The Talons of Weng Chiang

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The Talons of Weng Chiang

Postby John on November 6th, 2009, 2:53 pm

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
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Last edited by John on December 17th, 2009, 5:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Talons of Weng Chiang

Postby pattie anne on November 6th, 2009, 4:39 pm

Really liked "Talons," very much for lots of reasons. Victorian england, the doctor's threads, the doctor doing magic tricks, the blending of past/present/future occurances. Really would have liked to have seen Dr Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago spin off into their own tv series. or at the very least, returning to dr who. Though, as dr who the tv series is still running, guess THOSE contingencies are still rather viable. Not likely but viable nonetheless.
Last edited by pattie anne on December 6th, 2009, 10:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Talons of Weng Chiang

Postby bcm77 on November 6th, 2009, 7:42 pm

Robert Holmes was nothing short of a genius when it came to writing and this is my favorite example of his work and also my 2nd favourite Doctor Who story ever.

This story is so good that not even the dodgy "giant" rat drags it down and I think "Talons" is a stunning example of why Philip Hincliffe's tenure as producer will probably never be bettered.

11/10 and a standing ovation for all involved!
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Re: The Talons of Weng Chiang

Postby merlinsseer on November 6th, 2009, 9:00 pm

I haven't seen this one in a very long time, but i do remember some parts very fondly. I admit that it took me some time to warm up to the Leela character, I was a die hard Sarah Jane fan and missed her and the wonderful , special " best friends " magic that happened whenever she and the Doctor were together.
This story had some great Leela moments that made her be seen as more that just a " savage " . Her exasperation over the ridiculousness of polite society . The tea lesson-" one lump or two Miss. Leela ? To which you would reply , ' one will suffice, thank you" , leela-" But what if i want two?" , " oh no , one lump for ladies" , leela- " then why ask me?" :lol: She wanted to learn because it pleased the Doctor, but couldn't help but ask the question that pointed out the sheer sillness of the whole thing- you had to love her for it.
The moment when she comes out in the dress and discovers the pleasure and power of being and feeling " pretty". She liked the attention but comfort over fashion won out in the end.
Leela was a very complex character sometimes, very child-like on some levels, almost motherly and fiercely protective of the Doctor on others, then a " live and let die " killer- she did what she had to do because it needed to be done ( so she thought ).She had a lot of growing to do as a character and it would have been interesting to watch it happen
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Re: The Talons of Weng Chiang

Postby John on November 6th, 2009, 9:23 pm

Leela was a great character, which is why it was a pity she got such a lame send off. It never ceases to amaze me how convincing Louise Jameson is as a savage. When she's in those skins she looks really tough, and she appears to be quite well toned; I wonder whether she worked out for the part?

She's particularly magnificent in Talons, Bob Holmes wrote her character so well. Some of the earlier companions weren't catered for very well, but Leela -- no doubt due to her aggressive, head strong tendencies -- was always right there in the middle of the action.

And she looked amazing in that dress.
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Re: The Talons of Weng Chiang

Postby Captain Rum on November 7th, 2009, 5:38 am

bcm77 wrote:Robert Holmes was nothing short of a genius when it came to writing and this is my favorite example of his work and also my 2nd favourite Doctor Who story ever.

This story is so good that not even the dodgy "giant" rat drags it down and I think "Talons" is a stunning example of why Philip Hincliffe's tenure as producer will probably never be bettered.

11/10 and a standing ovation for all involved!
















I agree with all of that, with a score of 11/10 :D

It's a fantastic story and is full of action and some great performances by all concerned, lots of action and suspense and basically a ripping good yarn, Robert Holmes was one of the best if not the best Who writer of them all.
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Re: The Talons of Weng Chiang

Postby Graham Sutton on May 1st, 2010, 11:16 pm

Yes I agree with one of the posts. The 'serious half' was produced by Philip Hinchcliffe and the 'not serious' less good bit was produced by others. Why on earth did the BBC let Hinchcliffe go and bring in Williams and JNT who just ruined the programme - did they not understand what we wanted or what? As an 11/12 year old I never understood what on earth the BBC had done to my fav programme. I loved Tom, and still do but after 'Talons of Weng Chiang' (PH's last story as Producer) the whole thing went, in my opinion, downhill.
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Re: The Talons of Weng Chiang

Postby tracy on May 2nd, 2010, 8:50 am

:D i wouldnt say leela had a lame send off she met one of the guards on gallifrey and fell in love and stayed there .i thought that was a lovly ending for leela
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Re: The Talons of Weng Chiang

Postby John on May 2nd, 2010, 2:03 pm

Totally out of character though, especially as neither Leela nor Andred spent that much screen-time together, or shared much dialogue.

And would she have been allowed to remain on Gallifrey? Remember how the Doctor was forced to return Sarah to Earth rather than take her to Gallifrey?

I think it would have been far more approapriate for her character to have died heroically saving the Doctor - albeit a bit of a downer.
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Re: The Talons of Weng Chiang

Postby Toothy Grin on August 13th, 2010, 4:00 pm

Just rewatched this and I'd forgotton just how magnificent it is - easily one of Tom's very best stories and one of the best Doctor Who's of all time. The production is just gorgeous, one of the most beautifully realised depictions of Victorian London I've ever seen on TV, you can almost smell that London pea-souper smog. It really does draw you into it's murky world. I'd say this is one of the best looking stories ever, and the direction is simply magnificent. All the actors give terrific performances, Jago and Lightfoot are a great double-act, Li h'sen Chang is masterfully played by John Bennett and Michael Spice's Magnus Greel is a truly hideous and frighteningly unhinged villain. The make up for his distorted face is repulsive in the short scene when his mask is pulled away, looking like it's half-melted, and Mr Sin is possibly the most disturbing creation in the whole series. The serial is surprisingly adult with some very brutal scenes of violence, blood, references to opium and, even though she's never referred to as such, one character is very clearly a prostitute.
Tom is at his absolute peak in this story, and looks magnificent in his Sherlock Holmes-esque attire, although this does bug me somewhat. The Doctor's never bothered to change his clothes for any period adventures before, so why this time? I find myslef a bit distracted by his overly stylilsed Sherlock togs. Surprised he wasn't given a pipe to smoke and a magnifying glass. His performance really is faultless though, throughout. The only other gripe is the giant rat, which looks like something froma kids pantomime, but thankfully it's appearance is kept to a minimum.
Overall, The Talons of Weng Chiang is an all time classic, and a terrific piece of television. 10/10
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