Blink and Love: What worked? What didn’t?
Guest contributor Daniel takes a look at past Doctor-lite episodes, Blink and Love & Monsters
In anticipation for “The Crimson Horror”, I will look at two stories where the Doctor wasn’t on screen for much of the time, and compare the two, showing what worked in the episode and what didn’t. I’m sure it comes as no surprise that when it came to comparing two Doctor-lite stories, I chose one of the best critiqued, and one of the worst critiqued episodes of New Who history. I talk, of course, about Steven Moffat’s “Blink”, and Russell T Davies’ “Love and Monsters”, respectively. I’ve chosen these two to compare as they are so different in the ways they use the “Doctor-lite” format, sometimes for better, and other times for worse. I will explore how each episode uses the format to their advantage, and where it lets down the episode. At the end of this article, I will piece together all the great parts of each episode, and form what I think will make a great episode out of “The Crimson Horror”.
Love and Monsters
Although not looked upon as a favourite episode by many fans, I will admit that upon first viewing of this episode, I loved it. Maybe it was because I was so young at the time; the thought of a monster absorbing your entire mind and body appealed to me so well. Yes, it has a LOT of downfalls, but also rises to the occasion in many places. Because the Doctor and Rose were not used in this episode very much at all, it gave a great opportunity to delve right into how life not only affects the companion, but EVERYBODY connected to the Doctor and his travels. Rose’s mum, Jackie Tyler was given her chance to shine this episode, and is probably one of Camille Coduri’s best performances to date. This episode truly shows how when you are related to the Doctor in some way, it can be daunting, challenging, and upsetting for all those around. I also loved the ongoing theme of friendship and unity, in LINDA, and the resolution of the story, as the Doctor was not technically the hero, the absorbed LINDA team were.
Almost everything about this episode was amazing, in my eyes. It was the first Doctor-lite story I truly loved, because it took such a different approach to the format of these episodes. I’m a sucker for episodes where the Doctor is helpless, trapped someplace, or somewhen, where he has to rely on the resources he is given. This episode doesn’t take the opportunity to delve into a companion’s thoughts and feelings, but instead uses it as a “Rescue the Doctor” type adventure, starring a character we have never met before. The Weeping Angels were a genius monster, and would have stayed one of the scariest monsters, had they not appeared any more times. The thought of a stone statue being alive when you aren’t looking was a stroke of genius, and I will admit, this episode was the first episode for me to have a nightmare about. These ubiquitous angels just made this episode the first time I truly felt fear when watching Doctor Who. The classic “trapped in a haunted house” mixed with a touch of science fiction is just what a Doctor-lite story needed. Without the Doctor, it gave the opportunity for a truly scary episode, where he wasn’t the hero, nor could be.
What didn’t work:
Love and Monsters
This section is not about bagging Love and Monsters, it is merely explaining what didn’t work about the episode as well as some of the other aspects of the episode. The Abzorbaloff, although I enjoyed the idea, was a flop. The whole design, and the way it was showed off just didn’t soak in (pardon the pun). It was portrayed, quite frankly, like a joke. I was in disbelief by the end of the episode that the Abzorbaloff was meant to be an actual monster. Yes, it was designed by a 9-year-old who won a competition, I just think they could have done something better with the creature; maybe change the design a little to make it seem less like a joke. I also found the “Ursula in the pavement” absolutely ridiculous. Although the love story was touching, I cringed when I saw her face stuck on the tile. I thought it would’ve had a much more emotional impact if Ursula had permanently died.
In Forest of the Dead, the “bringing back to life” method worked in a way where the emotional impact stayed, even when we found out all of River’s colleagues survived. Clearly Steven Moffat learned from Russell’s mistakes in his “Library” episodes. Sometimes, people who have died should not just “magically come back to life” with some science-y explanation. I feel it is too much of an easy way out. The main issue I had with this episode was how silly it got. When you’ve got the opportunity to write an episode with minimal appearances from the Doctor, don’t waste it by making a singing and dancing, playful, joke of an episode. Yes, you can have a few jokes – Doctor Who IS a family show after all – but don’t overtake the episode with them. Have a balance. This is why Blink did so well, Steven made it as scary as he could because he embraced the Doctor’s disappearance, yet still made it light-hearted in a few scenes where it was appropriate.
There’s not going to be much to say that’s against Blink; it’s a great, if not an almost perfect episode. There is one thing I will say, although I maybe alone on this – I would have also liked to see how a relationship with the Doctor and Sally would work. She seemed like a person the Doctor would have really got along with, but the Doctor-lite format ruined that chance. I love seeing the Doctor mingle with other people, it just makes him seem that more alien. Maybe if Sally eventually came back to Doctor Who, we could see a development. But then again, I wouldn’t want her character ruined by a lousy return.
What would make a great episode out of “The Crimson Horror”?
The Crimson Horror, being a Doctor-lite story, has the same opportunities the rest of them had. It just depends on how Mark Gatiss works with the format. Seeing as the Paternoster Gang are returning in this episode, I would love to see a deep character development between the three, just like Love and Monsters had done. Maybe he could go into detail in one of the character’s lives. I would love to know more about Jenny Flint’s backstory, as we haven’t gotten much from her yet, and it seems Madame Vastra really steals the show from her.
Seeing as it has “Horror” in the title, it would be very disappointing if this episode didn’t have a massive fear factor to it, one that wants to make me hide behind, not one sofa, but 5 and a half sofas. Just like Blink, I would like to see a great threat introduced into the series, something as scary as what The Weeping Angels were like back when they were introduced. It just takes that one idea to give someone the fright of their lives. Seeing Strax’s return, I would also like to see a bit of humour. Not too much to overpower the episode, just a few light moments here and there, where they would be appropriate. Being a Doctor-lite episode, I believe the Doctor won’t be the hero, which is a good thing. It shows that he can’t always be the saviour, however powerful he may be.
Writing this article has made me anticipate this episode much more than when I first heard about it, and I hope after reading it, you will be just as excited as I am.
So, what do you think will make a great episode out of “The Crimson Horror”? Do you agree with my thoughts, or are you just not excited about the episode?