a real world point of view
|The Talons of Weng-Chiang|
|Novelised as:||Doctor Who and the Talons of Weng-Chiang|
|Script release:||The Talons of Weng-Chiang|
|Main enemy:||Magnus Greel|
Li H'sen Chang
|Main setting:||London, 1889|
|Number of episodes:||6|
|Premiere broadcast:||26 February - 2 April 1977|
|Doctor Who television stories|
|The Robots of Death||Horror of Fang Rock|
|The Robots of Death||The Invisible Enemy|
|Another memorable moment|
The Talons of Weng-Chiang was the sixth and final story in the fourteenth season of Doctor Who. It is and was often considered one of the most popular serials. Fan-favourite characters Henry Gordon Jago and George Litefoot made their first and only televised appearance. They went on to get their own audio series, Jago and Litefoot.
The Fourth Doctor brings Leela to Victorian London to see how her ancestors lived, but is rapidly drawn into a fiendish plot involving Chinese Tongs, disappearing women, an Oriental stage magician, a murderous ventriloquist's dummy and giant rats in the sewers.
Part 1 Edit
Chinese magician Li H'sen Chang entertains a Victorian audience with his dummy Mr Sin. After the show, as Chang talks with theatre manager Jago, Buller arrives and accuses Chang of being involved in his wife's disappearance. Buller threatens to call the police, and as he leaves, Chang and Mr Sin exchange significant glances.
The Fourth Doctor and Leela arrive in period costume. They head for the theatre. Meanwhile, as Buller walks home, he is confronted by Mr Sin, holding a knife. The Doctor and Leela hear a scream and investigate. They find several men carrying the body of Buller. After a scuffle, most of the men run off, leaving one behind. The police take the Doctor, Leela, and the Chinese man to the station.
At the theatre, while Chang performs, Jago notices blood running down the dummy's arm. At the station, the police sergeant questions the Doctor and Leela. The police find another body, in the river. Chang arrives at the police station to help question the Chinese man. He surreptitiously gives the man a poison pill, and the man takes it and dies. The Doctor notices the man was marked by the Tong of the Black Scorpion, a criminal organisation that follows the god Weng-Chiang. The Doctor takes charge of the situation, giving the sergeant orders.
At the theatre, Jago goes into Chang's dressing room to investigate the dummy. He is joined by his doorman, Casey, and they head for the cellar.
The Doctor and Leela go to the mortuary and meet Professor Litefoot. The Doctor and Litefoot deduce that Buller was attacked by an apparently giant rodent and died from a knife wound. The Doctor recalls that Weng-Chiang is the god of abundance and growth. The Doctor leaves, and is attacked by a Chinese man. The man falls dead when Leela attacks him with a janis thorn. The Doctor and Leela head down a sewer and find a giant rat coming at them...
Part 2 Edit
The Doctor and Leela climb back up the ladder, escaping the giant rat. In the cellar theatre, Jago and Casey find a lady's glove, monogrammed EB. Chang arrives and hypnotises Jago into forgetting what he saw. When Jago leaves, Chang kneels to Weng-Chiang, a figure dressed in black. Weng-Chiang needs to find the time cabinet to keep him alive, but meanwhile requires the life essence of humans to survive. Chang tells him about the Doctor.
The Doctor and Leela rejoin Litefoot at the mortuary. A policeman gives them information about Buller. Litefoot invites Leela and the Doctor to dinner. On the way, the Doctor heads for the theatre and meets Jago, hypnotising him to remember what Chang made him forget. They head for the cellar, encounter a giant spider, and go down a trap door that leads towards the river Fleet. They see a ghost skull and Jago faints.
Litefoot and Leela are having dinner. Nearby, Chang and Weng-Chiang discover that the time cabinet is near Litefoot's house. Litefoot notices someone lurking outside his house and, leaving Leela inside, gets a gun and investigates.
Jago recovers, and he and the Doctor chase Weng-Chiang through the theatre. Weng-Chiang hits Jago from behind and nearly kills the Doctor. He gets away.
Litefoot, finding nothing outside, returns to the house. Leela, waiting for him, hears the sound of a body falling. She opens the door to find Mr Sin, holding a knife...
Part 3 Edit
Leela throws a knife at Mr Sin and jumps through a window. The Doctor ducks at the sound of breaking glass, just as Chang shoots him. Chang and Sin escape in a carriage, and Leela hops a ride on the back. The Doctor tends to Litefoot and they discuss Litefoot's cabinet.
In the morning, the Doctor and Litefoot map out the sewers and prepare to explore the Thames in a boat, the Doctor carrying an elephant rifle. Meanwhile Chang hypnotises a young woman and brings her to his room at the theatre, watched by Leela, who is still following him. While Chang leaves to find another young woman for Weng-Chiang, Leela switches places with the hypnotised girl. Chang brings Leela and a cleaning woman to Weng-Chiang.
The Doctor enters the sewers alone. In the theatre cellar, Weng-Chiang puts the cleaning woman in a distillation chamber and turns it on. Leela chokes him and turns off the machine, but the woman is dead. Leela escapes into the sewers and Weng-Chiang closes the bar gate and calls the giant rats.
Two Chinese laundry men arrive at Litefoot's house and exchange one basket for another. At the theatre, the hypnotised young girl awakens, remembering nothing but blaming Chang for her predicament. Jago tells Casey he is working with someone high up in Scotland Yard. In the cellar, Weng-Chiang accuses Chang of failing to kill the Doctor and dismisses him.
In the sewer, Leela runs away from a giant rat. Elsewhere in the sewer, the Doctor hears noises and prepares to shoot. He sees Leela ahead being attacked by a giant rat...
Part 4 Edit
The Doctor kills the rat attacking Leela. They hear another rat and leave the sewers. They return to Litefoot's house, where Leela changes clothing and the Doctor and Litefoot discuss a key for the cabinet.
At the theatre, Chang hears Jago and Casey discussing the Scotland Yard investigator, who he deduces is the Doctor. He readies a gun and informs Weng-Chiang he will kill the Doctor.
The Doctor and Leela attend a performance at the theatre, where they are met by Jago. Chang performs a card trick with the Doctor's help, then calls the Doctor to the stage to help with his Cabinet of Death trick. Meanwhile, Weng-Chiang, moving through the theatre, encounters Casey and kills him.
Two Chinese men arrive at Litefoot's house, killing the policeman on guard. Mr Sin is already in the house, having arrived earlier in the laundry basket.
The Doctor escapes the Cabinet of Death, and as Chang continues the trick, Casey's body is revealed inside. Chang, who is as surprised as everyone else, realises that Weng-Chiang is not a god. He escapes into the sewers and is attacked by a giant rat.
The Doctor, Leela, and Jago find that Weng-Chiang has gone, taking his equipment with him. The Doctor blames the time cabinet for Weng-Chiang's deformed condition.
Meanwhile, Weng-Chiang and Mr Sin drive away from Litefoot's house, taking the time cabinet with them...
Part 5 Edit
The Doctor and Leela join Litefoot at his house and discover the Time Cabinet has been taken. The Doctor deduces that Sin must have been hiding in the laundry basket and that he is something called a Peking Homunculus. It is partly organic, mostly computer, and comes from the future, 5000 A.D., when someone named Findicus tried and failed at several time experiments. The Doctor, realising that Weng-Chiang's Time Cabinet could destroy London, takes Leela with him to an address found on the laundry basket.
Weng-Chiang is still missing the key to the Time Cabinet, which is in a carpetbag, and forces one of his followers to commit suicide in punishment.
Jago finds the carpetbag, and learning that the Doctor and Litefoot have spent time together, goes to Litefoot's house. They leave a note for the Doctor and go to the theatre.
The Doctor and Leela arrive at the address and find Chang, dying. He is heavily drugged by opium, and wants to revenge himself on Weng-Chiang. However, he dies after he can give the Doctor two clues: a touch on his shoe and a message to beware the eyes of the dragon.
Jago and Litefoot follow some Chinese men to the Tong headquarters, where they are spotted from a window by Weng-Chiang. They are captured, and Weng-Chiang threatens to kill Jago if Litefoot does not tell him where the key is. After Litefoot reveals it is at his house, he and Jago are put into a locked room along with two young girls.
The Doctor and Leela go to Litefoot's house and find both the note and the key. Leela wants to help Jago and Litefoot but the Doctor thinks it is better to wait for Weng-Chiang's men to come to the house. They search for weapons to set up an ambush.
Jago and Litefoot find a dumbwaiter in their room and escape into the throne room, where they are recaptured.
As Leela stands near a window practising with her weapon, a golf club, Weng-Chiang sneaks up behind her and chloroforms her. As she struggles, she pulls off his mask, revealing a deformed face...
Part 6 Edit
Weng-Chiang threatens to let Sin kill Leela but the Doctor makes a deal with him. They will all go to the House of the Dragons. Weng-Chiang will release Jago and Litefoot, and the Doctor will give him the key. They all go, leaving Leela behind, but she follows them.
At the Tong headquarters, the Doctor realises that Chang's shoe clue referred to the tongue of his shoe - the "Tong". Sin climbs into the head of a large dragon statue, where there is are laser controls inside. The Doctor and Weng-Chiang talk, with Weng-Chiang revealing his real name - Magnus Greel. The Doctor knows of him, he is from the 51st century and is responsible for over one hundred thousand deaths. Jago and Litefoot are brought out to the Doctor, who now also wants the two young girls freed. Greel, angered, orders Sin to fire on them, hitting the Doctor, who realises the second clue from Chang - beware the eyes of the dragon. The three are put back into the locked room. When the Doctor has recovered, he sets a trap. He makes a bomb that blasts some of the Tong men. They all escape, with the girls running out of the building to safety.
Leela has made it to the Tong headquarters but is captured and put into Greel's machine. He turns it on, but the Doctor enters and throws an axe at the machine, stopping it. Greel orders Sin to kill everyone, and they take cover behind a bench as Sin fires the laser at everyone, including the Tong men. The Doctor tries to convince Greel to not use the Time Cabinet. Leela finds a gun near a dead Tong, and disables the dragon's laser eyes. Greel pulls a gun on Leela, but the Doctor throws him into his machine. He turns to dust. Sin jumps Leela but the Doctor stops him and pulls the controls out of him.
Jago and Litefoot accompany Leela and the Doctor back to the TARDIS. As it dematerialises, Jago thinks it comes from Scotland Yard.
- The Doctor - Tom Baker
- Leela - Louise Jameson
- Magnus Greel - Michael Spice
- Li H'sen Chang - John Bennett
- Mr Sin - Deep Roy
- Henry Gordon Jago - Christopher Benjamin
- Professor Litefoot - Trevor Baxter
- Sergeant Kyle - David McKail
- Buller - Alan Butler
- Casey - Chris Gannon
- PC Quick - Conrad Asquith
- Ghoul - Patsy Smart
- Lee - Tony Then
- Coolie - John Wu
- Teresa - Judith Lloyd
- Cleaning Woman - Vaune Craig-Raymond
- Singer - Penny Lister
- Ho - Vincent Wong
- Assistant Floor Manager - Linda Graeme
- Costumes - John Bloomfield
- Designer - Roger Murray-Leach
- Fight Arranger - Stuart Fell
- Film Cameraman - Fred Hamilton
- Film Editor - David Lee
- Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson
- Make-Up - Heather Stewart
- Producer - Philip Hinchcliffe
- Production Assistant - Ros Anderson
- Production Unit Manager - Chris D'Oyly-John, John Nathan-Turner
- Script Editor - Robert Holmes
- Special Sounds - Dick Mills
- Studio Lighting - Mike Jefferies
- Studio Sound - Clive Gifford
- Theme Arrangement - Delia Derbyshire
- Title Music - Ron Grainer
- Visual Effects - Michealjohn Harris
- Leela uses janis thorns against the Tong agents.
- Greel brews a Broth of Oblivion.
- Li H'sen Chang smokes opium.
The Doctor Edit
- The Doctor says he was last in China 400 years ago; whether this is in his timeline or Earth's timeline is unspecified.
- The Doctor was "with the Filipino Army at the final advance on Reykjavik" in the 51st century.
- The Doctor mentions that he shared a salmon caught in the River Fleet with the Venerable Bede.
- Among the items in the Doctor's pockets are a yo-yo, a toy Batmobile, and a stuffed mouse.
- Time agents are mentioned.
- The Peking Homunculus was made for the Commissioner of the Icelandic Alliance's children in "the Ice Age around the year 5000".
Time technology Edit
- The parallax synchrone and a trionic lattice are aspects of the time cabinet.
- Greel's time experiments were powered by zygma energy.
Songs from the real world Edit
- The song "Daisy Bell" is performed in the Palace Theatre.
- The Doctor whistles the "Colonel Bogey March". (He also whistles this tune in TV: The Face of Evil and The Invasion of Time.)
Literature from the real world Edit
- The Doctor says that he enjoys "messing about in boats". This is a reference to the classic children's novel The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame; the original line is said by a large rat.
- Litefoot quotes, "He that is down need fear no fall" and attributes it, correctly, to John Bunyan. (The line comes from a poem in The Pilgrim's Progress.)
- The Doctor quotes, "There's a one-eyed yellow idol to the north of Katmandu. There's a little marble cross below the town." and attributes it, incorrectly, to music-hall comedian Henry Champion. The quotation is actually the first two lines of "The Green Eye of the Yellow God", written by J. Milton Hayes as a monologue for music-hall actor Bransby Williams.
Story notes Edit
- This story had working titles of The Foe from the Future and The Talons of Greel.
- Some associations and influences have been noted for The Talons of Weng-Chiang; among these are:
- Magnus Greel's lair beneath the Palace Theatre, his deformed face, the mask he uses to hide it, and the climactic scene in which the mask is torn off to reveal his true face are all strongly reminiscent of Gaston Leroux's novel The Phantom of the Opera.
- The Doctor wears a deerstalker hat, which was the characteristic headgear of film and television versions of Arthur Conan Doyle's detective Sherlock Holmes. Litefoot also mentions his housekeeper, Mrs Hudson, a character from Sherlock Holmes. The giant rat echoes a famous untold Sherlock Holmes story; in the Conan Doyle story The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire, Holmes mentions "the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared." Finally, the Doctor says, "Elementary, my dear Litefoot", paraphrasing "Elementary, my dear Watson", a line widely associated with Holmes (though never actually spoken by him in the Conan Doyle canon).
- The giant rat is also reminiscent of animals grown to enormous size in the H. G. Wells novel Food of the Gods.
- Li H'sen Chang is reminiscent of Fu Manchu, the villain of a series of novels by Sax Rohmer.
- This is the only story of the Fourth Doctor's era in which the Doctor does not wear his famous long scarf at any point.
- This is one of two stories in which Leela does not wear her "savage" costume. As the character was inspired by Eliza Doolittle, it was decided to try to move her away from her Sevateem trappings, such as this episode in which she wears period garb.
- The conductor of the Palace Theatre orchestra is played by incidental-music composer Dudley Simpson.
- By the time Holmes had begun work on The Talons of Greel, it had become apparent that Hinchcliffe, and possibly Holmes, would be leaving the show at the end of the current season. Hinchcliffe therefore decided to throw caution to the wind and spend record amounts on the production, utilising many different locations as well as agreeing to expensive night time shoots.
- During production of The Talons of Greel, Hinchcliffe's successor Graham Williams gradually took over the reins, his first concern being the character of Leela. Williams approached Louise Jameson with an offer of the actress staying on for Season Fifteen. This was a decision at odds with a promise Hinchcliffe had made to Tom Baker that Leela would be written out of the show at the conclusion of Season Fourteen. Baker was of the opinion that the character was too violent for the show and would have preferred to carry on without a companion at all. Jameson was initially reluctant to continue, mainly because of her frosty relationship with Baker and the brown contact lenses she was compelled to wear. When Williams offered to relinquish the need for contact lenses, Jameson agreed to sign a contract for the whole of Season Fifteen. [source needed]
- The later comic book story COMIC: The Time Machination would reveal that the Doctor and Leela's arrival in London occurred immediately after the departure of the Tenth Doctor, who had just shared an adventure with H. G. Wells against the Torchwood Institute; according to the comic, Wells witnesses their arrival.
- This story has garnered controversy for some of its Asian roles being played by white actors in "yellowface". Most of this controversy is in the US and Canada, where yellowface fell out of practice earlier than it did in the UK. Indeed, TVOntario refused to air it after consulting with local Chinese-Canadian groups and multiple stations in the US and Canada also declined to air it.
- AUDIO: The Butcher of Brisbane serves as both a prequel and a sequel to this story.
- Part 1 - 11.3 million viewers
- Part 2 - 9.8 million viewers
- Part 3 - 10.2 million viewers
- Part 4 - 11.4 million viewers
- Part 5 - 10.1 million viewers
- Part 6 - 9.3 million viewers
Filming locations Edit
- Clink Street, Southwark, London
- St. Mary's Overy Wharf, Southwark, London
- Bridewell Place, Wapping, London
- Wapping Old Stairs, Wapping High Street, London
- Fish Street Rates Offices, Fish Street, Northampton
- St Crispin's Hospital, Duston, Northampton
- Cardinal Cap Alley, Bankside, London
- Cambridge Park (No 24), Twickenham, Middlesex
- Wapping Pier Head, Wapping High Street, London
- St. Katharine's Dock, London
- Royal Theatre, Guildhall Road, Northampton
- BBC Television Centre (TC1 and TC8), Shepherd's Bush, London
Production errors Edit
- There are modern power points, covered with masking tape, on the walls of Litefoot's lab.
- A 1970s newspaper (the headline concerns Denis Healey) can be seen in Litefoot's laundry basket in Part Three.
- When the Doctor enters the opium den in Part Five, the lip-sync on his line, "Weng-Chiang will show his hand again", is several seconds out.
- A boom mike shadow is visible on the curtains near the stage in the final fight.
- When the Doctor smashes the crystal key on the ground, the deactivated Mr. Sin flinches.
- When the Doctor and Leela leave the TARDIS, they leave the door partly open. They walk away to the poster of Chang, then hear the attack on Bullard and run past the TARDIS again. The TARDIS door has closed.
- The TARDIS does have an automatic system for the door - it could have been that.
- The Doctor confronts the aftermath of this story's events in PROSE: The Shadow of Weng-Chiang.
- The Doctor revisits Litefoot in PROSE: The Bodysnatchers.
- The events surrounding Magnus Greel and his time experiments are shown in some detail in PROSE: Emotional Chemistry.
- The Doctor says that he was in China 400 years ago. This could be a reference to TV: Marco Polo, though that story took place in 1289, 600 years earlier. The 400 years could also reference roughly 400 years experienced by the Doctor in his personal timeline, or another unknown visit in the 15th century.
- The adventures of Henry Gordon Jago and George Litefoot continue in PROSE: A Victorian Interlude, AUDIO: The Mahogany Murderers and the subsequent Jago and Litefoot audio series.
- The events of this story take place immediately after those of COMIC: The Time Machination featuring the Tenth Doctor. The Fourth Doctor and Leela's arrival in the opening scene is reproduced in the comic book.
- During his fifth incarnation, the Doctor and his companions Nyssa, Tegan Jovanka and Turlough would later encounter a younger version of Magnus Greel in Peking, China and Reykjavik, Iceland in the early 51st century. As they were unware of Greel's ultimate fate, Nyssa and Turlough plotted to overthrow him. Although it was not part of their initial plan, Nyssa became engaged to him while Turlough posed as their secretary. (AUDIO: The Butcher of Brisbane)
- The Doctor mentions to Greel that he was with the Filipino Army when it marched on Reykjavik in the 51st century. On that occasion, he was provided with information by his fifth incarnation, which enabled him to avert World War VI. (AUDIO: The Butcher of Brisbane)
- Greel tells the Doctor that he encountered a Time Agent in the 51st century. Unbeknownst to the Doctor, Greel is referring to his future self. (AUDIO: The Butcher of Brisbane)
Home video and audio releases Edit
DVD releases Edit
This story was released as Doctor Who: The Talons of Weng-Chiang in a two-disc set.
- PAL - BBC DVD
- NTSC - Warner Video
- Whose Doctor Who Documentary - BBC Two documentary from 1977, presented by Melvyn Bragg.
- Blue Peter Theatre - Clips from various 1970s editions of the magazine show.
- Behind the scenes - Footage from the studio recording of the story.
- Philip Hinchcliffe Interview - From a 1977 edition of Pebble Mill.
- Photo Gallery
- Production Subtitles
- Easter Eggs (?/Voice over announcement) One Easter Egg can be found by pressing left at 'Tardis Cam No. 6' on the Special Features disc.
- Commentary: Louise Jameson, Philip Hinchcliffe, David Maloney, John Bennett, and Christopher Benjamin.
Special Edition release Edit
This story was released as Doctor Who: The Talons of Weng-Chiang: Special Edition.
- The Last Hurrah - the making of The Talons of Weng-Chiang.
- Moving On - Philip Hinchcliffe's future plans for Doctor Who, had he produced the series for a longer period.
- The Foe from the Future - the original storyline that was replaced by The Talons of Weng-Chiang.
- Now and Then
- Look East (with Tom Baker)
- Victoriana & Chinoiserie
- Music Hall
- Radio Times Listing
- New Photo Gallery
- All previous special features
Video Releases Edit
This story was released as Doctor Who: The Talons of Weng-Chiang.
- PAL - BBC Video
- US February 1988 (Movie Format)
- US March 1998 (Repackaged as part of The Gateway Collection and still in Movie Format)
- Australia April 1987 (Movie Format)
- The video had some slight edits to remove the use of nunchaku during the fight scene between the Fourth Doctor and the Tong of the Black Scorpion in Part One, as these were at the time classed as illegal weapons in the UK and couldn't be shown on-screen. This ruling has since been relaxed, and the sequence appears intact on the DVD release.
- Although it has been popularly believed that the scene of the Fourth Doctor gaining access to the opium den by poking the key out of the lock and pulling it under the door on a piece of paper was edited out of the video release, this is not the case; the sequence was retained intact.
- The BBC Video release was at one point only available in Australia.
Script book Edit
- In November 1989, Titan Books published the scripts for the serial as part of its Doctor Who: The Scripts line of books.
Novelisation and its Audiobook Edit
- Main article: Doctor Who and the Talons of Weng-Chiang
- This story was novelised by Terrance Dicks in 1977.
- It was released as an audiobook, read by Christopher Benjamin.
- The Talons of Weng-Chiang at the BBC's official site
- The Talons of Weng-Chiang at BroaDWcast
- Detailed synopsis of The Talons of Weng-Chiang at the Doctor Who Reference Guide
- The Talons of Weng-Chiang at Shannon Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel)
- The Talons of Weng-Chiang at The Locations Guide
- The Tardis Library - Video release information for The Talons of Weng-Chiang