Monday, 23 July 2012

Review: Doctor Who 2.2: Tooth And Claw

I wrote last Thursday's New Earth review and next Thursday's Love And Monsters review in January, but now I've had two other episodes fall into my lap. In the spirit of fairness, I've decided to review the second and third episodes of Season 28 and see how they compare to what are in my opinion some of the worst things in Nu Who. So, with that in mind....

Tooth and Claw.jpg
CGI wasn't up to much in 2006.
Doctor Who - Season 28, Episode 2 - Tooth And Claw  
Written 18/3/12

Werewolves. They're cool, aren't they? Wouldn't it be cool if we have a story with a werewolf? That would be awesome! And... and.... Monks! Monks who can do Matrixy martial arts! Yeah, that's awesome. What, it needs to be historical? Oh well, stick Queen Victoria in there! And get Billie to constantly make innappropriate jokes all the time. I think we should set it in Scotland to, that way David doesn't have to act for an episode. Sorted? Ok, we'll call it something cool. Tooth and Claw?
      This I can only assume was the discussion at the writer's table as they sat down and conceived Tooth And Claw, which boasts a lot of ideas and then doesn't really execute them in any sense of the word, "Well." This is of course a Russell Script, in the heart of the role-playing days in which Rose Tyler was his Author Avatar, and if Season 28 hadn't had much time to annoy you last time, then it certainly shines through here. The Doctor and Rose just seem to shamble through this story, involved but not involved; they get themselves in danger and then save the day with some good hard manual labour.
     A monastry of Scottish monks, who are for some reason ("Cool") proficient in Martial Arts, take over a house called the Torchwood Estate. The Doctor and Rose, intending to head to a concert in 1979, end up in 1879 Scotland in the path of the coach carrying Queen Victoria (Pauline Collins). Using some accent trickery and the psychic paper, the Doc gets himself in as "Royal Protector" as the Queen goes to stay at Torchwood. There, they find that the monks are in control of a creepy dude in a cage, who, upon seeing the Moonlight, becomes a werewolf. The Doctor is excited by the prospect of an alien werewolf who wants to infect the British Throne, but Rose is more preoccupied with trying to get Queen Victoria to say, "I am not amused" and then giggling about it like a five-year-old.
Torchwood House. So this is the cause of Miracle Day...
      Eventually after some shoddy exposition it's shown that the house itself was co-built by the Queen's late husband specificially for her to use, giving her the Koh-i-noor diamond before he died. The house is varnished with the very substance that the werewolf is allergic to, and the telescope in the attic is a big moon-light powered death-ray that needs the Koh-i-Noor to not burn a hole in the floor. Queenie is understandably pissed off at the two for being so smug and non-chalent when tons of people have died, and so banishes them, thereafter creating the "Torchwood Institute" and beginning Season 28's run-up to the spin-off.
     At its core, Tooth and Claw has some pretty interesting ideas - the alien werewolf concept is pretty neat, the whole "house is already a trap" is quite clever, but it's presented in the most boring way possible. Nothing is left to the viewer, it's just one linear expository path to common sense, and that means that you have to rest your burdon on the characters to make it work. And the episode spends so long building its monster up and winding itself down that the only thing left in the middle is a group of anorexically thin characterisations. Queenie is a three-part mix of stereotype, emotional poignancy and, "we need her to do this for the sake of the plot"; Derek Riddell's Sir Thomas was a genuinely good man who was for some reason blamed for treason and then topped himself to avoid the shame. They're literally the only two worth talking about.
     So after you dissect the thin plot and the thin characters, what do you have left beside Murray Gold's stirring music and shoddy CGI werewolves? The Doctor and Rose are interesting here only through their slow descent into the annoying caricatures of Season 28. DT does nothing but look vaguely interested for about 35 minutes, and the script even allows him to drop the silly English accent for the vast majority of the runtime. Rose is nought but annoying; her character acts either like someone who couldn't exist, or someone who with the mental age of a receptionner, and brings The Doc with her. Cases in point: After Queenie has just seen a man killed and is traumatised by the fact that a werewolf is trying to kill her, Rose asks if she's amused or not and has a good giggle. Elsewhere, The Doctor makes a joke about The Elephant Man. The Elephant Man, one of the most engaging tales of human kindness through a torturous life that has ever been documented, and Ten sees fit to make light of it as would a schoolboy. I've heard that Doctor Who is a kids's show at heart, but that does not excuse our main leads from acting with such desperate immaturity.
That reminds me, Being Human's on next.
     Tooth and Claw wasn't as bad as its predecessor, simply because for a short while our main leads weren't centre stage. Really, it was badly paced, badly plotted and the characters were painfully underdeveloped. It's a real surprise that RTD can go from such writing as Boom Town and The Parting of the Ways to something as poor as this forgettable mess.


See you on Thursday for Love and Monsters.

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