Why does Love and Monsters not work? Well there are many different reasons for the story being a failure. First it’s biggest crime is that it is trying to be the New Series equivalent of the Seventh Doctor story The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, but not in the way you may be expecting. It doesn’t rip off the plot from The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, but it is using the idea of being a commentary on Doctor Who as a whole and Love and Monsters gets the idea wrong in every way. The Greatest Show in the Galaxy basically states to the audience that yes Doctor Who has been on some tough times and we aren’t nearly as good as we used to be, but please stick with us and you might just find something worth watching again. It also helps that The Greatest Show in the Galaxy was the finale to the penultimate season of the Classic Series and while yes the Whiz Kid was an annoying character, the story is brilliant in comparison to Love and Monsters. Love and Monsters comments on the show in two main ways. First up the commentary is that this is the best show ever with God himself as the star in the form of David Tennant. Savor any moment your eyes have glimpsing the sheer brilliance of Russell The Davies and his godly production team. Second is that the fans are puny mortals who have obviously no lives and are plainly worthless. So yes this is something that we fans can get annoyed with and me in particular as it is this kind of egotistical writing that puts me off David Tennant’s Doctor on the whole.
The plot of Love and Monsters follows Elton Pope played by Marc Warren, through the framing device of a vlog where he is out searching for the Doctor whom he saw in his home the night his mother died. Through this quest he unites with others searching for the Doctor for whatever reason when they are approached by Victor Kennedy, a rather hilariously bad parody of Ian Levine, who forces them to look harder when Elton being the main character meets Jackie Tyler, whom he upsets. His friends start disappearing one by one and he and budding girlfriend Ursula Blake played by Moaning Myrtle from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets aka Shirley Henderson discover Kennedy is actually an Abzorbaloff from the planet Clom who wants to find the Doctor to absorb him. The plot is extremely silly and not in the good Douglas Adams or Dennis Spooner type of way, but in a bad way. It feels a lot like a child was responsible for the story much like a child was in fact responsible for designing the villain. The only real relief is that the Doctor and Rose are barely in this story which is for the best as Rose is my least favorite companion and David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor is my least favorite Doctor.
The acting in this story is honestly really bad with the biggest offender being Peter Kay who is way too over the top for any sort of Doctor Who story. Kay is also extremely creepy in a sexual way in several scenes and gives away that he isn’t quite right early on but none of the other characters which shows just how Russell T Davies cannot write these supporting characters. Shirley Henderson’s Ursula is also a really bad performance as she is doing the same performance she did as Moaning Myrtle which really doesn’t suit the character who honestly had a lot of potential to be interesting in the hands of a different actress. Marc Warren is also a huge disappointment as he was brilliant in Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather and you can barely tell they were the same actor here. Elton is a complete idiot of a character whose pride forces Ursula to be cursed with immortality a la Borusa in The Five Doctors and the Doctor allows this to happen. Seriously Doctor, that is cruel even for you and she only died. The only decent actor in this is Camile Coudri as Jackie Tyler who is actually quite sympathetic for once which is a bit odd as I usually don’t like Jackie on the whole.
The direction and visual effects work on this story also help in dragging it down. We run into the first problem in the opening scene where there is a random Scooby-Doo style chase that really doesn’t make any sense as Doctor Who isn’t a cartoon even if they were trying to make a running through corridors joke. It would have only worked had this been a parody of Doctor Who which it isn’t. The direction is also extremely over lit in places especially where the Abzorbaloff is concern which reveals just how bad the costuming is on a whole. Most of the story takes place in a warehouse which could have easily been done with darker shadows and they could have done a quick night shoot for the final confrontation scene. Now I will make my complaints on the Abzorbaloff brief as it is awful and unforgivable even if it was designed by a small child. The framing story about the vlog also doesn’t work and chops up the flow as well as looking awful in the process.
To summarize, while there are a few redeeming elements Love and Monsters is still one of the worst Doctor Who television stories and in the Doctor Who Magazine Poll of 2014 actually deserves to be lower than it was. 11/100.