem? Hardly a fan favourite, a “marmite” episode if you like, a curate’s egg. Yes, Peter Kay running around in a silly green costume is a mite embarassing. It is this scene which L&M bashers never fail to mention. But I say, back in the day, we spent well over twenty five years loving silly green monsters, so in this respect the scene is highly symbolic. “Touché” I exclaim, as I imagine myself adeptly whirling Vic’s walking stick!

There is so much to love in “Love and Monsters”. I love Jackie, especially in the launderette scene. We watch her character develop over the episode. We share her pain, brought on by her own personal demon, her ever-absent daughter. I love the Auton invasion. This time round the scenes are more dramatic and dare I say better directed than they were in “Rose”. I love “LINDA”. Its members dedicate their lives but then slowly forget the Doctor and start to enjoy each other’s company. They cook, read stories and play music together. It’s a reminder of the fact that however wonderful Doctor Who may be, it’s only a show and shouldn’t take precedence over real life. I love the Hoix. I love the Doctor and Rose’s Scooby Doo-like bucket antics as they try in vain to defeat the toothy terror. I love Victor, a monster in every sense, who represents fandom when it stops being fun. In conclusion I love the episode for daring to be different. It showed for the first time that an episode could stand its ground without the Doctor as the main protagonist and it paved the way for the jewel in Moffat’s crown, “Blink”.

“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. But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that…” Let me interrupt those beautifully melancholic words. Why don’t we remind ourselves of one of L&M’s best jokes: “What’s the twin planet of Raxacoricofallapatorius?” – “Clom!” As we smile, let us reflect on this: compared to the average Nu-Who episode, and to finish the quote I interrupted, “Love and Monsters” is… second drum-roll of the day… so much darker, so much madder and so much better!

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