"Move over The Android Invasion, The Five Doctors, Attack Of The Cybermen, Father’s Day, Boom Town, Bad Wolf / The Parting Of The Ways, The Christmas Invasion and New Earth – here comes the latest successor to the title Worst Doctor Who Story Everrrrrrrrr."
Loner Elton actually remembers that Earth has been invaded by aliens a few times recently. He makes contact with several other loners to compare notes. They conclude that there is a mysterious man called The Doctor who seems to be involved, but they run out of information, so they form a pop band instead. Elton then falls in love with one of the loner girls – Ursula. Then a new loner – Victor Kennedy – arrives and begins to order them all about to find the Doctor by first tracking down Rose.
Elton then betrays Ursula to have sex with Rose’s mother, but is himself rejected when Rose telephones, and his cover is subsequently blown.
Meanwhile all the other loners apart from Victor and Ursula have been disappearing one at a time. Elton and Ursula discover that Victor is in fact an Abzorbaloff from the planet Klom, and has absorbed all the other loners into his fat body. They converse with their friends’ disembodied faces, which are still visible all over his now almost naked person.
After absorbing Ursula, the Abzorbaloff chases Elton down a nearby cul-de-sac, where he is defeated by the Doctor and Rose arriving. After the Abzorbaloff has melted into the pavement, the Doctor manages to save Elton’s ex-love Ursula, but only by welding her face to a paving-slab.
In the final shot, Elton says how happy he is with the love-life that he and Ursula the paving slab now have.
Things I liked:
The early slapstick, with the Doctor, Rose and an unnamed alien running in and out of multiple doors leading off of a corridor. It’s not something that Christopher Eccleston's Doctor could have pulled-off, but in such a flexible format as Doctor Who, this style has its place.
When Elton refers to Elton John at one point, we get a very quick (alas entirely random) clip of the singer himself thrown in for laughs.
The subtle comedy with which we followed the new friends’ early meetings, including when they got bored and set up a band. I too was getting bored at this stage, but I like it when a programme looks nothing like itself. It acknowledges the diversity of real life. That's why I liked Attack Of The Cybermen when it got hung-up on Lytton and his cronies planning a bank raid. There was no evidence at all that I was actually watching Doctor Who.
The Torchwood references were actually legitimate this week, being both in the present day, and said by an insider. In this case, Victor had stolen a copy of the Doctor and Rose’s file from Torchwood. On the other hand the ‘bad wolf’ reference as usual in no way told Rose to return to the Doctor, as was awkwardly claimed by the same writer in The Parting Of The Ways.
The utterly revolting alien Abzorbaloff. Looking at this almost-naked monstrosity, with several human-heads grossly protruding from all over, I had to admit that this time this author had impressed me with something truly way-out. It was a little derivative of Borusa’s fate in The Five Doctors, but transformative enough.
So, things I didn’t like:
Elton’s video footage. (he narrates the episode in flashback to his video-camera) Just show me one video-camera anywhere in the world that adds 4 corners over your recorded picture. Even these have been bent by the addition of an extreme wide-angle lens.
In summary, if the designer wanted to show that this was camcorder footage, he really would have saved time, money, credibility, everything by just leaving the picture as it was first shot.
Having assured us in The Christmas Invasion that this time the public would remember getting invaded by aliens, they apparently don’t. The implication is that Elton and his friends are the exception to the norm. It’s the same plot hole as in every contemporary story so far in the modern series. (as far as I know, there wasn’t a single present-day public alien invasion written for the original 26-year series – the two modern series have had three so far and counting)
The pantomime of the second half was too extreme for me. No attempt was made to make this monster anything more than an actor in an apathetically-made children's TV show. Even his mouth was left unmade-up. This was a parody of Doctor Who - the sort of thing The Krankees used to do.
Jackie seducing Elton - awful. Elton's keenness to betray his girlfriend - similarly. No sympathy there.
After having been absorbed, none of the Abzorbaloff's victims called out to warn their other friends. They think of doing this only after the viewer has learnt of their fate, although they have known of their own fate for some time. Once again, the characters can only act upon what the viewer knows, just like the Autons not knowing their own plan in Rose, the Adherents of the Repeated Meme not knowing they don’t exist in The End of the World, the Reapers not knowing they can chase or eat the Doctor while he’s off-camera in Father’s Day, both the Doctor and Margaret so many times in Boom Town, the Daleks not knowing they are invading Earth until they’ve been discovered in Bad Wolf, the Sycorax not knowing where the Doctor is until their deadly Christmas tree is discovered in The Christmas Invasion, Cassandra not knowing a) that she has a body-swap device, or b) that she doesn’t need it to do so until Rose shows up in New Earth, Albert not knowing his own plan until it’s discovered after his death in Tooth and Claw, the Doctor not knowing he isn’t drunk until he’s revealed it and the clockwork robots not knowing they’ve built a series of time-doors until the Doctor etc. have found them in The Girl In The Fireplace and the Doctor not knowing about all the devices he’s carrying in his pockets in The Age Of Steel. Here, the Abzorbaloff didn’t know he absorbed people until he first met the loners, or he’d have plenty more faces on his body.
Elton chooses to flee down a road so nearby where they regularly meet that he must know it to be a cul-de-sac.
After cornering Elton, the Abzorbaloff slows down his advance to give the Doctor enough time to arrive and defeat him.
The Doctor and Rose have no explained way of knowing where or when to materialise the TARDIS.
Rose, generally a rude self-centered character anyway, is at her most horrid in this episode when she hypocritically blames Elton for how her mum feels.
Rose doesn’t know who Elton is. She can only know who he is by having watched the programme, just like the Doctor impossibly knowing of Adam’s answerphone message in The Long Game, Rose impossibly knowing of both her childhoods in The Parting Of The Ways, and the Doctor and Rose impossibly knowing of Jack’s survival and subsequent career choice in the Children In Need Special.
Have you ever heard that old adage about learning from your earlier mistakes?
Four – count ‘em four - production concerns came to light after I’d seen this show…
1. The Absorbaloff had been designed by 9-year-old William Grantham for the children’s TV show Blue Peter’s ‘Design A Monster’ competition, not by the author I had credited it to.
2. Following transmission, much back-pedaling has been done by the production team to justify the story’s legion holes, actually claiming that the episode’s narrator – Elton – was the one who got so much wrong, not them.
This however does not account for the same inconsistencies being made in so many other episodes, as detailed above. (and that’s why I’ve listed them)
I have since read some of the prepublicity for the episode in Doctor Who Magazine #371, but nothing I’ve seen from before the episode’s transmission corroborates this claim.
3. The same magazine says that these odd social inadequates are meant to represent Doctor Who fans. I can’t comprehend of any reason why they would think this of their viewers, and certainly not why they would crow it in our faces. That 9-year-old kid must feel great. Thanks guys, gosh, I really respect you for that. Well, I respect you more than you do me.
4. Finally, I’ve been told that the script owes a great deal to the Buffy The Vampire Slayer episode entitled Storyteller. As I haven’t seen the show in question, I really can’t comment on this, but the pictures appear relevant enough to share...
(screencaps from screencap-paradise.com and doctorwho.time-and-space.co.uk)
0 out of 10. And after last week’s script was so good.