When I reflect upon Tom's era as a whole, one thing I believe becomes increasingly clear. The fourth Doctor's tenure can be divided into two distinct halves: ‘the serious half’, and the ‘not so serious half’. For me, The Talons of Weng Chiang
-- and the impending changing of the guard in the production office -- marked the end of ‘the serious half’.
Outgoing script editor Robert Holmes presents us with a lavish trip back to Victorian London, with its dark, damp, gloomy, mist shrouded, cobble stoned streets, creating a wonderfully atmospheric backdrop for this spooky tale of the macabre, in scenes reminiscent of a Sherlock Holmes mystery.
Nineteenth century London is an apt setting for this morbid tale, one thing you notice is that the majority of the outdoor scenes were filmed at night, creating the perfect ambience for such themes as kidnap and murder. Despite its morose subject matter, Talons
refrains from being gory; instead Holmes stimulates the audiences imagination through the power of suggestion.
Holmes script is a homage to several well known Victorian tales; the familiar Sherlock Holmes murder mystery theme is prevalent throughout the story, with the Doctor assuming the role of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective magnificently. The period this story is based upon also allowed Robert Holmes to indulge his take on the Jack the Ripper murder’s, with the Doctor investigating the grim disappearances of several young girl’s at the hands of Li H’sen Chang, a character inspired by Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu. As the plot deepens and the mystery begins to unfold, the Doctor's investigations move to the Palace Theatre, where Holmes employs elements of Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera.
This six part epic is perfectly paced and keeps you thoroughly absorbed throughout, Tom's legendary performance captivates and holds the audience spellbound. The Talons of Weng Chiang
is without a doubt Doctor Who at its very best, with Holmes delivering another of his trademark solid scripts, with its crisp dialogue and memorable characters replacing the need for a lot of complex and expensive visual effects. The Talons of Weng Chiang
served as a fitting final chapter for Philip Hinchcliffe as producer. Together with writer and script editor, Robert Holmes, Hinchcliffe had overseen the greatest, and most popular era of Doctor Who.
Rating: 5 Tom's out of 5