The Talons of Weng Chiang (1977)

The Talons of Weng-Chiang is the final story of the 14th season and is one of the best stories of the Tom Baker era. In fact it ranks quite highly in the DWM Mighty 200 survey. Written by Robert Holmes, this is another classic Hinchcliffe gothic story. As well as having Holmes write this story, it was directed by David Maloney. The story is set on Earth in Victorian London in 1890 where woman have being going missing. All the action in the early part takes place in a theatre run by Henry Gordon Jago.

The first sinister character we meet in Li H’sen Chang as played by John Bennett, from the moment he appeared on screen it was clear he was up to something. However it was Mr Sin that was more creepy as played by Deep Roy. The character was the Oddjob of Doctor Who with a sense that even though he was the smallest thing on screen, he could be the most deadly. Both of them were in the service of Magnus Greel, played brilliantly Michael Spice. He has to ware a truly gruesome mask which is revealed in a confrontation with Leela.

There is some wonderful outside filming which is obviously down to David Maloney. Possibly some of the finest of that era. It’s helped that filming it at night as it gives some tension to the show. Scarier things happen at night as opposed to the daytime. The scenes in the theatre were equally well directed and every frame has richness and its one of those rare occasions where it looks like money has been spent on it. Only the TARDIS console room would have ruined it. There are some memorable scenes in this story such as when Professor Litefoot has dinner/supper/tea whatever you want to call it with Leela. Who grabs a leg of meat and eats off the bone, after a few moments Professor Litefoot picks up a leg.

The cast was top notch in this. Tom Baker and Louise Jameson were on top form in this and especially so for Louise Jameson who had to pretend to be scared from a giant (if not realistic) rat. This story saw the first and only TV appearance of Henry Gordon Jago and Professor Litefoot. They became a staple part of this story especially in the second part of the story. In fact it wouldn’t be until 2009 before they appeared in a companion chronicle before getting their own series. It’s credit to Christopher Benjamin & Trevor Baxter that they provide comedy in a very dark and grim situation.

This is a fine example of a great story, set design, acting, directing and most importantly high entertainment. Robert Holmes is at his best with this story, It was Philip Hinchcliffe’s final story as producer before being replaced by Graham Williams. The pressure that Mary Whitehouse had put on the show and the BBC caused this change in producers to take place. It’s a fine way to end your time on the show and rates as one of the best in Doctor Who history.

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