Doctor Doctor Who Guide

It was said many times that the new series has taken some of its lead in characters and writing from shows such as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel". Now that's been taken one step further and we have an episode that's got "Angel"-like subject matter, and more startlingly, a much more modern directing style never before seen in "Doctor Who," one which fits this story perfectly and gives a real shot of adrenalin straight to the heart of the production.

Though different directors came and went last season, it felt as though all of the episodes were following a "house style," which kept any one of them from looking too different from any other. Depending on the producer, this wasn't something the original series always did... often those directors were left to put whatever style they wanted into it. Euros Lyn seems to have been let off the leash here on "Tooth and Claw" (sorry), and we open with a wire-work martial arts sequence that wouldn't look out of place in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" or a Tarantino film, not just because it's wire-work martial arts but also because it's been differently lit and graded and shot at different frame rates than usual to get that "flicker" look going and to sometimes go into slow-motion. The camerawork throughout the rest of the episode is similarly uncoupled from the house style and allowed to go wherever the most tense shot is, with the biggest "signature" moment of this being the one where the Doctor and the werewolf are listening for each other through the wall of the house's study. Murray Gold on the music has clearly been given different orders this week as well, as he matches this change of style with a total makeover of his own, producing what is by far his best score for the series. I very much hope these are standing orders and that this trend will continue in future weeks, both on the directing and the music. This was the best directed episode of "Doctor Who" since Graeme Harper last worked on the series. (oh and look, here _he_ comes again in a couple weeks... eek)

This plot seemed a lot tighter this week too. Often in the new series (and no, it's not just in RTD's episodes) certain details get glossed over for fear of putting brakes on the plot (and judging by the popularity of the series with the general public, this seems to be a good tradeoff), but in this episode I couldn't see any weaknesses or holes at all.... with the possible exception of the question of what happened to all the monks outside at the end, but with both the wolf (the object of their worship) and their leader dead, I suppose it's an easy dot to connect that they'd have legged it, though it would've been nice to have one shot of them doing so. But everything else... the set-up of the telescope and the diamond, the mistletoe, the nature of the wolf as a slow-acting infection from another planet, the monks coming to worship the wolf and the Host, the conspiracy between Sir Robert's father and Prince Albert... it was all laid in like a perfect jigsaw puzzle and paid off beautifully in the end. It reminded me a lot of the story in a "Tomb Raider" video game, or more precisely, another one called "Eternal Darkness" which also involved a telescope in a large spooky house. Oh, and it was all very tense and scary all the time too.

With everything that was going on, what with Queen Victoria, the kung-fu monks, and the werewolf, it was still the Doctor and Rose that came through with the finest moments in the story. The Doctor's best has to be when he goes all Giles on us and gets everyone to help him look up what the werewolf is in the library, but he has plenty of others as well such as going native with his accent or when he's suddenly being rude and checking himself, or when he bonds with Queen Victoria over how those who are gone never talk to us from beyond. That last exchange is just dripping in significance to me, given what we know the title of the second-to-last episode is going to be. Hmm. Rose's best moment is when she takes charge down in the cellar when everyone's chained up in front of the caged Host and takes it upon herself to ask it where it's from and so on, and then when she verbally slaps everyone else for just staring at the werewolf and instead gets them all to pull on the chain simultaneously so they can get away. Another thing that was dripping with significance was how the Host could spot the Bad Wolf within Rose... and we thought it was all over. Whether it was planned that way from the start or whether RTD has realized he really did need to explain the Bad Wolf stuff a bit more I can't tell, but whichever it was, it still works. The pair together also get a warning shot across their bows, so to speak, in the form of Queen Victoria telling them to leave and never return because, as she puts it, they treat all this terror and misery that's being inflicted on people as something fun. Again, I'm sensing a running theme that's going to hit them hard later in the season. Still, after the riot act she reads them, I wonder if they're tempted to vworp over to Washington, D.C. after this and look up that document that goes "we hold these truths to be self-evident..."

Victoria herself was the most fully-formed character of the guest artists, and very well-written and performed she was too. I think Pauline Collins hit the note just right here. She's not too stern in the quiet moments and incredibly tough and strong in the sense she's famous for in the harder moments, such as when she tells the Doctor to leave and then decides to set up the Torchwood Institute, or of course, when she shoots the Father of the kung-fu monks. I do love the idea of her being bitten by the werewolf and passing it on the rest of the royal family... as Rose says at the end, "oh my god, they're werewolves!" I would love to be a fly on the wall around the royal television sets when the real royal family saw this.

And I should spare some words for the werewolf itself. This was as good as TV CGI gets, and was everything it needed to be to make the scenes work and be scary and dynamic. This is not, however, to say that it was perfect... CGI itself still has a long way to go before it will ever look completely photo-realistic to my eyes I think, but of all the techniques available to tell this story, this was the best choice, and it worked well enough.

I think I'll say 9 out of 10 for this one. I'm tempted to go 9.5 or 10, but I have a feeling that there's going to be even better stuff to come, and I better leave myself some room on the scale.

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