In the second week of our Season 2 Doctor Who re-watch, our first time watcher Pete adopts another robot and Andy gushes over Queen Victoria’s comedic potential. Werewolves and gargoyles make guest appearances and everyone is an alien.
Episode 2: Tooth and Claw
Andy: Werewolves and royalty and monks, oh my! I honestly consider this episode to be a better start to Season 2 than ‘New Earth.’ What with Cassandra’s body swapping shenanigans, we didn’t get to see much of Rose and the new Doctor interacting in that episode. In this episode however, we get to see more of their dynamic, which establishes more of a playful relationship.
In particular, the scene where they exchange a hug in celebration (commiseration?) of meeting a werewolf shows us how much the two have grown together.
Pete: This episode kind of…bored my socks off. I know I’ve changed my theory like eight times now, but I’m starting to think the Tardis takes them to bad places because the Doctor hits it with hammers. Hammers, plural. As in more than one. I haven’t been enthralled or even interested in a werewolf story since the first Underworld, and I have no idea who Queen Victoria is but I’m guessing that at some point in her life, she was not amused.
I’ve previously mentioned my distaste for going back to Victorian era, so this episode already started off at a disadvantage. I didn’t think this episode was particularly bad at all, but I just wasn’t compelled by the overall narrative or tropes at work. Even the fact that Werewolves were aliens didn’t really do it for me! (Everything is aliens! You can say it. It’s ok.) They didn’t really change the werewolf canon. Just now they are from space. Oh and mistletoe is one of their weaknesses instead of garlic. (Well it isn’t exactly a weakness so much as a spray bottle to keep your cat off the counter.) So I guess there’s that.
Andy: The reason I like the werewolf as an antagonist is that I think the Doctor and Rose do better when they have something to fight. Don’t get me wrong, the Doctor could probably do a motivational speech on watching paint dry, but he’s a more interesting detective when he has something to react to. It was fun as hell to watch him lick the walls in the library and find out they’re imbued with mistletoe.
Pete: I also didn’t enjoy the side characters in this episode as much as I have in the past. For example, the host Sir Robert MacLeish and his wife. Their story should have been more heartwarming than it is, but it totally falls flat. I didn’t feel all that bad for him when he fed himself to the werewolf. I felt worse for his wife.
Andy: I’ll agree with you there. It was hard to empathize with Sir Robert, so I wasn’t interested in the backstory of his father beyond how it related to the werewolf.
Pete: But on the bright side… Game of Thrones actors alert! We get Pyatt Pree (Ian Hanmore), Jory Cassel (Jamie Sives), and Bronze Yohn Royce (Rupert Vansittart) all dying pretty horrible deaths. (I don’t even know why I found that enjoyable, I just did, don’t judge me.)
Either the pool of English actors is extremely small or the GoT casting agents watch this show a lot.
Andy: Or both. Probably both.
What really carries this episode for me is the comic drama of running around an old mansion with Queen Victoria. This woman is supposed to be the epitome of straight-laced, correct behavior, and this episode peels away every layer of that, starting with the derailed train, picking up the Doctor and “naked” Rose by the side of the road, the informal dinner, and the drugged guards, until finally the Queen is pulled bodily from room to room. The Doctor and Rose refuse to take the ordeal seriously, and Rose in particular is needling the Queen to win a bet, which is especially hilarious when contrasted to the Queen’s insistent dignity.
Pete: The hemophilia explanation for queen Victoria was interesting. As I said, I didn’t know who Queen Victoria was going into this episode, but after getting a brief history lesson on the subject it seemed like a cool real world tie in.
Andy: The episode leaves us with the impression of a woman who cares about doing the right thing, hence why she honors the Doctor and Rose with titles, but she doesn’t particularly like them. It seems a little shortsighted to banish them when they did after all defeat the werewolf, but the plot demands that the Queen founds her own alien-fighting organization.
Pete: They are seeding Torchwood pretty hard — it almost makes me want to watch it! I’ve heard that both Jack is the best (not surprising) and that it goes off the rails (not surprising for a spin-off). So maybe one day I’ll check it out, once it can’t spoil Doctor Who for me anymore!
Episode 3: School Reunion
Pete: That cold open was brilliant. The Doctor walks into a classroom and is like “Lets get our learning on” and I suddenly want to go back to school. (And school and I were… not the best of friends.)
Andy: Seeing the Doctor try to act normal is like watching someone else’s surprise party: you can’t do it with a straight face and you are bursting to spill the beans.
Pete: Rose should’ve been a counselor instead of a lunch lady but I guess spies don’t always get the best of covers.
Andy: On the other hand, Rose’s love for chips kind of makes it the best cover ever.
Pete: One of the themes of this show seems to be the return of old enemies. On top of that, this episode also gives us something unique: old friends! Sarah Jane Smith is not someone I’m familiar with, but judging by the Doctor’s swooning, I have to assume they totally did it at some point.
But then the Doctor left her? Wtf is that shit? Is this the fate Rose has in store for her? To be forgotten by the wayside? Left to wither and die alone never knowing what became of her Doctor? I would prefer to hope not. And based on how the Doctor almost said HE LOVED ROSE, I would be super willing to wager on it not going down that way.
Andy: I think it was important for Rose and the Doctor to have that conversation, both about his past and their future.
I was also glad that the show did eventually do away with the trope that the women should fight each other over a man. Given what we know about these women and their history with the Doctor, I do think it made sense for the story that they would be wary of each other. Then the events of this episode made it possible for them to move past that. They both come to accept the uncomfortable reality of life with (and without) and step into their futures with their eyes open. That’s an important life lesson.
Pete: I wish they gave evil Giles (okay fine, Principal Finch) more lines, but honestly, him offering the Doctor the chance to undo the Time War was big enough. That had to have been one of the hardest things for the Doctor to hear in all his lives. And yet, almost without hesitation, he basically says “everything has its time”.
Now that it’s been brought up though, I wonder: why hasn’t the Doctor ever gone back in time and changed things himself? Maybe he did already and the time points are too weak and those gargoyle things we saw before would eat everyone if he did?
Pete: Or spoilers. Either way.
Andy: I have to say, I am more than a little enamored with both the Krillitane’s oil and their biological appropriations of other species’ best traits. Using the children’s brains as a supercomputer aside, pursuing objective perfection without regard for origin is a noble goal, in my opinion. Biological manipulation of that scale opens up so many possibilities for immortality, and of course, experiencing more of the universe. I wouldn’t mind trading out my frail human body for the chance to be a space mermaid.
Pete: I’m sure this won’t surprise you, but I’m proposing we adopt K9 and bring him home too. (Assuming he gets along with Cornelious.)
Andy: (Spoiler alert: no one gets along with the Daleks.)
Pete: We may have to pry him out of Sarah Jane Smith’s cold dead hands but…robot dog! I also gotta be honest, I’m slightly confused about who this new tin dog is. Does the tardis have badass WiFi that downloaded K9’s artificial doggy brain and popped it back into a shiny new robot body? Or did the Doctor just make a new one and name it K9? Is this like when your goldfish dies as a kid and your mom doesn’t want to devastate your life just yet, so she buys a new one while you’re sleeping? Because only one of those things am I ok with, you good dog.
Speaking of good dogs… Mickey really is the tin dog. Poor little guy. But he’s a good dog too. I don’t know how I feel about him traveling with the Doctor.
Andy: Adventures will be had. Guaranteed.
Images courtesy of BBC. Please do not spoil Pete in the comments!