Friday, 24 April 2009

Doctor Who: Tooth And Claw.

Queen Victoria: 'What exactly is that creature?"
Doctor: "You'd call it a werewolf, but technically it's more of a lupine-wavelength haemovariform.'

'Tooth and Claw' was a curious mixture of the good and the not so good. In terms of atmosphere, it was right up there with the best of them. It had a genuinely creepy feel to it (helped massively by some beautiful location shoots at Treowen Manor and Penilyn Castle), and the period costumes were unobtrusively effective. So in terms of ambiance, it scored big. But what on earth was going on with the Doctor and Rose this week?

Although I'm glad to see their relationship back on track, the dynamic between them really puzzled me tonight. They swaggered through the episode like a couple of naughty siblings. I mean, it's great to see them having fun and all, but there is such a thing as having too much fun. I liked the idea of Rose trying to goad Queen Victoria into saying 'We are not amused'—I don't have a problem with them poking fun at an historical figure for the sake of laughs—but they just seemed to take the joke a little too far.

In fact, at times, it bordered on the downright improper. One minute it was all lives being lost and abject terror—the next it was all giggles and jokes aplenty, with the switch between feeling somewhat jarring. No wonder Queen Victoria shut them both up. When they were in the library, and Rose tried to get Victoria to say 'we are not amused' for the billionth time, instead of being witty, it just drained the scene of all tension. Which is a shame, because 'Tooth and Claw' had much to offer in terms of horror—all the ingredients were there for a genuinely macabre tale—it just mostly fell apart in the execution.

Of course, much of the Doctor's behavioural instability stems from the fact that he's still not one hundred percent comfortable in his own skin. He's still growing into his new personality—which means his etiquette responses currently leave much to be desired. So what's Rose's excuse? Does she feel less inclined to act with decorum now that the Doctor's behavioural compass has gone temporarily awry? And whilst Tennant's Doctor seems younger at heart than his previous incarnation, there was a stark reminder this week that, despite his 'lonely god' status, he's by no means exempt from punishment. Banished—from Scotland, no less!

The tenth Doctor is evidently a more intuitive problem solver than his predecessor. He certainly gets more animated when the ideas are flowing. Tennant brings a vibrancy to the role that Eccleston simply didn't have. I'm not saying he's better—he's just different. Rose acts differently around him, too. Her relationship with Eccleston's Doctor seemed more paternal, but with Tennant's Doctor there seems to be more of a parity in terms of behaviour and outlook. The two of them clearly have chemistry—which could either be good or bad, depending upon how it's handled. If the writers can curtail the silliness better than they did this week, I think we could have a classic pairing on our hands.

Pauline Collins piled on the class as Queen Victoria. Her lament about her deceased husband and the nature of the dead was both thought provoking and lovely. Surely anyone who's lost someone can relate to her desiring a sign from the great beyond? The character of Queen Victoria has become something of a caricature over the years, but Collins infused her with a sense of realism that's been sadly lacking in recent times: she was authoritative, regal, and ultimately human. Some nicely written verbal exchanges too from Russell T. Davies, proving once again that when he sets his mind to it, he can turn out some cracking dialogue.

The CGI werewolf was generally a success, but the old adage still rings true—less is more. It only takes the slightest hint of an unrealistic movement to ruin the illusion completely, and I did notice a little of that tonight. Maybe if the werewolf had been in the shadows more it wouldn't have been so noticeable. It may even have heightened the suspense. But full marks to The Mill for that Doctor/library wall/werewolf scene. I really can't fault them on that. And the monk in the crate (*shudders*) He was just downright creepy.

Rose's growing experience probably saved lives again tonight. Whilst everyone around her was losing their heads, Rose managed to focus their minds, coordinate their efforts, and eventually pull the chain free from its mounting, facilitating their escape. And while Rose was busy rallying the troops, the Doctor was indulging in a spot of extreme zoology. Despite the werewolf wanting to tear everyone apart, the Doctor was fascinated by the creature—a testament again to his love of all species.

Not sure about the ass-kicking monks at the start. Was there a point to them—apart from the spectacle?

Other Thoughts:

—The Doctor used the alias James McCrimmon. Jamie McCrimmon was one of the second Doctor's companions.

—David Tennant is actually Scottish, so a Scots accent isn't much of a stretch for him.

—I thought the Koh-i-noor brought bad luck to men and good luck to women? Isn't there something in the legend about whoever owns it ruling the world? I'm not sure that Britain constitutes the world, but it's part of it. Would Rose really have recognised it? I suspect not.

—Finding mistletoe in Scotland was a stroke of luck. I was under the impression that mistletoe was hard to come by in Scotland.


Rose: 'You're a punk, that's what you are. A big old punk with a bit of rockabilly thrown in.'

Doctor: 'And I'll tell you something else. We just met Queen Victoria!'
Rose: 'I know! What a laugh. She was just sitting there.'
Doctor: 'Like a stamp.'

Doctor: "She's a feral child. I bought her for sixpence in old London town. It was her or the Elephant Man.'

Queen Victoria: 'I shall contain my wit in case I do you further injury.'

Doctor: 'Pardon me, your majesty. You'll have to leg it out of a window.'

Sir Robert: 'Did you think there was nothing strange about my household staff?'
Doctor: 'Well, they were bald, athletic, your wife's away. I just thought you were happy.'

Queen Victoria: 'By the power invested in me by the church and the state, I dub thee sir Doctor of Tardis. By the power vested in my by the church and the state, I dub thee Dame Rose of the Powell Estate.'

Queen Victoria: 'I don't know what you are, the two of you, or where you're from, but I know you consort with stars and magic and think it fun. But your world is steeped in terror and blasphemy and death, and I will not allow it. You will leave these shores and you will reflect, I hope, on how you came to stray so far from all that is good, and how much longer you may survive this terrible life.'

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