With the exception of series 1 and 10 every season of Doctor Who has that one episode the fans don’t want to talk about. You know, watch once and then never revisit and only mentioned when complained about in forums or when someone writes a witty article twelve years after it aired. Out of all these episodes one stands head and shoulders above the rest, the infamous episode in question is ‘Love & Monsters’.
This travesty of an episode first aired in 2006 and was part of David Tennant’s first series. Following on from the excellent two part episode ‘The Impossible Planet’ and ‘The Satan Pit’ expectations were high for the tenth episode in the series; they were soon cut down.
Written as a sleeper episode for both David Tennant and Billie Piper the ‘Doctor’ and ‘Rose’ only make brief appearances throughout and then swoop in and help save the day at the end. So poorly received was ‘Love & Monsters’ that the episodes writer and show runner Russell T Davies never again had both the ‘Doctor’ and a companion share a sleeper episode; a rule that was continued into the Steven Moffat era.
The story centres on a support group for people who have had encounters with the ‘Doctor’ and their attempts to track him down. As time goes on the support group seems to lose focus on their goal and becomes just a group of friends who bake for each other, play games and even form an ELO covers band. This is until the mysterious ‘Victor Kennedy’ played by Peter Kay joins the group and refocuses their efforts on tracking down the ‘Doctor’; which includes, in a few awkward to watch scenes, one of them trying to seduce ‘Rose’s’ mum ‘Jackie’.
The group soon tire of ‘Victor’s’ methods and decide to walkout; only for him to reveal he’s an alien called the ‘The Abzorbaloff’ (there is no defence) who absorbs other creatures. Only when the last man is still standing does the ‘Doctor’ swoop in and saves the day.
So what went wrong? First off the episode is leaning towards the comedic side; unfortunately every joke falls flat and most of the cast seem to struggle with not hamming the comedy up. Strangely, as he’s the most experienced comic actor amongst them, Peter Kay seems to struggle the most with this. He’s constantly mugging it up for the camera, especially after revealing himself as the alien. Then there’s the alien itself; the result of a competition on the BBCs ‘Blue Peter’; it may seem harsh to criticise the work of a nine year old, but here goes; it’s a terrible concept that’s poorly executed (not that the competition winner can be blamed for the execution of their creation). The story is virtually non-existent leaving us long periods of boring footage of the support group mucking about. Overall though nothing about the episode seems to work and not even a talented cast, which included Marc Warren, Shirley Henderson & Kathryn Drysdale, could save this from being a complete disaster.
Of course debate on what is the worst episode is always hotly contested; there’s ‘The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People’, ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’, ‘Kill the Moon’ & ‘Sleep No More’ who are all in the running; the difference is these episodes do have their fans. Unlike ‘Love & Monsters’ which is still, nearly a full twelve years on, the most hated episode of the modern era. Let’s hope the quality keeps has high as series 10, then hopefully it’ll stay that way.