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Apr 28, 2006

Wolf At The Door

Late as usual.

There was a point, as the closing credits rolled on Tooth And Claw (just as that bloody continuity annoucer was drowning out the middle eight once again) that I had to hold up my hands and admit  - OK Russell, I apologise, you can do decent endings. After my tirade last week about Mr D's shortcomings, it's almost like he was blowing a huge raspberry at me and writing a blinder just to make me eat my words. The ending was great - and the 45 minutes that preceded it weren't bad either. In fact plot wise they were damn near perfect.

Others have commented about the slo-mo monks in their BBC colours, and how derivative it was, (despite assertions from the production team that it was "the best opening ever") and sure, it wasn't anything we hadn't seen a hundered times before - at the movies. But when was the last time we saw something like this on a BRITISH TV show? I bet the kid's watching would've gone!" Wow! Cool!" - and isn't that the point? However, for me the best opening was Doctor Ten bashing seven bells out of the TARDIS console in time to Ian Dury. Just inspired.


I'll admit that the opening moments of the first meeting with old Queen Vicky did have me rolling my eyes thinking "Here we go - another thesp hamming it up and trying to do posh", but then, all of a sudden, there was a steely spark in Pauline Collins's eye, and she upped her performance. Here was a portrait of a fiery woman in control of her life, not some doting old granny bereft of wit and overcome with grief and mourning. It wasn't what I expected and at times even shocked me slightly, especially as she cooly gunned down her attacker later in the episode. A great performance.

I wish I could say the same about Rose. Sigh. I like the character. I like Billy Piper. But here she just grated on me a bit. Oh I can forgive the "We are not amused" tomfoolery (although I personally would have omitted one of the attempts from the edit), but Rose just came across as a shallow little girl with a bit of a smug attitude - and she semed to drag the Doctor down to her level too. Maybe the script didn't play to her strengths, but there was one point where I really wanted to give her a good slap.

As for the titular Timelord, his regeneration has obviously changed him from a haunted man looking for escape from his past into a confident one looking to embrace the joys of life. Tennant's performance wasn't flawless - his "angry" stance still needs some work - but there were some lovely "Doctorish" moments, especially licking the walls and stockpiling books in the library. Arm yourselves indeed.

Despite the Doc firing on all cylinders, like many I believe our duo are in for a shock due to their cocky attitudes. However, I'm beginning to wonder if the viewers are not in for one too. Up until now, the episodes have very much followed the pattern of season one - the Earth-based menance from everyday objects (TCI), The far future one (NE) and now the historical. But the message from the initial trailers was "Think you have seen it all?" At first look that seems like a simple hint at new adventures to come, but what if it has a deeper meaning? The Doctor is acting like he is in control and HAS seen it all, and have we the viewer become jaded enough already to think we know what is to come? I think a BIG curve ball is due to hit this season.


Ok back to the plot - and that wolf. You have to admit, the CGI was magnificent. From the first terrifying transformation from host to beast, to my absolute favourite moment with the Doc and the wolf on opposite sides of the door, this was without doubt one of the best examples of special effects served up by a British TV channel. Snarling, feral and at times pant-wetingly scary, this was just what was needed to get the little tykes scurrying for the safety of the sofa. Sure, there was a teensy bit too much running around corridors and some of the logic was a bit suspect - just how were the monks intending to get the wolf BACK in the cage when it had dined on Queen Victoria? But this was a classic iconic monster brought to life with skill and passion.

And so we come to the finale, where amazingingly RTD's plot actually arrives at a sensible, understandable and believable solution to the problem at hand. I'll admit that once Queenie revealed the prescence of that huge hunk of ice in her possession, I had a reasonably good idea of where things were going, but for once you could genuinely join the dots of the hints laid earlier to get there.


The wolf got a messianic-like death (I think it was the host that was crying out for death rather than the parasitic creature itself) and good triumphed once more. But at such a cost. The body count in this episode was huge - it's no wonder that Victoria rewarded the Doctor and Rose for their help and then banished them. How could she trust a couple who treated life so glibly and swapped jokes while her subjects died? I didn't see this as proof that the Queen was possessed, more an affirmation of her duty as monarch and her well known strong stance on morality and family values.

At the end of all this, the Doctor and Rose stride off into the TARDIS, literally howling at the thought of a Royal Family of lycanthropes and that's it.... except it wasn't. The expected theme music didn't arrive and instead we have great little scene which sets up an adversary, a spin-off and shows that the Doctor's actions can have unexpected consequences.

Torchwood is coming - and there will be dark days ahead... 


That last bit made me think. Kinda reminded me of why I liked Deep Space Nine as opposed to Next Generation when it comes to Star Trek. Grounding the Doctor to Earth every few episodes keeps him culpable for his actions. He's seeing the results of swooping in and changing the way of life for people, as opposed to heading off to his next adventure before he's had a chance to even be thanked. Makes for good storytelling, but for once I don't want to be in the TARDIS with him when the other shoe drops.

As for the opening, all I can say is "It's nice to be a Lunatic!"

And, having seen Our Friends in the North(bits and pieces anyway), The Second Coming, AND Casanova, I had an advantage. I already KNEW RTD could write, and especially with Casanova, write a good ending. Jeez Casanova had me all welling up at points. Even after AOL/WW3, I still had faith in him. I knew Tooth & Claw would be coming ONE day.

I had faith in Russell too, Salem. He's written some fantastic stuff in the past, it's just that the endings to his Doctor Who plots have all been a bit Deus Ex Machina up until now. I'm glad to have been proven wrong.

Oh, and I prefer DS9 too.

Salem, I think you'll find that RTD had absolutely nothing to do with 'Our Friends in the North' (unless, of course, you're making an oblique reference to Christopher Eccleston..?)

Eh? Oh hell, you're right Sean. Sorry about that, I don't know what I was thinking. Pardon me while I insert my head under Tennant's TARDIS hammer.

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