>Doctor Who: "Tooth and Claw" Review

>If there’s anything the latest Star Wars trilogy taught us, it’s that just because you can render and realize an impressive looking digital character on screen, that doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea to do so. (Jar Jar, anyone?)

To work well, a digital character have a solid story surrounding it, not just the latest in modern effects. (Gollum from Lord of the Rings, for example).

So while the good Doctor has met a variety of the classic monsters over the years–vampires, zombies, etc–he’s never really done battle with a werewolf as the central antagonist of a story. I think a large part of that was the BBC wisely realizing that a werewolf, if not done right, would look even less credible than usual and really away the willing suspension of disbelief that is so vital to Doctor Who stories. (We can accept the sets wobble, but if the monsters are too shoddy, it ruins the illusion).

But with “Tooth and Claw” we get a story that features the Doctor facing a werewolf.

And yet as I come away from the story, I’m less impressed with the effects (though they are quite good) and instead I pull out the old mantra of Doctor Who–“It’s the stories that make the show, not the effects.”

I think we all thought deep down that Russell T. Davies had a really great script in him. And, so far, this is the closest we’ve got to a great script from Davies. I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s his best story since the first two episodes of series one. Certainly, it’s the least complicated and the most straightforward. The Doctor and Rose arrive in a place, get caught up in a series of events and have to work to defeat some monster or evil by story’s end. “Tooth and Claw” feels like it was a lost script from the Gothic era of Hinchcliffe and Holmes. It’s a fun, entertaining little story that doesn’t have an agenda beyond entertaining the audience for 45 minutes and being pretty edge-of-your-seat for much of that time.

That said, it’s not perfect. I’m still not quite sure what the Monks’ overall plan was and why they felt they wanted to infect Queen Victoria with the werewolf mutation. Sure it set up a nice joke at the end and maybe it’s part of the overall plan for the season, but that part didn’t make a lot of sense upon initial viewing. Also, I have to wonder why the Monks left the house after the werewolf is destroyed. I wonder if something was cut in the final edit and if a deleted scene on the DVDs will address this (not that you should rely on DVDs and deleted scenes to cover up plot holes…but we can hope).

And while the foreshadowing about Torchwood was about as subtle as two by four to the head, I like the way its been set up. To have it established as a reaction to the Doctor’s involvement in the affairs of humanity was a nice touch. And the final scene while it was a bit like “Wow, did you know we’ve got a show coming soon called Torchwood?” wasn’t quite as wince-inducing as I feared it could be. I do hope that as the season goes along, it’s not some massive preview for Torchwood. I don’t mind setting up the spin-off, but I do mind if the spin-off takes over the parent show.

Overall, the cast is quite solid. Tennant continues to impress though I still get this feeling he’s waiting to be really unleashed. Of course, it did take until “Dalek” last year for Eccleston to knock one of the park. I get this feeling Tennant is on the cusp of greatness in the role, though each week he gets better and better.

I will also admit that it’s kind of a relief to get past “Tooth and Claw.” After five solid episodes by Davies, it will be nice to get some different writers in the mix next week. But I will give Davies credit–“Tooth and Claw” is a great script to mark as your last for a while. It’s memorable, fun, scary and entertaining. It’s a solid, if not perfect Doctor Who story.

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