Tuesday, September 18, 2012
The story centers around a group of mostly benign werewolves in Rio who are led by the matriarchal Ileana. Her son Victor (whose father was human) is "ill" (caught somewhere between human and wolf) and Ileana has hired the nefarious Dr. Hayashi to treat him. Suddenly, Ileana receives word from old flame Peter Stubbe and they all flee in terror of this sort of "King Werewolf". Henson is just tremendous as Stubbe. You can easily call his performance over-the-top, but I think he just nails it. He just exudes power, ancientness, and confidence in his voice. You can feel how amused he is by the fact that his beloved has the effrontery to run away from him, and have some "pups" around her for protection. Stubbe is both terrifying and charming and always seems to be laughing at all the other characters who he doesn't take seriously.
Of course the Doctor and Turlough get swept up in the events. Turlough gets a lot of good exploration in this story. When a few of the wolves prank Turlough with the "mirror trick" Turlough, rightfully is terrified, and it's fitting to think of Turlough being scared of seeing his darker side given his introductory role in the show as the villainous, potentially murderous companion. When he flees the train and meets Rosa, these quiet scenes between the two are really quite lovely. It's certainly implied by the story that they had quite a romantic night together, which is the sort of thing that they would never try on the classic series.
The story becomes a lot of fun once Ileana chooses the Doctor as her "champion" against Stubbe. The Doctor's horror when he realizes the full implications of what being her champion would entail is pretty amusing. I also really enjoy the way the Doctor defeats Stubbe, by physically removing his connection to the Earth. The lore Platt builds up for these wolves is pretty fascinating in general, from their connection to nature, and their manipulation of human perceptions. The performances are generally very good. I already mentioned Henson, but Bron really gives it her all too, and is quite committed even when making snarly growls as she threatens to transform at one point in the play. I'm not sure if I can listen to Kwouk and not think of him as Cato, so you'll forgive me for finding the scene where the wolves hunt him as hysterically funny.
After the run of McGann stories (which ended with a thud) it's great to hear the 5th Doctor and Turlough again. Sadly, it would be a while before Mark Strickson would return, but this story does more with his character than perhaps any other. Davison is of course teriffic here as always. I like the lore of these werewolves, and find it more interesting than the alien invader wolf we went on to meet in (the excellent) "Tooth and Claw".