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Love and Monsters

Just posted this on a couple of Who comms, and thought I might as well post it here too. This is what happens when you're bored waiting for a friend to turn up, who was meant to be here hours ago...


First of all, the title reminded me immediately of Gods And Monsters, , the biopic of James Whale, the director of Frankenstein. Which was interesting, but I'm probably reading things into the title that aren't there. Secondly, I seem to have an irresistible urge to call Elton "Ethan", so if any "Ethan"s creep in, just transpose them in your head.

The key to this episode, for me, is the fact that Elton is an unreliable narrator. We're seeing the story from his point of view, and his reconstruction of events afterwards, his memory of events, rather than the usual "omniscient narrator" where we see what's happening as it's happening. This is why Elton seemed to play such a central role; why the Doctor and Rose just popped in, saved the day and left again; why a lot of the action and dialogue were a bit cliched, a bit over-dramatic, or seemingly out of character. When you're telling a story about something that's happened to you, you'll never remember it exactly. If you're going to put it on film, you'll have practised telling it a few times, and it'll have changed ever so slightly. You won't be able to remember exact dialogue, but you've got schemas in your head that help by providing template dialogue and action for a situation based on what you know about similar situations - from real life or, if you've never encountered the sitation, from other people's stories, or books or films.

Elton's a geek. Most of you guys are geeks. (You're on a Doctor Who community on an internet blogging board. Denial is futile.) Have you ever been or known someone who role-played, and would then tell you at great length about the latest adventure in their D&D dungeon or LARP battle? The stories always sound so much more fantastical and drama-heavy and heroic than what you see happening if you go along. It doesn't have to be role-playing - I've seen non-geeks do it with their tales of debauched nights out, for example. That's what I think this episode was doing.

It was also showing something that's been a theme in both new series - the Doctor's tendency to rush in, beat the villains and leave again in a hurry. Most of the people being affected by the aliens in other episodes have about as much contact with him as Ethan does in this episode. For most of humanity, the Doctor *is* a fleeting, mysterious figure, if he exists at all. You'd have thought he'd have learned his lesson after Boom Town and Bad Wolf last year, but we've been shown several times this series that he hasn't. He's always rushing in at the last minute, then moving on, as fast as he can. We're usually shown the good side of this - that he's the rescuer, that he's moving on to be heroic elsewhere, and that it's an integral part of his character. But this episode shows us just how quickly he passes through the lives of most of the people he helps.

I liked:
- the edited videoblog style
- "that's the sound of the universe"
- most of the actors. I thought Elton was excellent, Peter Kay was decent, Jackie was great as usual, Shirley Henderson's a great actress with a really annoying voice, and the rest of Linda were passable.
- the meta-commentary. I'm a meta whore.
- the corridor-running
- Ursula standing up for Elton, Elton asking Ursula out for Chinese
- Rose doing the "no-one hurts my mum" thing. Yes, it's hypocritical as hell, but she can't see that, and it being hypocritical doesn't stop it being the right thing to do.
- the concept of people being absorbed by the monster
- the blowjob gag
- the final, directed at the viewer speech

Wasn't so keen on:
- the execution of the people-absorbing monster (especially the one in the bum). But they were limited by the fact it was a competition-winning design.
- ...I can't think of anything else that I can't explain in a fanwanky handwavy thing.

So I liked the episode, but I think I admired it even more than I liked it. I sat through it in slight befuddlement with a meta-commentary on the episode going on in my head. ("Oh, that's weird. Oh, right, we're seeing it from his point of view, so... Oh, I don't think I like that. Wait a minute... No, I see what they're doing! That's clever.") I may be reading things into it that the production team and actors never intended to put in there. I may be abusing my vague memories of psychology classes. And I'm almost certain to change my opinion when I re-watch it.

Comments

( 12 comments — Comment )
kaiserdad
Jun. 18th, 2006 05:32 pm (UTC)
I did not like it at all, I think they are running out of story lines, the Doctor could have stayed in bed for all the actual rescuing he did!
momentsmusicaux
Jun. 18th, 2006 06:06 pm (UTC)
It was an interesting twist.
A bit like Lower Decks in Next Generation, or episodes of sitcoms where they play about with the setup.
Though at the start I was thinking the Doctor would eventually come into it properly, and that the video diary was just our way into the story.
redatt
Jun. 19th, 2006 05:01 am (UTC)
That sort of thing is one of the reasons I always thought that Chicago Hope was much better than ER.

Still don't see what people see in ER ~grumblemuttergrumble~
momentsmusicaux
Jun. 19th, 2006 05:19 am (UTC)
I never watched the former, and I quite like the latter...
redatt
Jun. 19th, 2006 05:26 am (UTC)
I know ;o)
momentsmusicaux
Jun. 19th, 2006 06:10 am (UTC)
Ok, how did you get the hidden cameras into my house?
redatt
Jun. 19th, 2006 06:13 am (UTC)
You've mentioned watching ER before!
arborophile
Jun. 18th, 2006 07:21 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately had clocked part of the interview with Peter Kay on Jonathon Ross night before so knew not much Doctor plus the absorbing thing, but still really enjoyed it..really clever how they used an actor who was familiar, but good enough to make you forget that..plus it had lots of ELO in it! When I heard the 'love life' bit, was eating tea..made me choke..played it back afterwards to make sure heard it right..wonder how many complaints it'll get!
pooka_joe
Jun. 19th, 2006 03:09 am (UTC)
i loved it. it was the first time i didn't feel that doctor who was all about the doctor and his coterie. i loved the fact that it was all as see from the narrator's point of view, so even things like the scooby doo chase don't seem out of place.

i think that might be one of the most inventive episodes i have seen and i think it bodes well for the future of the seies.
redatt
Jun. 19th, 2006 04:59 am (UTC)
Most of you guys are geeks. (You're on a Doctor Who community on an internet blogging board. Denial is futile.)

~snort!~

The corridor running was the best :oD And I loved much of the final speech, but the blowjob gag? No, no, no! (I'll probably shut up about that now.)
pickwick
Jun. 19th, 2006 08:30 am (UTC)
The blowjob gag made me laugh :D So while I can certainly see the objections to it, it would feel hypocritical to slag it off!
tanngrisnir
Jun. 19th, 2006 06:46 am (UTC)
That is a pretty good take on it. I must admit, I did not think the absorbing monster was a great idea, and I am not sure it completely worked, but it was an interesting experiment.
( 12 comments — Comment )

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