Saturday, May 25, 2013

Tooth and Claw - "Isn't that right, ye tim'rous beastie?"

Tooth and Claw (Doctor Who) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Series 2, Story 2 (Overall Series Story #169)

The Doctor and Rose arrive at Torchwood Estate

There's no getting away from talking about Torchwood in light of this episode, so let's just have done with it. The idea of a Doctor Who spin-off for adults is a great one, and this episode planted a seed that could have borne some delightful fruit, but Torchwood itself offered rapidly diminishing returns. I know it has its fans, I was one. There's certainly an X-Files-sized hole that that was ready to receive it. Problem is the X-Files had devolved into such a tangled mess by the time it was done, it was virtually unbearable. And Torchwood emerged from an already convoluted, over-stuffed continuity to begin with that, in practice, made it sort of an impossible organization to exist in the Doctor Who universe the way that it did. The niche that was ready for Torchwood, and the source it sprung from, it was, I'd argue, bound to be the flash that left a bunch of smoke and ash that it turned out to be. Torchwood could only have worked one way, as a branch of government that did steampunk-y battle with some alien menaces for a few years, but was folded into UNIT.

Now, that's oversimplifying things, but I wanted to address Torchwood, not do a full autopsy.

The thing with Tooth and Claw was it had me at kung-fu monks in Scotland. That opening fight scene was a bit too choppily edited to really be called a full on success, but it was a dash of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in a setting where you wouldn't normally find that sort of thing and it worked for me.

Another thing that might rub some the wrong way, but I found sneakily funny was Rose's attempt to get Queen Victoria to say, "We are not amused." It worked like a B-plot for me, more than just a running gag, it was a game within the story that broke the tension and shifted our mental gears, so the atmosphere could be built back up.

The Doctor's pop culture literacy was also right up my alley. Though I'm far from a devotee of Ian Dury and the Blockheads, at least having listed to some during the college years it was a bit of a pat on the hipster head to get the reference. Besides, if not that group, if you had a TARDIS, wouldn't you pop into a few early Clash, Specials, Beat, Madness, Elvis Costello, Sex Pistols, and Jam gigs? (If not, why not?)

Plus, werewolf! Who doesn't like a good werewolf story now and again? Zombies and vampires all the time gets boring.

There's another nerd button this one pushed that tailored it neatly to my particular tastes: the Doctor was able to solve the mystery because this particular Base Under Siege had a library so he was able to do a bit of research and piece everything together. The solution to a mystery is never satisfying unless we get to see the relevant evidence being collected and have the same opportunity as the detective to figure it out. The wolf legend, Victoria's husband working with Sir Robert's father, the rubbish telescope with too many prisms, the history book with the falling star in it, the mistletoe oil worked in to the wood after seeing the monks weaving the garlands for their protection ... it was all there for the connections to be made.

Arm yourselves. With a book.
Image via
Taking it all together, with all the right (for me, at least) buttons pushed, a suitably atmospheric story with only manageable plot holes, and the neat little continuities (The Doctor telling Rose to not try the Scottish accent, the Doctor unable to contain his appreciation of something strange and new to him and calling some monster "Beautiful!") this ranks as one of my favorites of Series 2.

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