Doctor Who - The Deadly Assassin [DVD] 
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Gallifrey. Planet of the Time Lords. The Doctor has finally come home, but not by choice.
Summoned by a vision from The Matrix, he is drawn into web of political intrigue and assassination. Nothing is quite what it seems, and in the shadows lurks his oldest and deadliest enemy...
Special Features: • Commentary by Tom Baker [The Doctor], Bernard Horsfall [Goth] and Philip Hinchcliffe [Producer] • The Matrix Revisited Cast, crew and critics look back at the making of this story, featuring director David Maloney, designer Roger Murray-Leach and the founder of the National Viewers and Listeners Association, Mary Whitehouse • The Gallifreyan Candidate A look at Richard Condon’s novel The Manchurian Candidate, a major influence on the plot of The Deadly Assassin • The Frighten Factor What exactly is Doctor Who’s ‘Frighten Factor’? A diverse panel of experts try to answer the question • Radio Times Billings Listings for this story presented in a PDF file [DVD-ROM – PC/Mac] • Photo Gallery • Coming Soon Trailer • Production Information Subtitles • Easter Egg • Digitally remastered picture and sound quality
This story was originally broadcast on BBC1 between 30th October – 20th November 1976
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When he is back in Gallifrey he experiences a vision and witnesses the assasination of the Lord President and becomes entangled in events when he is accused of the murder but as things start to unravel we find that an old rival is on the scene looking for revenge.
The Doctor hooks his mind up to the Matrix and has to fight for his life whilst inside as he tries not to get killed by machine guns, falling down cliff faces leg trapped in a train track and being strangled underwater by another timelord who has been brainwashed by The Master who at this stage is looking decayed and is on Gallifrey to help himself get more regenerations.
This is another gem by Robert Holmes and shows just why The Doctor needs the companion to pull him back sometimes, this is one of the greats from the Phillip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes era that gives that twist on The Timelord mythology that went before.
The next time we see the decaying master would be in Keeper of Traken when he eventually changes into Anthony Ainley who would play against the 4th, 5th, 6th and finally the 7th doctor in Survival, but here is played with menace by Peter Pratt who does an amazing job, must have been hard to follow Roger Del Gado.
Bernard Horsfall makes his 4th appearance in the show as we last him playing a Timelord was in The War Games with Patrick Troughton where he exiled the Doctor to Earth and changed his face, here he is under the spell of the master who tells him to kill the doctor and it is a great performance.
Great costumes from James Acheson and Set Design by Roger Murray Leach who really enhances The Seal of Rassilon in his design.
We get commentary from Tom Baker (The Doctor) Bernard Horsfall (Goth) with the Producer Phillip Hinchcliffe.
The Matrix Revisited talks to the cast and crew with critics about this story and the violence that caused outrage.
The Frighten Factor talks to writers, producers and fans of the show telling of how scary the show was and is to a child to watch.
This is a must for any fan of classic who or Tom Baker has to have in their collection
The previous story, `The Hand of Fear', ended in 1976 with the mother of all cliff-hangers that left young viewers (as I was then!) astonished and I expect in many cases, rather upset. Our Sarah Jane, wonderfully played to the last by Elisabeth Sladen, shoved out of the TARDIS without warning! What could possibly be so important that the Doctor would treat his best friend like that? A summons from home, from "Gallifrey - after all these years" - a vision of the murder of the Lord President of the High Council by a deadly assassin ...
After a set-up like that, it's no surprise this story got huge viewing figures and it fully deserves them. According to the commentary, Tom Baker wanted to play the Doctor without a companion; Philip Hinchcliffe suggested a political whodunit and Robert Holmes brought the story to Gallifrey. It's a superb combination of ideas for a unique story, and Tom Baker turns in an thrilling performance as the lone hero, struggling to save his home world and the society he rejected, to save it from its own corruption and the scheming of another outcast Time Lord - because the Master is back ...
Worn out, at the very end of his lives, this Master is a hideous, barely living thing of oozing flesh and bulging lidless eyes; created by an amazing mask / makeup and brilliantly performed by Peter Pratt, he's a wheezing, evil shadow of the Master we knew from the incarnation superbly played by Roger Delgado. Held together by hate and willpower, the Master now lives for vengeance against his own people and against the Doctor above all. And perhaps he still lives for something else too - "never underestimate the Master"...
Unable to prevent the Lord President's murder, the Doctor finds himself framed for the crime and must find the true assassin to save his own life. The two sides of Time Lord society are well represented by cynical, political Chancellor Goth (Bernard Horsfall) and stuffy but fair Cardinal Borusa (Angus Mackay) in two excellent performances. With the Lord President now dead, his expected successor Goth wants the immediate transition of power - and if that means a show trial and the Doctor dead within hours, so be it. But Borusa is a just man and stands up for the constitution (and for his former student from the Academy), giving the Doctor the breathing space he needs to go on the hunt for the real killer.
His unexpected allies are tough, worldly-wise Castellan Spandrell of the Chancellery Guard (George Pravda) and bookish little Co-ordinator Engin (Erik Chitty), the keeper of the Matrix - a data store holding the priceless memories and thought patterns of dead Time Lords. Their double act is one of the delights of this story, as they come to believe in the Doctor's innocence in a clever whodunit that twists off in unexpected directions.
The most unexpected direction (at least in 1976) was into the Matrix itself. It's been used in `Doctor Who' since then, most recently as the `Nethersphere' at the end of Peter Capaldi's first season (and I believe something very similar has appeared elsewhere(!)) but this was the *original* Matrix, created by Robert Holmes as an almost casual stroke of genius to bring live action into a studio-based production. A collection of dead Time Lord minds held in a computation matrix, shaped by thought into a virtual world where the Doctor is forced to fight a battle of wills with the deadly assassin.
Exciting and very cleverly filmed and directed by David Maloney (as is the studio part of the story), it incorporates scenes from nightmares real and imagined and homage to famous films across the whole `adventure' genre in a single action-packed episode. The cliff-hanger ending for episode 3 is one of the all-time greats. It upset Mary Whitehouse even more than `Doctor Who' usually did and was cut for later showings, but here we can see the full impact once more.
Quite right too! Back in 1976 I was just one 12 year old among more than ten million viewers and we weren't stupid! We knew two facts that seem to have escaped the "ooh it's too scary for the kids" critics: The Doctor Always Wins and It Isn't Real! I wouldn't at that age have gone into long discussions about `Gothic horror' and `the Hinchcliffe / Holmes years' but I knew quality `Doctor Who' when I saw it and I knew I was watching the best seasons yet - and as it turned out, the best seasons ever made, so thanks to all involved for some great television memories.
The Doctor (of course) does win his battle and it seems the story is over, but there's a twist and a spectacular one as the Master's real purpose is revealed, dredging up forgotten secrets from the origins of Time Lord power. The ensuing final conflict pushes 1970s studio work to the limit, but the story pulls it off successfully and in the process Robert Holmes (again) created more `facts' about the Time Lords that underlie stories to this day.
His depiction of Gallifrey is an all-male world of politics and stately ritual, where ceremonial robes are a thin veneer over the raw struggle for power. With iconic costumes by James Acheson and superb, gloomily-lit sets by Roger Murray-Leach, this portrayal of the Time Lords caused a lot of angst among some fans at the time, but personally I thought - and think - it's terrific. If "all power corrupts" eventually, what would happen on a world of immense power to beings with many centuries of life? Robert Holmes didn't create the Time Lords, but he did give them two hearts and twelve regenerations, name Gallifrey and wrote the Master's first story, so if anyone could rewrite Time Lord history somewhat, surely it was him.
Actually it doesn't seem to me to be that big a rewrite; I'd already seen the Time Lords use the Doctor as their agent several times since `Colony in Space', most recently in `Genesis of the Daleks' and `The Brain of Morbius'. Yet they'd once condemned him for interfering in the affairs of other worlds - as Robert Holmes later pointed out, they were hypocrites at least. In this story we are treated to some enjoyable satire on American - and British - politics. There is a President, a Constitution and a Celestial Intervention Agency, all very American, but those assembled Time Lords parading in their robes of state as Dudley Simpson's music fills the Panopticon look much more like an historical flashback to the King and the Lords of the Palace of Westminster to me. And the hushed broadcasting tones of Runcible "the fatuous" (Hugh Walters) obviously make him a caricature of a very British Royal Correspondent.
This one-off solo escapade is yet another member of the High Council of Fourth Doctor classics. In the longer term, the Doctor does really need a companion and so we were soon introduced to Louise Jameson's fabulous Leela, but that's another story...
5 / 5* for the Doctor's Gallifrey adventure, thanks for reading.
DVD Special Features:
The commentary is a very good one, with Tom Baker, Bernard Horsfall and Philip Hinchcliffe and some great anecdotes about what was obviously a happy production by a confident team. Many contributors to the Pertwee-era DVDs have also said how cheerful the atmosphere was back then too - and Bernard Horsfall says just the same here about his previous appearances, going back to the Troughton years. No wonder then that `Doctor Who' had such a long run of success at that time.
`The Matrix Revisited' (29 min) - excellent `making of' feature with Tom Baker, Bernard Horsfall, Philip Hinchcliffe, director David Maloney (from archive interview clips) and designer Roger Murray-Leach.
Photo Gallery (5 min).
`The Gallifreyan Candidate' (11 min) - comparing `The Deadly Assassin' with the novel and film `The Manchurian Candidate'. I found this interesting but not that convincing at making any close link. It's true that both stories are based around a political assassination, but the novel involves brainwashing, sleeper agents and an alliance of foreign powers plotting to install their choice of President. `The Deadly Assassin' is by contrast a story of home-grown (and freely chosen) corruption fuelled by greed, revenge and a very personal lust for power. And Robert Holmes' satire seems to me to be aimed at British politics just as much as across the Atlantic.
`The Frighten Factor' (17 min) - a varied set of contributors discuss just what makes `Doctor Who' frightening and explains how this is a *positive* experience. Good, but did the nation's youth really spend 25 minutes every week "hiding behind the sofa" or "watching from between their fingers"? I was glued TO the sofa by this terrific show for practically every episode from age 6 onwards and didn't want to miss a second of it! There's too much emphasis given here to the new series; yes, `Blink' was impressive, but `The Deadly Assassin' was just one story out of two whole seasons that they probably wouldn't have the nerve to make today - or at least I thought so before Peter Capaldi turned up with that `Mummy' and `Dark Water' ...
The acting from all the cast is excels through out the story from the Doctor's only allies Castellan Spandrell and Coordinator Engin played excellently by Polish actor George Pravada and `Please Sir' elder statesman Eric Chitty to the Doctor's accusers Presidential Hopefuls Chancellor Goth and Cardinal Boursa played by Bernard Horsfall and Angus MacKay.
This is the first time and only time that the Doctor has gone `solo' and he excels in creating this tense adventure as his own, but he still needs in my opinion a female companion to join his adventures through space and time. I am looking forward to see more of the greatest Dr Who adventures from my favourite two joint number one Dr Who's - Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker.
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