Sunday, 23 April 2006

Doctor Who - Tooth and Claw (9/10)

Russell can do trad when he feels like it.

"Tooth and Claw" stylishly got the set-up out of the way in an action-packed pre-credit sequence and confined most of the whimsy to early scenes - this was a good old 'base under seige' situation with fan-friendly Victorian-Gothic trappings. A lot of the criticisms of episode one (where whimsy hovered throughout) really can't be fired at "Tooth and Claw", unless you're a miffed Royalist. If anything was lacking it was with some of the CGI werewolf stuff, even though I realise the trouble they went to with it. At times it did look like a real living creature, but the motion scenes didn't quite convince (a problem they had with the improbably athletic Slitheen last series).

Personally I was also pleased that "The Sun" hadn't quite given everything away, as feared. The tabloid had flagged up the Koh-I-Noor diamond and the 'telescope' as the elements which combined to 'drown' the alien werewolf in moonlight, but I was unaware this was the 'trap within a trap' engineered by the late duo of Prince Albert and Sir Robert's father. I was particularly impressed with the second 'twist' in the tale (the first being Queen Victoria's wolf bite) where the Queen unexpectedly turns on the Doctor and Rose and banishes them from 'her world'. I'm sure there's something in all that I'm not quite getting, but that's intrigue for you. In possibly a third twist it is then Queen Victoria not Harriet Jones who sets up the Torchwood Institute - to keep the Doctor away! I'm so pleased those surprises were kept from me. Is Torchwood this year's theme or is it the secret the Face of Boe has so far only teased us with?

Very little plotholes to speak of (RTD's weakness) despite rather a lot going on. If I was being really picky, the backstory, motivation and culture of the monks and their very patient wolf was sketchy and had to be taken at face value. There had been actual Scottish monarchs since the alien arrived in the 16th century and who was ultimately in charge, given that the monks appeared to have trained the creature with a mistletoe aversion ? Anyway - it was worth it for the martial arts set-piece at the story's outset, and I thought the skinhead ninja monks were very sexy ...

In contrast, Queen Victoria was well served - her steely character and the real contemporaneous assassination attempts were skillfully woven into the plot - even the ungrateful act at the episode's end could be a result of the wolf taint. Line of the episode for me was "The correct form of address is Your Majesty" as Victoria fired her pistol at head villain, Father Angelo. I must add that Pauline Collins was magnificent in the role - one she's actually a few years too old to play! Not many other guest players got too much screen time, except perhaps Derek Riddell as the ultimately heroic Sir Robert.

One other nice touch was the brief continuation of the "Bad Wolf" theme - it begged to be addressed here and it was - in a spooky conversation between 'The Host" and Rose that harked back to events in "Parting of the Ways".

Praise again to Euros Lyn, whose efforts on 2 episodes last year seemed rather overlooked in favour of later Joe Ahearne and James Hawes' episodes. I think he's up there with the best directors who manage to create beauty and atmosphere as well as tension. This year the lovely Euros has 3 period pieces (and a 2012) - ironic for someone who looks like an overgrown skaterboi!

To keep it 'pure' I'm purposely authoring my reviews without seeing or hearing others' views, and after only one viewing. I may add something extra after the Sunday BBC3 repeat. So it's a 9 from me - equal with 2005's "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances" and "The Christmas Invasion". For those who really can't stand RTD's episodes this was the last of six consecutive contributions, with 8 weeks to go until the next one in June.

I also wonder how many people spotted the TARDIS hadn't really moved since last week - the same windswept Gower location was used (in the same week of September) for both exteriors.

Outpost Gallifrey Episode Guide entry (with screengrabs)

Screengrabs used here by Bunnyp00

1 comment:

The Pig's Lip said...

It may have looked like the same location but it was not.

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