Doctor Who – The Talons of Weng-Chiang. Episode Six

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Finally the Doctor and Greel have a face to face meeting. The Doctor has dealt with Greel’s proxy – Chang – previously, but it’s not until now that Greel and the Doctor have the chance for a chat.

As time went on, Tom’s Doctor became more and more flippant (although to be fair, flippancy was always part of his character). Some dislike his mockery of the villains (maintaining that it diminished them) but I’ve never had a problem with it. Yes, the Doctor gives the impression that he’s not taking Greel seriously (“never trust a man with dirty fingernails”) but there’s still a palpable air of threat and menace from the masked man.

Jago and Litefoot continue their sojourn as prisoners of Greel. This brief dialogue exchange is lovely –

JAGO: Well, I’m not awfully. Well, I’m not so bally brave when it comes to it. I try to be but I’m not.
LITEFOOT: When it comes to it, I don’t suppose anybody is.
JAGO: Well, I thought I ought to tell you anyway, in case I let the side down.
LITEFOOT: You won’t, Henry. I know you won’t.

Jago’s cowardice has been evident right from the start, but the fact that he admits it (and Litefoot doesn’t think any less of him because of it) is nicely done.

If the Doctor was rather playful with Greel at Litefoot’s house, then the mood changes once both are back in Greel’s lair.  Once he discovers that the man masquerading as Weng-Chiang is actually Magnus Greel (“the infamous Minister of Justice. The Butcher of Brisbane”) there’s a definite gear-change.

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.

Both Baker and Michael Spice are sparking here. Spice, hidden behind a mask, has been somewhat hampered throughout the story but his skill as a voice actor means that Greel is still a fully-formed character, despite the fact we never (apart from one glimpse) see his features.

The Doctor is locked up with Jago, Litefoot and two young girls, Greel’s latest victims.  That they’re so very young is the sort of plot-point you probably wouldn’t see today (Holmes did have some dialogue explaining that their age – on the point of puberty – was the reason why Greel had abducted them).  Ah, it was a different time back then.

The Doctor might not carry a weapon, but he’s happy to improvise.  His home-made gas bomb is one such example – and the sort of thing that would vanish from the series once Graham Williams took over.

The final battle is a little anti-climactic (and the less about Tom wrestling with an obvious Mr Sin dummy the better) but it doesn’t detract from the fact that this is Who at its best.  It’s a real regret that they don’t make them like this anymore.

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