Monday, 11 January 2010
Doctor Who: Tooth and Claw
“This is not my world.”
Crikey. It’s gone all Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Generally speaking Doctor Who can embrace all genres but there’s something about these martial arts scenes, or rather the aesthetics of these martial arts scenes, that feels very odd.
But then we’re back to the TARDIS, and what on Earth is Rose wearing? By God, those clothes look awful. Fortunately, the Doctor’s taste in music this episode is rather better than Rose’s taste in clothing. Going to see Ian Dury in the late ‘70s is exactly the sort of thing I‘d do if I had a time machine, frankly.
They end up, of course, in Scotland in 1879, where the Doctor decides to put on a Scottish accent for some reason. This is obviously at some level a self-referential acknowledgement that Tennant as an actor is doing the exact opposite, but for all my enjoyment of this kind of thing it seems a bit empty here. Still, it’s nice that he calls himself Dr James McCrimmon. From the township of Balamory, naturally.
And Pauline Collins is back after 39 years, this time in a rather different role. The dialogue immediately makes us suspect that Vicky is being led into a trap- the pre-titles sequence was a bit of a clue as well, admittedly- but for the moment that takes second place to the sheer spectacle of what she’s actually like. For the moment we see her nicer side before she’s provoked, but it’s interesting to see RTD opting for a compromise between the mardy battleaxe of popular imagination and the more fun-loving character who flirted with Disraeli and actually, rumour has it, may have had a sense of humour. The character ultimately disappoints, though; she essentially does nothing but react to the threats to her safety and to the Doctor’s behaviour. This isn’t a “celebrity historical” in the way The Unquiet Dead’s portrayal of Dickens was.
The carriage leads them to the, cough, Torchwood Estate. Gosh, I wonder if that’s going to be significant?
By now it’s clear that there’s something worrying about the tone of this story. Nothing bad has even happened yet but the frivolous attitude of the Doctor and Rose has already become annoying. And Rose’s bet with the Doctor that she can get Vicky to say she’s not amused is the worst example of this. Once the monks and the wolf start becoming a threat their frivolity becomes even more objectionable- people are dying. I can certainly see why Vicky reacts as she does.
Oh, and incidentally, it struck me immediately after the wolf announcing its intention to bit Vicky and establish its mighty steampunk “Empire of the Wolf”- this is influenced by Brotherhood of the Wolf, innit?
Annoying though Rose is, the Doctor’s attitude here is basically unforgiveable. His frivolity slips into bad taste here. Even the very fact that he’s ended up with the responsibility for saving Vicky’s life ultimately stems from an act of frivolity- casually flashing the psychic paper before sniggering to Rose shortly afterwards that “We just met Queen Victoria!”
The ending with the telescope is decent enough, and I like the indication that Vicky was bitten, although it should have just been left there. But the scene where our heroes are dubbed “Sir Doctor of TARDIS” and “Dame Rose of the Powell Estate” is cringeworthy in a way that even the parallel scene in The King’s Demons wasn’t. Nothing about the dialogue, the attitudes of the Victorian characters, or the way the Queen does things quite rings true for the period, but this scene takes the biscuit.
I’m on Vicky’s side as she banishes them both, personally, and I can see exactly why she establishes this mysterious Torchwood thing.
Well, after it’s so-so predecessor we finally get the first true clunker of the “new” series, surprisingly so as I recall liking this well enough at the time. But although the plot functions well enough the period just feels wrong and, unforgivably, the Doctor and Rose are completely unlikeable, frivolously arsing about while death and destruction happen around them. 2/5.
The David Tennant I’m-So-Sorry-ometer
The Christmas Invasion: 0
New Earth: 1 (“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”)
Tooth and Claw: 0