Saturday, August 23, 2014

Doctor Who--"Tooth & Claw"

My source came through for me yet again with the second episode of the second season of the second launch of Doctor Who. I’m glad he did, as “Tooth & Claw” ranks as one of the best I have seen so far. Recall that this is a recap and review of an episode that aired on the BBC Saturday night and not a first season episode that is currently being aired on the Sci Fi Channel Friday nights. I probably don’t need to mention that, but you never know. Now, on with the show.

With the limited experience I have with Doctor Who, I believe the horror themed stories are the best, particularly when they are period pieces. Perhaps other fans can point to some outer space, futuristic adventures that are much better, but for my time and enjoyment, the Bbc does the past much better than the future. I wish the trend would catch on with US television. Deadwood and Rome have been good shows, but haven’t caused much waves. Too bad. The CGI effects in “Tooth & Claw” were also much better than anything we’ve seen previously. I don’t know if that means the budget is better for the second season or if they pulled out the stops for this one and will have a few low key episodes in the remainder of the season. Regardless, I was impressed. The transformation scene was incredibly well done and the werewolf reminded me of the creature from 2004’s Van Helsing movie.

In the opening, a group of warrior monks known as the Brotherhood of the Wolf force their way into a Scottish manor, the Torchwood Estate. The monks remove their robes to reveal some bright red outfits and use some Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon martial arts moves to subdue the staff. The monks carry a covered cage down into the cellar. Meanwhile, the Doctor offers to take Rose to a punk concert in 1979. As often happens, the Doctor makes a mistake traveling and they wind up in 1879 and surrounded by Queen Victoria’s guards. The queen is traveling by carriage because a tree has fallen across the rail line. She suspects an assassination attempt. The doctor’s psychic paper reveals he is to be her appointed protector. He seems genuinely surprised by this, but goes along with it.

The group arrives at the torchwood Manor and decide to stay for the night. The brotherhood are disguised as servants and while Sir Robert, the manor’s lord, tries to dissuade the group, they insist upon staying anyway. Sir Robert shows the Queen and the Doctor his father’s old observatory which he built in his last year of life. The doctor notes there are too many prisms for it to be effective at star gazing. Curiouser and curiouser, as alice might say. Sir Robert also hints of a werewolf legend, but Father Angelo, the head monk, offers to show everyone to their rooms before he can tell the story.

Rose discovers a frightened servant girl hiding in her room who tells her of the cage in the cellar. Rose asures her the doctor will know what to do. The monks offer drugged drinks to the guards outside and capture Rose and the servant girl. They are chained in the cellar with the rest of the real servant staff and the cage. Meanwhile, Sir Robert tells the doctor about the werewolf legend. As the story continues, Father Angelo stares out the window at the full moon. He begin chanting ‘The wolf is god” in Latin.

Down in the cellar, the monks throw open the doors so moonlight will shine on the cage. The man inside quickly and dramatically turns into a werewolf and the chase is on. The plan is for the wolf to bite Queen Victoria so that a line of werewolves can rule the British Empire. The origin of the werewolf is revealed in a book discovered by the Doctor while he, the now escaped Rose, the Queen, and Sir Robert are barricaded in the library. Something crashed in 1540, probably with only a single cell surviving. That cell matured and is now plotting to build an empire with space ship powered by coal and steam. A nightmare version of the Age of Innovation.

Queen Victoria insists she’d rather die than be infected and she requests Sir robert protect something more valuable--a large, specially cut diamond given to her by her late husband. The Doctor surmises the diamond has a special purpose. When the werewolf finally breaks into the library, they all flee to the observatory. The Doctor now knows the telescope is for stargazing--it’s a weapon. He and Rose place the diamond just right and adjust the telescope to reflect the moonlight just as the werewolf gets passed Robert and breaks through the door. The beam hit’s the werewolf, destroying it, but the Queen is cut. Or was she bitten? That is left up in the air.

The Queen knights the Doctor and Rose, then bnishes them for being part of ungodly forces. They honor her wishes. The ueen then establishes the Torchwood Institute, a group intended to battle against whatever dark, strange force may threaten the United Kingdom. Torchwood, as you may recalll, was the name of the alien killing laser in “The Christmas Invasion” as well as an upcoming Doctor Who spinoff. There is quite a bit of foreshadowing that this isn’t the end of the story. Queen Victoria may have in fact been infected and that leads to the parallel Earth that will be prominently featured in episodes later this seaon. That is just speculation on my part at the moment.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

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