Doctor Doctor Who Guide

What can I say? Absolutely everything I look for in Doctor Who and more. There were a few minor blemishes here and there but the overall package here is impressive it would get tops marks from on any viewing. Whilst it may not be the best Russell T Davies script yet (his witty lines were lost amongst all the atmosphere) it was great to see him trying something totally different (ie not a soap or a space opera) and pull it off with real style. If horror aint your bag bugger off, but I love horror and this was without a doubt one of the finest Doctor Who has ever dished up.

It all starts out so brilliantly with that dynamic opening. Aside from The Unquiet Dead has their been a better pre titles sequence yet? The way Simon commented gruffly “Its not like Doctor Who at all” made me beam with delight, he is not used to being swept of his feet by such fancy camera and stunt work but this is exactly the sort of thing the show can achieve now that it couldn’t before. I was dazzled by these balletic yet arse kicking monks and their raid on the house was truly terrifying. The slick camerawork not only adds a great deal of energy and style but also doesn’t really let you look at the damage these guys are causing so the kids can be scared but only with the implied violence of what is going on.

Hop to the TARDIS for some more rock and roll fun (I love how Russell has introduced more music into the world of Doctor Who, it could often be something of a drab show so it is nice to see the TARDIS spinning through the vortex to some groovy music). David and Billie have a fine rapport already and like the best Doctor/companion teams (Second Doctor and Jaime/Third Doctor and Jo/Fourth Doctor and Sarah/Seventh Doctor and Ace) it is clearly they are absolutely in love with each other and their adventures. The running gag throughout the episode is great and a lovely postmodern touch. The Doctor’s accent slipping between Scottish and English is another fine choice, it’s a shame he should slowly regain his ‘natural’ voice because David’s natural accent is too sexy for words. The best Doctor moment in the entire episode: When he sees the werewolf for the first time…it is not the reaction you would expect when a slavering beast is tearing from a cage and trying to kill but it was 100% the Doctor. Rose isn’t exactly idle either, proving her worth when she manages to escape her manacles and turn the serving staff into a fighting force.

What I was amazed by was how well this episode adhered to the clichés of horror and yet still managed to seem fresh and interesting. Lets face it, a spooky house, people being chained up with a monster, a full moon, the monster escaping and rampaging through the house…these have been done to death in every film, TV show and book you can think of. Maybe it was the crazy ninja monks or the fact that the werewolf was an alien (his story enhanced beautifully by the TARDISode), maybe it was the inclusion of Queen Victoria or the fact that answers to defeating the creature were scattered around the house and well built into the structure of the episode, but this werewolf story managed to be both scary and a wee bit different to those you have seen before. Certainly it tops the other science fiction shows I have watched attempts to pull it off. Buffy was a bit post modern with Phases, an embarrassing costume and far too many gags spoiling what could have been a scary episode. The X-Files offered up Shapes which did have a genuinely chilling transformation sequence but it was tacked on to a ruthlessly boring episode that hardly featured the creature at all.

The direction was right on the nail, astonishingly classy for television and the sort of standard the show needs to maintain if it wants to stay at the top of its game. What impressed me most was how far they were willing to go to scare the audience, there was a few moment in this episode where I was scared so I dread to think what the kiddies went through! The way the episode builds towards showing us the monster, manoeuvring Rose into its path just in time to see it turn is perhaps the best build up for any monster since Terror of the Zygons episode one. The creature in the cage was frightening enough with his silky voice and horrid tar black eyes but once his skin began to stretch and tear…brrr! The actual werewolf was fantastically designed but just cartoony enough to let the kids know they are watching television. Frankly the scariest moment in the entire episode was when the Doctor and Rose are trapped inside a room and the wolf is prowling around outside, purring and growling. Not knowing where he is was much scarier than actually having him right in your face! The biggest cliché comes when one guy says Aha the danger is over, I’ll just investigate over here before he gets yanked up to the ceiling and savagely torn to pieces. How many times have I seen that before…and why does it keep getting used? Because it works and its damn funny! And scary!

The inclusion of Queen Victoria makes the episode far more than the monster fest than it could have been. Pauline Collins turns in a surprising performance with none of the gravity I was expecting but with much humanity and grace. Colour me impressed. RTD tries to pull of his surprise ending again, almost exactly the same as what he did with The Christmas Invasion having an authority figure and the Doctor who have been acting friendly suddenly at odds with each other in a most dramatic way. It’s not quite as good because we don’t know Victoria as good as we knew Harriet Jones but it still comes out of the blue. Its always nice to have a bit of history in Doctor Who and the regulars’ reaction meeting the famous Queen is a delight. There were some lovely touches like Albert’s death being utilised as part of the plot, the giant telescope, which made the episode much more thoughtful than the run-around it clearly is.

Any complaints? Well the running time again I suppose. Does this story feel rushed? Not really because it is basically a bunch of people running around a house and this time RTDS has wisely confined one bloody great idea to the episode rather than chucking a thousand at the wall and hoping that some of them stick. But saying that I still feel these 45 minute stories would benefit from being an hour long, just so you can flesh out the characters a bit more, maybe add a touch more detail. These New Series episodes are being praised for being far faster paced and exciting compared to the drab, slow moving old Doctor Who TV series but they can’t really help that having to squeeze in as much plot in half the length! What I’m missing is the exploration of ideas, the new series has imagination in abundance but we are not have the opportunity to explore these crazy, wonderful ideas in any great depth in case the kids fall asleep so we’ll just have another action set piece instead. The only story that had managed to marry the modern day need for crazy action and the old series joy at exploring the bizarre (and adequately delve into the characters) is The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. Had Tooth and Claw been as long it would probably feel overstretched but just fifteen minutes more to allow us to find out a bit more about the monks, see the household in operation before the invasion, look a bit deeper into the history of the wolf, it would be just as classy but all the more rich.

But I refuse to complain, this has been one of my favourite episodes so far and on the strength of its broadcast viewing, easily my most exciting experience with new Who. The production was sparkling, the writing crisp and the show is clearly still firing on all cylinders after the over stuffed New Earth. Compelling viewing for all ages and a real shit scarer for the kiddies.

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Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor