Tom Baker as Doctor Who

Tom Baker as Doctor Who

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!

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