Love & Monsters: Mister Blue Sky Thinking

Review of Series 2, Episode 10 – with spoilers

As readers may have noticed, I’d fallen out of the habit of writing individual reviews of Doctor Who episodes, mainly because I’ve been blogging a lot more during the week. But Anna requested it, so I guess I’d better get back on with it.

So. Love & Monsters. The title pretty much sums up the revived version of Doctor Who; an emotional heart to a story is just as important as a well-realised alien menace, if not more so. And, in a story that, for production reasons, necessitated the absence of the Doctor and Rose, we get to see the effects of the time-travelling duo on the people who normally barely register on the radar.

It’s an established trick: as Russell T Davies notes in his commentary, Star Trek: The Next Generation had Below Decks; Buffy The Vampire Slayer had Season 3’s The Zeppo – still one of my favourite episodes. Stylistically, Love & Monsters has very strong echoes of the latter, with the main characters’ world-saving exploits played for laughs.

In Buffy’s case, though, the lead was taken up by Xander, a character we had already warmed to. With L&M, the mantle is assumed by a new character, Elton – played with aplomb by Hustle’s Marc Warren. With able support from Shirley Henderson and the rest of fan/support group L.I.N.D.A., the story careers at breakneck speed between comedy and pathos.

And then, of course, there’s Jackie Tyler. Underused so far in Series 2, Camille Coduri’s fabulous portrayal provides the continuity with the rest of the series, giving Elton and Ursula’s story a firm foundation in the Doctor Who universe. For those of us who relish every return visit to the Powell Estate, this was a treat, with Coduri able to switch from comedic temptress to heart-breakingly stone-faced protective mother in a heartbeat. If rumours are to be believed, Jackie may not be appearing in future series; if that is the case, then Love & Monsters shows she’ll be going out on a high.

There are really so many great moments, visually and scriptwise, in this episode. But for me, seeing how L.I.N.D.A. grew out of a group of people following the Doctor’s exploits, into a band of friends revelling in each other’s company and sharing their passions for life, mirrors the best groups of fans. In my case, it was an online group that also consisted of a friend from university who went on to edit Doctor Who Magazine, my cousin and a certain exec producer of Doctor Who and writer of this episode.

In many such fan groups, over-eager insistence on following a regimented study of the original topic kills the group – as metaphorically shown with Peter Kay’s Victor Kennedy on screen. Is it any coincidence, I wonder, that the Victor Kennedys of the Doctor Who fan world have been the same people who have produced the biggest negative reactions against this sublime episode?

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Scott Matthewman

Formerly Online Editor and Digital Project Manager for The Stage, creator of the award-winning The Gay Vote politics blog, now a full-time software developer specialising in Ruby, Objective-C and Swift, as well as a part-time critic for Musical Theatre Review, The Reviews Hub and others.