Shit, I hate this episode. Welcome to London: Jackie Tyler, a boy named Elton Pope, and his friends in the London Investigation 'N Detective Agency join Sarah Jane Smith as the people most obviously damaged by the presence, and the absence, of our Gallifreyan son. It's told in the most horribly shoddy frame-cutting frenetic faux-MTV ADD What The Kids Are Into repetitive redundant stupid fashion imaginable: imagine if you had to reconstruct "Storyteller" from the half-drugged raving memories of a ten-year-old child, then make sure it suuuucks. Then toss in a few stupid fart gags, some gratuitous retro-nerd-hip ELO, and some really egregious pavement-faced blowjobs from Moaning Myrtle. Yeah. So Elton's life has been coincidentally intertwined with the Doctor's adventures throughout the new series, and it's warped him just a bit. He joins a group of similarly fascinated/obsessed social rejects (note that I did not say "sexless anoraks," because enough is enough), and they begin hunting the Doctor, fancying themselves a kind of lay UNIT. Things only get kicked into high gear with the mysterious appearance of the dastardly Big Name Fan Victor Kennedy, who's like if Count Olaf from Unfortunate Events decided to get, you know, fucking hammy. Elton is sent to infiltrate Jackie in order to find out more about Rose, and they become really sweet friends -- right up until Jackie figures out Elton's ulterior motives. Feeling crappy about hurting Jackie's feelings, Elton deserts and enrages Victor, who turns out to be an alien from Raxacoricofallapatorius's sister planet that absorbs dorks and Doctor Who fans, snarfing the adorable members of LINDA left and right. Suddenly, the Doctor appears just in time to save Elton, who spontaneously disgorges his repressed memory of his mother being killed by a living shadow out of the blue, earns a hug from the enraged Rose Tyler, and fucks a cement block. Who, it turns out, is a metaphor for everybody the Doctor's wily ways ever fucked over, as Jackie Tyler memorably points out: we -- people who aren't Companions, which is everybody, because this show is fictional -- get hard, and cold, and lonely, unless we remember we're not alone. Or join a support group or local fan club. Or possibly if we have a robotic dog and a spinoff series, that's another way we might turn out okay. But luckily, the Doctor and Rose have nothing to worry about, so they're happy to flounce off with a smile and a friendly wave, leaving everybody else to pick up the pieces. Again. How incredibly apropos and sad and totally in line with the entire season. Shit, I love this episode.
Meet Elton. He's blondish, middle-height, buggy eyes, hyper air about him. Like he's looking for something he's never going to touch. Stands in an abandoned building site, where he spots a faint TARDIS outline in the distance, and begins running madly for it. You can hear the VWORP. He reaches the top of a hill, panting, and stares across at a row of crunk storage units, the TARDIS standing bright blue in the middle of everything. He stares, and then runs for her, and as he touches the door, he hears voices. "Doctor! Doctor, the trap!" He heads off in the direction of Rose's shout, through one of the doors into a warehouse complex, hearing the echoes and shouts of a scuffle happening up above. Far, far up above him. Up, up, up. Where the real story is happening. "Where's he gone? Can you see him?" shouts the Doctor, and Rose spots "him," and tells the Doctor to watch out, and Elton climbs the stairs. He's young, but not young enough to live with his mum, which is probably where he'd live, if she were around. The way he's dressed, he could be Rose's next-door neighbor. He could be. He is. He runs up the stairs, toward the noise and toward the Doctor, clanging metal as he goes. Up at the top is a long corridor, down which he proceeds; at the end is a door, and on the other side of the door, a howling. A grunting, like a pig, and bright light. He opens the door, revealing a ferocious snarling monster like a Weevil on roids, called a Hoix, snarling and roaring at him.
Cut to Elton, sitting in front of a video camera. He even fucking looks like Tom Lenk. I hate this episode so much. (And if you haven't seen that Buffy episode, take a sec to do so. God knows Davies did.) "That's what it did," Elton says, eyes bugging out twice as much as usual. "It went RRROOOOAAAAAAAAARRR! And if you think that was the most exciting day of my life -- wait 'til you hear the rest. Oh boy..."
Aaaand credits. That has to be one of the least inviting openings I've ever seen. "I've got this huge abscess on my ass, wanna see? But wait til you hear the rest, oh boy!" I give RTD a certain gigantic amount of credit, and I guess we have enough clues that Elton's not the reliablest of narrators, but that doesn't stop him, or this section of the episode, from being more fucking annoying than anybody has a right to be. It's not the subject matter, which is brilliant, and it's not the characters, which are lovable, and it's not the story, which is really good and well written. It's...everything else. The frenetic, self-conscious pacing. The idiotic cutting to and fro. The pomo thing that's going on. Marc Warren's big stupid face in my face. It's not the fucking gaywad '90s anymore; everything is self-aware now. It's not the creativity solution anymore, it's the natural state of things. This is a great story wasted on a moment of low creativity, and I hate it. You can have a liminal POV story -- I like those. You can have voice-overs, you can shove Shirley Henderson in my sweet and charming ears, you can hurt my Jackie, even get a blowjob from the ground beneath our feet. You can have three -- count them, three -- different anvils to hurl at my head in the last ten minutes, from three different directions (and bonus cheers for next week's nightmarishly retarded denouement). But you cannot have all of these. This is not What The Kids Are Doing These Days. This is a simulacrum of the future of TV, not the future of TV. This is the idea of what should be done, not what should be done; I don't know about the entire five billion-year history of this show, but I do know that this is the idea of what RTD would do, not What RTD Would Do. This is faking what normally comes from a place inside. This is what happens when inspiration takes a nap: things get hard.