a real world point of view
|The Deadly Assassin|
|Novelised as:||Doctor Who and the Deadly Assassin|
|Main enemy:||The Master|
|Number of episodes:||4|
|Premiere broadcast:||30 October - 20 November 1976|
|Doctor Who television stories|
|The Hand of Fear||The Face of Evil|
|Another memorable moment|
|One more memorable moment|
The Deadly Assassin was the third story of Season 14 of Doctor Who. It was the only televised story in the original run of Doctor Who not to feature a companion. Tom Baker had told Philip Hinchcliffe he could hold the show on his own. With this story already in place, it was seen as a pilot for such companion-less stories. However, it was deemed that a companion was a necessary feature of the show.
"Through the millennia, the Time Lords of Gallifrey led a life of peace and ordered calm, protected against all threats from lesser civilisations by their great power. But this was to change. Suddenly and terribly, the Time Lords faced the most dangerous crisis in their long history…"
En route to Gallifrey in answer to the Time Lords' summons, the Fourth Doctor is struck by a premonition in which he seems to assassinate the Time Lord President from a gallery overlooking the Panopticon.
The TARDIS lands in the security area of the Citadel. Commander Hilred immediately impounds it and orders the arrest of its owner. The Doctor leaves a note on the console warning of his premonition and sneaks out of the TARDIS into the Citadel. He is cornered by a guard, who is shot dead by an unknown assailant.
The arrival of an unregistered TARDIS in a high-security area raises the tension of an already tense day - the President is resigning and is about to name his successor. The Castellan Spandrell berates Hildred for his incompetence in letting the Doctor, a renegade who apparently is also a murderer, run loose in the capitol.
Hildred transducts the TARDIS into the capitol, unaware the Doctor has sneaked back and hidden himself on board. Meanwhile, his movements are being monitored by a dark, robed figure and an unknown associate.
The Doctor infiltrates the resignation announcement by stealing a Time Lord's ceremonial robes. While trying to remain incognito in the crowded floor he encounters an old classmate, Runcible, now a newscaster, preparing his broadcast from the Panopticon floor. Runcible greets him coolly while waiting for a signal from a camera operator in the gallery. The Doctor looks up and is horrified to see a staser rifle fixed to the railing near the unattended camera. He causes a commotion as he charges through the room.
As the President enters and stands at the dais, the Doctor grabs the staser rifle. He aims and fires. The President falls down dead.
The Doctor is quickly apprehended by security. The assassination has thrown Gallifrey into a constitutional crisis because the President had yet to name his successor. Chancellor Goth, thought to have been the most likely successor, calls for prompt elections and opts to stand as a candidate. Goth also urges the Doctor's swift trial and execution.
At the trial, Goth's prosecution moves swiftly. The Doctor, however, invokes Article 17 of the Gallifreyan Constitution, naming himself as a candidate for President. Under it, he cannot be denied the right to make his claim. Goth is outraged, but Chancellor Borusa (the Doctor's former teacher at the Academy) acknowledges that the article gives him protection. He is grudgingly given twenty-four hours to prove his innocence.
The robed figure is told by his associate of the Doctor's use of the constitutional loophole. He has anticipated this. The figure is shown as a horribly disfigured and decaying husk.
The Doctor attempts to convince Spandrell and Coordinator Engin of his innocence; his shot was intended for the actual assassin, who stood in the crowd on the Panopticon floor. Someone is going to great lengths to frame him. He notes that the sights had been fixed on the rifle to intentionally throw off his aim. Spandrell confirms this by aiming at a target himself. He begins to believe the Doctor. They find the Doctor's original blast mark on the wall. The Doctor realises the gallery camera would have recorded the actual assassin. Runcible screams with horror when he looks into the camera barrel.
Running to the gallery, they find the camera barrel empty except for the miniaturised corpse of the cameraman. The Doctor recognises this as the work of his arch enemy, the Master, and reasons that he has returned to Gallifrey for a final showdown. Runcible goes to fetch the recordings, but when he returns, he falls with a knife protruding from his back.
Spandrell and Engin cannot comprehend why there is no bio data extract for the Master in the APC Net (aka the Matrix). This is a network of past and present Time Lord minds that acts as an enormous database and future forecaster. The Doctor decides there must be an unauthorised second access point into the Matrix. The Master used this to forecast the assassination into his mind and then wipe all trace from the Matrix. He reasons that either the Master or the assassin working with him must be inside the Matrix. Despite the stern warning from Engin, he interfaces with the Matrix to find him.
The Doctor finds himself in a vast, rapidly shifting terrain, the domain of the assassin. The two engage in a pitched battle of wills. The assassin has the definite advantage of having created the virtual reality world inside the Matrix.
The Doctor evades the many pitfalls laid for him inside the Matrix. These include being strafed by a biplane and tracked by the assassin. His physical body (still in the APC room) is enduring a terrible and potentially lethal strain. Meanwhile, the assassin is finding the battle of wills extremely taxing as well. The Master increases the power, despite the assassin's plea it will kill him. The Doctor begins to turn the tables on his assailant, first by booby trapping the hunter's equipment, then by avoiding the water poisoned by the assassin. He improvises a blowpipe and shoots a poisoned dart at the assassin, but is wounded himself.
As the Doctor comes closer to winning the conflict, the Master sends one of the chancellor's guards now under his power to the APC room to kill the Doctor. Engin spots the guard, Solis, tampering with the controls. Spandrell shoots Solis to protect the Doctor.
In the Matrix, the Doctor gains the upper hand against the assassin, who reveals himself as Goth. The Doctor tricks Goth into firing his rifle while in a cloud of swamp gas. As the world around them erupts in chaos and flames, Goth seizes the Doctor and holds his head underwater, about to drown him.
The Doctor throws him off and escapes from the Matrix. He revives in Spandrell's office. He informs the shocked Castellan of the assassin's identity. They trace the location of their lair, where they find the Master's lifeless body - he seems to have taken his own life. Goth, himself near death, admits he was power-hungry and bitter on learning he wasn't to be the President's successor. He had found the dying Master on planet Tersurus, his body at the end of his regeneration cycle, and brought him to Gallifrey to help him fulfil his scheme. Goth dies before he can reveal just what the Master's plan was.
Cleared of all charges, the Doctor still has lingering doubts. He wants to know the Master's plan. He doubts the Master would accept death so easily. He reasons that the solution lies in the ceremonial relics given to the President on induction, the Sash and Rod of Rassilon, and researches their links to ancient Gallifreyan mythology.
The Doctor's suspicions are confirmed. The Master has faked his own death. He steals the Sash and Rod, the keys to the Eye of Harmony, the heart of a black hole captured by ancient Time Lord Rassilon and the source of Time Lord power. The Master seeks the power of the Eye to restart his regeneration cycle, even though Gallifrey would be destroyed. He uses the Rod to unlock the Eye of Harmony, hidden below the Panopticon floor, and begins to release its energy, which would be channelled through the Sash to rejuvenate him.
The Doctor wrestles with him. The ground shakes around them. Before the Master can uncouple the last cable from the Eye, the Doctor pulls him away and he falls through a fissure in the floor. The Doctor reconnects the cables, bringing the crisis to an end.
Borusa is appalled at the damage; half the capitol city lies in ruins and countless lives are lost. Even so, he accepts Spandrell's claim that the Doctor's actions prevented further catastrophe. Recalling their old relationship as teacher and student, Borusa gives him a grade of 9 out of 10. The Doctor departs in the TARDIS, but Spandrell discovers that the Master has survived and escaped in his own TARDIS, disguised as a grandfather clock.
- The Doctor - Tom Baker
- The Master - Peter Pratt
- Cardinal Borusa - Angus MacKay
- Castellan Spandrell - George Pravda
- Chancellor Goth - Bernard Horsfall
- Commander Hilred - Derek Seaton
- Commentator Runcible - Hugh Walters
- Co-ordinator Engin - Erik Chitty
- Gold Usher - Maurice Quick
- Solis - Peter Mayock
- The President - Llewellyn Rees
- Time Lord 1 - John Dawson
- Time Lord 2 - Michael Bilton
- Voice - Helen Blatch
- Assistant Floor Manager - Linda Graeme
- Costumes - James Acheson, Joan Ellacott
- Designer - Roger Murray-Leach
- Fight Arranger - Terry Walsh
- Film Cameraman - Fred Hamilton
- Film Editor - Ian McKendrick
- Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson
- Make-Up - Jean Williams
- Producer - Philip Hinchcliffe
- Production Assistant - Nicholas John
- Production Unit Manager - Chris D'Oyly-John
- Script Editor - Robert Holmes
- Special Sounds - Dick Mills
- Studio Lighting - Brian Clemett
- Studio Sound - Clive Gifford
- Theme Arrangement - Delia Derbyshire
- Title Music - Ron Grainer
- Visual Effects - Len Hutton, Peter Day
- The Book of the Old Time is mentioned.
- According to Coordinator Engin, the Doctor "must have a phenomenal amount of Artron energy".
- The term Mutter's Spiral is used for the first time as a Time Lord reference for the location of Earth (presumed to refer to the Milky Way Galaxy).
- Shobogans are hooligans on Gallifrey.
- The APC Net is part of (or possibly separate from) the Matrix.
- The Eye of Harmony sits below the Citadel on Gallifrey, and Rassilon was one of the creators of it.
- Prydonians, the "notoriously devious" sect to whom the Doctor belongs, are colour-coded scarlet and orange.
- Arcalians wear green.
- Patrexes wear heliotrope.
- The Doctor arrives on Presidential Resignation Day.
- The Doctor invokes Article 17 of the Constitution, offering himself as a presidential candidate to avoid execution.
- The Doctor's trial is dated 309906.
- In Episode 1, Runcible appears to use the term "facelift" as slang for "regeneration".
- The CIA are mentioned.
- The Time Lords possess a complete biographical history of the Doctor and all Time Lords.
- The Time Lords whom the Master kill are not seen to regenerate.
- The number of regenerations (12) for Time Lords is stated.
- The Doctor's TARDIS is a type 40 protected by a 'double curtain trimonic barrier' which requires a cypher indent key.
- Bernard Horsfall previously played Guilliver in The Mind Robber, one of the Time Lords in The War Games and a Thal Taron in Planet of the Daleks. These were also directed by David Maloney.
- Roger Murray-Leach reused his symbol from Revenge of the Cybermen as the Seal of Rassilon.
- Mary Whitehouse complained particularly about the end of Part 3, with the Doctor being drowned, so much so the BBC edited their master tape (the episode was preserved albeit in lower quality in international copies).
- The story had a working title of The Dangerous Assassin.
- The title is a tautology — an assassin is, by definition, deadly. This redundancy was parodied in the spoof The Curse of Fatal Death. However, Robert Holmes denied that the title was tautological, saying, "There are plenty of incompetent assassins." (INFO: The Deadly Assassin)
- This is the first TV story to feature the Doctor without a companion and the only one during the 1963-89 original series. The 1996 telefilm and revival series would feature the Doctor on occasion collaborating with "one-off" companions (such as Donna Noble in The Runaway Bride) and in Midnight the Doctor has an adventure by himself, away from his companion. All that said, The Deadly Assassin remains unique as the only televised Doctor Who adventure to date in which the Doctor appears but there is no companion or companion-surrogate at all.
- This story features an exclusively male cast, except for the female computer voice provided by Helen Blatch.
- Helen Blatch (Voice) is uncredited on-screen for Part One, but is credited in Radio Times.
- This is the first story set entirely on Gallifrey.
- This is the only story where every character is of the same race (Gallifreyan).
- This story featured the first use of narration, performed by Tom Baker at the beginning of the first episode:
- Through the millennia, the Time Lords of Gallifrey led a life of peace and ordered calm, protected against all threats from lesser civilisations by their great power. But this was to change. Suddenly, and terribly, the Time Lords faced the most dangerous crisis in their long history...
- This text was also shown as a roller caption, superimposed over the Cloisters set.
- The biplane used in the Matrix sequences in episode 3 is a 1949 Stampe SV.4C. The plane used in filming, registration G-AWXZ, was also used in the films Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and The Mummy. (INFO: The Deadly Assassin)
- Hugh Walters (Runcible) previously played William Shakespeare in TV: The Chase and would later play Vogel in TV: Revelation of the Daleks and Roderick Allingham in AUDIO: The Fearmonger.
- Part 1 - 11.8 million viewers
- Part 2 - 12.1 million viewers
- Part 3 - 13.0 million viewers
- Part 4 - 11.8 million viewers
- This is the only story to reference the fact that Time Lords get 12 regenerations and 13 lives. Recent interviews with the production team behind the 2005-present revival (including David Tennant in Doctor Who Magazine #415) have made it appear as if the allocation of 13 lives in this story is a piece of minutia unique to this story. In fact, the 13-life limit has been a major plot element of at least three other stories, both of which involve villains attempting to steal the Doctor's remaining regenerations: TV: The Keeper of Traken, TV: Mawdryn Undead and the 1996 TV movie. All of these stories reference the 13th life limit in dialogue. Several other Time Lords have been encountered since The Deadly Assassin in later stories who have reached their 13th and final incarnation, namely Azmael and Salyavin.
- Betchworth Quarry, Pebblehill Road, Betchworth, Surrey
- Wycombe Air Park, Clay Lane, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
- Royal Alexander and Albert School, Rocky Lane, Merstham, Surrey
- BBC Television Centre (TC3 and TC8), Shepherd's Bush, London
- The guard the Master kills in episode one is seen alive and well in episode two.
- The corpse of the technician is clearly seen as an Action Man figure.
- Near the end of Episode 4, when the Master chases the Fourth Doctor up the Panopticon stairway, the Sash of Rassilon is over his shoulder. Before he puts it back down his front you can clearly see the brown cardboard backing.
- Early in the episode it is said that the Capitol is a 52-storey building. Later on in this serial, it is said that the Capitol has 53 floors.
- TV: The Keeper of Traken, Logopolis and Castrovalva follow the Master's continuing quest for a new body. TV: The Five Doctors and the 1996 telefilm continues on this idea.
- PROSE: Last of the Gaderene and PROSE: Legacy of the Daleks explain how the Master became how he appears. However, in terms of televised adventures, there is no indication whether or not the Master seen here is necessarily the same incarnation of the Master as last seen portrayed by Roger Delgado in TV: Frontier in Space.
- Goth's brother Rath appears in PROSE: Blood Harvest.
- Engin reappears in PROSE: The Eight Doctors.
- Artistic elements introduced in this story, particularly the Time Lord collars and the Seal of Rassilon, appear on multiple later occasions in stories featuring Time Lords.
- This story features the first voice over at the beginning of the episode. The second occurrence is TV: Doctor Who, third is TV: The End of Time, while the more recent fourth occurrence was the narration of Eldane in TV: Cold Blood.
- This story establishes that Time Lords do sometimes use proper names on their homeworld (previous uses have either been aliases, or of ambiguous origin such as Morbius; rank-and-file Time Lords seen in stories like TV: The War Games and The Three Doctors had gone unnamed).
- Also established in this story is the fact that Time Lords are allotted twelve regenerations (for a total of thirteen lives), which becomes a major plot element hereafter. (TV: The Keeper fo Traken, Mawdryn Undead, The Twin Dilemma, The Trial of a Time Lord and Doctor Who)
- This story introduces the iconic character Rassilon, who would be referenced often. Rassilon would be seen via a form of projection in The Five Doctors and in person in The End of Time. It also greatly expands on the Time Lord society and mythology hinted at in The Three Doctors and only briefly glimpsed in The War Games.
- Fans have theorised that the reason the Master's features look less distorted and eroded on Traken (in The Keeper of Traken) is due to an attempt to absorb the Eye of Harmony's energy to regenerate his physical form which rejuvenated his body but not enough to end the degeneration.
Home video and audio releases
- The DVD was released on 11 May 2009 in the UK.
Special Features include:
- Commentary by Tom Baker, Bernard Horsfall and Philip Hinchcliffe
- 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 - Original BBC teaser for the serial. To access this hidden feature, press left at 'Photo Gallery' on the Special Features menu.
- Editing for the DVD release was completed by the Doctor Who Restoration Team.
- It was released in episodic format in the UK in October 1991. It was also re-released & remastered for the W H Smith exclusive The Time Lord Collection in 2002 with a better quality freeze frame cliffhanger for Episode 3.
- This story was released in the US March 1989 in edited omnibus format.
- The Deadly Assassin at the BBC's official site
- The Deadly Assassin at BroaDWcast
- Detailed synopsis of The Deadly Assassin at the Doctor Who Reference Guide
- The Deadly Assassin at Shannon Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel)
- The Deadly Assassin at The Locations Guide