A man runs along an abandoned warehouse, stopping when he sees the TARDIS. His evident awe is interrupted when we hear Rose call “Doctor!” Inside, the man comes face to face with a roaring alien. “And that’s what it did,” he exclaims (now at the interior of a flat). “It went roar!”
Flashback to the alien: the Doctor pops up, waving a raw pork chop at the alien. “Get out of here,” the Doctor says to his observer before cooing, “Wouldn’t you like a porky-choppy then?” to the very interested alien.
Eee, I love observer-turned-hero episodes! Instead of hearing about this alien, we’re in outsider POV as the alien chases Rose and the Doctor around a corridor of opening and closing doors, the pace increasing or stopping according to whatever steaming bucket Rose dumps on the alien. It’s like Benny Hill or Scooby Doo up in here. “Hold on,” the Doctor says, pausing in his chase. “Don’t I know you?”
Cut to the man running outside; he hears the sound of the TARDIS dematerializing. It’s “the most beautiful sound in the world.” Oh, and that wasn’t even the best bit, Elton (for that’s his name) tells us. It’s just “a brilliant opening.” But be warned, “because it’s about to get scary,” he says, leaning in pointedly because he hasn’t got a zoom lens yet. Aww, did the alien get his porky-choppy or not?
Elton, filmed by his mate Ursula, stands in front of his old family home. He first saw the Doctor here when he was a toddler, though he has no idea why the Doctor was there. Later, Elton repeatedly found himself in the thick of Doctor-related alien activity, including running from a shop window dummy in “Rose,” witnessing the PIggynaut-steered Slitheen ship in “Aliens of London,” and watching the Sycorax warship fly overhead in “The Christmas Invasion.”
Soon Elton found internet-hosted pictures of the Doctor on his new friend Ursula’s Doctor-focused site. She introduces him to the “Inner Sanctum,” or The Greatest People Elton Will Ever Meet, a Doctor-obsessed group. There’s Mr. Skinner, proponent of mythological theories; Bridget, who collects Doctor images and facts; Bliss (“Bless Bliss”) who creates conceptual art: “What he could represent and what he should represent, and what he never won’t represent, sort of thing.”
Soon Elton and his pals name themselves LINDA (London Investigation ‘n’ Detective Agency). Though the Doctor brings them together, they soon share their own life stories. It’s a classic story of fans finding each other, really. After sharing excerpts from their novels and stories of family woe, they even start up a band so they can play the ELO songs Elton loves.
And then, of course, the LINDA fandom gets ruined by the arrival of the toxic self-declared BNF (that’s Big Name Fan for those of you fandom-adjacent): Victor Kennedy, who enters dramatically saying, “I am your salvation!” Great. Countdown to wank in three, two, one… Kennedy vows to return them to their purpose: finding the Doctor. Oh, and they can’t touch him, because he has “Exeeema,” a Not-Eczema disease that apparently makes him blister to the touch (because even his skin oozes a hatred of fun).
“Better get to work,” Elton says outside after Kennedy’s arrival. “I never thought of it as work,” Ursula replies unhappily. Meanwhile, Bliss, who Kennedy asked to stay behind, screams inside the building. Fandom eats its own, my friends! Soon Victor Kennedy’s giving everyone “homework” – research and spying techniques. Oh, and Bliss hasn’t come round because she’s married; by the way, TARDIS spotting in Woolwich. “Don’t get excited,” Elton warns, because that’s where we came in, with the madcap door-slamming chase and porky-choppy and steaming buckets of whatever.
“I just froze,” Elton admits after his Doctor-encounter. “You stupid man!” Kennedy rages, raising his cane to give Elton such a hit! Ursula intervenes, telling Kennedy if he does, he’ll “get one hell of a smack off me. And then a good kick!” “Duly noted,” Kennedy grumbles. “Ursula Blake, most likely to fight back.” And how, though more on that later.
Kennedy sets LINDA to find out about the Doctor’s companion. The “Torchwood files” are lacking because of a “Bad Wolf” virus. Eee, though I know this is a continuity fix, I love Rose’s Bad Wolf incarnation screwed up Torchwood’s records! Bridget, who searched for her missing drug-addicted daughter in London, points out it’s not super easy to find people there. “I don’t like to be touched literally or metaphorically,” Kennedy scolds, dismissing her personal tragedy as interference.
Elton charges forward with the “impossible task” of finding one girl “in a seething metropolis of lost souls.” Of course he instantly finds someone who knows the Tylers. Pointed toward Jackie, he follows her to a laundry, taking off his outer shirt as an excuse. Now it’s time for Super Spy Elton, who deploys all the espionage strategies Kennedy taught him! Which is to say: Jackie volunteers lots of info and asks him over to mend her broken washer because she thinks he’s dishy.
At the estate, Jackie speaks wistfully of her traveling daughter; Elton’s questions and compliments get her to open up slightly. “I could kiss you!” Kennedy exclaims later. “You will do anything to get that information!” he orders. Oh, could Bridget just stay behind? And could we get a brief flash of hope about her blossoming romance with Mr. Skinner, only to have the reality of Kennedy killing her off-camera moments later dash our hopes to bits?
“It was strange, the amount of things that needed doing,” Elton observes as Jackie sets him task after task. She mentions the person who used to help her, Mickey, is gone now. Such a sad moment! We know Rose and Mickey can’t meet again, and that’s bittersweet, knowing he’s found his purpose, and she has the Doctor. But poor Jackie is so alone right now!
Jackie pours Elton some wine, first in a glass, then all over his shirt so he’ll take it off. “The Ultimate Step 5!” of his spy plan, Elton exults in voice over as he nervously gets ready to seduce Jackie. But when he returns shirtless (nice abs, Elton) she’s just getting off the phone with Rose. “I get left here sometimes,” Jackie explains, as Rose travels: “Anything could be happening to her.” The mood changes, and Elton transforms his purpose. He offers to get pizza they’ll share “as proper mates.”
“All of a sudden, a lot of things made sense,” Elton muses as he takes the pizza back to the flat. He likes Jackie, but he likes someone else even more. It’s Ursula, of course! A montage of Ursula moments plays to the tune of ELO’s “Hey You With the Pretty Face.” But as Elton heads back, Jackie intercepts him. She found his picture of Rose. “Now let me tell you, about those who get left behind,” she yells. It’s so hard that she’s become hard. She vows she’ll never betray her daughter or the Doctor. I love seeing protective Jackie here!
“And she was right,” Elton concludes, ashamed he used Jackie to get to Rose. Kennedy rails at Elton, but Elton objects LINDA was happier before he came along. “There’s no Bliss anymore,” Elton says with terrific double-meaning, “No Bridget,” (poor Skinner’s been phoning her without reply), so he and Skinner are leaving! “And we’re going to the Golden Locust and we’re going to have a Chinese,” Elton snaps at Ursula, who wonders what the hell this has to do with anything. When she realizes Elton’s asking her on a date, she agrees, “Oh, I’d love it!” Aww! Fan-nerd love!
Kennedy threatens they’ll never understand what the Doctor’s doing, and keeps Skinner behind with the promise of a way to get in touch with Bridget. Outside, Ursula stops, realizing she’s left her phone; she and Elton return to find Mr. Skinner’s no longer there, and Kennedy’s hiding behind a newspaper with suspiciously Raxacoricofallapatorian-looking claws.
They’ve dabbled with aliens: “Now meet the genuine article,” Kennedy growls, revealing his true-freaky form. With his globular body, he’s not quite Slitheen-ish, though damn close; his game is absorbing those he kills. Skinner’s face is visible in his skin, as is Bridget’s; poor Bliss ended up where “you don’t want to know” (ho ho, butt jokes).
What is he, some sort of Abzorbaloff, Elton asks, horrified. Kennedy delightedly explains he plans to absorb the Doctor, who will make a “delicious feast!” Ursula grabs Kennedy’s cane, threatening to beat him until he releases the other LINDA members. Kennedy pleads weakness (“I’m such a slow and clumsy beast!”); he takes advantage of her distraction by grabbing her arm, sucking in and absorbing her too.
Poor Ursula’s face, spectacles and all, emerges on Abzorbaloff’s chest. “That’s not fair!” Elton bursts out. Now that Ursula’s part of Kennedy, though, she can read his intentions: she calls for Elton to run, and Bridget and Mr. Skinner echo her urgent advice to flee before Kennedy can get him next.
“Everything I’ve ever wanted,” has been absorbed, Elton realizes with despair as he stumbles to the ground and Kennedy/Abzorbaloff catches up to him. “It’s everlasting peace,” Kennedy/Abzorbaloff persuades him (yeah, Bliss’s unhappiness of ending up on his bum and Mr. Skinner crying for help put paid to that lie), saying, “Dissolve into me.”
Hey, the grinding sound of the TARDIS materializing – yay, the Doctor’s here to save Elton! Except it’s actually Rose, to ream Elton out for acting like such a git to her mum. The Doctor delicately points out the Raxacoricofallapatorian resemblance; turns out Kennedy’s from a twin-planet with the appealing name of “Clom.” Kennedy threatens to kill Elton unless the Doctor gives him the TARDIS. “Do what you want,” he adds with a shrug, while Rose looks torn.
“Mind you, the others might have something to say,” the Doctor offers. Inspired, the former members of LINDA unite to fight back: “Pull!” Ursula urges, if it’s the last thing they ever do, keeping him from touching Elton. Reading Kennedy/Abzorbaloff’s thoughts allow Ursula to see the cane Kennedy brandishes holds his power source; once Elton breaks the cane, it destroys the “limitation field” and he oozes into sludge, melting into the ground.
“Bye bye, Elton,” Ursula says as Elton watches her dissolve. “That was Ursula,” he says brokenly. Ever the soft touch, Rose sits next to him, putting her arms around him in comfort. “And that’s it. Almost. Because the Doctor still had more to say,” Elton says.
“You don’t remember, do you?” the Doctor asks him. It’s the until-now unknown reason why the Doctor appeared to Elton all those years ago; he arrived at the house in pursuit of an Elemental Shade. “I wasn’t in time to save her. I’m sorry.” The “her” the Doctor refers to? Elton’s mum, who died that night (cut to a shot of her lying dead on the ground).
Wow. Wow. He actually repressed the memory of his mother passing away by focusing obsessively on the Doctor. It’s obsession about the father to the erasure of the mother writ large! The emotional walls he had to have built to enable this erasure must be immense. It’s a great irony that Elton, who so scrupulously records his version of events, may not be able to present the story reliably.
“We forget because we must,” Elton tells us in the present. He’s had terrible things happen to him, as well as brilliant things. “They’re all the same thing. They’re just me,” he says, paraphrasing Stephen King’s equation of salvation and damnation. It’s a fantastic and horrifying reminder of the warning Rose got at the outset of the series: with the Doctor comes death. Elton mentions he worries about Jackie and Rose because of their connection to him. Oh…crap…this is probably ominous foreshadowing.
“Come on Elton, you’ve still got me,” Ursula’s voice says, and jeepers creepers, Ursula’s face is preserved in a paving slab! “The Doctor saved me one last time,” Elton explains; he separated, though he couldn’t reconstruct, Ursula with the Sonic Screwdriver. “It’s a relationship of sorts,” Elton observes, noting they even “have a bit of a love life” (at which I made an obscene gesture I’m sure you can all picture – but I did it in a loving way, I’ll have you know). “Oh, let’s not go into that,” Ursula demurs, embarrassed.
But the thing Elton wanted to say – and here he zooms in, because he’s got a new camera and no longer has to lean in to do close-ups – though we’re told as kids about the stages of life, “the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker, and so much madder. And so much better.”
Oooh wee ahhooo wooo! Apologies for getting this recap up later than usual! I’m traveling, and after some internet connectivity problems where I’m staying, I hope I’m now back on track. I’ll do my best to supply you with quality DW recaps that are mostly on time if you bear with me. Remember Bear With Me? The celebrity edition, where the bear got in the bath! See you with a new recap tomorrow!