The Talons of Weng-Chiang
is one of the very best Doctor Who
stories, a six-part adventure set in a Gothic Victorian London inspired by The Phantom of the Opera
and Sax Rohmer's tales
of Fu Manchu, with nods towards Jack the Ripper, Dracula and Sherlock Holmes. The final story from the show's Golden Age (Philip Hinchcliff's three-year tenure as Producer), boasts superior production values and a bizarre storyline involving a time-travelling war criminal, giant rats in the London sewers and a malevolent ventriloquist's doll with the brain of a pig.
Pitted against this flamboyant madness, largely centred on an East End music hall run by the self-important Henry Gordon Jago (a memorable performance by Christopher Benjamin) are Tom Baker's fourth Doctor, in pre-self-parody top form, and Louise Jameson's Leela at her primal best. There's strong support from Trevor Baxter as the Watson-like Professor Lightfoot, and John Bennett as the villainous Li H'sen Chang. Really helping matters is the first-rate direction from David "Genesis of the Daleks" Maloney, evoking a creepy atmosphere in a fantasy London of shadows and fog. Weng-Chiang was the pinnacle of Gothic Who and still remains highly enjoyable entertainment.
On the DVD: Doctor Who: The Talons of Weng-Chiang offers all six original episodes with good, if variable, 4:3 picture and crisp and clear mono sound. There is also highly informative on-screen trivia text and a lively group commentary with David Maloney, Louise Jameson, John Bennett and Christopher Benjamin. The highlight of Disc 2 is an hour-long documentary, Whose Doctor Who, shown on BBC2 the day after the final episode of "Weng-Chiang" aired. Also included is 23 minutes of extremely poor quality b/w timecoded video production footage and--much more fun--26 minutes worth of clips from Blue Peter with Lesley Judd, John Noakes and Peter Purvis showing how to build a Doctor Who music-hall theatre. There's also an interesting 11-minute 1977 interview with Philip Hinchcliffe, continuity announcements and trailers, a photo gallery, a short new animation, Tardis Cam No. 6, and optional subtitles. --Gary S Dalkin
The inimitable Doctor Who and his assistant Leela are confronted by sinister and seemingly inexplicable occurrences in this gripping thriller set in the shadowy depths of nineteenth century London.
With the help of Professor Litefoot, the Doctor investigates the gruesome murder of a cabbie and the mysterious disappearances of young girls. Whilst being chased by giant rats and forced to pit his wits against an evil doll and a merciless illusionist, he comes face to face with his most deadly enemy to date: Magnus Greel - a fifty-first century war criminal posing as Weng Chiang, an ancient Chinese god. Can the Doctor thwart his dastardly plans before Leela becomes his next victim
. This is the first time an unedited version of Dr Who: Talons of Weng Chiang has ever been released.