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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

‘Doctor Who’ blogging: “Tooth and Claw”

(intro to my Who blogging, please read before commenting / previous: Episode 1: “New Earth”)

Ooo, I get the werewolf episode on Halloween weekend (or as close as we’ll get this year).

Though the most interesting stuff in this episode is not the werewolf — not that the werewolf ain’t cool and all. It’s the Doctor and Rose, and how relaxed and easy with each other they suddenly are. Laughing as the TARDIS tosses them around; their bet about getting the Queen to say “We are not amused”; the Doctor’s “I bought her for sixpence — it was her or the Elephant Man.” He’s flirting! The Doctor is flirting. Goodness, this is a new new Doctor.
The Doctor ooing and aahing over the telescope thingie, then criticizing, then — whoa — asking Rose, “Am I being rude again?” Whoa that he asks anyone that… and then whoa that she’s so touchy-feely, patting and squeezing his arm, and then he’s shaking his head at her and trying to hide his laughter, signs of their shared secret. All those little cosy asides — he whispers to her, she slaps him playfully… They’re standing behind Queen Victoria, Empress of Blah Blah Blah, and they’ve got eyes only for each other:

They’re so comfortable, so intimate

Oh my god, they’ve slept together. They have so totally done the deed. I’m convinced it happens somewhere between the Doctor’s regeneration and Rose’s departure, and it looks like maybe we can narrow it down to some point between “New Earth” and “Tooth and Claw.”

Good for them.

It’s so easy to see why anyone with the slightest sense of adventure would fall in love with the Doctor, and especially with this Doctor. He’s so enthusiastic about everything — “Stars and magic? I like him more and more,” he says about Sir Robert’s father, and he finds the werewolf “beautiful,” he’s entranced by its savage wonderfulness. It’s all the kind of stuff we’d all want to travel with the Doctor to see: stars, and magic, and monsters. The reasons for the Doctor’s appeal has always sort of gone unspoken, at least until the appeal disappears. One of the most memorable lines from the old incarnation of the show, at least one that really sticks in my memory, is Tegan’s explaining to the Doctor why she needs to leave: “It stopped being fun.” But we never really saw her having fun, and anyone else, for that matter: we could presume, and did, that the danger was only the bits in between, as the Tenth Doctor tried to explain to Jackie, but we never really saw the fun of the danger, which surely was always there, too. When the Doctor and Rose, here, have to simply hug each other over the unbelievable deliciousness of the fact that, you know, Hello, werewolf!, that’s it, right there. How could you not be having a ball all the damn time, even if your life is in constant danger? In fact, maybe the constant danger would make it even more fun, in a perverse kind of way. Like you’re only really living when death is knocking at your door, and how freakin’ cool is it if death is knocking the form of a werewolf?

Does that make us fans a bunch of demented weirdoes? Maybe. Maybe Queen Victoria has something right when she banishes the Doctor and Rose from England:

I don’t know what you are, the two of you, or where you’re from, but I know that you consort with stars and magic, and think it fun. But your world is steeped in terror and blasphemy and death, and I will not allow it. You will leave these shores, and you will reflect, I hope, on how you came to stray so far from all that is good, and how much longer you may survive this terrible life.

Nah. She hasn’t got a clue.

Random thoughts on “Tooth and Claw”:

• Oh, even Doctor Who is under the spell of that Matrixy slo-mo martial arts stuff. *sigh*

• The Doctor, in his Scottish doctor guise, says he “trained under Dr. Bell.” Bell was the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes (and also Dr. Gregory House). Tee-hee!

• I dunno what it is about this episode — maybe it’s the bright (faux) Highland sunlight or something — but this is the best episode for admiring Tennant’s freckles. (Man, I’m never gonna get tired of the widescreen HDTV…)

• The Doctor calls the guards in orange “the monkeyboys” — a little Buckaroo Banzai reference? Or just a play on the fact that they’re supposed to be monks?

• The Doctor likes late ’70s, north-of-England, punk-flavored music? He’s a 24-hour party person! (I wonder what else is on his iPod?) Or is he a Richard Linklater-type slacker? “I’m dazed and confused”? Man, the Doctor has never been so tuned in to pop culture before, which is a function of the Gen X ethos that invariably infuses the show. “The Muppet Movie! Love that film.” Of course he does. The Doctor is a geek.

• And he’s also way naughtier than he used to be. On Sir Robert’s weird “staff”: “They were bald, athletic. Your wife’s away. I just thought you were happy.” Fresh!

• More fun quotes from the Doctor: “Imagine it: the Victorian age accelerated, starships and missiles fueled by coal and driven by steam.” Yup, the Doctor’s read some steampunk, as, perhaps, evidenced by another great line: “Books: the best weapons in the world.”

• When Victoria says, “The dead stay silent, and we must wait,” the Doctor is very touched by this, and he looks away thoughtfully, thinking about… what? The Time War? Gallifrey? All his lost people? I think he needs a hug: C’mere, Doctor…

• “There is something of the wolf about you,” the werewolf says to Rose. Yeah, the bad wolf…

• Ah ha, the beginning of Torchwood, founded to protect mankind from… the Doctor. Russell Davies, you are one twisted fuck, and I love you for that.

(next: Episode 3: “School Reunion”)

[screencaps from Adventures in Time and Space]

MPAA: not rated

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