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Defining the Doctor: Tooth and Claw

Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull continues his series looking at one key story from each Doctor, this time with David Tennant.

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Underrated is an overrated word but in relation to Tooth and Claw it is oh so applicable. The Series Two episode is one of David Tennant and Billie Piper’s finest ensemble performances and it’s ashamedly overlooked. There’s just so much to like about it and, personally, I feel it hardly ever puts a foot wrong.

The Doctor and his new companion’s relationship is always cemented at one moment. For Amy and the Eleventh Doctor it’s the culmination of The Beast Below (I’m sure you have another suggestion), for Donna and the Doctor it’s pretty much the whole of The Fires of Pompeii (and Partners in Crime if you wish) and for the Doctor and Clara it was the famed Akhaten speech in Series Seven: Part Two.

I felt Tooth and Claw, or to be exact, the opening of Tooth and Claw was the moment where you just went “yes” at the Tenth Doctor. The Doctor and Rose are in the TARDIS, the former is showing off a new pair of denim dungarees and the Time Lord replies she’d be “better off in a bin bag”. Then Ian Dury and the Blockheads comes on and the TARDIS whirls through the vortex, landing abruptly and sending its occupants to the floor. The Doctor and Rose lie laughing for a while before skipping out of the door. Some would describe them as smug or full of themselves but I just see them as a couple of pals (later lovers) enjoying each other’s company and the privilege of travelling through time.

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This series is about the Doctor and the stories that define each incarnation. Tooth and Claw has everything you could want from a Tenth Doctor story. A historical figure? Check. A lot of action (and running down corridors)? Check. A scary villain? Check. A plausible storyline? Check. Al fresco filming? Check. An exotic (the show rarely ventures to Scotland much to this Scotsman’s sadness) location? Check. Tooth and Claw is really a checklist of what you (or I) should need in an episode of Doctor Who.

David Tennant performs exceptionally as a giddy post-regenerative Doctor whose trying to win the trust of his companion Rose. She’s still just that little bit unsure of this new man but by the end of Tooth and Claw her qualms are quashed. Billie Piper gets this across smoothly and does a superlative job as Rose. Love her or hate her, Piper did dish out several wonderful performances so there’s no denying she’s a good actress. Pauline Collins is an ideal casting choice as Queen Victoria, all prim and proper, channelling the personality of the late monarch consummately.

Tooth and Claw

Meanwhile the SFX department really outdid themselves with the CGI werewolf, it didn’t look particularly artificial and had a real air of menace about it. Tennant, Piper and Collins all worked well off considering it was just a man in a green suit

Tooth and Claw is, like I said, underrated. Why people overlook it in Series Two is beyond me, I mean, what’s there not to like? I’ll admit it isn’t exactly a classic and it’s not too groundbreaking but it’s a good fun adventure that veers on the border of being serious and a romp. It’s also one of Tennant’s best renditions as the madcap and capricious Time Lord.

Defining the Doctor will return in the New Year after Matt Smith’s final episode has aired…

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