Last year it was Dickens. Now, in the second episode in the new series of "Doctor Who", it's the turn of Queen Victoria to team up with our time-travelling hero. Pauline Collins acquits herself well as the monarch having previously appeared in the series back in the mid-Sixties, as Samantha Briggs, opposite Patrick Troughton in a story called "The Faceless Ones". In fact, she was offered the role of companion but turned it down and Deborah Watling, as Victoria Waterfield, joined the Tardis crew instead, in the second episode of "The Evil of the Daleks". In a recent press release, Pauline is quoted as saying she was in one of the few episodes without Daleks! A little far from the truth in that the second Doctor was only pitted against them twice, both in his first of three years in the programme. As an aside, I dislike the substitution of the word episode for story, when a story comprises of more than one episode. It's a careless use of language which only leads to confusion!
"Tooth and Claw" is possibly Russell's finest script for the programme to date. I thought so on first viewing, despite a few reservations, and, on the whole, it is a much grittier affair than last week's opening tale. In the "Doctor Who Confidential" documentary, "Fear Factor", shown immediately afterwards on BBC3, the chief writer and executive producer commented that you won't see a better teaser than that created for his interpretation of the lycanthropy myth and, apart from the weedy scream immediately preceding the opening titles, he might well be right. The humour written for Rose, however, only served to undermine the strengths of the story and I would've preferred to see more time spent developing the relationship between her and servant girl Flora as Mark Gatiss did last year with Gwyneth in "The Unquiet Dead". Ruth Milne's facial responses to the action expressed many emotions in place of having little dialogue. Maybe her part might have been fleshed out better over two episodes?
The story borrowed imagery from a number of well-known science fiction and horror films. In the pre-titles sequence it was "The Matrix". The demise of the Steward was lifted, literally, from "Alien 3", specifically the abrupt exit of Brian Glover's character, prison warder Andrews. Both deaths happen after trying, momentarily, to wrong-foot the audience by reassuring us that all is well! The modern interpretation of the transformation from man to wolf has now been done many times, originally in John Landis's "An American Werewolf in London" and, also, to great effect, in Neil Jordan's adaptation of several short stories by Angela Carter, "The Company of Wolves". I liked the distant establishing shots of Torchwood House in the glen, of which there were three throughout. They reminded me of Hammer films and RTD has stated this was his take on their Oliver Reed movie, "The Curse of the Werewolf". Good thing Russell was unambiguous as Hammer only made one werewolf feature!