Timestamp #174: Tooth and Claw

Doctor Who: Tooth and Claw
(1 episode, s02e02, 2006)

 

What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. However, what makes you stronger can also kill you.

Upon the Scottish moors, a group of monks walks to the Torchwood Estate. Their leader, Father Angelo, takes the house by force from its owner. They chain everyone, including Lady Isobel MacLeish, in the cellar with a mysterious cage. When she sees what’s inside, Lady Isobel screams.

Oh, does she scream.

Meanwhile, the TARDIS soars through space-time as the Doctor tries to steer the capsule to 1979 Sheffield through some fun mechanical agitation. Instead of The Muppet Movie, they find guns in their faces (and Rose’s terrible Scottish accent) in the year 1879. Identifying as Scottish doctor James McCrimmon, the travelers are introduced to Queen Victoria. She believes that the Doctor is assigned as her protector, and she invites them to accompany her to Balmoral Castle. En route, they arrive at the Torchwood Estate where the Queen plans to spend the night.

Despite Sir Robert’s hints that not everything is well at the house, the Queen insists on spending the night since it was a favorite of her late consort, Prince Albert. Captain Reynolds, chief of the Queen’s guard, stows a small box in the safe as the Queen and the travelers tour the house’s observatory. The Doctor analyzes the telescope designed by Sir Robert’s father, noting the surplus of prisms as the Queen muses about the local tales of a mysterious wolf. Before Sir Robert can relay the tale, Father Angelo suggests that dinner may be in order.

The meal is prepared, the guards are drugged, and Rose finds a housemaid in the closet as she looks for a suitable dress. Rose takes Flora to find the Doctor, but they are both taken by the monks. Meanwhile, the Doctor, Captain Reynolds, and the Queen listen to Sir Robert’s tale at the dinner table: Over the last three centuries, livestock has been slaughtered during every full moon. Once a generation, a boy goes missing and a werewolf is spotted in the wilderness. Coincidentally, the cage in the cellar contains a boy with pitch black eyes. The boy is possessed by an alien force that plans to inhabit Queen Victoria and begin the Empire of the Wolf. He also feels the power of the wolf that burns like the sun within her.

Sir Robert believes that his father had communicated with the beast and nearly learned its secrets, but was stopped by the Brethern. The Monks expose the caged being to moonlight and it transforms into a wolf as Father Angelo begins his assault on the Queen. After six attempts on her life, she’s packing a small handgun, and Father Angelo is soon dead. The Doctor and Sir Robert break into the cellar just in time to watch the wolf escape. The Doctor evacuates the prisoners and locks the door. The wolf breaks free, and despite their best efforts, it kills all of the estate’s working men. The women, however, are inexplicably spared.

The Queen retrieves the box and attempts escape with Sir Robert and the travelers, but they’re soon cornered. They run up several flights of stairs and seek refuge in the library after Captain Reynolds gives his life to slow the wolf down. The wolf refuses to break through the barricade, offering its prey a chance to breathe and look for the item that’s stopping it. Sir Robert apologizes and the Queen demands an explanation.

In the kitchen, Lady Isobel notices that the monks guarding the perimeter are wearing mistletoe. The Doctor notes the same in the library, which he muses is filled with the greatest arsenal in the world: Books. They discover that a spacecraft crashed to Earth in 1540 near the monastery and the creature that grew within decided to establish an empire. The Queen interjects that, if she is to die this night, she must find a safe place for the contents of her box. It is the Koh-i-Noor, a large diamond with a supposed curse, that is intended to be cut to the perfect shape.

The Doctor connects the dots as the wolf breaks through the glass skylight, and our heroes are saved by Lady Isobel and a pot of mistletoe. The Queen and the travelers take refuge in the observatory as Sir Robert faces the wolf. The Doctor installs the diamond in the telescope, which is really a trap for the wolf designed by Prince Albert and Sir Robert’s father. Once aligned, the light chamber focuses the moon’s rays and suspends the wolf in mid-air. The human form emerges and asks the Doctor to increase the intensity so he can be free. The Lupine Wavelength Haemovariform is soon destroyed.

For their efforts, the Queen bestows titles upon the travelers – Sir Doctor of TARDIS and Dame Rose of the Powell Estate – and then banishes them from the Empire because their world is steeped in terror and blasphemy, yet they consider it fun. The Queen is not amused – Rose wins her bet! – and the travelers return to the TARDIS while they muse about the nature of hemophilia in the royal bloodline.

Maybe the Queen is a werewolf after all. Ah-wooooooo!

Back at the estate, Queen Victoria tells Lady Isobel that her husband’s sacrifice and the ingenuity of his father will survive. She has seen that the Empire has enemies beyond imagination and has decreed that an institute will research and fight these threats. It will be known as the Torchwood Institute.

If the Doctor returns, he should beware, because Torchwood will be waiting.

 

A Russell T. Davies story, this was a breakneck experience well-mixed among action, humor, and drama. We get the typical alien-of-the-week threat, but there’s an additional layer with a bystander who calls things based on how I imagine that most people in these adventures see the Doctor and companions. Honestly, it’s very much a reflection of Tegan’s second departure from the TARDIS.

The difference is that Queen Victoria has the power to literally banish the travelers from her realm. For all the good it will do, given that Rose is a native of the modern day and the Doctor isn’t even native to this planet. She also has the power to establish a planetary defense agency, the Torchwood Institute, which has been referenced twice to this point and will likely be a large part of the story going forward.

Overall, this was an enjoyable adventure harkening back to the classic roots of the franchise.

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: School Reunion

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

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Timestamp #173: New Earth

Doctor Who: New Earth
(1 episode, s02e01, 2006)

 

The adventure continues with a rather pointless return.

Just after saying goodbye to her mother and Mickey, Rose Tyler joins the Doctor in the TARDIS as they go further than they’ve ever gone before. They end up on New Earth, a planet similar to its long-dead namesake in the year 5,000,000,023, located in Galaxy M87. Their arrival is witnessed by a spider-drone, which (of course) belongs to Lady Cassandra.

There’s no surprise in that reveal at all.

Following a message on the psychic paper – “Ward 26. Please come.” – Rose and the Doctor visit the New New York Hospital. They find nuns that look like cats, an extensive disinfection protocol, and a diversion named Chip that splits companion from Time Lord. The Doctor talks with Sister Jatt, a member of the humanoid feline Sisters of Plentitude, before reuniting with the Face of Boe. It seems that the Face is dying of old age, which is something that the Sisters cannot cure.

Rose explores the basement, pipe in hand as a weapon, and encounters Lady Cassandra. She was reconstructed from another piece of her former body’s skin – see: plot armor – and as she tells her story she traps Rose and transfers her consciousness into the woman’s body. After a phone call from the Doctor, Cassandra stuffs a small vial in her new cleavage and heads upstairs.

The Doctor sits with the Face of Boe and Novice Hame. The attendant relates a story that the Face has lived for thousands, perhaps millions of years and that he will give his dying message to a lonely god, a wanderer without a home. Surely she means the Doctor because the look on his face and the lingering camera tell us so. While he waits for the Face to awaken, the Doctor investigates the medical ward and the mysterious rash of miracle recoveries. He’s also suspicious of Rose’s return with her strange voice, the knowledge she shouldn’t have of the hospital’s inner workings, and some lusty kisses beside. Together they hack their way into the intensive care unit and find patients infected with every possible disease in the universe. These patients exist as human lab rats, a farm from which to harvest cures for the greater good.

The Doctor is incensed. He confronts Novice Hame, but the nun insists that the artificial humans are nothing more than mere flesh. He turns the tables, demanding to know what happened to Rose. Novice Hame says she has no idea, and Cassandra drugs the Doctor with the perfume vial she secreted away. The Doctor awakens in one of the pods, on the verge of being pumped full of the disease cocktail. Cassandra attempts to blackmail Matron Casp, the leader of the hospital’s order, but they refuse with the threat of claws. Cassandra turns to Plan B and releases all of human slaves, which promptly turn on their feline captives with gruesome results. Matron Casp escapes and quarantines the facility as Cassandra, Chip, and the Doctor run for their lives. Well, Cassandra and the Doctor do after the former fleshy trampoline leaves Chip behind.

The Doctor confronts Cassandra and demands that she return Rose. Cassandra obliges by jumping into the Doctor’s body in a humorous fashion. They continue to run as the diseased horde breaks through, and Matron Casp is killed by her own creation as they climb. Upon reaching a locked elevator door, Cassandra bounces from the Doctor to Rose and one of the infected – quickly learning about their life of loneliness – as our heroes escape. Cassandra returns to Rose as they reach Ward 26, and the Doctor hatches a plan with a quick descent down an elevator shaft with a large batch of the intravenous cures strapped to his body. He fills the disinfectant tub in the elevator with the solutions and lures the infected into the empty car. The spray cures the horde, and the Doctor celebrates with a confused and enlightened Cassandra in tow.

As the police arrive, Matron Casp is taken away, and the Doctor finally communicates with the Face of Boe. The Face promises to meet the Doctor for the third (and last) time and also promises to share his secrets at that meeting before teleporting away. Apparently, they ran out of time for that plot thread. The Doctor turns to Cassandra and orders her to leave Rose. Cassandra refuses until Chip (miraculously) returns, upon which time she jumps into her willing slave. Unfortunately, Chip only has a half-life and is dying, but Cassandra accepts this as her just end.

The Doctor offers Cassandra one last gift: He takes her back to the party she was watching on film, allowing her the chance to tell her past self – a fully human self – of her beauty before collapsing. With that, the Doctor and Rose say farewell and return to the TARDIS.

 

On the plus side, both Tennant and Piper are amazing in their performances. It is plainly obvious that they’re having a ton of fun as they explore their new chemistry as series leads. Also on the production side, the cat makeup is fantastic. Storywise, the ending is poignant and continues the Doctor’s character theme of redemption over vengeance.

Unfortunately, the rest of the story doesn’t meet those high points. There’s a clear lack of villain here, and the plot spends too much time on Cassandra’s plans for revenge than on the abuses of the Sisters of Plentitude. That element is resolved too quickly with a chemical shower that comes across as more miracle than anything else. It would have worked if more time was invested in the story, but there was no empathy, and that made the story boring.

 

 

Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Tooth and Claw

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.