Tuesday 6 December 2016

Story 169 - Tooth And Claw

In which a group of monks take over Torchwood House, in the north-east of Scotland, in order to lay a trap for Queen Victoria. This is home to Sir Robert MacLeish and his wife, Lady Isobel. In the TARDIS, the Doctor is planning to take Rose to see an Ian Dury concert in 1979. The ship materialises instead in 1879, a few miles from Torchwood House. They meet the monarch and her military escort. They have had to leave their train and finish their journey to Balmoral Castle by road, and plan to stop at the home of Sir Robert for the night. The Doctor claims to be a Dr James McCrimmon, but his psychic paper tells that he is supposed to accompany the Queen.
Arriving at Torchwood House, the Doctor notices a rooftop observatory. Sir Robert seems nervous, and claims that his wife is away. All the male servants, including the butler, have shaved heads. Sir Robert shows the visitors the telescope in the observatory, which Prince Albert and Sir Robert's father often worked on. The Doctor is surprised to see that it does not focus well. At dinner that night, it is revealed that the Queen is carrying the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond. She had taken it to Aberdeen for recutting. The Doctor knows that her late husband often had the stone recut. The Queen asks Sir Robert to tell the local legend of a werewolf that has been seen in these parts over the centuries.

Rose, meanwhile, has found one of the female servants hiding in a wardrobe. They are captured by the monks who are pretending to be the male staff, and locked in a cellar. Here they find Lady Isobel and other estate staff, locked in with a cage in which there sits a young man. As Sir Robert tells the tale of how children have gone missing in the area over the years, the Doctor notices the butler intoning a prayer to a wolf. He is really Fr Angelo, leader of the monks of the nearby monastery in the Glen of St Catherine. The Doctor rushes off to find Rose. In the cellar, the moonlight causes the young man to transform into a werewolf. When Fr Angelo threatens the Queen, she produces a pistol from her bag and shoots him dead. The wolf begins to rampage through the house. Monks are stationed outside to prevent anyone leaving. When it comes into the kitchen, Lady Isobel throws a pot of liquid containing mistletoe over it, and this causes it to withdraw. The Doctor, Rose, Sir Robert and the Queen take refuge in the library. The wolf won't enter, as the doors and wood paneling have been impregnated with mistletoe. The Doctor deduces that the monks use this substance to control the beast, and Sir Robert's father must have found this out.

Examining local legends, they read of a meteorite which fell in the Glen of St Catherine during the reign of King James V. The werewolf stories began soon after. The Doctor deduces that the creature is really alien. It modulates light to appear as a wolf. The missing children over the years have acted as hosts for this life-form. The Doctor comes to realise why the telescope did not focus on the stars. It is really a light chamber, designed to focus light from the Moon. Prince Albert and Sir Robert's father had been working on a way to destroy the wolf over the years. The wolf breaks in through the skylight, and so they make for the observatory. Sir Robert sacrifices himself to keep the wolf at bay and buy them time. The Doctor asks the Queen for the diamond - as this is the focusing lens for the telescope. This is why Albert continually had it refashioned. The monks intended that Victoria would become infected, and so lead to a new Empire of the Wolf - one of warfare and destruction. The wolf breaks in and the Doctor uses the diamond to focus concentrated moonlight at it. It reverts to human form, before dissipating. The Queen has suffered an injury to her hand, which she claims came from a splinter as the door was broken down, but the Doctor worries that she was actually bitten.
The following day, Her Majesty knights the Doctor and Rose - then promptly exiles them from her Empire as a menace to everything she believes in. Once they have left, she tells Lady MacLeish that she will set up an organisation to defend against the Doctor, and any other threat to her kingdom. It will be named Torchwood, after this house...

Tooth And Claw was written by Russell T Davies, and was first broadcast on 22nd April, 2006.
It sets up Torchwood as an organisation which is opposed to the Doctor. We've been hearing that name since the end of the last series and it forms this year's story arc. This will lead to all manner of continuity headaches - i.e. where were Torchwood during all the post-1879 Earth-based stories throughout the Classic Series?
It is the second of the "celebrity historical" stories, following Charles Dickens' encounter with Christmas ghosts in 2005. As such, another major guest artist is employed to portray Queen Victoria - Pauline Collins. She was no stranger to the programme, having appeared as the almost-companion Samantha Briggs in The Faceless Ones.
For a long time, this story was going to be the series opener.
There was much competition to realise the werewolf. Neil Gorton's team hoped to get a stab at it through costume and prosthetics, but in the end it was decided to create it via CGI from The Mill. They had to get someone in specially to render the hair.
This meant that it could not feature too heavily, and so Davies had to write the script keeping the wolf back for key scenes only. You'll notice that often we see it rampaging from its own point of view, rather than standing back and showing it attack. There was also a policy, maintained to this day, that no matter how many gruesome deaths there are, they will tend to be bloodless.
Considering the time of day this was shown at, and the young audience who were fans of the new show, it is still a very scary, adult story.

There is a small guest cast - all Scottish actors. Sir Robert is played by Derek Riddell. Fr Angelo is Ian Hanmore. The captain of the Queen's escort, Captain Reynolds, is Jamie Sives. Lady Isobel MacLeish is Michelle Duncan. The estate steward is played by Ron Donachie, and the Host who transforms into the werewolf is Tom Smith. Scotland, however, is portrayed by Wales.
Story Arc:

  • Well, Torchwood - obviously. First mentioned as one of the Weakest Link quiz answers in Bad Wolf, it was then said to be the outfit who shot down the Sycorax spaceship in The Christmas Invasion. We now know where it got its name from, and who set it up, and that it exists to defend Britain against the Doctor and the sorts of threat he embodies.
  • The Queen ruminates on how long the Doctor and Rose will be able to continue their reckless, as she sees it, lifestyle. This is setting us up for Rose's imminent departure.
  • The Host senses something of the wolf in Rose - a reference to last year's story arc.
  • A Tenth Doctor catchphrase is introduced, as he tells his companion "Don't do that" when they attempt an accent. Here Rose does the full "Och aye the noo..." bit.
The Tardisode:
A meteor is seen to crash onto a piece of countryside. 300 years later, a villager is running across the landscape in fear for his life. He can hear something growling, which seems to be stalking him. He is suddenly confronted by a werewolf.

Overall, an excellent episode. Really pretty scary. Once the wolf appears, it's quite breathless in its pace - helped considerably by one of Murray Gold's best scores.
Things you might like to know:
  • Harry Potter's third year at Hogwarts formed the 2004 movie The Prisoner of Azkaban. This also features a werewolf. The werewolf in Tooth And Claw is 10 times better than the bigger budgeted one from the film.
  • The Host actor, Tom Smith, had been at drama school with David Tennant.
  • As mentioned above, Pauline Collins almost became a companion. She would have been instead of Debbie Watling's Victoria, appropriately enough. It just happens that they also tried to get Collins to join the TARDIS crew a second time - when Victoria left. Whether this would have been as Sam Briggs or as an entirely new character we don't know. As it was, Collins turned them down again, and so we got Wendy Padbury's Zoe instead.
  • Had Collins joined, her traveling companion would have been Jamie McCrimmon - who gets a name check here when the Doctor needs to come up with a Scottish name at short notice. Tennant uses his own accent, though you'll notice - as Victoria does - that it keeps slipping.
  • Dr McCrimmon comes from the township of Balamory, which would have pleased adults and children alike. This pre-school children's series has a bit of a cult following amongst those of us well past school age.
  • Another Troughton reference is the Doctor mentioning getting a doctorate from a Scottish university. The Second Doctor thought he had studied medicine under Lister at Glasgow, but here he claims to have studied under Bell at Edinburgh. Of course Bell's most famous student was Arthur Conan-Doyle, and he is widely believed to be the principal inspiration for Sherlock Holmes.
  • The notion of the Queen contracting a blood-borne infection is a reference to haemophilia, which was passed down to some of her heirs. It has always been a bit of a mystery how haemophilia entered the royal family - causing some to question Victoria's legitimacy.
  • The Third Doctor claimed to have been present at Queen Victoria's coronation, though he isn't sure and it might have been Elizabeth I's.
  • The plot has Prince Albert deliberately cutting down the Koh-i-Noor diamond so that it will work in the telescope. In real life, the Prince was unhappy that the stone was cut down so much - losing about 40% in the process.
  • Mistletoe isn't native to northern Scotland so the monks, and Sir Robert's dad, must have imported it specially.
  • Rose becomes the second companion to be knighted, following Ian Chesterton's elevation to Knight of Jaffa by King Richard I. It's the second time we've seen the Doctor knighted, though the first time can't count - as it wasn't the real King John but Kamelion masquerading as him.
  • Jamie Sives and Michelle Duncan were unavailable for this story's read-through. David Tennant's parents just happened to be visiting the studios on the day, and so read their parts for this. We'll see David's dad on screen in a couple of series' time.
  • The concert that the Doctor plans to take Rose to - Ian Dury and the Blockheads in Sheffield in November 1979 - is a non-starter. The band were touring elsewhere at that time. Earlier versions of the script had them listening to Lene Lovich instead - famed as a one-hit wonder for "Lucky Number". The Lovich song just happens to be on the same label as the Dury one - Stiff. Perhaps Davies was listening to a compilation album when he wrote this.
  • As you know, there was much fretting by certain sections of the public about a "Gay Agenda" being introduced when it was announced that Davies was bringing the series back. Here, he manages to slip in a bit of sexual innuendo to prime time telly as the Doctor remarks on Sir Robert having a lot of fit young men with shaved heads around the house when his wife is away. I wonder how many kids asked their parents what the Doctor meant by that - and what answers they got...
  • Davies does another brave / foolhardy thing by insulting a current member of the royal family. It was already known that HM the Q was a huge fan of the new series - so would undoubtedly be watching. Princess Anne cops it this time, but future daughter-in-law Camilla will get it in a couple of episode's time.
  • One of those "did they really just say that?" moments. You know the ones - where someone says something but on first hearing it sounds like something else - usually something quite rude. In the cellar, when Rose is trying to rally the captives, it sounded to me like she called Isobel "you lazy s***". I was convinced of this for weeks, until I realised she was saying "your ladyship". Maybe it's just me.

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