One of the great strengths of DOCTOR WHO ?and one of the reasons why it? always been the most appealing TV fantasy show ever made – is that no two episodes are ever the same. DOCTOR WHO can veer from outrageous space opera, intriguing historical mystery, broad comedy to grim Gothic horror all within the space of a handful of episodes. It? good to see that, with all the glossy cosmetic changes made to the venerable series since its 2005 rebirth, this one facet of its format hasn? changed a jot. Only DOCTOR WHO can leap from the cosmic hi-jinks of last week? ?ew Earth?to a claustrophobic, atmospheric journey into the supernatural in episode two, Russell T Davies? ?ooth and Claw? Not only does this spritely episode rattle along in the very best traditions of DOCTOR WHO it also proves, once and for all, that Davies really can write a ?ypical? DOCTOR WHO story (if there can be said to be such a thing); I think that the truth of the matter is that Davies has been having so much fun reinventing the wheel (or at least loosening its bolts) in his earlier stories that he just didn? want to write something which had DOCTOR WHO running through it like a stick of rock. But now he? done it and what a revelation it? been; ?ooth and Claw?took that most primal of DOCTOR WHO situations ?terrified people under attack from something nasty outside (often referred to as ?ase under seige?stories) ?and made it real and relevant to a 21st century audience.

Let? face it, the story is as simple as they come. The Doctor and Rose accidentally travel back to 1879 and find themselves in the Scottish Highlands. Almost immediately they encounter the bereaved Queen Victoria (Collins) and her retinue of soldiers and together they travel to the nearby country house of Sir Robert McLeish to seek refuge from the elements. But the house is under attack; a sect of kung fu monks have secreted a mysterious stranger ?the Host ?into the cellars of the house and the stranger, black-robed, pale-skinned and with as rotten a set of gnashers as you?e likely to see on your TV screen, becomes something rather more or less than human under the baleful light of the moon?n

?ooth and Claw?is a heady concoction, combining Davies? tightest script for the series yet with Euros Lyn? incredibly-taut direction, outstanding production values and some generally-decent acting. The devil is very much in the detail here and 1879 is beautifully-evoked through moody lighting, superbly-detailed sets and suitably-barren locations (Wales standing in for the Highlands). The episode kicks off ?quite literally – with a pre-titles sequence which is going to take some?r?eating. A group of cowled monks indulge in a fancy bit of wire-work kung fu as they attack Mcleish? house; it? fast, it? dynamic (it took a whole day to film) and it? an adrenalin-rush of a sequence. ?ooth and Claw?never really lets up, combining outstanding characters moments (Queen Victoria lamenting her dead husband) with edge-of-the-seat thrills once the monster of the piece breaks free. And what a monster! This is DOCTOR WHO? first proper werewolf (and I? purposefully not counting Mags in 1988? ?he Greatest Show in the Galaxy?because she was rubbish) and, as a piece of CGI, it? up with effects house the Mill? finest work for the series. But when all? said and done, it? still CGI and it still can? quite cross that elusive ?bsolute believability?factor which is the bane of all CGI in all media. But there are genuine heart-stopping moments in those scenes of the wolf loping through the corridors, snarling and roaring, howling at the moon in one iconic scene and, most impressively, crashing through the glass roof of the conservatory/observatory. Despite all the motion-capture technology used to render the werewolf it? sometimes not quite right and it? those not quite right moments that take the viewer out of the drama and remind us that we?e just watching a very good special effect ?albeit one that? not quite special enough. On the plus side, the actual Host/werewolf transformation is the best sequence of its type since AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and, if nothing else, it? a few steps up from the rather painful ?an-in-a-fur-suit?effect used in several episodes of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.

Davies? episodes have often been criticised for their sloppy plotting, corny dialogue and gaping inconsistencies. Probably because the story itself is relatively simplistic ?Doctor, Rose and friends run away and hide from a monster ?it? easier to join the narrative dots and Davies does it here with style. Genuine thought has gone into this storyline and the neat twist ?Queen Victoria (a tour-de-force performance from Collins), still mourning for her husband ?has been protected by him literally from beyond the grave. Prince Albert had been preparing for such an eventually as the monarch has found herself in by setting a trap for the werewolf within the trap laid by the werewolf and its protectors. The use of the legendary Koh-I-Noor diamond as a weapon to destroy the werewolf is sparklingly-ingenious and marvellously-realised.

But what is most intriguing about ?ooth and Claw?are the marker posts it? clearly setting for the rest of the second series. Beyond the slightly-laboured Torchwood references (pre-figuring the just-entering production Captain Jack spin-off series, due on air later this year) we have some far more intriguing portents regarding the nature of the Doctor/Rose dynamic. For, as is now apparent, more things have changed aboard the TARDIS than just the Doctor? face. There? an arrogance about the Doctor and Rose now, an almost insufferable smugness about them as they wander through Time and Space hugging each other, exchanging witticisms and facing each new challenge with a smile and a shrug. In all honesty, they?e the sort of couple you? happily give a slap to if you met them in real life. And this, it seems likely, will be their downfall? Queen Victoria is conscious of it as she banishes them from her country shortly after knighting them for services rendered (?ir Doctor of TARDIS! Lady Rose of the Powell Estate!?; she warns them of the dangers of their casual lifestyle, of the death and terror they bring in their wake. Russell T Davies has already hinted that the pair are heading for a fall and it? going to be fascinating to watch them move towards it as the series rolls on?n

But for Tennant and Piper the series continues to offer plenty of good material to get stuck into. Tennant? more than comfortable in the role and there are some flashes of Tom Baker in ?ooth and Clawh he? fast on his feet, he has his moments of rage and his moments of idiocy ?in many ways he? a return to a DOCTOR WHO archetype. Tennant? still battling to emerge from the shadow of his illustrious predecessor but he? very nearly out in the light. Piper, too, continues to impress as Rose. This a gusty, ballsy young woman, experienced enough now in the ways of the Universe to take meeting Queen Victoria in her stride and quite capable of giving as good as she? getting. ?here the Hell have you been??she rages at the Doctor as he crashes in to rescue her just as the Host begins his monstrous transformation. But not to worry, within minutes they?e all hugs and goo-goo eyes again?n

?ooth and Claw?is as solid and enjoyable a DOCTOR WHO story as you could reasonably demand. The humour is genuinely funny (the ?e are not amused?running gag is a hoot ?the obligatory gay joke rather less so),the scares are pretty chilling (cleverly bloodless but all the scarier for what? suggested rather than seen), especially for the ankle-biters in the audience. Whilst still not quite scaling the awesome dramatic heights of much of the first season ?and that may just because we?e all a bit more familiar with the new series?style now and we know what to expect ?this second season is shaping up quite nicely and it? entirely possible that the resolutions of some of the mysteries hinted at in both ?ew Earth?and now ?ooth and Claw?are going to leave us in a very different place at the end of this series?]>

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