↳ The Talons of Weng-Chiang (Story #91)
★★★★ / 5
"It’s elementary, my fair phantom of the Palace Theatre!"
Finally, a really good serial that I found neither dull nor mediocre. Despite the unfortunate portrayal of stereotypical Chinese men and Caucasian actors cast in Asian roles, this was a story that I find little flaw in. Well paced and full of excellent dialogue and interesting characters, The Talons of Weng- Chiang is a superb finale for season fourteen.
I particularly enjoyed the characters of Litefoot and Jago, so much so that I’m looking forward to listening to their Big Finish audio dramas one day.
Leela was also wonderful in this serial. She’s regular ole Eliza Doolittle here, with Professor Litefoot serving as the sweet and understanding Colonel Pickering. I absolutely love the scene where Litefoot has Leela over for dinner and, instead of correcting and embarrassing her, he eats the way she does. What a wonderful host.
One thing I’m a bit uncertain on: the “nine missing girls” bit. I’m not sure if Greel’s activity IS the Jack the Ripper murders or if his abductions are mistaken for the work of the Ripper. I would assume the latter considering that the Ripper did not abduct women, but rather mutilate them and leave them on the streets. In any case, IDW’s Series II comic entitled “Ripper’s Curse” features the Eleventh Doctor discovering that Jack is no man at all, but actually some alien lizard thing. While in the television episode “A Good Man Goes to War” in season 6, the Silurian Madame Vastra claims to have eaten Jack the Ripper! They can’t all be canonical!
Anyway, I liked this story and am glad we got a chance to see the fourth Doctor get his Sherlock Holmes on.
(after being attacked)
JAGO: What the devil was it!?
THE DOCTOR: I have no idea. He didn’t introduce himself.
- The Doctor says that he was in China 400 years ago. This could be a reference to TV: Marco Polo, though that story took place in 1289, 600 years earlier. The 400 years could also reference roughly 400 years experienced by the Doctor in his personal timeline, or another unknown visit in the 15th century.
- This is the only story from the Tom Baker era in which he is not seen wearing one of his trademark scarves, his attire instead resembling that of Sherlock Holmes. Leela is not shown wearing her leathers. According to the textual information track on the DVD release, this change in costume was supposed to be permanent as the Doctor and Leela established a Professor Higgins/Eliza Doolittle-style relationship, but the idea was soon dropped.
- The production team briefly considered giving Jago and Litefoot their own spin-off series.
- During production, there was concern over the character of Leela. Louise Jameson was approached with an offer of the actress staying on for Season Fifteen. This was a decision at odds with a promise made to Tom Baker that Leela would be written out of the show at the conclusion of Season Fourteen. Baker was of the opinion that the character was too violent for the show and would have preferred to carry on without a companion at all. Jameson was initially reluctant to continue, mainly because of her frosty relationship with Baker and the brown contact lenses she was compelled to wear. When offered to relinquish the need for contact lenses, Jameson agreed to sign a contract for the whole of Season Fifteen.
There are a number of references to the Sherlock Holmes novels by Arthur Conan Doyle:
- The Doctor is dressed in a similar way as the stereotype Sherlock Holmes caricature (although the Holmes of Doyle’s stories would never have worn a deerstalker and Inverness cape in town) and uses sayings and mannerisms similar to Holmes’.
- Professor Litefoot is a similar character to Sherlock Holmes’ colleague Dr Watson and he has a housekeeper called Mrs Hudson (the same name as the housekeeper at 221b Baker Street in the Sherlock Holmes novels).
- At one point the Doctor says to Litefoot “…elementary my dear Litefoot”.
In so far as Magnus Greel is a hideously deformed character living beneath a 19th-century theatre who convinces a performer that he is a spirit rather than a man, the story is also reminiscent of The Phantom of the Opera. When Chang calls the Doctor to the stage, there is a short musical excerpt from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado.
Fun Facts acquired from the TARDIS wiki.
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