Doctor Who
Series 2 - Volume 2

Starring: David Tennant
RRP: 15.99
Certificate: 12
Available 05 June 2006

The Doctor and Rose accidentally land in Scotland in 1879, where they encounter Queen Victoria, whose train to Balmoral has made an unscheduled stop. Seeking shelter in the nearby Torchwood estate, they are met by a band of menacing monks. With dark forces at work and a full moon due, the Queen is in grave danger...

Tooth and Claw is not without its flaws. For instance, despite all his cunning schemes to defend against werewolves, why did Sir Robert's late father never invest in any silver bullets? If silver doesn't affect this particular type of werewolf (we have encountered others in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, Loups-Garoux, Wolfsbane and the comic strip The Dogs of Doom), it's never explicitly stated on screen. Why does Queen Victoria (Pauline Collins) travel without any ladies-in-waiting? And writer Russell T Davies' rather contrived resolution exhibits some of the lightweight quality of New Earth.

In other respects, though, this episode has a lot going for it.

There are at least two genuine shock moments, and some great comedy, particularly near the beginning of the episode. The Doctor (David Tennant) adopts the actor's native Scottish accent and introduces himself as Dr James McCrimmon from the township of Balamory! Rose repeatedly attempts to make the Queen utter her famous phrase, "We are not amused." In a more subtle pastiche, the red-clad warrior monks evoke the current style of the BBC's on-screen idents.

Pauline Collins (who previously appeared as Samantha Briggs in The Faceless Ones and turned down an offer to stay on as a regular companion) makes an appropriately wilful and defiant Victoria (though for my money, Judi Dench remains the definitive Queen Vic).

I wonder, however, what the present royal family, which includes a known Doctor Who viewer in Queen Elizabeth, thinks of the Doctor's final musings about their bloodline - not to mention Rose's "Camilla" comment in The Girl in the Fireplace (more on that episode below).

The Doctor is reunited with his former travelling companion Sarah Jane Smith and robot dog K-9 Mark III. As comrades old and new unite against the evil headmaster of a school overrun by bat-like alien Krillitanes, Rose and Sarah clash over their rivalling affections for the Time Lord...

School Reunion is a very significant episode of Doctor Who. This is the first time that specific characters from the old series have reappeared, portrayed by their original actors, in the new show. Until now, the new series had only given us regenerated Doctors and reinvented versions of old monsters. School Reunion is therefore Who's equivalent of the Sarek episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (DeForest Kelley's appearance in Encounter at Farpoint doesn't really count, as he was never actually named as Dr McCoy in the show at the time).

It's lovely to see Sarah (Elisabeth Sladen) and K-9 (John Leeson) again - and great to see K-9's gun being able to point in the right direction for a change! However, I do think that Sarah comes across as more needy than she ought to be. This undermines what was previously a very independent character, whom I would have thought would have got along just fine without the Doctor. Also, it is not true that she hasn't seen the Time Lord since The Hand of Fear, as stated here. Even if you discount all her many appearances in spin-off books, such as Bullet Time, and comic strips, such as Train Flight, what about The Five Doctors? (Click here for our own Johnny Fanboy's theories on that.)

What is indisputable is that Toby Whithouse's script boasts some cracking lines. There's the Doctor's gleeful pride in Sarah - "Good for you, Sarah Jane Smith!"; Mickey's (Noel Clarke) realisation that "I'm the tin dog!"; Mr Finch's (Anthony Head) "Get the shooty dog thing!"; and Rose (Billie Piper) and Sarah's initially hostile barbs as the Doctor's "missus" and "ex", which eventually give way to shared jokes at the Time Lord's expense.

Whithouse evokes a flavour of the Seventh and Eighth Doctor novels by beginning this story with the Doctor and Rose already in place in undercover roles at the school. He also puts a deadly new spin on Jamie's School Dinners.

A marvellous union of old and new.

The time travellers arrive on a spaceship in the future, where they are surprised to discover doorways connecting to various points in history. Through these, the Doctor meets the witty and worldly Madame de Pompadour, mistress to King Louis XV. As she and the Doctor grow closer, so does a sinister tick-tock noise...

The Girl in the Fireplace further develops the previous episode's themes of love and loss, with a particular emphasis on the Doctor's loneliness. In fact, his time-jumping "romance" with Madame de Pompadour (played by Tennant's real-life girlfriend Sophia Myles) makes this episode very much Doctor Who's answer to Casanova. The poignant ending is particularly reminiscent of the recent dramatisation starring Tennant.

Does the Doctor actually fall in love with Madame de Pompadour? I'm not sure. More likely he just cares for her as he would for any innocent human being, and he is captivated by her spirit and wit. After all, he only knows her for a few hours at most, even though from the woman's point of view their relationship lasts for years. Whatever your view, the Doctor's gleeful pride at having "just snogged Madame de Pompadour" cannot fail to make you laugh out loud. Tennant does a lot of gleeful pride, doesn't he?

Steven Moffat, who previously penned The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, continues his obsessions with dancing and bananas. Is he going to mention these things in every script he writes?

The presence of non-white aristocrats jars a little. I'm all for racial equality, but not at the expense of historical accuracy. Then again, clockwork killer androids never invaded 18th-century France either, so maybe my argument doesn't hold up in such a fantasy-based series!

It's a pity that clockwork robots have so recently featured in the Eighth Doctor audio Time Works, but otherwise there's little to fault this genuinely moving and original story.

Richard McGinlay

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