Wednesday, September 26, 2012

TV Review - Doctor Who: The Talons of Weng-Chiang

Doctor Who: The Talons of Weng-Chiang
Release Date: February 26th, 1977 – April 2nd, 1977
Starring: Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Christopher Benjamin, Trevor Baxter, John Bennett, Deep Roy, Michael Spice, Chris Gannon, Alan Butler,  Tony Then, Vincent Wong, John Wu, David McKail, Conrad Asquith, Judith Lloyd, Vaune Craig-Raymond, Penny Lister, Dudley Simpson and Patsy Smart
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

The Doctor brings Leela to Victorian Earth so that she can learn such things as how to wear real clothes and maybe even what silverware is for, and to see a Victorian stage magician at work. Sadly, they don't make it to Li H'sen Chang's show, being set upon by members of the Chinese Tong of the Black Scorpion, who worship the God, Weng-Chiang. Strange disappearances have been happening, centered around the Palace Theatre that Henry Gordon Jago runs and which is the venue for Li H'sen Chang. Early in the night a cab driver arrived accusing the theatre manager because the theatre was the last place his wife was seen alive. Could this cab driver be the man who the Tong where attacking when The Doctor and Leela interfered?

When the body appears in the river some time later, The Doctor's suspicions are confirmed. The Tong has, for some reason, silenced a man who could like Li H'sen Chang and the Palace Theatre to the missing women. At the autopsy, The Doctor strikes up a friendship with the good Professor Litefoot, who soon becomes a part of their investigations. Yet Professor Litefoot may be more important than any of them thought, what with being raised in China. Could the God Weng-Chiang really have returned? Or is it someone else cunningly using the Tong's devotion for his own means? It will take all of them to bring down this madman, for it is he who is responsible for the disappearances of the women as well as countless other atrocities.

I remember years and years ago watching this episode for the first time and being bored out of my mind. I don't know why I didn't connect to the episode, it has Holmesian elements, especially in Tom Baker's outfit, Jack the Ripper, Victorian London... yet, for some reason it bored me to tears and I just wanted it to end, which it didn't for a long time, being a six-parter. Going back to it now, I was at first rather apprehensive, I was expecting to be bored to tears. I wasn't! The only tears where the occasional tears of laughter from the lack of budget, mainly the Victorian ROUS (Rodents of Unusual Size) which where occasionally real rats in scaled down tunnels or men dressed like giant rodent stuffed animals, that where remarkably clean for living in the sewers. I'm saying, a little grease could have gone a long way.

Also, I loved that this evil genius villain who combines the horrors of Jack the Ripper and the chic of The Phantom of the Opera has so much trouble finding a box. I mean, really? The Tong and a midget, who is really a pig creature (more tears of laughter here, oink oink) can't get one box from an old man? Hilarious. Yet, it was so well acted, and just such Victorian Camp fun, I don't know why I didn't like it my first time around. I say for anyone looking for a true Steampunk episode of Doctor Who that is into old school Doctor, you need to check out this! Part Phantom part Jack part Sherlock part My Fair Lady and all Britishy fun and goodness. And don't discount Jago, that man look familiar? Christopher Benjamin should! He's Mr. Lucas from Pride and Prejudice, amongst countless other credits. Also, Mr. Sin is every Oompa-Loompa in the newest adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Another fun game to play is to watch how many times Li H'sen Chang blinks... he almost broke Rufus Sewell's record of six blinks total in all of Kenneth Brannagh's Hamlet, and dood, that movie was long. He could totally defeat the Weeping Angels!


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