Tom Baker as Doctor Who

Tom Baker as Doctor Who

Sunday, 2 April 2017

453 The Talons of Weng-Chiang: Part Six

EPISODE: The Talons of Weng-Chiang: Part Six
OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 453
STORY NUMBER: 091
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 02 April 1977
WRITER: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: David Maloney
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 9.3 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: Revisitations 1: The Talons Of Weng-Chiang, The Caves Of Androzani & Doctor Who - The Movie

"Let the talons of Weng-Chiang shred your flesh!"

Leela is overcome by "Weng Chiang's" chloroform. He speaks with the Doctor who uses the Trionic lattice to bargain with him for him to be taken to the House of the Dragon so that Jago & Litefoot can be released. A recovering Leela follows them. When they arrive the Doctor tells "Weng Chiang" that he has been to his time, and gets him to admit that he is Magnus Greel, the butcher of Brisbane. The Doctor tells him his experiments were a failure. He is reunited with his friends but Mr Sin attacks them with a laser cannon hidden in a statue and they are imprisoned. Greel uses the retrieved Trionic lattice to reactivate the time cabinet. Leela attacks Greel but she too is captured and placed into the chamber Greel uses to absorb life force. Using a sabotaged gas pipe the Doctor creates an explosion allowing Jago, Litefoot & himself to escape. The Doctor rescues Leela from the machine, but Mr Sin opens fire on them again. Greel is shot at by Sin and ends up being thrown into the machine by the Doctor & drained. Mr Sin attacks them but is overpowered by the Doctor and deactivated. He then destroys the Trionic lattice rendering the Time Cabinet useless & no further threat. The Doctor & Leela take leave of Jago & Litefoot who watch them enter the Tardis & dematerialise.

LITEFOOT: I don't believe it!
JAGO: I've said it before and I'll say it again. Our policemen are wonderful.
LITEFOOT: But it's impossible, Henry. Quite impossible.
JAGO: Good trick, eh? I venture the great Li H'sen Chang himself would have appreciated that.
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Oh look, there's the Doctor turning his pockets out *AGAIN* at the start of the episode. Seen that routine a couple of times now!

The Doctor FINALLY finds out who his foe really is:

WENG: How can you understand the functions of a catalytic extraction chamber, Doctor? Part of a technology far beyond your time.
DOCTOR: Simple old-fashioned cannibalism. That machine just saves you having to chew the grisly bits.
WENG: Much more than that. The secret of life.
DOCTOR: Bunkum. Your so-called technology is the twisted lunacy of a scientific dark age.
WENG: What do you know of my time?
DOCTOR: Everything. Where is it?
WENG: What?
DOCTOR: Your pig-faced, pig-brained Peking Homunculus.
WENG: You know of that? How?
DOCTOR: I was with the Filipino army at the final advance on Reykjavik.
WENG: How can you in the nineteenth century know anything of the fifty first? You lie!
DOCTOR: Listen. What's your name? What were you called before you became a Chinese god?
WENG: I am Magnus Greel!
DOCTOR: Oh, yes, the infamous Minister of Justice. The Butcher of Brisbane. WENG: It is impossible for you to know these things!
DOCTOR: I know you're a wanted criminal and that a hundred thousand deaths can be laid at your door.
WENG: Enemies of the state! They were used in the advancements of science.
DOCTOR: They were slaughtered in your filthy machine.
WENG: So, you are from the future, and I, for all my achievements, are only remembered as a war criminal. Of course, it is the winning side that writes history, Doctor. Remember, you would not be here if it were not for my work.
DOCTOR: Your work? Your work?
WENG: Yes! I made this possible. I found the resources, the scientists
DOCTOR: The zigma experiments came to nothing. They were a failure. Nothing came of them.
WENG: No! No, they were a success! Why, I used them to escape from my enemies. The first man to travel through time.
DOCTOR: Hmm. Look what it did to you.
WENG: A temporal distortion of my metabolism. It can be readjusted.
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Now he's in possession of both key and time capsule he can reactivate them.

WENG: Perfect. Perfect. After all these years the function is unimpaired. Everything exactly as it was. The parallax synchrons fully charged, the strata tube set at maximum. He was wrong! Wrong! The zigma experiment was a success!
Unfortunately he's not listened to the Doctor's warnings.

Mind you it appears he's not the only one to go insane this episode.

The Dragon statue has been a magnificent centrepiece to the set for the last couple of episodes. The moment you see Sin climb into a cockpit inside it, the dragon's eyes start glowing and the various characters being followed in a heads up display you'll have an inkling of what might be about to happen!

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Let me see if I get this straight:

WENG: Why don't you come down from there? Sulking because I wouldn't let you kill the Doctor, is that it? Oh, you can kill him soon enough, Sin, but first I must drain every scintilla of his knowledge about the zigma experiment. You can kill him then, and as many more as you wish before we leave.
Mr Sin, because Greel won't let him kill the Doctor, suddenly looses it and opens fire on everyone? What?

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He's instructed to kill the Doctor and friends:

WENG: Kill, Sin! Kill them!
Yes there's been hints he might be a bit unstable but this is a huge dive off the deep end, especially when he mows down all of Weng Chiang's followers.

His boss however, well maybe there's some explanation behind that as he overhears Magnus Greel's exchange with the Doctor:

WENG: I can escape you, Doctor, as I escaped my enemies before.
DOCTOR: Greel, listen. If you activate the zigma beam, it'll be certain death for all of us.
WENG: Lies, Doctor.
DOCTOR: Listen, Greel! Greel, listen! The zigma beam is at full stretch. If you trigger it again, it'll mean certain collapse. You know what that means?
WENG: You can't fool me.
DOCTOR: There'll be a huge implosion, Greel, and you'll be at the centre of it. The zigma experiments were a disaster!
WENG: No, no, the zigma experiment was a success! A brilliant, total success!
And maybe it's a hint of self preservation that has him turn on his master?
WENG: Sin, Sin, what are you doing? I order you to. No, no, not me. This is mutiny, Sin.
Not that it helps him in the long run with first Leela shooting him through the dragon statue and then the Doctor ripping out his fuse.

It's a good episode for Leela with helping to rescue the Doctor and getting to attack her foe:

LEELA: Die, bent face!
WENG: No, spare me, please!
LEELA: Spawn of evil. Now I destroy you!
WENG: The second time! The second attempt on my life by this she-devil! Hold her still! No. No, I have a better fate for you. She will be the first morsel to feed my regeneration.
LEELA: Kill me any way you wish. Unlike you, I am not afraid to die.
WENG: We shall see. Bring the tigress here.
WENG: At my camps, the extraction process was considered the most painful of all. They pleaded for anything but this.
LEELA: I shall not plead, but I promise you this. When we are both in the great hereafter, I shall hunt you down, Bent Face, and put you through my agony a thousand times!
WENG: Silence the spitfire!
Correct me if I'm wrong, doesn't the Doctor throw Greel into the machine which drains his life energy? A bit bloodthirsty for the Doctor. There again the Doctor was probably not expecting that to happen because not five minutes earlier he threw an axe at the machine, seemingly crippling it and allowing him to rescue Leela. Yeah that's a little bit of a mess and a rush, obviously hoping we'll look the other way while the action happens.

Talons of Weng Chiang is a huge fan favourite story. Even Liz loves it, barring the casting of an English actor John Bennett as the lead Chinese character Li H'sen Chang and *that* Giant Rat, which I don't mind. However the story has never really grabbed and watching it again episodically I'm still not feeling any great love for it.

This completes three years of Tom Baker as Doctor Who taking him past, in terms of time, William Hartnell & Patrick Troughton's tenures as the Doctor. Jon Pertwee did five years but at the moment all three are ahead of Tom in terms of episodes.

This story is the last for two members of the behind the scenes personnel. Producer Philip Hinchcliffe leaves as of the end of this story, bound for the troubled new series Target. Target's creator, and intended producer, Graham Williams moves the other way becoming the producer of Doctor Who alongside Robert Holmes, who had intended to depart the script editor's role but was persuaded to stay on.

Robert Holmes had originally planned that Robert Banks-Stewart, writer of Terror of the Zygons & Seeds of Doom, would write the final story of this season which was commissioned under the title "The Foe From The Future". Banks-Stewart was then offered the Script editor's job on Thames' series Armchair Thriller which meant he was unable to script this story leaving Holmes to write his second story of the season. By this point it became known that Philip Hinchcliffe would be leaving the programme, so he encouraged Holmes to write whatever he wanted and then directed the departments involved in making the story to ignore the usual budgetary restraints. Consequently although the story went over budget it produced something that looks superior to many of the tales produced at the same time.

It's also the last story directed by David Maloney, who'd been involved with the series since Patrick Troughton's last year directing The Mind Robber, The Krotons, The War Games, Planet of the Daleks, Genesis of the Daleks, Planet of Evil & The Deadly Assassin before this. He went on to produce and direct for the BBC's new science fiction series Blake's 7 and produced the BBC version of Day of the Triffids. He died in 2006 aged 72.

The making of this story was covered by a documentary called Whose Doctor Who which included a number of clips from older stories. Bar Blue Peter slots, this was the first dedicated program to look at the series and how it was made. It's available with this story in Doctor Who: Revisitations Box Set - Volume 1.

Talons of Weng Chiang ends the 14th (1976/7) season of Doctor Who. During the summer one story from it, The Deadly Assassin, was repeated on Thursdays from 4 to 25 August at 6:20pm.

Talons of Weng Chiang was novelised in a rather slim volume by Terrance Dicks. The local library didn't have it so my first encounter with it came courtesy of a mobile library in Kingston. It was first released on video a compilation volume in Australia in April 1987 and then in the UK in 1988, which I received as a Christmas present one year. It's one of three stories that were released as a compilation video not to have an episodic release: the other two are the Seeds of Death & The Time Warrior. It was first released on DVD on 28th April 2003 and was re-released on 4th October 2010 as part of Doctor Who: Revisitations Box Set - Volume 1 with The Caves Of Androzani and Doctor Who - The Movie.

Forty Years Of Tom Baker's Doctor will return on Sunday 3rd September 2017 for Horror of Fang Rock: Part One!

Sunday, 26 March 2017

452 Talons of Weng-Chiang: Part Five

EPISODE: The Talons of Weng-Chiang: Part Five
OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 452
STORY NUMBER: 091
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 26 March 1977
WRITER: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: David Maloney
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 10.1 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: Revisitations 1: The Talons Of Weng-Chiang, The Caves Of Androzani & Doctor Who - The Movie

"Liberation, Mister Sin! Freedom! I can become whole again. Whole and alive! Oh, how I have dreamt of this moment. To be free of this putrefying carcass, to fashion myself anew in some distant time and place. And I can do it now, now that at last I have the time cabinet. I promise you, Mister Sin, we shall not remain long among these filthy barbarians."

Returning to Litefoot's house, the Doctor & Leela find that the time cabinet has gone. Finding the empty laundry basket the Doctor works out that it was Chang's "dummy" that let the Chinese men in and that is actually a device called the Peking Homunculus from the 51st century. "Weng Chiang" is pleased to have regained the cabinet but becomes furious when he realises his servants have forgotten the bag containing the key when they moved him from the theatre! The Doctor attempts to trace the cabinet back to the laundry, fearing it's use will cause a massive explosion. Jago finds the missing bag and goes to find the Doctor at Litefoot's house. In the laundry the Doctor & Leela discover the dying Chang, missing his leg and high on opium. He tells them that Weng Chiang can be found at "The House of the Dragon". Jago & Litefoot follow Chinese men searching the Palace Theatre but are taken prisoner by them, revealing to "Weng Chiang" that the bag is at Litefoot's house. The Doctor returns to find them gone and a note left for them. In the bag he finds a Trionic Lattice, the key to the Time Cabinet. They wait in the house for Weng Chiang to collect the key. Jago & Litefoot attempt escape but are recaptured. "Weng Chiang" breaks into Litefoot's house, but is unmasked by Leela revealing a hideously deformed face.

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For what's considered one of Robert Holmes and Doctor Who's great pairing it's taken FIVE whole episodes for Jago and Litefoot to actually to meet!

JAGO: Thank you. Kindly tell your employer that Mister Jago wishes to see him urgently.
LITEFOOT: What?
JAGO: Your employer, Professor Litefoot. Come along, man. Hurry. Chop-chop.
LITEFOOT: May I ask, sir, who you are?
JAGO: Confound your insolence, sir. Just announce me.
LITEFOOT: Consider yourself announced, sir. I'm Litefoot.
JAGO: Why, dash me optics. I should have realised. That brow, those hands. England's peerless premier professor of pathology. Henry Gordon Jago, sir, at your service.
LITEFOOT: Mister Jago, just tell me what all this is about.
JAGO: The Doctor.
LITEFOOT: What?
JAGO: This bag.
LITEFOOT: Eh?
JAGO: Shall we go inside?
We'll forgive Jago for mistaking Litefoot as his butler: he is wearing an apron and carrying a dustpan at the time!
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JAGO: Found this in my cellar. Thought the Doctor might be interested. It could have something to do with those Chineses.
LITEFOOT: Chinese?
JAGO: Yes. I had thought of communicating directly with Scotland Yard, where as you know he's held in the highest esteem.
LITEFOOT: The Doctor is?
JAGO: Oh yes, of course. It's my opinion he solves half their cases and then lets them take the credit for it, don't you agree?
LITEFOOT: I have no idea.
JAGO: Oh, why, it stands to reason. I mean, they're policemen. We all know they're solid, sterling, fellows, but their buttons are the brightest thing about them, don't you agree? Now, the Doctor's a real detective.
LITEFOOT: Yes, he's certainly very active. How did you learn of my connection with him, Mister Jago?
JAGO: Well, I enquired at the local station and they told me you'd been seen together. The most formidable combination in the annals of criminology. It's a great honour and privilege for me to be working with you on this devilish affair.
LITEFOOT: Oh, well, thank you. Yes, well, I'm sure the Doctor will be very interested in these things. Unfortunately, he isn't here at present.
JAGO: I know, the sleuth that never rests, eh?
LITEFOOT: Well, he did remark that sleep is for tortoises. You know, Mister Jago, I can't for the life of me discern what purposes these articles might serve.
JAGO: It's a queer lot of paraphernalia. I thought so meself.
LITEFOOT: And you think they were set aside by Weng-Chiang, this murderous lunatic the Doctor is now hunting?
JAGO: Well, they're nothing to do with the theatre, I'm sure of that. I found the bag amongst a pile of our old junk.
LITEFOOT: In that case, Mister Jago, is it not possible that someone plans to return for it?
JAGO: Yes, yes, good point. We must tell the Doctor.
LITEFOOT: Or take a hand ourselves.
JAGO: Why?
LITEFOOT: Well, the Doctor isn't here. If you and I keep a discreet watch on the theatre, we might get a chance to nab this fellow, should he return.
JAGO: You're suggesting a pernoctation, Professor, but alas, unfortunately the nocturnal vapours are very bad for my chest.
LITEFOOT: Oh, come on, man, you can wrap up. I'll lend you some extra clothing.
JAGO: Very kind, I'm sure.
LITEFOOT: Now, you write a note to the Doctor, you'll find pen and paper in that drawer, and I'll look you out a cape. We might be lucky, Mister Jago. And if we are, I've a few lumps to repay.
There's quite a bit of filler here. Weng Chiang's got his box back but to prevent him using it the key's been lost, left in the bag that Litefoot's found!

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WENG: Liberation, Mister Sin! Freedom! I can become whole again. Whole and alive! Oh, how I have dreamt of this moment. To be free of this putrefying carcass, to fashion myself anew in some distant time and place. And I can do it now, now that at last I have the time cabinet. I promise you, Mister Sin, we shall not remain long among these filthy barbarians. But where is the bag? Answer me, you fools! Where is the bag?
HO: It was. We did not.
WENG: The bag, you cowering oaf!
HO: It was left behind, great lord.
WENG: What? What! Lee! Lee, I told you to take it out to the carriage! I ordered you! You know the penalty for failing me? Take the sting of the scorpion!
Then there's the sequence towards the end of the episode where Litefoot & Jago plan their escape, spend some time executing it and then promptly get recaptured!
LITEFOOT: Dammit, Jago, I don't see any way out of this. I think we're done for.
JAGO: You're forgetting the Doctor, Professor.
LITEFOOT: There's no hope of him finding this place. How can he?
JAGO: Oh, the trained mind. A fleck of mud here, a speck of paint there. Clues that speak volumes to a trained investigator like him. I'll wager he's on our tracks this very minute.
LITEFOOT: I say, Jago, look at this.
JAGO: What of it?
LITEFOOT: Don't you see what it is? It's a dumb waiter!
JAGO: Yes, of course I know that, but frankly I'm not very peckish at the moment. I'm surprised you should think of food at a time like this.
LITEFOOT: My dear man, I'm not thinking of food. I'm thinking that if we take that shelf out and squeeze ourselves in, we can make a surreptitious exit from this establishment via the dining room.
JAGO: By jiminy, you're right! We'll teach those blighters a lesson yet. They picked the wrong man when they decided to cross swords with me.
LITEFOOT: After you, Mister Jago.
JAGO: Oh, those ropes don't look too sound, do they.
LITEFOOT: He that is down need fear no fall.
JAGO: Hmm?
LITEFOOT: A quotation. Bunyan.
JAGO: Ah, very comforting.
JAGO: Mind your elbow, Professor.
LITEFOOT: Sorry.
BOTH: Heave!

JAGO: This isn't the dining room.
LITEFOOT: This isn't the way out, either.

Unexpectedly we run into Li H'sen Chang again!
LEELA: That smell. It's like decaying fruit.
DOCTOR: Papaver somniferum.
LEELA: What?
DOCTOR: Pipe of poppy. It's opium, a narcotic drug. Ah, we've found another warren. Weng-Chiang will show his hand again.
LEELA: More girls?
DOCTOR: Yes. He'll try to build his body levels before he has to use the zigma beam. He'll kill again tonight, but where?
CHANG: At the House of the Dragon, Doctor.
DOCTOR: Good evening, Mister Chang. We thought you'd gone to join your ancestors.
CHANG: Not yet. Not quite.
LEELA: Your leg!
CHANG: A singular sight, I fear. It is too late, Doctor, and I feel no pain. The opium.
LEELA: How did you get away?
CHANG: When the rat took my leg, I regained consciousness in a charnel house, putrefying human remains.
DOCTOR: Yes, rats don't keep a very hygienic larder.
CHANG: I lay there, Doctor, and cursed Weng-Chiang, my benefactor, who had brought me to this fate. Hatred of him gave me the strength to drag myself away. The rats had gone. I came here to destroy the false god. The last act of the Great Chang.
LEELA: You should have done that before.

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CHANG: I believed in him. For many years I believed in him.
DOCTOR: It was a good act, Chang.
CHANG: Until he shamed me. I lost face. The whole theatre saw my failure.
DOCTOR: Tell me about the House of the Dragon.
CHANG: Next month, the Great Chang would have performed before the Queen Empress at Buckingham Palace. I, the son of a peasant.
DOCTOR: The House of the Dragon, where is it?
CHANG: It is his fortress, prepared over many months by the Tong. Beware the eye of the dragon, Doctor.
DOCTOR: Li H'sen, come on. Come on.
CHANG: Soon I shall join my ancestors. Already I can see them. They walk to greet me from the Palace of Jade. They are smiling and carry gifts of food and flowers. Now I cross the golden bridge of the gods.
DOCTOR: Li H'sen! Come on, man, the house.
CHANG: B, B
DOCTOR: What? What?
(Chang reaches down and touches the Doctor's boot, then dies.)
DOCTOR: Boot? Shoe? Spat?
LEELA: Earth?
DOCTOR: He's left us a Chinese puzzle.

One puzzle is solved though during this episode, what Mr Sin is!
DOCTOR: Professor, how did they get in?
LITEFOOT: I've, I've no idea. I locked and bolted all the doors as soon as you left. Thank you, my dear.
DOCTOR: Were they all Chinese?
LITEFOOT: Tong-wallahs. Criminals. The gutter scrapings of Shanghai.
DOCTOR: And one midget.
LITEFOOT: Yes. My dear Doctor, how on Earth did you deduce that one of my attackers was a midget?
DOCTOR: Elementary, my dear Litefoot. He came in the laundry basket and let the others in.
LEELA: The same creature that attacked me!
DOCTOR: The Peking Homunculus.
LITEFOOT: Who?
DOCTOR: Yes, the time of manufacture, its disappearance, it all fits.
LEELA: Doctor, what is the Peking
DOCTOR: Homunculus.
LEELA: Homunculus.
DOCTOR: It was made in Peking for the Commissioner of the Icelandic Alliance. It was in the Ice Age, about the year five thousand.
LITEFOOT: Preposterous.
LEELA: Shush. Go on, Doctor.
DOCTOR: The Peking Homunculus was a toy, a plaything for the Commissioner's children. It contained a series of magnetic fields operating on a printed circuit and a small computer. It had one organic component. The cerebral cortex of a pig. Anyway, something went wrong. It almost caused World War Six.
LITEFOOT: What?
DOCTOR: Yes, somehow the pig part took over. So Weng-Chiang has brought the Peking Homunculus back through time. He could have done. It disappeared completely. It was never found.
LITEFOOT: I say, I may have had a bang on the head but this is a dashed queer story. Time travel?
DOCTOR: Unsuccessful time travel, Professor. Findicker's discovery of the double nexus particle sent human science up a technological cul-de-sac.
LITEFOOT: Are you following this?
LEELA: Not a word.
DOCTOR: This pig thing is still alive. It needs an operator, of course, but the mental feedback is so intense that somehow the swinish instinct has become dominant. It hates humanity and it revels in carnage.
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Playing the character still known as "Weng Chiang" is actor Michael Spice who previously voiced Morbius in The Brain of Morbius. He's got a Blake's 7 to his name voicing the Nova Queen Pilot in Star One, which was directed by David Maloney, the director of this story and the producer of Blake's 7.

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Playing Lee, Chang's erstwhile assistant, is Tony Then. Like several of the rest of the cast he'd been in Gangsters, written by Philip Martin, who wrote Doctor Who's Vengeance on Varos and Trial of a Timelord 5-8 Minwarap, and starring Maurice Colbourne. Then played a Triad member there in two episodes. He can be found on the big screen in The Rocky Horror Picture Show where he plays a Transylvanian alongside the bald headed Hugh Cecil, a Technix in the Dalek Masterplan, Stephen Calcutt, a Muto in Genesis of the Daleks, a Mute in The Armageddon Factor, a Marshman in Full Circle and a Tribe member/Snake in Kinda and Henry Woolf, the Collector in the Sunmakers. Also in the Rocky Horror Floor Show Audience is Lewis Alexander, a Senior Army Officer in The War Machines: Episode 3, Ernest Blythe a Coven Member in The Dæmons: Episode Five and Juba Kennerley an Old Man in The Massacre 2: The Sea Beggar. But by far the most famous actor from Rocky Horror to appear in Doctor Who is Patricia_Quinn who plays Magenta, a domestic, in Rocky Horror and Belazs in Dragonfire.

5Li 5m Ho

Weng Chiang's other servant is Ho, played by Vincent Wong. IMDB thinks he's in episode 1 but I'm not able to spot him there. He has previously been a Chinese Delegate in Day of the Daleks episode four and will return as the Chinese Captain in Enlightenment. Like Tony Then he has an appearance as a Triad Member in Gangsters on his CV. He had previous science fiction experience on his CV appearing in Space: 1999 as a Medic in Force of Life & Alpha Child and Toshiro Fujita in Black Sun & End of Eternity. He was Mr. Kamikaze Monty Python's Flying Circus How to Recognise Different Parts of the Body, a Japanese Tourist in The Sweeney episode Supersnout, two roles in The Professionals as a Kidnapper in Take Away, directed by Doctor Who's Douglas Camfield, and Colonel Lin Foh in Discovered in a Graveyard, and Pan Duc Lao in the Black Canary episode of Jonathan Creek.

Elsewhere in this episode we have Arnold Lee playing a Coolie. IMDB thinks he's a Chimney Sweep in episode 1, but I can't spot him and in his case we've got a good idea what he looks like from other roles. Somewhat surprisingly he's the only member of this story's cast to have featured in Marco Polo, playing a Mongol Warrior in The Singing Sands. He later returns as a Seabase Crewmember in Warriors of the Deep. Outside of Doctor who he can be found in Return of the Jedi as Rayc Ryjerd, Jabba's Smuggler. He's been in the Blake's 7 episode Gambit as a Customer/Gambler and was also in The Professionals episode Take Away, with Vincent Wong, as Chi Sang.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

451 The Talons of Weng-Chiang: Part Four

EPISODE: The Talons of Weng-Chiang: Part Four
OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 451
STORY NUMBER: 091
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 19 March 1977
WRITER: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: David Maloney
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 11.4 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: Revisitations 1: The Talons Of Weng-Chiang, The Caves Of Androzani & Doctor Who - The Movie

"Now, ladies and gentlemen, it is my great privilege to introduce to you, in his extended season here at the Palace, the first of two appearances this evening, someone whose legendary legerdemain has entranced and entertained all the crowned heads of Europe. Here to baffle and bewilder in his eclectic extravaganza of efflorescent ectoplasm, that master magician from the Orient, Li H'sen Chang!"

The Doctor uses a gun from Litefoot to repel the rat allowing them to escape. Returning to Litefoot's house Leela relates her story to the Doctor who recognises the organic distillation process used. The Doctor examines the "Puzzle Box" again, and the label their foe as "Weng Chiang" after the Chinese God. The Doctor & Leela leave for the theatre where they enjoy an evening's entertainment while waiting for Chang. When he comes on stage he selects the Doctor to participate in a trick involving cards and a gun. He is then called to the stage. Mr Sin infiltrates Litefoot's house in laundry basket. The Doctor participates in a Cabinet of Death trick but makes a fool of Chang by escaping. Chang gets his assistant to participate instead but when the cabinet is opened Jago's assistant Casey is inside dead. Chang's master has tired of him, sabotaged the trick and deserted him. The Doctor finds Chang in the underground lair. Chang tells the Doctor that "Weng Chiang" appeared in a blazing cabinet of fire. He nursed his ill visitor but soldiers took the cabinet. Chang escapes into the sewers but runs into one of the giant rats, his screams echoing through the tunnels. The Doctor, Leela & Jago find the clothes of the missing girls but notice the organic distillation machine has gone. The Doctor thinks he was injured using the cabinet which has destabilised his DNA matrix. With the aid of a number of Chinese thugs Mr Sin abducts the "Chinese Puzzle box", Weng Chiang's Time Cabinet, from Litefoot's house....

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I think the thing that makes this episode really work is the amount of Jago in it. He was absent from the previous episode but more than makes up for it here, starting with a little management of his star artiste at the theatre's stage door:

JAGO: Oh, Mister Chang. Back again already? I shall have to start charging you rent, what?
CHANG: There are many things to prepare before the performance.
JAGO: Of course, Mister Chang. Yes. The art that conceals, eh? Tell me, last night.
CHANG: Last night?
JAGO: I'm working too hard. Too much in the old brain box, that's a fact, but, er. We talked about a new contract but I've quite forgotten how we left matters.
CHANG: I'm considering your new offer.
JAGO: Ah, I see. Splendid. Generous offer?
CHANG: Merely reasonable. Tonight, incidentally, I shall be appearing without Mister Sin.
JAGO: Oh, why is that? Just making a change?
CHANG: Mister Sin is indisposed.
JAGO: Ha, ha, very droll. I shall treasure that exceedingly humorous jest, Mister Chang. Oh, Mister Chang? I suppose the little fellow's got a touch of woodworm, what?
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His attempt to use odd job man Casey, who we met in episode 1, as a go-between with the unseen woman in charge of the dancing girls doesn't seem to have gone so well though ....
CASEY: Told her.
JAGO: What?
CASEY: Mrs Samuelson. I told her what you said.
JAGO: Oh.
CASEY: She didn't like it.
JAGO: I don't need to hear that, Casey. I'm not concerned with what Mrs Samuelson likes.
CASEY: She mentioned money matters. She wants a word with you.
JAGO: The woman's a bloodsucker. She's trying to ruin me.
CASEY: Well she said
JAGO: Don't tell me, Casey. I'm an artiste. Every night at this time, I feel like an old warhorse scenting the smoke of the battlefield. As the house fills, the blood starts tingling through my veins. My public is out there waiting for me. I can't talk about money at a time like this.
CASEY: But you don't do anything, Mister Jago.
JAGO: I, I announce the acts, I count the tickets, I smile at people. You've no idea of the strain it puts on a fellow. Furthermore, she spend seventeen and threepence on the wardrobe last week. Any sign of the Doctor yet?
CASEY: Who?
JAGO: My collaborator and fellow sleuth. Oh well, he'll be here tonight keeping observation, Casey.
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Sure enough his Collaborator has arrived and taken a box:
JAGO: Psst.
DOCTOR: Good evening, Mister Jago.
JAGO: Pleasure to welcome you, sir, and your charming companion.
DOCTOR: Thank you. Are you quite comfortable down there?
JAGO: Oh, I know the value of discretion in matters like this, Doctor. May I ask if you've come to any further deductions?
DOCTOR: Oh, quite a few, quite a few.
JAGO: Ah. I thought as much when I saw you here. I take it you're on the point of solving the mystery of the missing girls.
DOCTOR: I'm expecting further developments very soon, Mister Jago.
JAGO: Ah. Well, if you need any help, Doctor, I hope I know where my duty lies.
DOCTOR: I knew I could rely on you.
JAGO: Oh, to the limit, though I suppose you've got your own men scattered throughout the audience.
DOCTOR: No.
JAGO: No? You mean nobody?
DOCTOR: Nobody. When the moment comes, Mister Jago, you and I can face our destiny shoulder to shoulder.
JAGO: Oh, corks.
Music Halls like what we can see shown in this story were once common throughout Britain and while Talons of Weng Chiang, and indeed most of Doctor Who, was airing the BBC ran a series called The Good Old Days celebrating the Music Hall style with current performers. The compère in that series was Leonard Sachs who was in Doctor Who as Admiral de Coligny in First Doctor tale The Massacre and will be back as the third Borusa in Arc of Infinity with the Fifth Doctor.

Since we're back in the theatre it's time for another sequence shot at The Royal Theatre, Northampton and another opportunity to see the series regular composer Dudley Simpson making a cameo appearance conducting the house orchestra!

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The BBC has got a number of extras in to serve as the audience here, but just enough to fill a quite tightly focussed shot of the crowd! The only one with any form is Valerie Hastings who was a native in the Blake's 7 episode Horizon!

Christopher Benjamin, as Henry Gordon Jago, is a character I has generally found quite annoying on previous watches of this story *BUT* even then when you put him on stage as the compère in the Palace Theatre and he really comes alive and works.

JAGO: The Sheffield song thrush. Last time she was here, there were eggs all over the stage. Now, ladies and gentlemen, it is my great privilege to introduce to you, in his extended season here at the Palace, the first of two appearances this evening, someone whose legendary legerdemain has entranced and entertained all the crowned heads of Europe. Here to baffle and bewilder in his eclectic extravaganza of efflorescent ectoplasm, that master magician from the Orient, Li H'sen Chang!
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We're treated to quite a large portion of Chang's solo magic act including a stunt shooting a playing card in the middle of a deck which the Doctor moves closer to his face than suggested!

CHANG: Please to keep very quiet. Chang shoot fifteen peasants learning this trick.
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Unfortunately this proves to be Li Hsang Chang's final trip to the stage as his act is sabotaged by first the Doctor making a mockery of the Cabinet of Death, by walking out the back, and then his final rejection by Weng-Chiang who places Casey's body in the cabinet for the public reveal at the end!

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Chang flees to the cellar, but finds his master gone giving The Doctor an opportunity to get some answers from him:

CHANG: Are you here, Master? This is your servant, Li H'sen. Answer me, Lord. If you're here, answer me. He has gone. Weng-Chiang, lord of greatness, has deserted me. Lord?
DOCTOR: You've been left to carry the can, Chang. No poison tonight. There are questions to answer.
CHANG: I will say nothing. It is time for me to join my forefathers.
DOCTOR: Well, as an accomplice to murder, the police shouldn't hold you up long. Tell me about Weng-Chiang. Where did he go?
CHANG: Perhaps back to his great palace in the sky. I failed him. He was displeased with me.
LEELA: His mind is broken.
DOCTOR: Li H'sen, you know he's not a god, don't you.
CHANG: He came like a god. He appeared in a blazing cabinet of fire. I saw him and helped him. He was tired from his journey.
DOCTOR: Go on.
CHANG: He was ill for many months. I was but a humble peasant, but I gave him sanctuary while the soldiers searched. I nursed him.
DOCTOR: The cabinet. What happened to the cabinet?
CHANG: Soldiers of T'ung-Chi took it. Ever since, we have searched for the great cabinet of Weng-Chiang. The god will not be made whole until it is recovered.
JAGO: Doctor, are you down here? Well, cover me in creosote. I never knew this was here.
LEELA: Doctor!
DOCTOR: Not this time, Leela.
LEELA: But he's escaping!
DOCTOR: There's no escape that way. He's gone to join his ancestors.
JAGO: You mean to say the celestial Chang was involved in all these Machiavellian machinations?
DOCTOR: Yes, up to his epicanthic eyebrows.
JAGO: Well, I'll go to Australia. What in the name of heaven's that?
DOCTOR: You'll have to book yourself a new act tomorrow.
However while the Doctor is concerned with dealing with Weng Chiang's discarded giant rat guards all Jago can see, even given the death of Casey and the loss of his star performer, is an opportunity to turn a profit!
DOCTOR: Cyanide gas might do for the brutes, though you'd have to shut the sewers off for a day or two.
LEELA: Look at this, Doctor. This is all that's left of them.
JAGO: Of the missing girls? So it was Chang.
DOCTOR: Not Chang. His master, the crazed maniac who organised all this.
LEELA: Doctor! The machine's gone.
DOCTOR: That means he's going to start up all over again somewhere else.
LEELA: He could be anywhere. We'll have to look for him.
DOCTOR: With his DNA helixes split open, the more cells he absorbs into himself, the more deformed he becomes.
LEELA: You mean he is like a waterbag with a hole in the bottom, and the hole is getting bigger?
DOCTOR: Yes.
LEELA: What happened to make him like that?
DOCTOR: Perhaps because he used the cabinet. A dangerous experiment in time travel. Now he'll be struggling to keep his metabolism in balance.
LEELA: And the rats?
DOCTOR: Just an experiment. He had to gauge the strength of the psionic amplification field. The rats were handy. After that, they were useful as sewer guards.
JAGO: I've got it! See the lair of the phantom. Conducted tours, bob a nob. I'm on to a fortune here. Hey, Doctor, you're not going, are you?
And where has Weng Chiang gone? He's with the absent Mr Sin, who has sneaked into Litefoot's house in a laundry basket, having retrieved the time cabinet!

Which neatly brings us full circle as the purpose of Chang's chat with Jago was to explain Sin's absence!

There's a hint to how Sin got in last episode: we saw Litefoot's laundry being delivered and collected by a Chinese laundry, a major early source of employment for Chinese immigrants in London, so it's obvious it would get used at some point in the story. Another good example of Chekov's Gun.

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I do feel sorry for Litefoot though:

LITEFOOT: Don't you worry, Doctor. By shots, I'll be ready for them. They won't catch George Litefoot napping a second time.
Which, thanks to his reading matter, they of course do!

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My attention was drawn to the Worcester Sauce advert on the back of the pamphlet Litefoot is reading as I'm rather a fan of that particular condiment!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

450 The Talons of Weng-Chiang: Part Three

EPISODE: The Talons of Weng-Chiang: Part Three
OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 450
STORY NUMBER: 091
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 12 March 1977
WRITER: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: David Maloney
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 10.2 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: Revisitations 1: The Talons Of Weng-Chiang, The Caves Of Androzani & Doctor Who - The Movie

"Lord, I promise you will have the great cabinet of Weng-Chiang before another dawn!"

Leela evades Mister Sin by jumping through the window where she meets the returning Doctor who is fired on by Chang who flees in a coach, pursued by Leela who climbs onto the rear. Litefoot shows the Doctor the Chinese Puzzle box he thinks they were trying to steal that the Doctor identifies as advanced technology. Chang returns to the theatre and his lord's lair, then goes to seek women for his master to feed on, followed by Leela. Leela disguises herself as one of the women Chang had kidnapped to infiltrate the lair. The Doctor & Litefoot find where the Fleet meets the Thames allowing the Doctor to follow it's passage underground towards the theatre. Leela watches as another woman is placed in the distillation chamber and has her life drained into Chang's hooded master. She overpowers him and escapes into the sewer, where he summons one of his giant rat guards. The Doctor finds Leela just as she's grabbed by the rat's jaws....

Episode 2 improved for me massively this viewing. Episode 3..... less so. Not sure why either. The only thing I can put my finger on is that Jago's not on the screen much.

For those who hadn't worked it out the box in Litefoot's possession is all but confirmed as the Time Cabinet Chang and his master are seeking!

LITEFOOT: I wonder what they intended?
DOCTOR: Robbery?
LITEFOOT: Well, there are some pretty valuable things here. That K'ang-hsi vase, for instance. My family brought that back from Peking. Or that Chinese puzzle box.
LITEFOOT: It doesn't open. Chap spent a week here once looking for a secret spring.
DOCTOR: Fused molecules.
LITEFOOT: No, no, no, no. Lacquered bronze.
DOCTOR: It's extraordinary. It's from this planet.
LITEFOOT: A parting gift from the Emperor.
DOCTOR: Technology this advanced? Ah! Got it! Well, of course, that's the answer.
LITEFOOT: What the Dickens are you raving about, Doctor?
DOCTOR: Weng-Chiang!
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Interestingly at this stage the villain hasn't been identified as Weng Chiang. We're all assuming it is but Chang, the only person he's associated with, hasn't explicitly named him.

I did giggle at the gong he and Chang use to summon the giant rat! A cross between "Dinner is served" and the Rank gong!

Talons of Weng Chiang is Doctor Who's second trip down London's sewers. The first was in 1968 during The Invasion when the Cybermen were hiding down there. We'll be back down the sewers again for attack of the Cybermen in 1985. The enclosed tunnels do make a lovely enclosed set!

The grisly secret of what has happened to the disappeared women is revealed: Weng Chiang has been draining their energy to feed himself!

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The Doctor is worried that the missing Leela will soon share their fate:

LITEFOOT: Haven't you slept?
DOCTOR: Sleep is for tortoises.
LITEFOOT: Any news of Miss Leela?
DOCTOR: Not yet.
LITEFOOT: Perhaps we should inform the police?
DOCTOR: No, there are already nine missing girls on their list.
LITEFOOT: Oh yes, but surely missing under very different circumstances.
DOCTOR: No. If my suspicions are correct, then I know what those poor girls were used for, and I can't imagine a more grisly fate. He's a blackguard.
LITEFOOT: Who's a blackguard?
DOCTOR: I don't know who's a blackguard. Some slavering gangrenous vampire comes out of a sewer and stalks this city at night, he's a blackguard. I've got to find his lair and I haven't got an hour to loose. Look. You see? I've been trying to trace the line of the sewers. That's the Thames, this is the line of the Fleet, and that is the Palace Theatre.
LITEFOOT: I'm beginning to see what you're getting at.
DOCTOR: Good. Good.
LITEFOOT: Yes, well, er, if you've finished with the tablecloth, I think I'd better dispose of that before my housekeeper arrives.
DOCTOR: Right.
LITEFOOT: How'd you know the course of the Fleet? It's been covered for centuries.
DOCTOR: I caught a salmon there once. Would have hung over the sides of this table. Shared it with the Venerable Bede. He adored fish.
DOCTOR: Professor, you don't happen to have an elephant gun, do you?
LITEFOOT: Elephants? Why on Earth do you want an elephant gun?
DOCTOR: We're about to embark on a very dangerous mission.
LITEFOOT: Well, I've a Chinese fowling piece if that's any good. Used for duck, mainly.
DOCTOR: Made in Birmingham. Yes, that's the main requirement. Could you get me a small boat?
LITEFOOT: I imagine so. May I ask the purpose of these preparations?
DOCTOR: Yes. To find the confluence of the Thames and Fleet, Professor, then to follow the Fleet.
LITEFOOT: And then?
DOCTOR: Oh, and then we shall see.
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This then leads them to their trip by boat to find where the Fleet meets the Thames:

DOCTOR: There it is, fifty yards ahead.
LITEFOOT: Sit down, Doctor. The man knows these waters.
DOCTOR: I've always enjoyed messing about in boats.
LITEFOOT: I think this entire enterprise is extremely rash and ill-considered.
DOCTOR: My dear Litefoot, I've got a lantern and a pair of waders, and possibly the most fearsome piece of hand artillery in all England. What could possibly go wrong?
LITEFOOT: Well, that for a start. It hasn't been fired for fifty years. If you try to use it, it'll probably explode in your face.
DOCTOR: Explode? Unthinkable. It was made in Birmingham. Tie up over there, skipper.
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These scenes are filmed in St Katharine's Dock previously seen in episode one and before that in Dalek Invasion of Earth. Although the area has been considerably redeveloped since then all the locations from both stories, especially those in this episode, are still recognisable!

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Leela's stalking of Chang brings us back to Wapping Pier Head, the location with the haystack covered car in the previous episode! Here a wall provides Leela something to hide behind in location that looks quite different from the street the other side. The finals shots in this scene successfully unite the two seemingly disconnected parts of the location!

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And finally we're briefly back in The Royal Theatre, Northampton for the scenes of the cleaners at work before one of their number becomes Weng Chiang's latest victim!

Appearing as Li H'sen Chang we have English actor John Bennett disguised in make up. He was previously General Finch in Invasion of the Dinosaurs. I've just seen him this week in a 2004 New Tricks! Looking at his IMDB entry I can see a Blake's 7 to his name when he appeared as Coser in Weapon, He was the Medical Officer in New Faces, Old Hands, the first episode of Porridge who is then succeeded by a doctor played by Horns of the Nimon's Graham Crowden. You may also have seen him in I, Claudius as Xenophon in Fool's Luck, The Professionals episode Backtrack as Inspector Truitt and Jonathan Creek: The Three Gamblers as Frank Geiger. However IMDB's listing of him in Alien Nation: Millennium as Officer Laskau looks slightly dubious!

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His "dummy, Mr Sin, is played by Deep Roy, later to appear as the Posicarian delegate in Mindwarp, the second section of Trial of a Timelord. He's best known now for being the Oompa Lumpas (all of them) in the 2005 film Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. But His CV has science fiction credits aplenty on it of which this appears to be the first. Blake's 7 features four times: a Decima in The Web, The Klute in Gambit, the voice of Moloch in Moloch and a Link in Terminal. He was Princess Aura's Pet in the 1980 Flash Gordon film and was Droopy McCool in 1983's Return of the Jedi. He was Badlaa in the X-Files episode Beggar Man. You can see him in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen as an Egyptian Guard and he's in all three modern Star Trek films as Keenser.

Oooh, episode 450!