Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Werewolves And Aliens And Time Travel (Oh My!): “Tooth And Claw”

The Good: Good acting
The Bad: Erratic CG special effects, Repetition of humor becomes somewhat goofy, Very plot heavy
The Basics: Doctor Who does a werewolf episode with “Tooth And Claw,” which continues the Torchwood subplot and follows the Doctor Who formula for a supernatural creature episode.

Sometimes, it is shocking how fast a pattern is established in a television series. In the case of Doctor Who, one of the liabilities I have found with rewatching the series for review purposes after seeing all of the episodes several times already is that the pattern that becomes evident in the long-term seems pretty obvious early on. With the second season episode “Tooth And Claw,” there is a pattern that might not have been as established as I think it was. Objectively, only the first season episode “The Unquiet Dead” (reviewed here!) had a supernatural creature appear in Doctor Who that had to be scientifically explained.

Unlike most of The X-Files (reviewed here!) where the series regularly features creatures that are apparently supernatural, who have to be explained away in a rational world, Doctor Who almost universally features alien encounters and anomalies in time and space. The universe of Doctor Who tried very hard to explain everything it encounters in rational terms, even when it is somewhat ridiculous in its initial set-up. “The Unquiet Dead” had what appeared to be ghosts which The Doctor needed to explain rationally. With the second season episode “Tooth And Claw,” Doctor Who firmly establishes that all creatures that appear to be supernatural in nature will be explained as a function of an extraterrestrial whenever possible.

A group of monks forcibly take a house in Scotland. The Doctor and Rose take the TARDIS with the intent to visit 1979, but they find themesleve sidetracked in 1879. There, they find themselves in Scotland and in the presence of Queen Victoria, who is riding in a coach (suspecting that the branch that has blocked the railroad line is part of an assassination attempt) headed for the Torchwood Estate. There, they find Sir Robert on edge (with his household staff replaced by the monks and the rest imprisoned), but a willingness to take the Queen in and offer them hospitality.

Rose, however, is soon captured and she finds herself with the kitchen staff imprisoned opposite a man in a cage who everyone in the kitchen is terrified of. Rose starts talking to the young captive and she recognizes it as a potential alien. The host confesses that it is on a mission to infect Queen Victoria and establish an empire of the wolf (recognizing some of the wolf in Rose as well), moments before it transforms into a wolf itself. While Victoria fears that the siege is an attempt to get a valuable diamond her husband once gave her (and cut down his entire life), the Doctor and Rose worry that the entity’s attempts on Queen Victoria might fundamentally alter history and they join the fight to protect the Torchwood Estate.

“Tooth And Claw” is a thoroughly mediocre episode that has a few enjoyable moments and one big problem with overall Doctor Who continuity. The problem with Doctor Who continuity comes as “Tooth And Claw” explains the Torchwood Institute (which has been referenced in episodes since “The Christmas Invasion,” reviewed here!). The Torchwood Institute is established as a logical precursor to UNIT. The problem that “Tooth And Claw” creates is that Queen Victoria’s mandate for Torchwood is that the Institution is charged with keeping an eye out for The Doctor and preventing him from influencing the United Kingdom. This irksome creation begs the question, “Where the hell was Torchwood when the prior nine Doctors popped up in Britain to influence people and events there?!”

This issue is mitigated in part by the episode’s charm. In building up to the actual mystery and extraordinary circumstances in “Tooth And Claw,” The Doctor and Rose have a great deal of fun banter. The pair has a bet going as to whether or not Rose can get Queen Victoria to say her famous “We are not amused” quote and that leads to a number of small moments in the episode where the characters interact with a glee entirely contrary to the mortal peril they find themselves in.

“Tooth And Claw” establishes the chemistry between Rose Tyler and the Tenth Doctor in a way that the prior two episodes did not allow. While actress Billie Piper and actor David Tennant had a few moments of wonderful banter in “New Earth” (reviewed here!), Piper was more often playing Cassandra at the time. While Rose and The Doctor have quickly re-established their affectionate relationship, “Tooth And Claw” is the first episode where they have the opportunity to play off one another consistently in a way that assures viewers that their relationship has a similar amount of potential as the relationship Rose and the Ninth Doctor had.

Even so, “Tooth And Claw” is largely unimpressive. The Doctor and Rose are separated, which gives them each enough information to share when reunited for The Doctor to leap to his predictably-correct hypothesis. There is a somewhat formulaic quality to the episode and the similarities to “The Unquiet Dead” are not limited to the style of adversary The Doctor encounters in the episodes. While the tie-in to Torchwood is valuable for the larger mythos of the Doctor Who universe, “Tooth And Claw” is less satisfying than one might hope.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - The Complete Second Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season of the Tenth Doctor here!

For other works with Ron Donachie, please visit my reviews of:
Game Of Thrones - Season 2
Game Of Thrones - Season 1


For other Doctor Who episode and movie reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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