Written by Russell T. Davies.
A 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.note
The story relates what happens when the Doctor isn't around to fend off an alien invasion. For the first time, it focuses 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 (LINDA; London Investigation 'n' Detective Agency) with a few other like-minded individuals. They bond over their shared experiences with the supernatural and 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 agree, and they suddenly and mysteriously stop 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 materialises near him so that Rose can chew him out for upsetting her mother. All three are just in time to see Victor Kennedy, who is now in his true form: the "Abzorbaloff" (coined by Elton and the Doctor after a few much sillier names), an alien that absorbs its victims but does not consume them. Now he's out to absorb the Doctor and all his knowledge. Elton defeats the creature, but it's too late to save Ursula, or any of the other members who had been disappearing, but the Doctor 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.
- Acrofatic: The Abzorbaloff is surprisingly nimble for a loaf.
- Action Prologue: Invoked and lampshaded by Elton, who points out that his encounter with the Hoix wasn't his first or last meeting with the Doctor. He just put it in as a good hook for the audience.
- Aerith and Bob: The planet Raxacoricofallapatorious is revealed to have a sister planet named... Clom.
- Affectionate Parody: LINDA is a gentle poke at the real life Doctor Who fanbase.
- All There in the Script: The creature that Elton sees at the start of the episode is credited as the "Hoix". Russell T. Davies notes in the commentary that the name was invented only after the episode was shot and a name was needed for the credits.
- AM/FM Characterization: Elton's favourite band is Electric Light Orchestra.
- And I Must Scream:
- The victims of the Abzorbaloff end up as faces on their body, retaining their identities and consciousness... at first. Eventually, they disappear into the Abzorbaloff's body, and presumably end up in some sort of mental limbo state judging by his claim that to be absorbed is "everlasting peace".
- Subverted with Ursula. She ends up reduced to just a face on a concrete tile, but seems content with her fate, and even says its "quite peaceful"
- And Your Little Dog, Too!: To prove Elton and Ursula, the Abzorbaloff threatens to absorb Jackie Tyler.
- Arc Words:
- This episode references not only "Torchwood", but also "Bad Wolf" from the previous season.
- Someone named "Saxon" is subtly referenced in a newspaper article.note
- And Clom from the arc after that. That's four arcs in one episode.
- The Assimilator: The Abzorbaloff works on an individual level, absorbing individuals into his body.
- Berserk Button: Elton inadvertently hits Jackie's with his snooping, as Jackie feels she's both being used and all the attention only goes to the Doctor. The fact that Jackie gets upset also hits Rose's as well.Rose: You upset my mum!
Elton: Great big absorbing creature from outer space, and you're having a go at me?
Rose: Nobody upsets my mum!
- Big "NO!"
- Mr. Skinner and Bridget both give one as Ursula is being absorbed. Ursula herself does this just before she is sucked into the Abzorbaloff's body.
- The Abzorbaloff gives one just before he dissolves.
- Big "YES!": The Abzorbaloff gives an orgasmic one when he absorbs Ursula.
- Body Horror: The Abzorbaloff's process of absorbing people is both scary and disgusting. There's also a Harlan Ellison-esque pavement-person. Interestingly, the Abzorbaloff was designed by a 9-year-old who won a contest. Watching that episode makes one wonder if the 9-year-old was allowed to watch it.note
- Call-Back: The Torchwood file on Rose is empty because it was corrupted by a "Bad Wolf virus".
- Character Development: Jackie, who was initially very concerned about Rose travelling with the Doctor, valiantly declares that she will keep both Rose and the Doctor safe.
- Contrived Clumsiness: The drink-spill variant is used very overtly by Jackie. When Elton doesn't take the first hint, she does it again.
- Curse Cut Short:Abzorbaloff: You stupid bast [melts]
- Deus ex Machina: Defied. While the Doctor shows up in time to save Elton, he ultimately does nothing to help and LINDA defeats the creature on their own.
- Evil Plan: The Abzorbaloff wants to absorb the Doctor in order to gain his vast knowledge and exploits LINDA in order to find him.
- Eldritch Abomination: The "elemental shade" that killed Elton's mother.
- Failed Attempt at Drama: Going back to get something after the dramatic exit.
- Fantastic Racism: Apparently the Abzorbaloff considers the Slitheen to be "swine".
- Faster Than They Look: The Abzorbaloff. It even exploits this fact by pointing out its size and how slow it must be... and then shocks people by showing just how fast it really is.
- Fate Worse than Death: Anyone absorbed by the Abzorbaloff becomes a talking face somewhere on his body. Bliss has it worst because she's stuck on his ass.
- Fat Bastard: Victor/the Abzorbaloff looks like a morbidly obese man and he eats people.
- Female Gaze: Jackie gets a lot of ogling in while Elton repairs the many mysteriously blown fuses, etc., at the apartment. A few times we see from her point of view, and you really can't blame her much.
- For Want of a Nail: Ursula ends up being absorbed and eventually brought back as a face protruding from a paving slab, just because she forgot her mobile phone and went back to retrieve it. On the other hand, the episode implies that had she not done this, the Abzorbaloff would probably have tracked down and absorbed Jackie before the Doctor could put a stop to him.
- The elemental shade that killed Elton's mother was from "the Howling Halls", which sounds awfully close to the Eternals' name for the Void.
- Newspaper headline: SAXON LEADS IN POLLS
- Framing Device: Elton recounts the tale of his encounters with the Doctor on-camera.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Elton and Ursula come back to get her phone after dramatically storming out, Kennedy is reading a newspaper. Take a careful look at the headline.
- Fun with Acronyms: Lampshaded, as Elton made up a cool acronym for his club long before he founded it.
- Gasshole: The Abzorbaloff, in view of Ursula and Elton, has no problem passing gas through Bliss' mouth just to let her speak, to the discomfort of her as well as Bridget and Mr. Skinner. Justified in that he's a Big Eater, and with that he'll always have people attached to him.
- Good Is Not Nice: Lampshaded after the Abzorbaloff takes Elton hostage, betting on the Doctor to sacrifice himself for Elton.The Doctor: Sweet maybe. Passionate I suppose. But don't ever mistake that for nice.
- Good Parents: Jackie proves that she is one: when she finds a picture of her daughter in Elton's pocket, she works out what is going on and practically threatens Elton when she tells him that she'll "protect [Rose and the Doctor] both until the end of [her] life".
- Heroic Sacrifice: The rest of LINDA pull themselves apart to kill the Abzorbaloff, at the cost of being absorbed into the Earth itself.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: By absorbing Ursula, the Abzorbaloff gives her access to his mind and his knowledge, which she uses to find out how to kill him.
- How We Got Here: 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.
- Human Architecture Horror: Ursula is left as a face sticking out of a paving stone.
- Idiot Ball:
- The guy controls the lighting in the place by his voice, insists on not being touched with a disease he gets wrong, and people always stop coming to the group and become unable to be contacted after he talks to them in private. And nobody suspects a thing until a fortunate accident blows the guy's cover.
- Meanwhile, he's got a handful of people who will do the research into the Doctor, and those are the people he prioritizes in absorbing.
- Inherently Funny Words: The Abzorbaloff's home planet, sister planet to Raxacoricofallapatorius... Clom.
- In Medias Res: Lampshaded Elton deliberately starts the episode with an Action Prologue.
- Jump Scare: The Abzorbaloff of all villains gives two.
Ursula: Well then, give them back.Abzorbaloff: [sheepishly looking away from Ursula] What, you mean like this? [turns and grabs her arm]
- First, he passes himself off as a "slow and clumsy beast" to lure in Ursula.
- Even while his victims are screaming at Elton to run, the Abzorbaloff is seemingly lost in ecstasy as Elton hesitates, only to suddenly jump up at him in the middle of Bliss' muffle.
- Karmic Death: The Abzorbaloff is killed when all of those he's absorbed start pulling him apart from the inside, causing him to drop his cane. Elton then breaks the cane, cancelling out the limitation field that keeps the Abzorbaloff's powers in check and causing him to be absorbed by the Earth.
- Living Shadow: An "elemental shade" murdered Elton's mother. The idea of shadows killing people would be explored later, in a different fashion.
- Lower-Deck Episode: This episode focuses on those on the edges of the Doctor's adventures, like Jackie and the Doctor fans.
- Most Wonderful Sound: Invoked Elton describes the TARDIS noise as "the most beautiful sound... in the world."
- Mrs. Robinson: Jackie toward Elton. The kid had no idea why things "broke" so often in her apartment.
- Namedar: The Abzorbaloff deliberately adopts the name the humans come up with for it because it likes the sound. The Doctor later comes up with the same name on the third try. Captain Jack's Monster File for the Slitheen shows that they are related to the Abzorbalovian Rebels.
- Newspaper-Thin Disguise: After absorbing Mr. Skinner, the Abzorbaloff hides behind a newspaper when Ursula and Elton come back. He is eventually rumbled due to a combination of Skinner crying out for help and Ursula noticing his green claws clutching the newspaper.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Victor Kennedy was based on Ian Levine, who served as an unofficial fan consultant to Doctor Who in the 1980s and was instrumental in finding lost episodes. He's also quite a notorious figure in fandom circles.
- "No. Just... No" Reaction: Elton tells the camera that he still has a love life with Ursula (who is just a head at this point), and gets an embarrassed "let's not go into THAT" from her.
- Noodle Incident:
- What were the Doctor and Rose doing with the Hoix and the buckets at the beginning?
- What was the Doctor doing at Trafalgar Square, as per the photo on Ursula's blog?
- How did the Doctor get on the trail of the Elemental Shade that killed Elton's mother?
- The Noun and the Noun: "Love & Monsters".
- Obviously Evil: Victor Kennedy, a.k.a. the Abzorbaloff. His introduction is accompanied by a power outage, he wears black, and asks to be alone with them one at a time for an unspecified reason.
- Oop North:
- Orgasmically Delicious: The Abzorbaloff practically has an orgasm when he absorbs Ursula. Besides that, he is constant ecstasy from having absorbed multiple victims.
- Overly Long Name: Subverted and somewhat lampshaded when the twin planet of Raxicoricofallapatorius is called "Clom".
- Power Incontinence: A fatal case happens to the Abzorbaloff when his cane is broken, causing him to lose control of his powers and thereby get absorbed by the Earth itself.
- Romance-Inducing Smudge: Jackie uses this trope on Elton to get him to take his shirt off.
- Scooby-Dooby Doors: Rose, the Doctor, and a snarling alien have a hilarious version of this inside a warehouse.
- Scream Discretion Shot: Bliss, Bridget and Mr. Skinner all go out like this as the others leave their hang-out. This preserves the mystery of their fates until the reveal of the Abzorbaloff, then we finally see the absorption process at work with Ursula.
- Standalone Episode: This is a Lower-Deck Episode focusing on a one-shot character narrating his experiences involving the Doctor and aliens. The most notable thing about it is that it contains the first appearance of "Saxon", Series 3's Arc Word.
- Stock Sound Effects
- The Abzorbaloff's infamous fart on Bliss' face is in fact a stock fart which was previously used with the Slitheen; specifically, it is the one from the "D'you mind not farting while I'm saving the world." scene. Only now it is deepened, making it sound more real than the cartoony Slitheen farts.
- Bliss muffles twice, first to tell Elton You DONOT Want To Know then to run. Apparently, Kathryn Drysdale only recorded one muffle since it was used twice.
- Bliss' scream from when she was absorbed is reused when she dies as the Abzorbaloff melts.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: Both Elton and the Doctor arrive at Abzorbaloff as a name for Victor after shooting off several variants.
- Straw Fan: Of the Affectionate Parody variety. Specifically, the human LINDA members are nice, friendly fans who hung out and had fun, while the Abzorbaloff is the Fan Dumb.
- Take That!: Fandom is divided on whether the episode is an Affectionate Parody and loving tribute to the things that make fandom special, or just a huge Take That! to its fans. The truth is it's kind of both; the "good" fans are presented as being slightly geeky and socially awkward but fundamentally decent and good people who come together, make connections, are inspired creatively and even fall in love as a result of their fandom, whereas the "bad" fans are humourless jobsworths who treat fandom as a joyless ritual, establishing pecking orders and sucking all the life and creativity out of the whole thing for the sake of their own ego fulfillment. It might not be coincidental that it is sometimes suggested that the Abzorbaloff is based on Ian Levine, a well-known fan who arguably represents more than a few of these negative traits.
- Tastes Like Chicken: Victor says this when he absorbs Ursula.
- Toilet Humour:
- When Elton tries to find where Bliss' face ended up on the Abzorbaloff's body, he gets a muffle...Elton: What?
[the Abzorbaloff lifts his arse]
Bliss: [sheepishly, as the Abzorbaloff farts] ... I said, you really don't want to know![Bliss groans as the Abzorbaloff sits back down on her face.]
- When the Abzorbaloff's absorbed victims figure out that he intends to absorb Elton next, they all urge him to run... except for Bliss, who muffles again.
- When Elton tries to find where Bliss' face ended up on the Abzorbaloff's body, he gets a muffle...
- Too Happy to Live: Most of LINDA. They were having a splendid time with their impromtu band under the library and then the fat bastard showed up.
- To Serve Man: The Abzorbaloff essentially eats people, only not with his mouth, doing so by making physical contact which sucks them into his body, granting him experience and knowledge which he has a taste for.
- Touch of Death: Downplayed. A single touch from the Abzorbaloff begins the irreversible process of absorption which ultimately ends in the death of the victim, though it takes several weeks.
- Tragic Mistake: Had Ursula carried through with her threat to whack the Abzorbaloff over the head with his cane, she'd likely have broken it and killed him. Instead, her moment of hesitation costs her either any semblance of a normal life or (depending on how much of an Unreliable Narrator you consider Elton to be) her life, period.
- True Art Is Incomprehensible: In-universe; LINDA's reaction to Bliss' sculpture, which is supposedly a representation of what the Doctor is, what the Doctor isn't, and what the Doctor should be, but isn't, anyway.
- True Companions: LINDA start off as strangers interested in the Doctor, then they start sharing their other hobbies, and then opening up to each other about important personal issues (missing daughter for instance) and then starting a band.
- 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.
- Villain Ball: Victor Kennedy has it the moment he arrives. His mission is to find the Doctor and absorb him to gain his knowledge. He finds five people willing to help him. Then, right as they start, he begins picking them off one by one, dwindling his own manpower pool, and complains that they are not yielding results.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Elton's life is crumbling around him the fun, harmless little group he joined 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 tell him off 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!
Elton: Great big absorbing creature from outer space, and you're having a go at me?
Rose: No-one upsets my mum!
- Who Needs Their Whole Body?: Ursula ends up as a face in a block of concrete.
- You DONOT Want To Know: Bliss' muffled response when Elton asks where her disembodied face is on the Abzorbaloff's body. She repeats after the Abzorbaloff lifts up his bottom, and she has to shout since he is letting off a very loud fart.