The Talons Of Weng-Chiang: Doctor Who: Season 14
The Talons Of Weng-Chiang SYNOPSIS:
The Talons Of Weng-Chiang follows Magnus Greel, a war criminal who escapes execution in the 51st century with his time cabinet, landing in 19th century China where he poses as Chinese god Weng-Chiang and amasses a Tong following
Attempting to show Leela some of her human ancestry in Victorian London The Doctor and Leela get involved in a fight with a Chinese tong gang in the alleyways. The one they capture kills himself rather than talk about the dead body they were carrying. Their investigations take them first to the London sewers where the Doctor encounters a giant rat and then to Palace theatre where the dead man was last seen.
Meanwhile Palace theatre magician Li Sen Chang and his master, the masked Weng-Chiang look for his time cabinet in the London streets. The Doctor encounters the masked figure at the Palace theatre while Leela retires to the home of Pathologist Henry Lightfoot where the time cabinet is located and is confronted by Mr. Sin, Li Sen Chang's robotic living puppet. She pursues Chang and Mr. Sin after their failed attempt to steal it.
Leela finds Weng Chiang skulks in the sewers beneath the theatre stealing the life essence of young women to stay alive. She escapes him and his giant rat guards in the sewers, being saved by the Doctor and Litefoot. Li Sen Chang, wanting to save face for being dismissed by his master attempts to kill the Doctor at a theatre performance.
Despite the efforts of the Doctor, Leela and theatre manager Gordon Jago, Greel escapes their clutches and successfully steals the Time Cabinet from Litefoot's house and hides in London. The Doctor's only bargaining chip now is the time key his servants left behind if they can find Magnus Greel and Mr. Sin in time and stop from re-using the time cabinet which will destroy all of London.
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The Talons Of Weng-Chiang SERIAL DETAILS:
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The Talons Of Weng-Chiang CAST & CREW
Tom Baker (Fourth Doctor)
Louise Jameson (Leela)
Christopher Benjamin — Henry Gordon Jago
Trevor Baxter — Professor Litefoot
Michael Spice — Magnus Greel
John Bennett — Li H'sen Chang
Deep Roy — Mr Sin
Chris Gannon — Casey
Tony Then — Lee
Vincent Wong — Ho
John Wu — Coolie
David McKail — Sergeant
Conrad Asquith — PC Quick
Vaune Craig-Raymond — Cleaning Woman
Judith Lloyd — Teresa
Alan Butler — Buller
Penny Lister — Singer
Dudley Simpson — Conductor
Patsy Smart — Old Woman
Production Staff for serial 4S:
Writer - Robert Holmes
Director - David Maloney
Script editor - Robert Holmes
Producer - Philip Hinchcliffe
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The Talons Of Weng-Chiang REVIEWS
"Let the Talons of Weng-Chiang shred your ffffffff-lllleeeeeeeaaaaaaayyyyyeerrrrrrssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh"
Never before or since has an actor managed to somehow include an entire octave range and every possible syllable in such a simple sentence. The line should get a 10/10 for one of the most OTT in the series. But now to business, Talons Of Weng-Chiang is another classic six parter and sadly the last collaboration between Producer Phillip Hinchcliffe, script editor Robert Homes and star Tom Baker. Although their influence as a team is strong enough to carry on for the next few stories of the next season and appearing on and off. Holmes provides his second cracking script of the season full of well written and subsequently well acted characters. The Doctor does his Sherlock Holmes thing, even dressed exactly like the fictional detective as he tries to educate his savage companion of the ways of her human ancestors in Victorian London.
The foggy gas lit London setting is perfectly realized and the setting of much of Talons Of Weng-Chiang in an actual Victorian age theatre certainly really creates a tense, Gothic atmosphere. The homage-o-meter is cranked up to ten as the story is based upon the Phantom of the Opera crossed with Sherlock Holmes and Fu Manchu. With the Dr. pursuing a mad, masked time traveller called Magnus Greel who lurks under the theatre, posing as an ancient Chinese god and gets his servant, magician Li`sen Chang to bring him women so he can feed on their life essence and thus has the strength to search London for his missing time cabinet. It's actually a really bizarre premise when you think about it.
The sets are great, particularly the London sewers, and the set pieces are great too, the chase scene between the Dr and Greel through the theatre catwalks. Leela being confronted by Mr. Sin (again blood is shown, dripping down his wooden arm after he had killed someone), The Doctor and Chang's battle of wits on stage and Leela unmasking Greel to reveal his deformed face, had nightmares as a kid about that cliffhanger. Many good points and Chang, Greel (apart from his OTT ending), Jago, Litefoot all develop during the episodes. But I found the ending unsatisfactory, always have, some of the effects are bad too, I mean the rats - c'mon. Just show them in shadow and the ray gun effects are really bad. But it's a great bookend to the Hinchcliffe years and we find out, thanks to wet Victorian underwear, more of Leela's assets.
But something totally satisfying is missing for me in the entirety that's Talons Of Weng-Chiang are the talons meant to be the Tongs? Maybe it's the cliché portrayal of Chinese Tongs. It ain't as perfect as the two previous six parters so…8.2/10
The Phil, Bob & Tom swansong Talons Of Weng-Chiang.Every year of his reign, Phillip Hinchcliffe (and Bob Holmes) have managed to go out on a high. This year they did it with the thinking that since they won't be back the following year then "lets blow the budget, and some of next season's budget as well!" Pity poor old Graham Williams who turns up to work the following Monday to find the cash tin has been raided! Unlike Russell T Davies who thinks ending a season on a high note means wasting the budget on a CGI of the lead actor then making him redundant for the entire story only to come back in a major WTF moment as a floating Jesus, Phillip and Bob give us a great story that is brilliant in every respect. Except for the giant rat.
This is Bob Holmes at his best; there is some excellent characterization for not just the Doctor and Leela, but the secondary characters such as Jago and Lightfoot, Mr Sin and Li Sen Chang and even the minor one-off characters such as the policemen and the old woman who lives near the river in episode one. Also, Bob goes another step by once establishing each character he then pairs them all off again; The Doctor and Jago, Jago and Casey, Leela and Lightfoot, Li Sen and Greel. Each character is completely different from the other and they even have their own way of talking; Jago speaks like the true music hall thespian, while Lightfoot is very gentlemanly and old fashioned.
And how good is John Bennett as Li Sen Chang? Great makeup job and he sounds oriental like as well. Plus he is conniving, slimy, twisted, charming and creepy - all at the same time. His final scene in the opium den where he drags together the last of his shattered dignity is very well played. Typical of dear old Bob, there is also homages to classic well-known books and movies; Jack the Ripper, Pygmalion, Fu Manchu, etc. There is so much crammed into these episodes that it never feels padded or overworked. In fact, there is more going on in episode one than there is in the entire story of Paradise Towers, or all fourteen episodes of the utterly shite Trial of a Timelord. It also has far more depth, character and style than Last of The Time Lords (sorry, just had to name check that piece of rubbish again)
The night scenes look fantastic with the swirling London fog and old buildings and lane ways. The scenes at the deserted theatre also look great - in fact its just a budget blowout that really shows the program at its best. Bugger it, for Talons Of Weng-Chiang I'll go a 10/10.
Talons Of Weng-Chiang and in our final Hinchcliffe homage, we get Sherlock Holmes... with a little bit of Phantom of the Opera for fun.
99% of the Talons Of Weng-Chiang has to be some of the best realized Doctor Who ever. It's dark and moody (with some fantastic eerie evening fog), and in particular the Theatre scenes and the Mr Sin scenes are very effective. Mr Sin scared the shit out of me as a kid... and then scared the shit out of me again when I saw it repeated in about year 11. I'm thinking that this would have been before the "Chucky" movies - so maybe this inspired them?
We also get yet another set of well crafted characters. Apparently Lightfoot and Jago were considered for a spin-off, Chang is just perfect in the first couple of episodes, and Greel is just the right amount of threatening towards the end... he was given a fantastic back story, and could easily be brought back for a future episode you'd think... if it was done properly (not like the Macra!)
This is probably the peak of the Tom and Leela combination. Pity it's only 2 episodes in, but here Leela is even more out of place than on a spaceship of Robots - and looks even more out of place in those clothes (an achievement considering she had a BBC "period drama" past). 1% of this episode score is taken off for the shithouse rat.
In all Talons Of Weng-Chaing gets 9.9/10