“Tooth and Claw” contains one of my favorite geeky tropes: werewolves. I should probably blame watching Van Helsing a few too many times when I was a kid, but I’ve always been irrationally fond of any plot arc involving lycanthropy. As an added bonus, this episode also involved David Tennant speaking in his (authentically charming but unintelligible) Scottish accent, and Queen Victoria being hardcore. We were very much amused.
There’s a particular moment in this episode that I feel is an accurate summary of how the Doctor looks at the universe at large. He charges into a cellar to rescue Rose and company from where they’re being held captive, only to come face-to-face with the huge, newly-transformed werewolf. Instead of recoiling in horror or simply running for his life, he stops in his tracks to just look at it in awe. “Oh, you’re beautiful — ” he manages to tell it before Rose seizes his hand and his sense of self-preservation kicks in.
When the Doctor encounters a new monster, his initial reaction is almost always curiosity and joy. There’s something pretty wonderful about the ability to look at something ugly or scary and appreciate its novelty, or even see something beautiful about the way it’s made. He doesn’t immediately pass judgement or jump to conclusions about unknown creatures, but seeks to understand them and find out as much about them as he can.
I may be biased, as I’ve got a similar streak in my own personality. In my wildlife science classes I often gravitate towards conventionally unappealing animals — wild boar, hyenas, cicadas, vultures — simply because they are bizarre, and it charms me. I am constantly reminded that the natural world is not a safe, sanitary and cuddly place. It keeps you on your toes and fills you with a sense of wonder, even if that wonder is sometimes mixed with a bit of confusion or fear.
The Doctor understands this, and I think it’s one of his major strengths as a person. At 900 years old, the fact that he still gets excited over encountering something unexpected and new is reassuring for everybody, and further proof that, even for a Time Lord, the world is just awesome.