This episode begins with one of the most memorable sequences of any Doctor Who series. A group of monks enters the courtyard of a Scottish manor house and, with a burst of excellent martial artistry, rounds up everyone in the cellar and shows them something in a cage. A scream leads into the credit sequence.
The Doctor and “his timorous beastie” (Rose) arrive in Balmoral, Scotland in 1879, after meaning to go to 1979. They meet Queen Victoria and join her on the road to a nearby manor—the same house which has been taken over by the crazy monks. This house turns out to be the Torchwood Estate. Rose, who is altogether inappropriately clothed as far as the attire of the era is concerned, discovers a maid hiding in a closet and is quickly silenced by the monks posing as wait-staff. She and the maid find themselves in the cellar with a caged, hooded figure with deep, black eyes. Meanwhile, Sir Robert, the lord of the manor, tells wolf stories of the surrounding region. It has something to do with the creature in the cellar. He is some kind of alien parasite (a lupine wavelength hemoveriform) who seeks to bite Queen Victoria and begin the Kingdom of the Wolf, having taken possession of her body and soul.
The monks release the beast, now in wolf form, and it rampages about the castle in search of the Queen, killing anyone in its path. They figure out in “the greatest arsenal [they] have”—the library of the Torchwood estate—that the wolf seeks to accelerate the Victorian empire, with missiles powered by coal and steam (a bit of steampunk, hinted at…). The telescope at the Torchwood estate is a “trap within a trap” for the wolf—it is filled with prisms, a moon-powered laser which takes out the wolf at the last moment.
This episode certainly boasts a great humor, palpable tension, and solid scares. The episode is peppered with Davies’ characteristic wit. While figuring out what is going on, Rose and the Doctor make a bet that she can get the queen to say, “We are not amused.” It is certainly an amusing experience watching Rose try and wrangle the words out of Her Majesty. We also see David Tennant’s natural Scottish accent come out as he “disguises” himself as a Scotsman. I greatly enjoyed this one.
The Doctor: Oh, I’m dazed and confused. I’ve been chasing this wee naked child over hill and over dale. Isn’t that right, you… tim’rous beastie?
Rose Tyler: [after meeting Queen Victoria] I wanted to hear her say, “We are not amused.” Bet you five quid I can get her to say it.
The Doctor: Taking that bet would be an abuse of my responsibilities as a traveller in time.
Rose Tyler: Ten quid?
The Doctor: Done.