I thought Tooth and Claw was very well made, and had an interesting plot. It was very atmospheric and reeked of intrigue and the supernatural. The dark, foreboding colours of this episode, in particular, gave it a gritty aesthetic, and paired well with the grim and phantasmal tone of the story. The story itself was interesting, although nothing necessarily particularly special. It was a fairly standard monster runaround, albeit a monster runaround set in an aristocratic Scottish house in 1879… with Queen Victoria. The backstory, of an ancient wolfish spectre that has haunted a local Scottish community for generations, possibly of non-terrestrial origin, was intriguing enough to make the otherwise simplistic and humdrum plot work. I’m always sceptical when Doctor Who depicts aliens as having the form of an Earth creature (i.e. a wolf here, or a giant wasp in Series 4…), and the werewolf idea was, indeed, a bit corny. Nevertheless, I think it was executed well enough, with the possession of human bodies and everything, that I can overlook how corny the idea was.
Queen Victoria was well-written, and well-played by Pauline Collins. She had a particularly touching monologue about her departed husband, Prince Albert, and the appeal of ghost stories:
Victoria: “Indeed. Since my husband’s death, I find myself with more of a taste for supernatural fiction.”
Doctor: “You must miss him.”
Victoria: “Very much. Oh, completely. And that’s the charm of a ghost story, isn’t it? Not the scares and chills, that’s just for children, but the hope of some contact with the great beyond. We all want some message from that place. It’s the Creator’s greatest mystery that we’re allowed no such consolation. The dead stay silent, and we must wait. Come. Begin your tale, Sir Robert. There’s a chill in the air. The wind is howling through the eaves. Tell us of monsters.”
I think, in the writing and acting of this little moment, that Victoria’s infamous oppressive grief over the loss of Albert, which never truly left her, was conveyed exceptionally. In a very action-oriented episode, this quiet, affecting little moment, I think, was the most compelling point and the most touching lines in the story. David Tennant, too, delivered a positive performance. David’s highlight this episode was the Doctor’s manic thinking aloud when he was struck by a brainwave when he realised Prince Albert and Sir Robert’s father had laid a trap for the beast in the house. This manic brainstorming would become one of Ten’s distinctive idiosyncrasies. I know I said I was unimpressed with Ten’s manic behaviour in my review of New Earth, but, when done well, as here, it can be really effective.
I’m afraid I didn’t have all that much to say about Tooth and Claw. Perhaps that’s because this is one of those episodes that are fairly run-of-the-mill good-but-not-great Doctor Who episodes, with not much to criticise and not much to praise. I enjoyed it, but it’s nothing special. I will say that it’s not re-watch material. It gets slightly worse in your memory after every rewatch. I mildly groaned when I realised this was the next episode I had to watch and review, not because it’s necessarily a bad episode, but just because it’s so nondescript and forgettable. It occurs to me that that’s now two episodes I’ve labelled “forgettable” in a row that we’ve had so far in Series 2, which is two more than can be said for Series 1. Series 1 may have had the spectacular flop of Aliens of London/World War Three, but that story, at least, was controversial and excited some passion in me. These two were just meh—enjoyable enough, this one in particular, but still meh.