Tooth and Claw opens in nineteenth century Scotland, where a bunch of royals get attacked by a group of monks who know wire fu. Is it good wire fu? No. But it’s odd enough to get one interested and then it’s only a few minutes before David Tennant and Billie Piper find themselves in the same castle as guests of Queen Victoria (Pauline Collins).
Tennant and Piper have stumbled onto a very complicated, very elaborate plan to attack Collins and they’ve got to contend with the wire fu fighter monks as well as the giant werewolf they’ve brought with them.
There’s a number of solid action chase sequences—director Euros Lyn does an excellent job keeping up the tension and making the werewolf, which is CGI and fake but in the right way fake, a constant threat.
See, the monks, led by Ian Hanmore, have got lord Derek Riddell’s whole household held hostage in the basement with the werewolf—the human part played by Tom Smith, who isn’t exactly all human because there’s this whole “werewolves are from outer space” thing. It’s complicated as well though. Russell T. Davies’s script never dwells too long on it and it passes fine because there’s enough suspense and action.
So while Riddell’s trying to convince Collins and Tennant there’s nothing wrong—with Tennant getting more and more suspicious—Piper finds herself in the basement with Smith and the lady of the house, Michelle Duncan.
Adding to the aforementioned successes of suspense and action are the characterizations and performances. Collins is great as the Queen, who’s very much a thoughtful leader in a crisis situation. Collins plays the part with resolve and humor. And then Duncan’s absolutely awesome, discovering some of the werewolf’s weaknesses—it’s kind of like Die Hard in a manor house with a werewolf as Alexander Godunov—while rallying all the other “helpless” womenfolk.
And the ending’s got a rather neat, albeit downbeat, twist.