Loups-Garoux proclaims itself in the title: this isn’t just a werewolf story (if it were, it could be called “The Wolf of the Black Isle” or something) but it’s explicitly an exotic werewolf story. It takes going to the faraway jungle for us to see the monster and the black side in ourselves. As the Doctor says, "Even the most advanced civilisations are barely an inch away from primal chaos; you can barely shine a moonbeam between the two." There is a very explicit textual link to Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness. Conrad has been wrongfully accused of a racist and colonialist attitude by many, when the story makes it very clear that 19th century London is as dark and void as the blackest jungle night – it’s just we fail to notice it because of the trappings of civilisation. When those are stripped away, we can see into the wildness within, the primal nature, unrestrained sexuality and appetite. We can see this in Rosa taking the forest spirits into her head: "I can't get to sleep because [the spirits] are in my head doing wild, crazy dances. All the trees and the birds and the animals shaking the ground..." the jungle, the Other, is what we fear will transform us and show us what’s inside. “It waxes and wanes in all of us.” We are the monsters.
"Wits are like claws, you have to keep them sharp." Strickson plays tipsy Turlough marvellously.
"An awakening should be a precious, sacred moment."
“Will you dance for me, magistrate? Shall I set the whole of Cologne dancing to my tune?" Stubbe sounds like a demented Pied Piper of Hamelin here.
"Never absolve me! I can never rest, never! I stalk the earth for eternity!"
"This city starts to smell of death."
The Fifth Doctor taking snaps for tourists is amazing! I really love that he and Turlough are just chilling at a carnival together. It gives them a nice relaxed dynamic and in their early scenes their chemistry is excellent.
"A lot of things, I suppose" is what the Doctor claims he really wants, and implies he hasn't found it yet.
"I thought we were tourists!"/"yes, I suppose you could look at it like that." The Doctor, the great tourist of the universe.
"When you've studied humans as long as I have, it's hard not to find them somewhat endearing."
"It's amazing what they can do with computer graphics these days." Nice one, very knowing.
"Nasty thoughts are like buses, Turlough. You don't get one for ages and then a whole army come along together."
"Ancient. A scent like stillness. Like coming snow. No, no, like breaking ice on the rivers in spring. The scent after the lightning, before the thunder. Or fields after rain and the oldest forests, under the dark fir trees. Almost unearthly." It seems like this'll be the werewolf and yet it's the Doctor: a rather nice touch. Later, the Doctor "reeks of death" according to Ileana. He is "strange, a maverick. I tried to look into his mind, but he shook off my thoughts like raindrops."
The Grey One as a creepy rival for Ileana's affections; the twist that he sent her Choudhry's head has the same gleeful sickness to it as much of Ghost Light, as does the fact that Juro's body has been strung up with the other meat in the kitchen. Deliciously dark.
"The future will find me when it's hungry."
The British Rail privatisation joke is a lovely touch. Very much still the anti-Thatcher Who of the 80s.
"His mother's too strict with him. It's no good trying to stifle his natural instincts. That's what's led to all this trouble in the first place." - so McCoy-era. Sexuality as a dangerous force. Yet the Hinchcliffe influence is strong - surely Jorge and Lichtfuss are a sly Jago and Lightfoot gag?
"It's the very curse of my long, long existence." There is a melancholia in this that recalls Magrs, but with considerably more trappings of the horror genre.
"Poor Victor has no light left. He's all instinct. Like the dust, the shadows of the past lengthen around us."
"Time is my business. Well, one of my businesses."
The summer of 1812: Ileana's background is beautifully told. It makes the story rich, expansive, and vast.
Tiny gaffe: the sound fx for Stubbe's call to Hayashi sound dated now, let alone for 2080. Maybe they go down the retro route in the future.
The tension once Victor enters the carriage is unbearable and terrifically well done, while the transformation of Ileana is terrifying and a great cliffhanger.
Dissuading Ileana out of her wolfishness is, like the twisted love story in Venice, a bit of a new series moment.
"Like tomato sauce, money also covers a multitude of sins."
Platt eventually weaves Rosa into the plot in a nice and natural manner, and her scenes with Turlough are good. Her calling him a "yerpi-boy"and asking questions about Europe are lovely touches; and the moment when he overhears her describing him as her boyfriend into her com is great too.
Like Magrs, there's a wide literary canon being invoked. Heart of Darkness as mentioned already, but the Doctor also quotes Cleopatra from Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra ("I am fire and air; my other elements I give to baser life.") and paraphrases one of Antony's repeated lines from Julius Caesar. There's the obvious nod to Little Red Riding Hood (complete with Rosa/Red), but we also get an Alice in Wonderland reference, too.
"Exactly how old are you, Doctor?"/"that's a question I usually ignore. They say I'm a lot younger than I used to be." Neat.
"Where I come from, the forests are three times as tall. The leaves are all thick fleshy plates and you can walk on them in spirals right up to the top of the canopy. All mauves and purples, with blood-red trunks. And after winter, when the suns first get warm, there are swarms of moths. They've got wings like cut sapphires and they blot out the white sky like glittering blue smoke. Maybe it is [in my head]... But it's a lot better than anything I've seen in your real world." Thank god, Platt characterises Turlough so well and this lyrical and heartfelt description of Trion is one of the best companion speeches ever, period. This is such an important story for him and Strickson is clearly having a whale of a time.
Stubbe: "I am the oldest of the first-born, spawned out of the slime after the deluge. Time's byways are mine to prowl and hunt, and all other wolves are my progeny!"
"I might be too spicy for your jaded palate!"
I really really like that the werewolves call humans cut-claws.
Ileana's love for Victor is enough. She cannot force any love for Stubbe. Such bestial, passionate love needs to be faced, confronted but not completely and utterly such that it subsumes the self.
The gruesome fate of Hayashi is terrifying –though it can be necessary to give into one’s instincts (e.g. to run) it’s also dangerous. Creativity, vitality, the voices in one's head, these are all admirable things but things one must control.
"You, Doctor, tear off that pious mask and let's see the dark side of your nature!"
"You're monsters! All of you, monsters!"
Rosa as inversion of Susan, maybe? With the whole grandfather thing. "You'd make a good grandpa, too." Appropriately enough for a story about sexuality this takes us right back to the enigma of the Doctor's own origins and offspring, significantly from the man who wrote Lungbarrow. But she's textually associated with companionhood, too, both when the Doctor refers to how companions always run off and when Platt cuts the scene between Turlough saying the Doctor is very particular about who he travels with straight to the Doctor and Rosa facing down hungry wolves.
I love it when the Doctor mixes his metaphors - "altitude is the thorn in his Achilles' paw."
Stubbe is "possibly the most deadly individual this planet has ever produced".
Silver: the "metal of the moon"
The TARDIS: "Once you get used to it, it seems like the only reality." The Doctor suggests "perhaps it's my reality". Turlough speaks eloquently and passionately about it: "while the outside's always changing, some of us are lucky enough to be allowed in here, looking out through a door that's never in the same place twice."
"Like in my head... What's inside is bigger than what's outside."
Turlough and the Doctor make for great banter, particularly when he teases him about "looking the part" for his date. Five snaps back, "it's not the end of term dance!"
Rosa on the TARDIS: "there's light, too, all around me... The walls in this place are all made of moons. Suppose there's other spirits outside the forest." There's something unbearably sad about her constant messages to her grandfather.
The use of the K9 dog whistle is absolutely inspired.
The implication that these age-old werewolves devoured the Grand Duchess Anastasia and Lord Lucan: there's a real Spike and Drusilla vibe to Ileana and Pieter.
Serious Five: "Pieter Stubbe, when I challenge you you'll have the decency to stay and face me."
Stubbe accuses the Doctor of being illusion, not of our real world. The real monster.
"Doctor, when you travel, what do you look for?"/"oh, that's easy. I explore possibilities. I look for things I could never imagine. I want to know how they work and perhaps help them work better."
Ileana as wolf-like even before she was taken by Stubbe: it is latent in everyone, all it needs is a nudge. The Doctor refuses to judge her but must turn down the love she wants from him.
"I can't take you. You're tied to the earth, to its old bones. To leave would kill you..." The Doctor cannot say it, but he will never give up the adventuring life, even for her. He sounds hundreds of years old as he sighs, "Perhaps I care too much..."
"The whole world's mine and I'll eat all of it." The ravenousness of our appetites. Yet it must have solidity to feed on, people or food or things. Stubbe cannot function high up in space. Imagination is in a loftier plane, one where such atavism cannot fully live out its ways.
"You can't devour it all, Pieter. The earth's bigger than you are. Perhaps you've had your fill."
And Pieter must follow the path, the straight and narrow path. We cannot fully give ourselves over to the animals in us.
Turlough and Rosa have such a heartbreaking goodbye. Yerpi-boy and jaguar-girl. This show loves its odd couples!
"I do like to find things I thought were never possible."
And how beautiful that the Doctor and Ileana’s farewell revolves around fable and faerie, in a story which sees imagination championed over base desire:
"The winter wolf died, but the woman had a cub and when the year grew old he left her snowy home and drove away the aged brown wolf of summer... And so it goes in endless terms, year after year...without him” – and beautiful too that Turlough cannot see it (rather like the Doctor and River in The Name of the Doctor).