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That wasn't the first time I met the Doctor, and it certainly wasn't the last. Oh no. I just put that at the beginning because it's a brilliant opening.
A very sweet, silly and (mostly) drama-free episode that focuses on a minor character. Love & Monsters was the first example of a "Doctor-lite" episode in the new series: because the lead actors only appear for a few minutes in this episode, they're free to film another one simultaneously.
The story relates what happens when the Doctor isn't around to fend off an alien invasion. It focuses for the first time on people on the Doctor's periphery: the ordinary people whose lives are upended by the chaos associated with the Doctor, and who usually never even get an explanation.
Elton Pope, our manic, dorky and Unreliable Narrator, idolizes the Doctor. He's been fascinated by the strange man and the weirdness that follows in his wake ever since the Doctor turned up in his house when he was a child. Like Clive from "Rose", but more successfully, Elton forms a club with a few other like-minded individuals. They bond over their shared experiences with the supernatural, but quickly become fast friends. Over time, their weekly meetings drift away from the topic of the Doctor and towards baking sessions and Electric Light Orchestra cover band practice. Elton even falls in love with fellow member Ursula.
Then Victor Kennedy shows up. The neatly-dressed man (who claims he can't be touched because of his "eczeeeema") takes over the group and begins to act as its boss, assigning members the task of following up on this lead or that lead. Some of the members don't seem to agree, and they've suddenly and mysteriously stopped coming -- or, indeed, responding to any contact from other members -- but Elton is still interested in the Doctor, and stays on. Elton is given a snapshot of the Doctor in the company of an unknown blonde woman, and told to find her. He stumbles across her identity -- Rose Tyler -- fairly quickly, and Victor instructs him to ingratiate himself with Jackie Tyler, Rose's mum. Elton does so, but grows to genuinely like Jackie (who sees him as a very nice piece of ass) and is prepared to tell Victor off... until Jackie finds the photo of the Doctor and Rose, and deduces that he has been using her to get close to the Doctor. Enraged, she orders him out.
If Elton wanted the Doctor's attention, he's got it now: the TARDIS materializes near him so that Rose can chew him out for hurting her mum. All three are just in time to see Victor Kennedy, who is now in his true form: the "Abzorbaloff" (coined by Elton after a few much sillier names), an alien that absorbs its victims but does not consume them. And now he's out to absorb the Doctor and all his knowledge. The Doctor is too late to save Ursula, or any of the other members who had been disappearing, but can grant her a semblance of continued life as an animated lump of concrete. What's left of her is still quite beautiful, and Elton takes her home in her new form as his loving girlfriend.
Elton records the whole story for us from his room, but his own camera never shows Ursula's new face... neatly leaving open the possibility that he's either exaggerating or plain bonkers.
- Acrofatic: The Abzorbaloff is surprisingly nimble.
- And I Must Scream: Ursula gets turned into an immortal blow-giving slab of concrete. So basically if Elton ever dies of a heart attack or whatever- and she's still back at home in his closet... Well, pretty terrible in itself, isn't it? Hell, the best she can ever hope for is that poor Elton dies of old age and she spends the next 1,000,000,000 years alone!
- There is, however, the Word of God-influenced implication that Elton is merely hallucinating or wishful-thinking the situation; we never see or hear Ursula on the web-cam, remember.
- Arc Words: This episode references not only "Torchwood" but also "Bad Wolf" from the previous season AND "Mr. Saxon" fron the next season. That's three arcs in one episode.
- Four if you consider Clom being mentioned. In series 4, it becomes a missing planet.
- Five. How much you want to bet the "living shadow" that killed Elton's Mum back in the day was a Vashta Nerada?
- Bottle Episode
- Contest Winner Cameo: The monster was the winner of a Blue Peter design-a-monster contest.
- Contrived Clumsiness: The drink-spill variant is used very overtly by Jackie.
- Curse Cut Short: The Abzorbaloff's last words are "You stupid bast--"
- Failed Attempt At Drama: Going back to get something after the dramatic exit. It doesn't end well.
- Fat Bastard: Victor / the Abzorbaloff.
- Fun with Acronyms: Lampshaded, as Elton made up a cool acronym for his club long before he founded it.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Ursula, reduced to nothing more than a face, says that she and Elton "still have a love life".
- And another from Ursula:
Elton (on Victor Kennedy's compliments to him for infiltrating Jackie's home): I had to work hard. She keeps everything very close to her chest.
- Heroic Sacrifice
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Albert Blithe is looking a lot more cheerful now that he's not getting shot at by Nazis.
- Inherently Funny Words: The Abzorbaloff's home planet, sister planet to Raxacoricofallapatorius... Clom.
- In Medias Res: Lampshaded at the beginning. When we get to that part of the story later, Elton reminds the viewer not to get too excited, as that's just the bit where we came in.
- Karmic Death: The Abzorbaloff is killed when all of those he's absorbed tear him apart from the inside. Then, for added irony, Elton breaks his cane, cancelling out a limitation field and causing the Abzorbaloff to be absorbed by the Earth.
- Living Shadow: An "elemental shade" murdered Elton's mother. As said in "Arc Words", it's possible that it was a Vashta Nerada.
- Lower Deck Episode
- Most Wonderful Sound: Elton describes the TARDIS noises as "the most beautiful sound... in the world."
- Mrs. Robinson: Jackie toward Elton, natch.
- Obviously Evil: Victor Kennedy aka the Abzorbaloff.
- Oop North: Bridget.
- Romance-Inducing Smudge: Jackie uses this trope on Elton to get him to take his shirt off.
- Scooby-Dooby Doors
- Strange Minds Think Alike: Both Elton and the Doctor arrive at Abzorbaloff as a name for Victor after shooting off several variants.
- Take That: The episode is essentially an Affectionate Parody of Doctor Who fandom. Most of the Doctor's fans are rather odd and eccentric, but basically sweet and decent people. Victor, however, represents that small toxic minority of Doctor Who fandom (and fandoms in general) who completely ruin it for everyone.
- Rumour has it that the character of Victor is a Take That aimed at one toxic fan in particular.
- Tastes Like Chicken: Victor says this when he absorbs Ursula.
- Too Happy to Live: Most of LINDA
- True Art Is Incomprehensible: Bliss' sculpture.
- True Companions: LInDA.
- Unreliable Narrator: Word of God is that not all of what Elton says in this episode should be taken at face value. Mostly this refers to things like the Scooby Doo chase seen early in the episode, but some things about the episode make a lot more sense this way.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Elton's life is crumbling around him - the fun, harmless little group he'd formed has been corrupted from within, and one-by-one been subjected to a Fate Worse Than Death, including the woman he's only just realized is his dream girl, and he's completely exhausted after being chased through London by a creature that's about to do the same to him - and Rose and the Doctor choose now, of all times, to chew him out for what, compared to what the Abzorbaloff's been doing, doesn't even register a blip on the Atrocity-o-meter. Elton points it out:
Rose: You upset my mum.