Doctor Doctor Who Guide

When I reviewed New Earth on these pages last week, I had made the comment that Russell T Davies seemed to concoct his scripts from a shopping list of ingredients and then create a semblance of a plot by simply joining the dots together. One of my initial fears about Tooth and Claw had been that same worry, that it was a case of throwing in Queen Victoria, a Werewolf and some Monks and hoping that that was enough to divert an audience for 45 minutes, distracting attention away from the scantily dressed plot built up around it. Well for once I am glad to have been proved wrong, for virtually everything that New Earth did wrong last week, Tooth & claw did right this week.

Tooth and Claw on paper is of course probably the most traditionally old fashioned Doctor Who story since the Unquiet Dead, and while I wouldn’t for one minute suggest that this should be the template for all new Doctor Who, it certainly proved that the old Doctor Who formula can still hack it in a twenty first century context, without being drowned under a deluge of camp humour and pop culture references.

The humour for the most part was very witty and well handled, although what the Royal family (allegedly viewers of the new series if you believe the tabloids), would make of the various jokes at their expense is anybodys guess, is Russell T Davies a republican by any chance?

It is amazing that the series has took quite so long to do a werewolf, and after one false start, Mags in Greatest Show barely counts, we finally got a bonefide Doctor Who werewolf, and very well executed it was too. While I am sure someone somewhere will make the critiscism that it looked too CGI’d, I would remind them that this is television and the fact that Doctor Who is getting this standard of effects work at the moment is an achievement in itself. Despite shots of the creature being used sparingly, one was in no doubt that the creature was a feral force of nature. The effective two shot of the doctor and the Wolf separated only by a wall, was an image that certainly stuck in the memory, and I am sure for younger viewers this story provided many a behind the sofa moment.

The fact that the wolf was given a credible science fiction background also worked in the story’s favour without ever becoming bogged down in technobabble. Particularly well handled as well was the way the separate elements of the Queen, the Monks and the Wolf were tied together in the story, it could so easily have been written as coincidence that all three happened to end up in the same place, but each element had a pivotal role in advancing the story.

Queen Victoria once again proved a worthy addition to the new series rollcall of famous historical figures, and just as Simon Callow so ably did last year, Pauline Collins managed to tread the line remarkably well between portraying the theatrical aspect of the character most audiences would identify with, while adding just enough depth to make the character a living breathing person. That Doctor who is reintroducing these historical figures, which have often been poorly handled in the old series, can only be a good thing if they can maintain this calibre of actor. If only one child in a hundred gets the urge to look through a history book after watching, then the series is still fulfilling that educational remit it started with over forty odd years ago.

So to David Tennant’s second full appearance as the Doctor, last week he breezed through the whole story with an air of confidence that firmly cemented him as a Doctor, whether he will become a definitive Doctor remains to be seen. Tennant didn’t set a single foot wrong in Tooth and Claw, but has still not had a defining moment which has firmly established him in the part. Tennant has a tough call, he has the unenviable task of stamping his mark, on what for the last fifteen years has been a guest rather than a star part (McGann, Richard E Grant, Eccleston not to mention the Undound and comic relief Doctors) and which has fundamentally destroyed the identification most people built up with the character during its first twenty years. While Tennant has all the attributes to make a great Doctor, he still needs that defining moment, that will to us older viewers at least allow us to sit up and say this is the Doctor and not just a Doctor.

While Tennant’s Doctor may have been slightly underwritten in this story, I have also felt a subtle shift in the character of Rose. I was a huge fan of Rose during season 1 and the Christmas Invasion, but certainly in the last two stories, the character has had very few defining standout scenes, not that any of her stuff in this story was bad, but all of a sudden Rose seems to be less vital and more just a standard Doctor Who assistant and I am puzzled as to why this change has suddenly come about.

The revelation that Queen Victoria laid the seeds for Torchwood was an unexpected but welcome surprise. It will be interesting to see where the Torchwood theme is going this season and whether it will lead to a bone fide role for the organisation in the story arc, or whether it is all just an extended set up for the spin off series.

So all in all, a welcome return to form for the series after a rather uneven opener, a traditional Doctor Who story which while not really breaking any new ground, touched all the bases it needed to keep both the fans and the casual viewer happy. With some truly cinematic production values, and a Russell T Davies script that for once didn’t compromise the integrity of the show, Tooth and Claw I am sure will be fondly remembered by fans and viewers alike for many years to come.

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