Written by Russell T Davies
Directed by James Hawes
Broadcast 22nd April 2006
Starring David Tennant
Reviewed by DJ Forrest
“...every full moon the howling rings through the valley. The next morning livestock would be reported ripped apart, devoured.... Sometimes a child goes missing. Once in a generation a boy will vanish from his homestead....
Drawings and wood carvings...it’s not a wolf, it’s more than that, this is a man who becomes an animal.”
As usual the Doctor has plans to land at the Sheffield concert of Ian Drury and the Blockheads in 1979, but as per lands on the Earth in the year 1879 in Scotland. The instant he steps from the TARDIS with Rose, he’s staring up the barrel of a gun. The Queen of England, Queen Victoria is making her way by coach, after a fallen tree on the line had forced her from the train to travel by hoof to her Balmoral lodgings. On the way, with her new travelling companions, Rose and the Doctor, the party take rest at Torchwood House Estate, run by the MacLeish family.
The son of the late George MacLeish is nothing like his father, and having had his home taken over by the Brethren of the Glen of St Catherine some days earlier, with the arrival of something scary in a crate, taken down to the cellar, where the rest of the staff, including Lady Isobel MacLeish are being held hostage, tries to suggest that the Queen continue on her journey, and not rest. But it’s a long journey for anyone in a horse drawn carriage, and so the Queen settles down for the night.
The staff now comprised of the Brethren from the monastery in the Glen of St Catherine. Father Angelus took the role of the butler, and served the meals to the guests around the table. Rose of course, dressed in a t-shirt and dungaree shorts was advised to dress in something less ‘naked’, and was unaware of the dangers unfolding at the table.
Queen Victoria knew of the Torchwood House Estate as her late husband had been a friend of the late great George MacLeish, together the pair were always talking about the legends of the time – werewolves. Sir George MacLeish had created a telescope he called Endeavour, using money sent to him from the late Prince Albert, it was not for star gazing as the Doctor later found out!
With the Queen for safe keeping, was the Koh-i-nor, a large diamond that had been 40 times larger but every year was sent to Haley & Carew to be cut, as the shine wasn’t quite right. This was proven in the Great Exhibition in London, when the diamond was on display, it proved unpopular with visitors as it didn’t sparkle as the light shone upon it.
As the dinner party continued to talk about werewolves, Father Angelus began to chant in Latin. The young laird felt uncomfortable talking about the creature, aware of what it could do to his wife and staff in the cellar, as the brethren continued to pray to the moon.
Rose peered through the wardrobes at the array of Victorian clothing that hung from the hangers. She held a few against her as she stared at herself in the mirror. Opening another wardrobe she stepped back startled. Flora MacDonald’s hiding place had been uncovered. The young housemaid told Rose about the goings on in the house and how she hid – afraid. Rose told her that the Doctor would help her out. But on the way to locating the Doctor, both were taken hostage, after finding the Queen’s men asleep on the ground, after drinking a sleeping draft, laced with mistletoe.
The Doctor realised at this point that the tales of the werewolf were far from myth and as Angelus began to chant while staring at the moon, felt that the tales of the wolf and the brethren were possibly closer than the glen. The Captain protecting the queen was struck down by Angelus as he attempted to overpower the monk, the Doctor ran in search of Rose, the Queen dealt with Angelus, travelling nowhere without a gun these days!
Downstairs in the cellar Rose saw that the creature was a boy, sitting quietly within the confines of the crate, but his eyes were as black as coals. There were no whites of the eyes. She showed little fear as she edged closer towards him enquiring after his origin and which planet he originated from. The boy detected the ‘wolf’ in her, a continued reference to the ‘bad wolf’ link that follows Rose everywhere across the universe.
As the double doors were pulled open and the moon gained access to the room, the boy began to transform into the beast. Aware that every person in the room was in danger as the boy began to change, Rose instructed everyone, including Lady Isobel to pull on the chains that would loosen the link on the wall and free them. Just as the wolf ripped open the crate, so did the staff with Rose, break free of their shackles. The Doctor entered the cellar finally locating Rose and stared in wonder and awe at the werewolf in all its glory.
The chained staff with the Doctor and Rose ran back through the house putting a distance between them, the men folk found weapons and fired them at the creature, but nothing but a silver bullet would calm the beast that night, despite the bravado of one of the staff, who was lifted off his feet and devoured.
Robert MacLeish upon finding his wife, kissed and embraced her, but there was no time to lose. The Queen had to be protected at all costs. Isobel and the house maids went to the kitchens, where they tried to escape out into the grounds, but the doors were closed and sentries with mistletoe around their necks, and rifles in their arms prevented anyone leaving the house. The same was discovered by the Doctor and party as they made their way up the wooden staircase to the next row of rooms, all exits were blocked and any attempts to escape were fired upon.
The wolf made his way through the house, locating the kitchens; the staff huddled around Lady Isobel who clutched her ‘family’ to her. But the wolf took one sniff in the room and left. Confused Lady Isobel looked about the room and noticed mistletoe had been chopped and leaves lay on the ground with stems. She instructed the maids to gather every last scrap and set about making up a large bucket of potion.
In the library, the Doctor discovered that all rooms were coated with a viscous substance, giving it a lick he discovered it was the oil of the mistletoe, which for some reason the wolf was allergic to. Blocking all access for the wolf to gain entry the Doctor knew they needed weapons to fight back with, Robert MacLeish could see no weapons in the library, but the Doctor sarcastic as ever could see that this MacLeish wasn’t gifted with the brains like his father. Books! Books are the weapons here! Arm yourself!
In the books they discovered that a meteor had crashed to Earth in the glen of St Catherine, and a strange creature had been discovered. The late Great George MacLeish had also discovered that prior to the meteor crashing to Earth that the brethren were a good bunch of monks, but when the meteor came to earth, they began to turn away from God and worship the Wolf.
Over the centuries a boy would disappear from neighbouring villages and animals would be slaughtered. The monks were waiting for the right alignment of the planets, for the right time for when the Queen would pass by on her way to Balmoral, for them to take the Queen. One bite would be all it would take for the Empire of the Wolf to reign.
Prince Albert knew all about the wolf, and he had worked with Sir George MacLeish in creating the light telescope that would when the diamond was cut exactly right, have the right shine to eliminate the wolf, but as the money ran out and the estate fell into disrepair, and the old man died, along with Prince Albert, this never came to pass.
But the old telescope was still up in the observatory, so this was where the Doctor and his party were headed, especially as since they’d been studying, the wolf had been quiet. As the dust fell from the ceiling above, the glass dome with which the wolf stood upon began to splinter and crack.
Leaving the room with seconds to spare the team ran up the stairs, closely followed by the wolf, but before it could react, it was soaked with the mistletoe which seemed to singe its fur. This gave the team time to reach the observatory, but the wolf soon gained ground. Sir Robert took his last and valiant stand against the wolf, taking a sword down from the coat of arms against the wall.
In the observatory the Doctor who had previously viewed the telescope before sitting down to dinner, urged Rose to help him raise the height of the scope to pick up the glare of the moon. It was heavy work turning the handle, while the queen stared at the door, being charged at by the wolf, desperate to take the queen before it was too late. As the door splintered and opened and the wolf entered, the Doctor slid the diamond he’d previously taken ownership of for the sake of the light telescope and watched as the light from the moon hit it, this in turn caught the wolf and elevated it off the ground, transforming it again, this time with the voice of the boy in the crate. It asked for the Doctor to make the light brighter, ‘send me home’.
The Doctor did this and the wolf howled as it became ghostlike and vanished.
As the light vanished, the queen jolted, as if something had pricked her. She refused to let the Doctor view it, telling him it was merely a prick from the wood splintering. But the Doctor wasn’t wholly convinced that that was the truth, and after being knighted and banished from the Kingdom of Great Britain, never to darken the shores again, which was a little much, considering he’d just saved the Queen’s life, and that of the throne, began to question other members of the royal family throughout the years.
The Werewolf disease was associated with haemophiliacs which the queen, and her son were said to have suffered from, although none of her daughters suffered with it.
As the Doctor left with Rose, the Queen decided that what happened that night would not be talked about again, but that an Institute would be built to protect the Empire, against extra terrestrials and it would be named after the house she’d resided in, a house that her late husband knew about and perhaps in his honour, knowing that his work and that of the late great George MacLeish were done for the sake of the great British Empire. She named it The Torchwood Institute!
We learnt a bit in this episode, we learnt where Torchwood originated, and discovered through research that the name Torchwood actually derives from a tree, or family of trees, the Burseraceae .
We also discovered through research that there’s a website for visiting the fictitious Torchwood House and shows a photo of Wilfred Mott getting married to Lynda Baron. So I wonder if that was to be Donna Noble’s gran?
I love a historical romp through history with a Doctor Who twist!
©BBC Doctor Who 1963