Aired 22 April 2006
One of the defining scenes of ‘New Earth’ is when David Tennant’s Doctor recognizes that Rose has been taken over by Cassandra because of her lack of empathy more than any other abnormality in her voice or mannerisms; interestingly, ‘Tooth and Claw’ takes a completely different approach to the characters and, while offering an episode significantly more enjoyable than ‘New Earth,’ treats the main characters as almost nonchalant to the butchery around them as they try to solve the mystery before them. At times, the whole situation seems to be almost a joke to them as they share a moment of glee as they realize they are tracking a werewolf alongside Queen Victoria while Rose tries her best to get the Queen to say her famous line, ‘We are not amused.’ Although the Doctor and companions have enjoyed adventures before, the extreme giddiness the two exhibit here is certainly new and, despite it not being the intention, borders on callousness when paired with the surrounding devastation.
With Queen Victoria proving a formidable force that suffers none of Rose and the Doctor’s hijinks, there is good potential for this to be another episode in which the Doctor must confront himself as in ‘Boom Town.’ Instead, despite the Queen’s best attempts at pointing out flaws, even taking the steps of banishing the Doctor from her realm after knighting him for his services, these scenes seem more dedicated to setting up Torchwood for some future encounter, neither the Doctor nor Rose taking any real heed to the royal criticism thrust upon each.
However, these particular characterisation moments aside, the episode as a whole is actually quite good, and both leads do manage to at least partially vindicate themselves from those moments of excess. Rose, in particular, once more gets to show her innate compassion as she comforts Flora while also demonstrating her bravery as she comes forward to address the creature when nobody else will. The Doctor himself also gets to show a much more softened and refined side of his character when separated from Rose, treating the Queen much more as a person and even inquiring about her late husband. The Doctor and Rose’s actions vary wildly when they are together versus when they are apart, and each is more empathetic and constructive when not in the presence of the other. This is a fascinating aspect to behold, though hopefully one that does not continue. Rose used to challenge the (Ninth) Doctor when he did not show compassion as she looked at the universe through a fresh human perspective, but that perspective seems to have become lost and she seems to be forming a more detached attitude to events in general as she continues her obvious fall for the Tenth Doctor.
The production values of ‘Tooth and Claw’ are second to none, though, both the interior and exterior settings brimming with detail and scope. The grounded realism of the Torchwood estate and the claustrophobia induced from great direction choices help the werewolf story gain traction and tension immensely. Full credit also goes to the special effects artists who bring the werewolf to stunning life, rivaling any big-budget cinematic creature to date.
As the story’s principle guest star, Pauline Collins give a superb performance as Queen Victoria. The story moves at such a rapid pace that slower character moments are a rarity, but Collins is still able to infuse her scenes with a truly regal sense of determination and fortitude. The story of her diamond, the resolution for the werewolf plight within the Torchwood estate, is a fascinating one, though unfortunately little time was afforded any sort of explanation for how her husband came to devise such an ingenious but intricate plan to save her from werewolf attack. That’s fodder enough for a story in its own right.
In the end, there’s a very strong story that looks absolutely spectacular within ‘Tooth and Claw,’ but this is a very rare episode of Doctor Who that succeeds not because of the Doctor and companion- though both do have some very appropriate and strong moments- but because of everything going on around them instead. Two episodes into this new series and there still is no definitive characterization in place for Tennant’s Doctor. There are flashes of brilliance and he is intrinsically likeable, but these flashes are still muddled by so many quirks that just come and go as if his persona is still trying to find itself after the recent regeneration. The reference to former companion Jamie MaCrimmon and hearing Tennant’s true Scottish accent briefly are a true joy and much appreciated, though.