commentary by Judy Harris
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#17: THE TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG (6 Parts) ORIGINALLY AIRED: 2/26/77 to 4/2/77 WRITTEN BY: Robert Holmes DIRECTED BY: David Maloney PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
Among many fans of DOCTOR WHO--myself included--this is generally considered the best Tom Baker story. As might be predicted by now, it was written by script editor Robert Holmes. Among its many joys are the wonderful period recreation of Victorian London, the superb performances by the entire cast; and the affectionate references to Sherlock Holmes and even Fu Manchu. From Tom Baker's autobiography, WHO ON EARTH IS TOM BAKER?: "The viewing figures for TERROR OF THE ZYGONS were easily surpassed by David Maloney's production of THE TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG, written by Bob Holmes. He said the tale was based on THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and some of Sax Rohmer's tales of Fu Manchu and pretended to be amazed when said that I had noticed the origins. The locations -- the moody sewers around St. Catherine's Dock and the beautiful C.J. Phipps theatre in Northampton -- were wonderful, and the characters ripe. London sewers in the late nineteenth century, giant rats, villainous Chinese Tongs and Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter doing a great double act, like Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford in THE LADY VANISHES. There were magic tricks arranged by Ali Bongo and Larry Barnes and a homunculus played by Deep Roy. I felt we were on to a winner, and we were."
After he left DOCTOR WHO, Tom Baker played Sherlock Holmes for the BBC's 2-hour production of THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, which has shown up on American cable TV on the Arts and Entertainment network. He also played Holmes in Dublin in a play by Hugh Leonard called THE MASK OF MORIARTY.
In this story, playing Watson to the Doctor's Holmes is Professor Litefoot, a gentlemanly doctor of pathology. Even Litefoot's unseen housekeeper is named Mrs. Hudson. Trevor Baxter is wonderful in a role which is somewhat reminiscent of the one Michael Sheard played in PYRAMIDS OF MARS. A bewildered but intelligent and open minded person whose bafflement never turns the corner into denial or total disbelief. A man who accepts the evidence of his own eyes in a less cynical age.
Likewise, the character of Henry Gordon Jago is beautifully drawn by Robert Holmes and perfectly realized by Christopher Benjamin: a frustrated performer, who compensates with his flowery phrases and occupation--owner-manager of a theatre.
Finally, THE TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG has some of the best villains, including a ventriloquist's dummy which turns out to be the embodiment of evil due to its having the cerebral cortex of a pig! A deformed war criminal from the 51st century, trapped in Victorian London; and, best of all, a Chinese magician who can hypnotize anyone by looking at him and can read the minds of all around him. This last character, Li H'sen Chang, is played by John Bennett with such perfection, it's impossible to believe he's not Chinese. One of the most dignified, sympathetic and all around best villains ever on the show. From Tom Baker's autobiography: "John Bennett did a great turn as the sinister Li H'sen and I really think he enjoyed it. I know we did. My performance in this piece led to me being offered the part of Sherlock Holmes years later in HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES."
In Victorian London, Li H'sen Chang performs his magic and ventriloquism act before enthusiastic audiences at the Palace Theatre. Chang is a dignified Chinese who puts on an exaggerated accent on stage, where he also dresses the part with long colorful robes and Oriental hat. He has a droopy Fu Manchu mustache and thin chin whiskers. The theatre owner-manager, Henry Gordon Jago, who has a tendency to talk in alliterative hyperbole, can't praise him enough.
Alfred Buller, a cab driver, breaks in back stage, demanding his wife Emma. She hasn't been the same since Chang levitated her on stage last week. Nine girls have vanished recently, most in the neighborhood of the theatre. Rumor has it Jack the Ripper's back at work.
Chang quotes a Chinese saying, infuriating Buller, who threatens to go to the peelers--a slang name for the British police derived from Sir Robert Peel, Secretary for Ireland 1812-18.
Buller storms out; from across the room, with no one touching him, Mr. Sin, Chang's dummy, nods his head at a look from Chang. Mr. Sin is very small and slender, and wears elaborate Chinese robes, similar to Chang's stage costume. Sometimes Sin is played by actor Deep Roy, with jerky, mechanical movements; and sometimes it is played by a stuffed doll. Because the dummy's face is a mask made to look like an exaggerated Chinese face, it is very difficult to tell when there's a person inside it or not when the character is still; one of the better of DOCTOR WHO's special effects.
The TARDIS materializes in the East End of London, near Limehouse. The outdoor sequences were filmed at the London docks of Wapping and contribute a nice foggy, timeless atmosphere.
Leela is dressed in a cloth cap and plus fours, like a young boy. The Doctor tells her if she walked around Victorian London in skins, she'd frighten the horses.
He emerges wearing a deerstalker hat and plaid cape, and carries a cane. He intends taking Leela to the theatre so she can see how her ancestors enjoyed themselves. In response to Leela's query, he tells her the local tribe is called Cockney.
Between shows at the theatre, Casey emerges from the cellar, where he was fixing the trap door used in Chang's magic act. Jago asks if he has the ooperzootics coming on. This is an archaic slang word for an unspecified complaint. Casey tells Jago he's seen a 9-foot tall skull and heard clanking chains. To calm him, Jago promises to accompany Casey for a look around after the last performance later.
On his way to the police, Buller runs into Mr. Sin, who stabs him in the heart. Leela and the Doctor hear Buller's death cry and arrive to see five Chinese making off with the body. They fight until a police whistle sounds; all the Chinese run off with Buller's body, except one, whom Leela subdues. The Doctor runs after the fleeing Chinese but can't find them.
He returns to rescue the police from Leela. The police take the Doctor and Leela to the station to lay evidence.
At the theatre, Chang levitates a woman, while Mr. Sin provides comedy relief. From the wings, Jago notices what looks like blood running down Mr. Sin's hand.
At the police station, the Doctor is having trouble getting past the routine questions. He is generally scrupulously honest, even when it causes him trouble. When the desk sergeant writes "no fixed abode" because the Doctor and Leela are travelers, the Doctor corrects him: "We do have an abode; it's called the TARDIS, but it's not fixed."
The police have sent for an interpreter to question the Chinese Leela captured. "That won't be necessary; I speak Mandarin, Cantonese, all the dialects," the Doctor says. But the police refuse to allow him to translate, since he's a witness.
The interpreter arrives; it's Li H'sen Chang, now dressed in sober street clothes. Chang looks familiar to the Doctor, but he hasn't been in China for 400 years. (Actually, he was there in the William Hartnell story MARCO POLO, set in 1289, so it's more like 600 years).
From a secret compartment in his ring, Chang slips the Chinese a pellet, which he puts in his mouth. The Doctor suddenly realizes who Chang is and quotes from his theatrical poster. "Show us a trick," he asks. Just then the Chinese goes into a death spasm from the pellet. "Very good, very good," the Doctor says admiringly. The Doctor smells the Chinese's hand and detects highly concentrated scorpion venom. There's a tattoo on the dead Chinese's hand of the Tong of the Black Scorpion, "one of the most dangerous politico-criminal organizations in the world." A tong is a secret Chinese society notorious for engaging in gang warfare. The Tong of the Black Scorpion are fanatical followers of an ancient Chinese god called Weng-Chiang. He blew poisonous fumes from his mouth and killed men with a white light which shone from his eyes.
Back at the theatre, Jago goes to Chang's dressing room. He opens a trunk to check Mr. Sin, who opens his eyes but stays still. It was blood on the dummy's hand.
The Doctor demands the Chinese be autopsied and offers to assist. Chang leaves. Buller's body is discovered in the river; it's been mutilated. At the Limehouse Mortuary Coroner's Court, Professor Litefoot is performing an autopsy on Buller's body. From the chisel-like incisor marks on the body, the Doctor reckons Buller was chewed by a rodent. There are coarse hairs on Buller's clothes, which the Doctor thinks are rat hairs. He remembers now that Weng-Chiang was also the god of abundance; he made things grow.
The Doctor leaves the mortuary, trailed by a hatchet-wielding coolie, who tosses the hatchet, but misses him. "Were you trying to attract my attention?," the Doctor asks. He gets no answer; the coolie falls down dead from a Janis thorn, compliments of Leela's blow pipe.
From Tom Baker's autobiography: "These were the early days of the character of Leela, played by Louise Jameson. I can remember not liking the Leela character. I don't have much of a sense of humor, so the ironies in Leela escaped me. Whenever she was threatened (her character, that is), she simply slapped a Janus thorn into the nearest male buttocks. I didn't much like this -- it made me very protective of the chaps and very mistrustful of Leela; I was afraid even to turn my back, let alone bend down. This meant that I felt a bit stifled at the rehearsals. I couldn't find any ideas to help us out. Fortunately, David Maloney was in form and the visiting actors pulled it together brilliantly."
The Doctor locates a manhole near where Buller was murdered; it's an entrance to the sewers, which are all connected and lead to the Thames. The Doctor and Leela descend. They hear a loud screeching sound. It's a giant rat, 10 feet from whiskers to tail, which chases them. This is yet another Sherlock Holmes reference; scholars have long pined for details of the story of THE GIANT RAT OF SUMATRA, hinted at in Dr. Watson's notes, but never told.
This giant rat is the least effective part of this story. For shots of the rat alone, a real rat was shown in a miniature set. In shots of the rat with people, it's a man in a rat costume, which is adorably cute and not at all scary; it doesn't match the live animal at all. On the commentary which accompanies the DVD of this story, John Bennett calls it a "giant bunny". The Doctor and Leela escape back to the street. The Doctor realizes the rat is a guard, there to keep people away.
At the theatre, Casey and Jago go to the cellar and find a glove with an E B monogram. Casey goes home and Jago runs into Chang backstage. Chang invites Jago into his dressing room, where Jago offers Chang an extra 2% of the gross. White light glows in Chang's eyes, as he hypnotizes Jago into forgetting Buller came to the theatre.
Chang goes to the theatre's cellar and opens a secret panel in the floor. He climbs down a ladder to a hidden laboratory and abases himself on the floor before a masked figure wearing a black hat and cape. It's Weng-Chiang; he's dying but insists on going out to look for his time cabinet. He reminds Chang he needs the lives of others to renew himself. Chang has kidnapped the 9 missing girls who have "donated" their life essences to Weng-Chiang. In return, Weng-Chiang has given Chang mental powers undreamed of in this century. Chang tells Weng-Chiang of the Doctor, but Weng-Chiang dismisses him as probably not a Time Agent.
Back at the mortuary, Litefoot informs the Doctor and Leela he can tell by the angle of the wound Buller was stabbed by a midget. Trevor Baxter brings a certain Terry Jones touch to his portrayal of Litefoot, one of the most endearing one-shot characters ever to appear on the series.
When Leela demonstrates how she was taught to aim for the heart, the Doctor explains to the flabbergasted Litefoot: "Savage. Found floating down the Amazon in a hat box." One of the Doctor's few fibs. Another is when he stops Leela from telling the police about the man she killed with the Janis thorn.
The police have identified Buller from his cab license #14305. They also discovered he went to the Palace Theatre earlier in the evening, looking for his wife.
Litefoot invites the Doctor and Leela to his home at 4 Manskill Gardens for a late supper. During the cab ride, Litefoot mentions he was brought up in China. The Doctor stops the cab and goes off to the Palace Theatre; planning to join his friends later.
At the theatre, Jago thinks the Doctor is auditioning. The Doctor plays along, producing a string of multicolored handkerchiefs from Jago's breast pocket and a dove from inside a empty tin. The Doctor also boasts he does "dramatic recitations, singing, tap dancing. I can play the Trumpet Voluntary in a bowl of live gold fish."
Although Jago claims to be an unhypnotizable Rock of Gibraltar, the Doctor easily puts him under, ordering him to remember everything he was told to forget. Jago recalls Buller was at the theatre and produces the glove he found in the cellar, with the monogram E B for Emma Buller.
The Doctor tells Jago he's helping the police. They go to the cellar, where they come across a fist-sized money spider, made large due to genetic disruption. Jago tells the Doctor the Fleet River runs under the foundations of the theatre.
Looking for a secret entrance, the Doctor triggers the apparition which frightened Casey. Jago faints. The Doctor pulls him upstairs, sarcastically calling him "Rock of Gibraltar."
At Litefoot's house, Leela enthusiastically picks up an entire joint of meat from the cold collation set up buffet style. So as not to embarrass her, Litefoot doesn't use a plate or utensils either, but persuades her to use a napkin.
Weng-Chiang, Mr. Sin and Lee H'sen Chang are driving around in a coach, searching for his time cabinet. They quarter a new sector each night. The key to the cabinet--held in Weng-Chiang's lap--glows, signalling they found it. It's in the home of Professor Litefoot.
Litefoot glances out the window, hoping to see the Doctor, but instead sees a lurking Chinese. He gets a gun and goes outside to look around.
At the theatre, the Doctor tells the revived Jago the apparition was a hologram; a projection of light by a laser beam not known in this century. The Doctor offers Jago a bracing drink from the top of his cane.
Weng-Chiang returns to the theatre and the Doctor stalks him. This is one of the best staged action sequences in DOCTOR WHO. Usually indoor scenes are filmed at the BBC, where the sets may be deep or wide, but they aren't very high. However, the Palace Theatre sequences were filmed in an actual theatre, the Victorian Repertory in Northampton, and there are many interesting shots down from the overhead catwalks and up into the theatre rigging during this chase.
Weng-Chiang throws the head of a pantomime horse at the Doctor, causing him to fall down some stairs into a trunk. The Doctor climbs back up to the rigging above the stage. Weng-Chiang swings across the stage on some ropes, gets behind the Doctor and pushes him off the rigging. The Doctor lands on top of the curtains, which rip, depositing him ungently on the floor. Weng-Chiang knocks out Jago.
The Doctor revives Jago again, suggesting he not call the police. Instead he and Jago will team up to tackle the reclusive phantom. The Doctor heads off to Litefoot's house.
Back there, Litefoot has been knocked out by Mr. Sin, who attacks Leela with a knife. She throws a sharp table knife, which lands in his throat, but Mr. Sin keeps on coming.
The Doctor arrives, whistling THE COLONEL BOGEY MARCH, as Leela jumps out the window. Chang shoots at the Doctor with Litefoot's gun, but the Doctor ducks. Chang and Sin leave in their carriage; Leela hops on the back before the Doctor can stop her.
The Doctor gets ice for Litefoot's head. He notices a large box in the living room, which Litefoot calls a Chinese puzzle box. It's a gift from the Emperor T'ungchi. The Doctor tells him it's kept closed by fused molecules; he's surprised it's of Earth manufacture.
Leela trails Chang to the cellar of the theatre and sees him enter the secret panel. Weng-Chiang is displeased with Chang for not getting the time cabinet now it's been located. He feeds raw meat to a giant rat, whom he calls by a gong. The rat is played by the man in the costume here, at its most laughable. The poor thing can't even get its phony teeth into the raw meat to drag it away.
At Litefoot's the next day, the Doctor sketches out the line of the sewers on Litefoot's tablecloth. Although it's been covered for centuries, he knows the course of the Fleet River because "I caught a salmon there once, would have hung over the sides of this table--shared it with the Venerable Bede--he adored fish."
The Doctor calls Weng-Chiang a "slavering gangrenous vampire." He borrows from Litefoot a Chinese fowling piece made in Birmingham and asks him to engage a small boat. In it, they set out to find the confluence of the Thames and the Fleet.
Leela follows Chang, as he hypnotizes Teresa, whom he accosts on the street, and takes back to his dressing room. He leaves her there momentarily to get a second girl from among the charwomen cleaning the theatre. While he's gone, Leela switches clothes with Teresa and puts her in Chang's closet.
In the boat, the Doctor spots the entrance to the sewer. He tells Litefoot, "I've always enjoyed messing about in boats." Litefoot is worried. "My dear Litefoot," the Doctor reassures him, "I've got a lantern, a pair of whalers and possibly the most fearsome piece of hand artillery in all England; what could possibly go wrong?" Litefoot warns him the gun will probably explode since it hasn't been fired in 50 years.
In Weng-Chiang's lair beneath the theatre, Chang puts the young cleaner in a distillation chamber and leaves. Leela tosses off Teresa's clothes, and in her Victorian undies prepares to strangle Weng-Chiang. He turns his equipment on and Leela attacks him. She turns the machine off, but it's too late. The cleaning girl is dead, her life essence removed, causing her skin to darken and dry.
Leela escapes through a tunnel to the sewer. Weng-Chiang lowers a shutter so she can't return and beats the gong to summon his giant rats.
At Litefoot's, the Limehouse Laundry delivers by hand cart a basket of Litefoot's clean laundry and picks up a basket of dirty laundry.
Back at the theatre, Teresa wakes up in her underwear in Chang's dressing room and runs out of the stage door. Chang overhears Jago telling Casey he's helping the Doctor, a "very high up gentleman, an amateur investigator who's been called in by the Yard--Scotland Yard."
In his lair, Weng-Chiang berates Chang for failing him too many times and dismisses him as unworthy. Then he absorbs the life essence of the dead cleaning girl.
In the sewer, Leela is attacked by a giant rat, but the Doctor shoots it with Litefoot's gun. There are more rats about and the Doctor can't rely on the gun again, so they leave.
At the theatre, Chang tells Jago he'll be appearing tonight without Mr. Sin, who is indisposed. Jago laughs at this drollery, and can't resist a reference to woodworm.
Back at Litefoot's, Leela tells the Doctor what happened to the theatre's cleaning woman. "Sounds like an organic distillation plant--the life essence," the Doctor says.
Litefoot returns with boxes of clothes for Leela. In addition to all the other subtext in this story, there are echoes of PYGMALION here and there, with Leela as Liza Doolittle, the Doctor as Henry Higgins--totally absorbed in his own problems and unaware of women's feelings--and Professor Litefoot as Colonel Pickering.
The Doctor contemplates Litefoot's Chinese puzzle box. "It can only be opened by a key of the correct molecular combination," the Doctor says. Leela returns in her new gown with her hair up. The Doctor pronounces her outfit charming: "I'll be proud to take you to the theatre looking like that," adding, if she's very good, he'll even buy her an orange.
As they wait for their cab, the Doctor defeats Leela at checkers with a triple jump. At the theatre, they have a box to themselves. Jago visits them there, surreptitiously and is not pleased to learn the Doctor has brought no reinforcements.
A "song thrush" sings DAISY, exhorting the audience to join in. "We need to give the responses?" Leela asks. "There's no obligation," the Doctor replies.
Beneath the stage, Weng-Chiang kills Casey, as he fixes the trap door for Chang's magic act. Chang appears on stage in a puff of smoke and tosses a deck of cards to the Doctor. The Doctor selects the ace of diamonds and returns it to the middle of the deck. Chang points a gun at the deck, which the Doctor moves in front of his face. Chang shoots and a bullet hole appears only in the card the Doctor selected. The audience applauds, and Chang invites the Doctor onto the stage.
Outside Litefoot's house, the policeman guarding the place is killed by a hatchet tossed by a Chinese. Inside the house, Mr. Sin emerges from the Limehouse Laundry basket.
At the theatre, Chang asks the Doctor to step into the Cabinet of Death. The Doctor obliges. When Chang spins the box around, the Doctor walks out the front door, in plain view of the audience, who roars with laughter. Chang covers by saying, "The bird has flown; one of us is yellow." Chang's assistant, Lee, enters the box. Chang begins to insert many swords into the box, telling the audience this trick is known as the Death of a Thousand Cuts. Like a Bugs Bunny cartoon, it turns out to be the Doctor who is handing the swords to Chang.
Chang's assistant Lee climbs through the trap door and is nabbed by Weng-Chiang. Chang removes the swords and opens the box. Inside is the dead body of Casey. Jago quickly brings the curtains down. Chang slips away to the cellar, but Weng-Chiang is gone; Chang has been deserted by his god.
The Doctor and Leela follow. The Doctor prevents Chang from committing suicide by swallowing another pellet of scorpion venom. Chang tells him Weng-Chiang appeared like a god in a blazing cabinet of fire. Chang, a poor peasant, gave him sanctuary, while soldiers of T'ungchi took the cabinet. Weng-Chiang has searched for it ever since.
Jago arrives, distracting the Doctor and Leela. Chang slips out through the sewer. "There's no escape that way," the Doctor tells Leela, "he's gone to join his ancestors." Chang is attacked by a giant rat.
Borrowing his alliteration, the Doctor tells Jago Chang was involved in the mystery of the missing girls "up to his epicanthic eyebrows." Leela notices Weng-Chiang's distillation machine is gone; he's going to start up all over again somewhere else. "His DNA helix is split open; the more cells he absorbs into himself, the more deformed he becomes," the Doctor tells her. He's struggling to keep his metabolism in balance. The rats were an experiment in which Weng-Chiang gauged the strength of the psyonic amplification field of his distillation machine.
As the Doctor and Leela leave, Jago lingers, planning to change "bob a nob" to see the Lair of the Phantom.
The Doctor and Leela return to Litefoot's house and find the dead policeman. Litefoot is OK, but the time cabinet is gone. The Doctor realizes Mr. Sin is the Peking Homunculus. Made in Peking for the Commission of the Icelandic Alliance, in the Ice Age about the year 5000, it "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" because "somehow the pig part took over."
The Doctor tells Litefoot and Leela: "Findecker's discovery of the double nexus particle sent human science up a technological cul de sac." He adds, "The mental feedback" of this pig thing "is so intense that somehow the swinish instinct has become dominant. It hates humanity and it revels in carnage."
At his new lair, which sports a giant statue of a dragon, Weng-Chiang gloats over the time cabinet; now he can become whole and alive. But his Chinese henchmen have accidentally left the carpetbag containing the cabinet's key back at the theatre.
From a tag on Litefoot's laundry basket, the Doctor notes the address of the Limehouse Laundry: Rundall Buildings, the Causeway. Litefoot tells him it's between Whitechapel and St. George's. The Doctor says, "Weng-Chiang is a scientific ignoramus. He doesn't understand the nature of Zygma energy," adding, "The power source of the time cabinet is a Zygma beam. At the moment it's like a piece of elastic fully stretched." Leela and the Doctor head off to the laundry, leaving Litefoot behind.
At the theatre, Jago has expanded his Lair of the Phantom plans from a shilling a head to a guinea each. He discovers Weng-Chiang's carpetbag and takes it to Litefoot's. In his flowery speech, Jago butters up Litefoot, calling him and the Doctor, "the most formidable combination in the annals of criminology."
In the Doctor's absence, Litefoot persuades the reluctant Jago to return to the theatre to keep a discreet watch to see who comes looking for the bag. Jago writes a note to the Doctor and they leave. At the laundry, after repeatedly telling the noiseless Leela to be quiet, the Doctor stumbles and makes a small racket. They're locked in a basket room, so the Doctor slips a paper beneath the door and probes the keyhole, pushing out the key and drawing it back under the door on the paper.
The laundry is just a front for an opium den. The Doctor is sure more girls will be sacrificed because Weng-Chiang "will try to build his body levels before he tries to use the Zygma beam."
He and Leela run into Chang, who has lost a leg to the giant rat. But opium suppresses his pain, although he's dying. He tells the Doctor Weng-Chiang can be found at the House of the Dragon and warns him to beware the Eye of the Dragon. Then he dies.
At the House of the Dragon, the tong members return empty handed. Weng-Chiang rants his displeasure until he notices out the window Jago and Litefoot. The tong were followed. He sends them to capture Litefoot and Jago. Weng-Chiang roughs up Jago, so Litefoot reveals the carpetbag is at his house.
The Doctor and Leela return and find Jago's note. The Doctor recognizes the time cabinet key. "Eureka," he says, "Do you know what that is?" "You ask me so that you can tell me," Leela shrewdly observes. "It's a trionic lattice; an integral part of a time cabinet; it's impossible to open it without it," the Doctor tells her. Leela suggests, "Perhaps he has another Eureka." The Doctor replies, "No, Eureka's Greek for this bath is too hot; there can never be another one of this combination."
From the state of Litefoot's fire, the Doctor deduces he and Jago have been gone quite a while. He tells Leela they're better off waiting for Weng-Chiang to come to them.
Litefoot and Jago are locked in a room with two drugged girls. Litefoot discovers a dumb waiter, which he and Jago use to escape, but they are caught again by the tong.
At Litefoot's house, the Doctor and Leela gather things to be used as weapons, such as cricket bats and golf clubs. Leela thinks the Professor should have heavy armaments. "I've brought you to the wrong time, my girl," the Doctor says, "You'd have loved Agincourt."
Weng-Chiang, concealed behind Litefoot's draperies, grabs Leela from behind and subdues her with chloroform, but not before she rips off his leather mask. He's badly deformed; his features almost slide off his face. A similar masked villain, named Sharaz Jek, played by Christopher Gable, appeared in Peter Davison's last show, THE CAVES OF ANDROZANI, but his deformed face was unmasked early and shown throughout the 4-parts. Weng-Chiang's is shown for a brief second and never seen again.
A tong member grabs the groggy Leela; the Doctor enters with a book of maps and casually greets Weng-Chiang, now remasked. Weng-Chiang demands the key, so the Doctor empties his pockets, offering him a jelly baby.
The Doctor tosses the time key playfully, noting it's crystalline and would probably break into a thousand pieces if he dropped it. The Doctor bargains: Weng-Chiang can have the trionic lattice when they all get to the House of the Dragon, so Jago and Litefoot can be released. Weng-Chiang agrees; they depart, leaving Leela behind. She snatches up a knife and follows.
Back at Weng-Chiang's lair, Jago confesses to Litefoot he's not so brave. Litefoot tells him his fear is normal and reassures him he won't let the side down. Despite the complete differences in their personalities, Litefoot and Jago make an engaging pair, and it's a shame they don't get together before part #5 of this story. At one time, the BBC had planned to spin off these two characters in a period series but, unfortunately, it never happened.
In the dragon room, Weng-Chiang asks how the Doctor can understand the workings of a catalytic extraction chamber. "Simple old fashioned cannibalism," the Doctor replies, "That machine just saves you having to chew the grisly bits."
The Doctor tells Weng-Chiang, "Your so-called technology is the twisted lunacy of a scientific Dark Age." He asks where his "pig-faced, pig-brained Peking Homunculus" is. Mr. Sin is at the top of the dragon, sitting at what looks to be gun sights.
"I was with the Filipino army at the final advance on Reykjavik," the Doctor tells Weng-Chiang and asks his real name. It's Magnus Greel. The Doctor's heard of him: "The infamous Minister of Justice, the Butcher of Brisbane," a wanted criminal, responsible for 100,000 deaths.
Greel is enraged to be remembered as a war criminal. He's even more enraged to hear the Doctor say the Zygma experiments were a failure.
Litefoot and Jago are brought in. "Off you go now," the Doctor tells them. Litefoot asks the two girls also be freed, but this is too much for Greel. He signals Mr. Sin, who shoots the Doctor from the eye of the dragon with a laser beam. The Doctor falls to the floor and Greel retrieves the time key. Too late, the Doctor realizes what Chang's warning meant.
A tong member carts the Doctor off by his feet; and the Doctor, Litefoot and Jago are locked up with the drugged girls.
Greel puts the key in the time cabinet; the key begins to glow and the door opens.
Litefoot examines the unconscious Doctor and notes a curious double heart beat. The Doctor wakes up and quotes a 1920 poem by Harry Champion. He tells Jago and Litefoot to get the unconscious girls against the wall and to break off a gas pipe. He uses the linen mattress cover the girls were lying on to create a sort of gas bag.
Leela breaks in and jumps on Greel, calling him "bentface," but is grabbed by the tong. Greel decides to use her in his machine to re-establish his protenoid balance before he can re-enter the Zygma beam. Leela faces her fate bravely and promises to hunt Greel down in the Great Hereafter.
The Professor gives the Doctor some lucifers--matches--and the Doctor sends everyone to cover. He lights a fuse on his homemade gas bomb and joins them. It explodes just as the door opens; the Chinese are knocked out and the girls get away.
Greel turns his distillation machine on. The Doctor arrives and throws a hatchet at the machine, shorting it out and rescuing Leela. Mr. Sin shoots at them with his dragon laser weapon. They seek cover behind a table, which Sin reduces by laser fire. Greel can no longer control Sin, who shoots the remaining tong members.
Proving he is braver than he thought, Jago creates a diversion while Leela goes for a gun dropped by one of the dead tong members. Greel, seeing he's losing, heads for the time cabinet. The Doctor tells him, "If you activate the Zygma beam, it'll be certain death for all of us" because "the Zygma beam was at full stretch. If you trigger it again, it'll mean certain collapse." There will be a huge implosion and Greel will be at the center of it; the Zygma experiments were a disaster.
Sin shoots at Greel; Leela rushes forward and shoots at the laser, disabling it. The Doctor grabs Greel and pushes him into his own distillation machine. In seconds only his clothes remain. "Cellular collapse," the Doctor remarks.
Sin, dagger in hand, jumps on Leela. The Doctor drags him off and smashes him to the floor. He pulls out Sin's fuse and tosses it away. The Doctor then smashes the trionic lattice, bringing the Zygma experiments to an end.
Outside, the muffin man calls his wares; the Doctor offers to treat everyone. Munching their muffins, they head back to the TARDIS. Litefoot, his arm in a sling, explains the intricacies of British high tea to Leela, who complains to the Doctor, "It's very complicated." The Doctor and Leela say their goodbyes. As they enter the TARDIS, the Doctor continues Leela's tea education: "The important thing is just warming the pot," he tells her as the TARDIS dematerializes. Jago tells Litefoot this is a trick even the Great Li H'sen Chang would have appreciated.
|Li H'sen Chang||John Bennett|
|Magnus Greel||Michael Spice|
|Professor Litefoot||Trevor Baxter|
|Henry Gordon Jago||Christopher Benjamin|
|Mr. Sin||Deep Roy|
|Sergeant Kyle||David McKail|
|PC Quick||Conrad Asquith|
|Cleaning Woman||Vaune Craig-Raymond|
John Bennett, who plays Li H'sen Chang, played General Finch in the Pertwee story INVASION OF THE DINOSAURS. He also appeared with Pertwee in THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1970). Although he turns out not to be the ultimate menace in THE TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG, he is superb in his role of the dignified Chinese magician; this is one of the best villain characters in the history of the show.
Michael Spice, who plays Magnus Greel (also known as Weng-Chiang), provided the voice for Morbius in the Tom Baker story THE BRAIN OF MORBIUS.
Christopher Benjamin, who plays Henry Gordon Jago, played Sir Keith Gold in the Pertwee story INFERNO. He is also a Royal Shakespeare Company member and has appeared on the Broadway stage in NICHOLAS NICKLEBY, CYRANO DE BERGERAC and MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.
Deep Roy, after years of being a stunt guy under makeup, as he was playing Mr. Sin in this, got the role of a lifetime as all of the Oompa Loompas in the Tim Burton version of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005).
Click here for some photos of the cast.