Elton Page’s path has been crossed by the Doctor on more than one occasion, but in the past couple of years the encounters have come with more and more frequency. Trying to find out what it all means, Elton meets a blogger named Ursula, who has seen the Doctor in person. The two of them become good friends, eventually finding out that there are others who share their fascination with the Doctor and the TARDIS, but their tight-knit group – which Elton names LINDA (the London Investigation ‘N’ Detective Agency) – evolves beyond that interest, giving all of its offbeat members a place to call home. That is, until Victor Kennedy arrives on the scene. With seemingly limitless resources, and an unusually intense interest in the Doctor’s whereabouts, Kennedy begins assigning “homework” to Elton, Ursula and their friends. Some of the members of LINDA stop attending meetings without a further word, and finally Elton speaks up, refusing to do Kennedy’s bidding any more. But when Kennedy reveals his true identity – a creature who absorbs not just the minds but the physical mass of its prey – Elton realizes that it may take the Doctor to save him again. But every time the Doctor appears in Elton’s life, terrible things happen – and even this occasion will be no exception.
written by Russell T. Davies
directed by Dan Zeff
music by Murray Gold
Guest Cast: Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Peter Kay (Victor Kennedy), Marc Warren (Elton Page), Shirley Henderson (Ursula Blake), Simon Greenall (Mr. Skinner), Moya Brady (Bridget), Kathryn Drysdale (Bliss), Paul Kasey (The Hoix), Bella Emberg (Mrs. Crook)
Notes: The author of this guide happens to agree with Elton that you can’t beat a bit of ELO. “Mr. Blue Sky,” excerpted repeatedly in the episode, originally appeared on the 1977 album Out Of The Blue, as does “Turn To Stone” (heard in the Tyler household), while LINDA’s song of choice is “Don’t Bring Me Down,” from Discovery (1979). The Abzorbaloff was created by William Grantham, a young Blue Peter viewer who participated in a competition during the first season to create a monster that would feature in the series itself. LINDA – not the same group, mind you, but the Liverpool Investigation ‘n’ Detective Agency – was originally invented in an episode of the children’s show Why Don’t You?, written by Russell T. Davies during his tenure as a producer on the show (1988-92).
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: I seldom read other peoples’ opinions of an episode before I’ve written these reviews, but this is an occasion where I had to look and had to know. Good God Almighty, but this episode seemed to split fandom right down the middle, and fiercely so. For one thing, the Doctor and Rose don’t make much of a showing. They’re seen early in the episode, and then don’t show up until it’s nearly over. But this is Elton’s story, and Elton’s story is that of someone whose life has been touched by the Doctor without him even having an inkling of who or what the Doctor is. There’s a running theme through the whole season of the consequences of the Doctor’s travels, and it’s perhaps in Love & Monsters that this theme really reaches its ultimate expression. We’ve seen that there can be consequences to traveling with the Doctor – whether it’s being left behind like Sarah Jane, or discovering your courage like Mickey, or…well…just about any of Rose’s personal trials since the new series began. This episode focuses on people who are left to sit still relative to the TARDIS – Elton and, to a lesser degree, Jackie.
Or is it really about fandom? 1988’s Greatest Show In The Galaxy had a bit of a meta-narrative running through it, which has been dissected, analyzed and debated endlessly since that story aired; the general opinion seems now to be that Greatest Show doesn’t really represent an especially fond view of fandom. On the flipside, Love & Monsters seems to say that fandom, or any participatory hobby where people can gather, can be a saving grace, giving the aggrieved, the lonely, and the socially awkward a family they didn’t previously have.
And then in walks Victor Kennedy. But who or what does he represent? Is he a symbol of the forces that would organize fandom to an almost-regimented degree? Is he a warning against trying to make a profession out of an enjoyable hobby? Or is he nothing more than the creation of a Blue Peter viewer who entered a contest? Actually, he’s exactly that, but I’m analyzing here, perhaps overanalyzing, and on a subject that’s actually quite close to my own thinking on hobbies and fannish endeavours. I’ve got lots of hobbies (and quite by coincidence, one of them is indeed a loving devotion to the music of Jeff Lynne and the Electric Light Orchestra, just like Elton – on that front, I almost felt like this story was eerily speaking directly to me somehow!), and one thing I’ve noticed in some of my hobbies – and not even necessarily SF fandom (of which I’m not sure I’ve never really been a part anyway – I’ve never even been to a convention) – is a tendency for an Organizing Force to arrive on the scene, channeling and focusing everyone’s creative energies to best effect, occasionally creating something wonderful for all to enjoy…and then later trying to make a buck off the deal, coming to rely on those creative energies. What was once done for the love of the hobby becomes something more like a job, and people start to burn out, and meanwhile, the Organizing Force tends, more often than not, to begin to take credit for other people’s work, and to demand that work from them.
Hang on a second – this very website is a volunteer endeavour, one that would’ve probably disappeared long ago if not for the efforts and enthusiasm of several friends of mine. Is this story perhaps speaking to me directly in a way I didn’t expect? Am I a Victor Kennedy? (Well, I am a hefty guy who has a skin condition…) I’ve created elaborate audiovisual projects related to my hobbies, certainly an elaborate website (sometimes so elaborate that I feel like the site is absorbing my energy), created artwork for video games designed to run on old hardware, moderated message boards… in those cases where I’m lending my energy to others, are there any Victor Kennedys in their midst, and have I already been absorbed by them?
In short, Love & Monsters, as silly as it seemed on the surface to so many people, got my mind working more than almost any other new episode of Doctor Who I can name (and more than quite a few of the old episodes too, come to think of it). Sure I’m not the only person who’s latched onto that message. For that matter, it’s not even necessarily limited to fandom and hobbies either – any force that draws people together can be perverted into something that it was never meant to be, and certainly something that its constituent members never would have knowingly signed up for (don’t get me started on my thoughts on organized religion). And this is a lovely, warm, personal tale cautioning against letting that happen. (Actually, not only is it a lovely, warm, personal tale cautioning against letting that happen, but it’s a lovely, warm personal tale cautioning against letting that happen and making absolutely brilliant use of select snippets of ELO music as both source music and underscore. So maybe I’m not the best person to ask for an objective opinion here.)
Might Love & Monsters be one of the new Doctor Who’s strongest installments, hands down? It just might be if you feel like giving it a chance.