Oh that was much better. Still very much in the entertaining romp vein, but a much more effective slice of pulp fiction than last week’s episode. It was also noticeably darker, which always pleases me.
Even the incidental music didn’t annoy me this week because, while it still got lathered-up in frenzied crescendo at the drop of a hat, it did so at appropriate moments. Werewolves and kick-boxing monks deserve crescendo. Word.
Tennant is still a little too manic at the moment, but there are enough reflective moments to keep the balance somewhere around the right direction. His Doctor is also beginning to distinguish himself from Eccleston’s in his cheerful insolence; Eccleston had that side to his personality, but Tennant is taking it to quite another level. Perhaps in response Rose has been just that little bit too irreverant so far, but while the “We are not amused” gag wore out its welcome quickly, I must confess it’s just the kind of thing you’d do if you were a time traveller.
The rest was absolutely staple Doctor Who from the mid-seventies. A historical gothic setting with just the right degree of attention paid to the supporting cast and local flavour, and a tone which views historical figures from a post-modern perspective, but still allows them to be psychologically real. Even Rose’s denim outfit reminded me (somewhat appropriately) of Sarah-Jane Smith.
The production values were very solid, and the CGI werewolf wasn’t nearly as bad as the previews led me to believe. While not exactly photo-realistic, neither was it a cartoon. In all but a couple of shots it proved very effective. The sinister kick-boxing Matrix-monks were also a lovely touch; cliched as hell, but that’s what you want from pulp Victorian adventure. Perhaps my main criticism is that the initial shot of them dressed in red doing slow-motion acrobatics looked uncannily like one of those BBC1 idents.
Interesting that we saw another (bad) wolf reference in relation to Rose. I can’t help but wonder if this werewolf is the Big Bad Wolf that Gwen foretold in last season’s Dickensian romp, and therefore is the image which gave Rose the Bad Wolf phrase in the first place. Or is that overthunking the time paradox?
Lastly we got the Torchwood epilogue, which sadly felt the need to make explicit that which was already abundantly clear. This could have been achieved much more elegantly. Still, it’s nice to understand the origins of the group, and I’m intrigued that in its two appearances so far Torchwood has been depicted as hostile to the Doctor.
So overall – entirely unadventurous in every way, but absolutely splendid entertainment.
EDIT: Janet notes that given the choice between Ian Dury and Crossing the Rubicon, it would be Caesar every time.