Doctor Doctor Who Guide

I had a few issues with New Earth, but expected Tooth and Claw to restore my faith in the belief that “Series Two” could be the finest in Doctor Who’s rich history, and I’m pleased to say Russell T Davies’ second script for the 2006 season did just that.

Firstly, although I’m not sure it was terribly essential to the plot, I really enjoyed the pre-titles fight sequence. When you think of some of the staged combats in years gone by (which, relatively speaking, weren’t actually that bad) and in other TV shows, particularly low-budget soaps, you can appreciate how awful and false such scenes can look.

But Davies obviously decided if we were going to do it, we might as well do it properly – and the high-flying monks were as dramatic an opening to an episode as we’re likely to see. It was up there with the start to The Unquiet Dead, which I thought would take some topping. I’m no film expert, but the fast-moving, inter-cutting of scenes really made this sequence stand out.

There weren’t many hugely-original ideas in the script but, as they say, originality is no excuse for mediocrity, and I would rather see a few old ideas woven together intelligently rather than a totally new idea which didn’t work. The ingredients for Tooth and Claw did sound promising. Aside from the kung-fu monks, Queen Victoria, a spooky castle and a werewolf were an intriguing mix.

I also enjoyed the TARDIS getting the date wrong again. The omnipotence of the Doctor’s ship towards the end of the last series didn’t sit too well with me, as you always have the nagging doubt that they can always look into the heart of the TARDIS again to save the Universe. I much prefer the randomness of the TARDIS’s workings.

Also nice – not just as a Scot myself! – to hear David Tennant’s own accent in the early part of the episode. I was disappointed that Tennant wasn’t given the go-ahead to play the Doctor with his Scottish lilt throughout his tenure. I thought it would have followed on neatly from Christopher Eccleston’s “lots of planets have a North” if the Doctor had a regional accent once again – and it could have easily been explained away in the script.

After a key role in New Earth, there was a lot less involvement for Rose here, although we tend to take Billie Piper’s general excellence for granted now. Tennant was very “Doctor-ish” in places – indifference at the TARDIS being 100 years out, delight at introducing Queen Victoria to Rose, thrilled by the sight of the werewolf, and the typically-manic piecing together of the method to stop the beast! Tennant doesn’t appear to have Eccleston’s vulnerability – this is an altogether more-confident Doctor (akin to his other predecessors) and it will be interesting to see if any chinks develop in his armour.

Pauline Collins was as fantastic as Queen Victoria as we all knew she would be – that was always going to be a given. The “bet I can get her to say We Are Not Amused” running gag was a tad predictable, but they just about got away with it.

Best of the rest of the supporting cast for me was Ian Hanmore’s Father Angelo. He rather reminded me of Scarman in Pyramids of Mars - very chilling.

Billed as “one of the scariest-ever episodes of Doctor Who”, Tooth and Claw didn’t disappoint in that department. As well as the Menacing Monk, the pre-werewolf incumbent of the cage was one of these moments which could give kids (and a few adults!) nightmares for weeks. As ever, no blood – but a few close-ups on the beast’s gnarling gnashers were genuinely frightening.

The actual transformation into the werewolf was terrific – the sort of effect which lingers in the viewer’s memory. Another triumph for CGI! And, yet again, we must remember this is achieved on a TV show’s budget rather than a movie. There was a hint of American Werewolf In London about it, but that’s the point – it looked like a film effect.

The werewolf’s escape from its cage and its bounding along the corridors were also impressive. Despite the obvious cost restrictions preventing too many screen minutes of the creature, that actually made its appearances all the more memorable. Really loved the scene with the Doctor and the werewolf on either side of the door.

As we often say about these 45-minute episodes, there’s only so much you can cram in – but this one seemed more evenly-paced than New Earth, and the conclusion seemed perfectly plausible. Enjoyed the suggestion that there remains a hint of the wolf about the Royal Family, and the reference to Torchwood at the conclusion was also reasonable – and a reminder that we have many treats to come this year!

Following on from the unresolved appearance of the Face of Boe last week, it will be interesting to see if this type of teaser is going to be a regular occurrence – the danger for casual viewers is there will too many unresolved threads, but exciting titbits for the fans nonetheless.

Summing-up, a thoroughly-enjoyable episode, which will stand frequent rewatching. Likely to figure in the high rank at season end, of all the “new” Doctor Whos so far, Tooth and Claw is probably the episode which would have sat most readily in the “classic” series as well as the 21st-century version. And that’s no bad thing. A wee bit of something for everyone . . .

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