Overall I thought this was a much better episode than the rather lacklustre season opener last week, starting off with an attention grabbing pre-credit sequence as martial-art trained monks take over the house and put the occupants of the house into the cellar, together with something in a cage. In the best tension building style, you don’t actually see what is in the cage, only the terrified reactions of the other people.
The arrival of the Doctor and Rose is another one of the TARDIS navigation mistakes where having aimed for Sheffield in 1979, the Doctor overshoots slightly in both time and space, and ends up on a bleak Scottish moor in 1879. Worse than that he walks straight into a group of jumpy soilders who are escorting Queen Victoria by road to Balmoral after the route of her train has been blocked.
In essence this is a reworking of a classic horror story plot, with the cast trapped in the house with the monster. However there are some nice touches. For example David Tennant does a great bit of acting as the Doctor putting on a Scottish accent. Whilst he maintains the accent at the beginning, once the monster appears he forgets his accent and drops back to the Londonish accent he has used before. Bear in mind that Scottish is David Tennant’s native accent. There is also a nice intertwining of history and fiction, with Queen Victoria travelling with the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond which Prince Albert had cut by almost 42% of it’s original size to increase it’s brilliance, but was dissatisfied with the result. In this episode the reason for the cutting was said to be so that the diamond could be used as part of a trap for the werewolf, where the cut and it’s increased brilliance were vital.
The central monster was impressive, especially compared to the last appearance of a werewolf in the show back in 1988. Here techniques similar to the way that Gollum in Lord of the Rings was realised in the recent films were used, with actors taking the part of the monster being digitally replaced with the werewolf.
There were also a number of elements to keep the fans happy. Firstly the Doctor introduces himself as Doctor James McCrimmon, a reference to previous companion Jamie. At the conclusion of the story we also get to see the beginnings of Torchwood, the secret organisation referred to first in the Christmas special, and now it seems formed by Queen Victoria in response to the events in this episode, for which she entirely blames the Doctor. Rather than the usual happy ending where everybody is grateful, instead Queen Victoria banishes the Doctor and Rose warning them never to return.
Certainly it was a very enjoyable episode, and perhaps would have been better as a season opener than New Earth last week. However next week we have the much anticipated School Reunion, for which there is the prequel TARDISODE sequence and trailer already available from the Doctor Who web site. Can’t wait…