Posted already as a comment on Surliminal’s LJ but repeated here.
One of the things I have always loved about Doctor Who is that it has a flexible format. However, when something uses that flexibility to tell a story that doesn’t fit with preconceptions then I’m bemused at the fan reaction that says well, it’s not a Doctor Who story.
This is from the show that’s done the Doctor and companions materialising only inches high on modern earth (Planet of the Giants), a visit to the land of fiction where the threat is the Doctor’s companions might get trapped in a book (The Mind Robber); an episode featuring only the central cast set in a TARDIS out of control sending cryptic messages to a dressing gown cladd Ian Chesterton and scissor wielding Susan (Edge of Destruction); fantasy (the celestial Toymaker where the Doctor is rendered invisible and his companions threatened by games and toys they must play); pure historicals (many early stories – The Aztecs, Marco Polo, The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve); pseudo-historicals (in The Time Meddler the meddling monk – played by Peter Butterworth, stalwart of the Carry On series – plans to give bazookas to King Harold in order that he win the Battle of Hastings); space opera; quest stories (the fifth story was The Keys of Marinus which involved hunting for a different key every week); one episode without the Doctor or any companions at all (Mission to the Unknown in 1965); horror stories; comedies (three stories in particular stand out: The Myth Makers set in the Trojan war which included one episode called IIRC Is there a Doctor in the horse?; The Gunfighters (gunfight at the OK Corral with a ballad sang throughout each episode updating you on plot developments); and The Romans (The Doctor in Nero’s Rome)) as well as rip offs (homages?) to lots of things (Hammer Horror, sci-fi films, Bond &c).
It’s notable that most of these types of story (but not really the homages) were found in the 1960s when the creators were well aware of the flexible format, and despite budgetary constraints not tied to any one type of story. As time went on the production team of each era favoured one type of story over others (base under siege stories in Troughton’s second season); Hammer and other film homages in Tom Baker stories produced by Philip Hinchcliffe.
In the flexible format no one style of story should dominate. It’s perhaps no coincidence that the fans rate Hartnell lower than other Doctors. It’s not just that many of his episodes have vanished from the BBC archive or that those that survive are in black and white. It’s that they play with the format. The production team thrilled in transcending audience expectations. Love and Monsters is well within the tradition, written out of necessity (because the Beeb wanted an extra episode this year but with the same filming block) but undeniably a Doctor Who story, and a comment on how viewers perceive Doctor Who. This is RTD’s best script by far. I wouldn’t want it like this every week, but this once it was great.