The Deadly Assassin part 4

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    Craig @craig

    The final episode and one that creates a huge amount of Time Lord lore.

    The Doctor survives the Matrix and he, Engin and Spandrell go looking for the Master. They find him dead with Chancellor Goth, who was working with the Master for power. Before dying Goth warns that the Master had a doomsday plan.

    The Doctor, still curious, continues to investigate the Master’s plan – wouldn’t you when the Master has a habit of returning from the dead? He learns some of the secrets of the Time Lords and that hundreds of worlds could still be in danger.

    After the twelfth regeneration there is no plan that will postpone death.

    Tell me about Rassillon.

    I can feel my hair curling.

    Resistence is futile now.

    The Deadly Assassin is available on DVD for only £5.99 from the BBC:

    The Krynoid Man @thekrynoidman

    I love this story. Not only does it have my favourite Master and a wonderfully gothic atmosphere, but it’s also a fairly intelligent political thriller. It’s quite refreshing to watch a story that focuses entirely on the Doctor amidst the modern stuff that features  companions who seem to think the show is about them. The only real flaw is that the Matrix sequences go on for too long.


    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    I thought I’d wait until we reached episode four for this one and talk about it all in one hit. It’s a great story and works surprisingly well. I remember at the time being slightly discomfited by the absolute lack of any female presence whatsoever and it still bugs me to this day. And I’m not sure Doctor sans companion really works.

    But this is such a pivotal story. There’s so much stuff here. Regeneration cycles. The Master. The Eye of Harmony. All the Rassilon guff. And the Time Lord costumes are great. Truly iconic. It’s just a shame that not as much thought was put into Gallifrey itself. The only thing you can say about the set design is at least it’s not as awful as the Gallifrey we see in The Invasion of Time.

    But there’s lots that doesn’t work here too. I’ve always found the Matrix sequences a bit rubbish really. That train!! (Which makes me think, haven’t we talked about this before somewhere?) They do go on too long and are actually a pretty shameless example of story filler. But at least it’s more inventive than the usual escape/recapture trope.

    I also hate The Master in this story. It’s basically not The Master. There’s not the slightest suggestion of Delgado’s characterisation present at all, or of any future version of the character either. He’s generic phantom lurking in the shadows. Is there any difference between this version of the Master and, say, Magnus Greel? Or The Shadow from The Armageddon Factor. I’ve always felt it was pointless bringing back the Master in this half-arsed way. I’d have preferred they’d gone ahead and done a proper re-cast, or just made the villain someone else entirely.

    On a final positive note, I do like the dynamic that Baker’s Doctor had on Gallifrey. Borusa and the others treat him like a precocious but undisciplined undergraduate and something of a fondly considered disappointment. And I think it work and Baker really carries it off. His is about the only incarnation of the Doctor I can imagine working on Gallifrey. Davison’s Doctor, the only other one we see there really, always seemed a bit uncomfortable.

    My personal feeling is the AG show should stay the hell away from Gallifrey for as long as possible and ideally forever. I’ve argued before that the introduction of the Time Lords and of Gallifrey rendered the Whoniverse a bit more parochial than it used to be when it was just the Doctor, his companions, a mysterious past and an infinite future. The baggage of the Time Lords has been successfully cut away and it would be a shame to re-burden the show with it.

    Having said that, there is part of that would like to see Gallifrey done properly with modern resources. Maybe there’s a way around it. A Gallifrey story set in the past but which keeps it lost in the show’s ‘present’.

    ichabod @ichabod

    @jimthefish  I agree on Gallifrey; and I have to say that I find the Doctor’s persistence in trying to find the place puzzling.  This may sound odd, but — my maternal grandparents were immigrants to the US from Austria, around the turn of the 20th c.  They left for good reasons (mostly having to do with the military draft), rattled around their new country, and never, ever, not once that I know of, expressed any desire to go back “home” (although they did still have relatives there — but maybe that was a reason to stay away?).  And they were only a mere handful of decades away from “home” when I knew them.

    The Doctor left Gallifrey because he couldn’t stand it, or maybe just the demands being made on him, or failure to live up to those demands; okay.  But that was lifetimes ago, for him.  He assumes his family is dead, never talks about them, and seems to love bumming around the universe more than staying put for more than a short while, being a restless, erratic-by-nature, curiosity-driven creature.

    So what’s the big deal about going back to Gallifrey?  I could understand when he was full of guilt over having destroyed the place, but that’s been cancelled, so — ???  Sure, we have the Odyssey for the reliable story trope of the wanderer making his way by hook or by crook back home; only Odysseus was the King of Ithaca.  He had a wife and son there (and a faithful hound, let’s not forget).  What’s drawing the Doctor back to a place that’s treated him pretty shabbily in the past and was an ill fit to begin with?


    janetteB @janetteb

    I agree with much of what you way @jimthefish. The matrix scenes not only drag but are too “earthy”. One doesn’t get the sense that this is the mind world of an alien. The final episode in contrast to episode is almost breathless. I felt as though a little more time could have been given to events post Matrix and less time to within the Matrix.

    I also agree with “Jim the fish” re’ the master. I don’t think monster/master is convincing as the final act of Rodger Delgado’s master though  I do like his Tardis. That is suggestive of the old master’s flair. I suspect the real aim of the story was to revive the master and prepare the way for a newly regenerated version.

    This story does seem to labour under the assumption that there are no female Time Lords or Time Ladies. The time lords as depicted here do rather remind me of a bunch masons with their fatuous rituals. The concept was definitely leaning towards depicting Gallifrey as a moribund ancient society, living in the relics of a glorious past that has made them immensely powerful though they have no real understanding of how or why. Unfortunately this concept is not developed further which leads to my main moan about “Gallifrey” as it is depicted in Who.

    Unlike Jim I think having the Doctor at least occasionally visit Gallifrey is interesting. I would like to learn more about the culture and history but it has to be consistent. There is some rough consistency to the Dalek/Skaro backstory. I don’t think having entire stories set on Gallifrey is wise however as it is important that Gallifrey retain some sense of mystery.

    I think Tom Baker was at his best at about this time. He has had time to fit into the role and mould it to his own idiosyncratic personality. His wish to be without a companion reflects this and though I too much prefer there to be a companion I think he manages very well without.

    (After watching this yesterday this morning I had to continue on and start watching “Face of Evil” which, for all its silly moments is a fine story.)




    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord


    I don’t think monster/master is convincing as the final act of Rodger Delgado’s master

    Absolutely. I don’t think the story would have lost anything if the villain had been revealed to be Morbius. Who was a villain in more recent memory, was temperamentally more like the Pratt’s Master and was equally in need of new regenerations.

    I think Tom Baker was at his best at about this time. He has had time to fit into the role and mould it to his own idiosyncratic personality. His wish to be without a companion reflects this and though I too much prefer there to be a companion I think he manages very well without.

    It was an interesting experiment and it does work but I don’t think it would have worked in the long term. A companion is a necessary part of the dynamic. (Although I do think that Capaldi’s doc would work with a rotating set of alternating companions rather than one permanent one.)

    The Krynoid Man @thekrynoidman

    Does anyone like the Master in this story besides me?

    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    @thekrynoidman — maybe I came on a little strong saying I ‘hate’ him. I think the costume design is brilliant — really scary and still gives me the wiggins even now. I just don’t see anything of the previously established character of the Master in there. He’s just generic, evil villain skulking in the shadows to me.

    The Krynoid Man @thekrynoidman

    @jimthefish I agree that Peter Pratt’s portrayal barely resembles the other incarnations, but that’s what I like about him. He fully brings out The Masters insanity and, unlike Simm and Gomez, manages to make it actually scary and not let it turn the character into a pantomime villain. But to each his own.

    The Krynoid Man @thekrynoidman

    @jimthefish At least we agree that the actually costume and make up design is excellent.

    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    @thekrynoidman — yes, indeed. There’s that at least. But aside from that I don’t think there’s really anything that differentiate this Master from a number of other disfigured villains of especially this period of Who. And the Master should always be in a league of his/her own. There’s not much you can fault Robert Holmes on, but his villains do rather tend to be on the one-note and melodramatic side.

    Arbutus @arbutus

    I really enjoyed watching this again! With more recent memories of later mishandling and overuse of Gallifrey storylines, it’s easy to forget that this was the first time we got a look at the Time Lords and their society. It was pretty cool at the time, and as others have remarked, a source of lots of what we now take for granted about the canon (“the pipe wrench… of… Rassilon!”). On the whole, I thought that the portrayal of the various Time Lord characters was good, as there was a nice mix of the clever, the stupid, the honest, the venal, etc. I particularly enjoyed the castellan, and the rather nice moment at the end with Borusa: Go away, Doctor, you great nuisance… oh and by the way, nine out of ten!

    I fully agree with others who have said that the scenes in the Matrix are the weak part of the story. I imagine that they were thrown in to placate those who might find the lack of action in the first two episodes a bit pokey. But they were far too earth-like, as @janetteb says: planes and trains? Really? An interesting concept that could have been better executed.

    I’m not sure I agree with @jimthefish about the characterization of the Master. Certainly, from the point of view of the time, there was no hint of Delgado here. But with the benefit of hindsight, it does seem to me to look forward to Ainley’s interpretation. Certainly the “I want to destroy Gallifrey, and furthermore, I want the Doctor to see me do it” trope is something that we see quite a bit of later, and frankly is part of the reason I never cared for the Ainley Master. With this story, we get the first appearance of Really Insane Master, which is the direction the Master continues along and never really departs from later.

    Oh, and regarding the companionless Doctor, I’d say it works here for the same reason that it works when it happens from time to time in AG Who, because the regular companion has been replaced by a temporary sidekick, in this case the castellan, who comes over to the Doctor’s side pretty early on. Like @jimthefish, I could see more of this structure, it works for me.

    Anyway, I never get tired of watching Tom Baker’s Doctor, so this was pretty enjoyable. What are we getting next?


    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord


    I fully agree with others who have said that the scenes in the Matrix are the weak part of the story. I imagine that they were thrown in to placate those who might find the lack of action in the first two episodes a bit pokey. 

    Yes – one of them was probably me on the first showing. To put this into context this final episode was shown the week before my seventh birthday. I’d quite enjoyed the first couple of parts and loved seeing the Doctor outplay his Gallifrayan opponents. A lot of it went over my head at the time though, and the Matrix scenes beginning in episode 3 was where it all came “alive”. Seriously, the nightmare scenes, the hunt though the jungle and the cliffhanger left me and the rest of the Primary school Doctor Who community convinced we had just witnessed one of the most thrilling things in the history of TV. 😀 Who has always been a tricky mixture to write for because of the age range. I think Hinchcliffe and Holmes knew the 70s childs mindset pretty well. As an adult I can see the point of the criticism that it seems very Earth centric, but something more abstract probably wouldn’t have engaged me so much at that age. Also – the Master was involved and making the nightmares Earth based has a nice echo of his hatred of the Doctor and his fascination with Earth, perhaps.

    @craig obviously mentioned that that cliffhanger was somewhat controversial. It signalled the end of Philip Hinchcliffe being the producer as moral crusader Mary Whitehouse went to town. Apparently the sight of the Doctor drowning meant that my generation had a week of tortured nightmares to endure. Oh, and we’d probably start drowning each other because we’d seen it on TV. The only nightmare in this scenario was Mary, who seemed to treat us children like morons. We loved the show at this point – Tom was our hero and his survival was not in doubt. The only question was how much style everyone’s favourite mad uncle did it with.

    Of course it wasn’t just Mary Whitehouse who had a problem with this era. It brings me to @thekrynoidman s post:

    It’s quite refreshing to watch a story that focuses entirely on the Doctor amidst the modern stuff that features  companions who seem to think the show is about them. 

    I’m all in favour of celebrating the past, but not so much as a means of making your displeasure with the present apparent. There is a reason for this and The Deadly Assassin is the appropriate story to discuss it on. Whitehouse was a big critic of this era, but her thoughts pale into insignificance at the outrage of another body – Doctor Who fandom at the time itself.

    Seriously – I was a very young member of the Appreciation Society at the time. I joined it in the same way (and perhaps in my young mind the same expectations) as I had the Dennis the Menace fan club. Reading the material they sent me was an education as it was full of very angry people who hated Robert Holmes, and then later hated Graham Williams. It was fricking bizarre.

    The Deadly Assassin polled as the worst serial of its series. The President of the Society Jan Vincent Rudzki wrote a long, ranting article rubbishing it. “What has happened to the magic of Doctor Who” in which he identifies Robert Holmes as the man who has ruined Doctor Who continuity and the show itself. Over a decade later he still couldn’t let it lie. These were his considered thoughts:

    ALONG time ago, in what feels like another time, I wrote a review of THE DEADLY ASSASSIN (serial 4P). I did everything I could to tear it to bits.

    Thirteen years later I can look back and see how the passage of time has altered my view. The current producer of Doctor Who, John Nathan- Turner, has often spoken of of the dangers of remembering old stories through rose-tinted glasses. To a certain extent I agree. DEADLY ASSASSIN is not the ogre I thought it to be. It even has, dare I say it, a hint of nostalgia about it. There are some aspects which I feel stand the test of time. Certainly the characters are, on the whole, excellent, which is what you’d expect from Robert Holmes. And the story itself is very good – if it hadn’t been written for Doctor Who.

    The trouble is that the story was such a radical change from previously established ideas in the series. This was always one of Robert Holmes worst aspects. He had no concept of continuity. He may have used some previously established idea or character; but then he would change tilings around if the plot required it. Consequently we have such strange ideas as Patrick Troughton’s Doctor undertaking missions for the Time Lords in THE TWO DOCTORS (serial 6W) and the “early incarnations” of the Doctor in THE BRAIN OF MORBIUS (serial 4K, see IN« VISION issue 12).

    Holmes’ other great fault was his inability to see things from an alien point of view; he wrote in human terms. So the reason why the faces in the mind battle with Morbius are meant to be the Doctor’s was because Holmes thought that if someone was as old as the Doctor then he must have had more than one body. But the Doctor isn’t human, so why should he?

    Similarly in ASSASSIN, the premise is that any advanced race will decay into a culture stifled by ceremonies and customs. This may be true for Earth, but the Time Lords are not from Earth. They are alien: there is no reason why they should act like humans, or why they should parallel a particular Earth society.

    I think this is limited thinking. And ASSASSIN contains other examples: the idea of Rassilon and the legends about him. Why legends? We are dealing with beings who know the secrets of Time. Surely they would be able to look at their own past. I know that if I had the power to look through time I would, at the very minimum, look at great moments in Earth’s past. I think it’s fair to assume that Time Lords can exhibit curiosity. THE WAR GAMES (serial ZZ): “observe and gather knowledge”.

    There should be no legends. For while they would obviously not permit anyone to go back and change anything, or allow any communication between Time lords of different time periods, they must be able to look at the past. They had done with the Doctor when they chose his earlier selves in THE THREE DOCTORS (serial RRR). A major part of THE DEADLY ASSASSIN is based on a lack of knowledge where there should be none. This whole idea was obviously put in to make a good story. It did, but it was a little silly.

    …Blah, Blah …..

    Our next glimpse of the Time Lords was a down-beat, rather silly encounter in TERROR OF THE AUTONS (serial EEE). Surprise surprise, that was written by Robert Holmes.

    …Blah, Blah …..

    So I always thought of the Time Lords with some degree of awe. They had the power to put force- fields around planets. To be presented with a bunch of doddering old fools was having the carpet pulled from under me. Gold had become fool’s gold.

    Perhaps I over-reacted then. But it was from the heart.

    AS a story of revenge and survival, it works very well. There is the usual Holmes duo of Castellan Spandrell and Co-ordinator Engin, and a script full of Holmes’ best writing ability. On the whole the plot works, although episode three, while being very clever and nice to look at, is just about the best example of a run-around episode ever. At the end of it the story has hardly moved at all.

    Robert Holmes has always liked to include amusing characters in his stories, but why the awful tv commentator Runcible had to be included is anyone’s guess. He provided nothing to the plot. I suppose he exhibited Holmes desire to reduce the Time Lords to Earth-like television viewers. It’s ironic that while Tom Baker was making the Doctor more alien, this story shows his own people riddled with human traits.

    Other characters were also rather lacking. Commander Hilred showed a surprising desire to torture the Doctor. On a planet as calm and boring as Gallifrey it would be surprising he would get so far. But then one wonders why there was a Chancellery Guard anyway. What had the Time Lords to fear? If the Guard was a relic of a bygone time, then why real weapons? A new world needs to be thought out properly to be credible. Gallifrey is not: there are too many points about the society shown which don’t hold together.

    Goth is another character motivated by human desires. Now he really was boring, a featureless character barely coming alive in the mind-battle with the Doctor, The best character by far was Borusa, reminding me, slightly, of artneifs Doctor. And he ctually managed to act in the aloof manner I expected of the Time Lords, and did not allow emotions to get in the way. The only surprise was when he decided to cover up the near-destruction of Gallifrey. Very silly.

    Finally to the Master. I had been told beforehand that Peter Pratt wore a mask, and the whole way through the story I assumed it was. It was a bit of a surprise to discover that it was meant to be his real face. His calling the Doctor to Gallifrey fits in with previous stories when the Master seemed to do his best to involve the Doctor in his schemes. It does however seem strange that, above all the other Time Lords, he was able conveniently to find out the truth about Rassilon. And why he was forgotten by all the other Time Lords? They remembered the Doctor, and the two were meant to be at “school” together.

    Possibly the discrepancies in the story were because the “CIA” (a very silly addition) were the Time Lords we had seen previously. If so, something should have been added to the script to explain it all. It’s amazing what a few lines will do to cover up some plot strangeness (as with Sarah’s bewilderment when Egyptian mummies build rockets in PYRAMIDS OF MARS).

    This is a good story, but one which should not have been made for A. Doctor Who. As I pointed out at the time, even the title does not make sense. Whether or not Holmes was thinking of the sect of assassins or not, the adjective ‘deadly’ is still quite superfluous. I suppose the show was ‘Silly, But Fun’.

    Wow – now an awful lot of this can be summarised as “this did not meet with my mind canon of Time Lords” and be dismissed. Robert Holmes is not responsible for someone imagining something different to him. The supposed “continuity errors” have a point that I can argue. In worshipping his thoughts of a “Golden era” of the past Rudzi had ignored a crucial lesson, delivered to him by the show he loved in Invasion of the Dinosaurs. There are no Golden eras.

    And as much as I laughed at, and was bewildered by, his Dinosaur attitudes and his criticism when I was young I’ve learned to have a bit of respect for him. Why? Because he at least spent some time articulating his criticism. After spending more time than is healthy reading RTD and Moff bashing posts I cannot but help thinking that articulate criticism is dead. We live in an era of soundbites and I’m afraid that

    It’s quite refreshing to watch a story that focuses entirely on the Doctor amidst the modern stuff that features  companions who seem to think the show is about them. 

    Is just meaningless. I can’t even post “You are Steve Moffats Jan Vincent Rudzki, and I claim my five pounds” because it would be an insult to Rudzki. Are you suggesting that Clara thinks the show is about her. Or Coleman. Or Steven Moffat?

    Let’s celebrate the past. Or write a detailed damning invective of the present, which we will post as a blog. Let’s not do soundbite criticism.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    Just on Robert Holmes, can I agree with @bluesqueakpip s post on ep 1. He’s pretty much my favourite Who writer of the BG years. I quite enjoyed the aspects of the RTD and Moff retrospectives where we looked at recurring tropes and underlying story themes and I’d quite like to do the same for a couple of earlier writers. I think I’ll put some thought into a blog about him because he’s a fascinating character in his own right, and his relationship with fandom is well, interesting.

    Not only was he dismissive of the Rudzki arm of fandom, he seemed genuinely uncomfortable about the arm of fandom (like me, for instance) who put him on a pedestal. His “I’m just a hack script writer” was aimed pretty firmly at us.


    On Holmes villains, I actually think he’s one of the more complex writers. Often he has a tiered approach, and his “lovable Rogues” are some of the best written, often allied to the Doctor.

    Looking at the villains there are those who are more sympathetic. You think of Chang in Talons or Jek in Androzani and there is something about them. In words and acting they are more complex, and you feel are capable of redemption. Importantly they can show compassion which I think is a big thing for Holmes. His irredeemable villains (Greel and Morgus) all have a similar traits, are utterly compassionless and they are pretty mix and match. I think The Master here is one of those. Irredeemable and it explains why they took this approach here. Neither Holmes or Hinchcliffe were particularly interested in bringing the Master back as an ongoing proposition. His appearance here is a means to an end and intended as a transition point for someone else down the line to exploit.

    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    @phaseshift — good point about Holmes’s ‘second tier’ villains. They were always well-written, as were his ‘lovable rogues’ like Glitz, Garron etc. I think Holmes was always influenced by pulp tales/movies in his Who work and so his ultimate villains were somewhat in the moustache-twirling tradition and he wasn’t that interested in delving too deep for character motivation. Personally I don’t really have a problem with that but it’s definitely the case that in my mind he  did veer towards the cliched — Pow-ahh, Dok-tor — camp of BG villainy.

    I do like the idea of a Holmes retrospective. He’s a major, major figure in Who lore. Possibly the most important one, after Verity Lambert herself. I do wonder if we’ve, er, shot our bolt though with it as we’ve already looked at a couple of his most important stories in Talons and Androzani. Should still be possible though. And I can’t off the top of my head think of such another era-spanning writer as him. Terrance Dicks did form the show to what it is now as much as Holmes did, but he didn’t actually write that many full stories. And Saward, Boucher etc are all pretty much confined to one Doctor/era.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord


    Yes, we probably nixed an official retrospective when we first started the BG reviews. Weird how so many Holmes scripts were chosen at the time. 😀 I thought a blog detailing my perspective on his stories might be an idea, tied in with some observations about fandoms reaction to him, and him to them. Anyone who wants to avoid spoilers of stories not covered can cheerfully ignore it.

    What set this off (in me) was that when the Horror channel launched on freeview a while back they showed Ark in Space. It’s a great story. I think everyone knows it is a great story. I’ve watched it until the DVD bled. While I watched it again, I cruised various forums and informed bloggers like Phillip Sandifer to look at opinions.

    Basically I learned:

    • This story is a classic
    • Boy, the Wirrn are scary
    • Doesn’t shrink wrap look funny as a special effect
    • Isn’t Tom’s speech about how great humanity is just brilliant
    • How much does Ridley Scott owe Ark in Space for Alien

    Now – these are valuable opinions. However, not one of them seemed to identify or praise the point of the story. Essentially we meet the last humans. Tom makes his marvellous speech about how wonderful we are, and then we unfreeze a few to find out how hollow and dysfunctional they’ve become, Pair-bonded genetic elite. Suppressed emotions – driven to survive. They delight when they learn that fellow humans have survived even though they slaughtered the Wirrn to do it, and this is a counter attack. They’re quite willing to put down the Doctor and entourage for contaminating their gene stock.

    In being transmuted to a Monster, Noah gets his humanity back and his last action is to self sacrifice (killing the Wirrn) with a heartfelt last communication to his partner. Brilliantly effective and love saves the day. Except it seems that a lot of fans can’t talk about this. Because love saves the day is something new series writers do. I think it’s a shame because Robert Holmes – who served in the second world war, became disillusioned as a Policeman, saw elements of truth covered up as a journalist before becoming a script writer had a lot to say about our society and his hopes that our virtues could outweigh our vices.

    I think as titles go for the two writers I immediately thought about – The Adventures of Robert Holmes and The Incredible Hulke will probably be forthcoming. Advance apologies for lame puns.

    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    @phaseshift — I think a blog is an excellent idea. Both Holmes and Hulke — and Dicks, I’d argue — deserve a bit of serious examination.

    I also can’t believe we’ve not covered The Ark in Space in a BG gap rewatch yet. That’s surely something of an oversight.

    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    @phaseshift — I also wonder if there’s a case for a series of blogs on the various producer eras of the show, or whether the Faces of the Doctor thread does the job of covering that….

    The Krynoid Man @thekrynoidman

    @phaseshift I apologise if I came off like I was just having a quick snipe at the new series. I was trying to say that one of the reasons I like this story is that their is no assistant, which gives it a unique feel compared to other stories, especially more recent ones which seem to focus on Clara more than the Doctor, not that it’s always a bad thing. Moffat himself even said that Clara thinks the show is about her himself, and I thought it was a funny line so I referenced it. I suppose I didn’t articulate myself very well, I’m not good at articulating things, and it came off as a bit nasty towards the newer series. I didn’t mean to criticise, I was just stating my opinion in a slightly jokey way.

    I wasn’t trying to imply that this era is better either, each one is different, and each one has its good and bad points.

    Also, sorry if my posts come off as “sound bite criticisms” as you call them, when it comes to writing about things I like or dislike, I can write a lot about them, but I’m always worried that I’ll ramble on incoherently and bore people so I try to limit myself.

    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord


    Also, sorry if my posts come off as “sound bite criticisms” as you call them, when it comes to writing about things I like or dislike, I can write a lot about them, but I’m always worried that I’ll ramble on incoherently and bore people so I try to limit myself.

    Just to say if there’s somewhere you can ramble on, it’s here. It’s never stopped me, for example. And I think you’ll find most people are interested. I think our views on the show diverge slightly on occasion but I’m always very interested to read them.

    Nick @nick


    I too will look forward to your blog.

    I watch this fairly recently too (first time for a very long time). I certainly thought it was one of the best ever as a 12 year old first time around, and whilst I think that the story could be improved on today with a remake, I don’t think there is that much you would actually want to change in the basic idea. At the root of the story is a take on the Snake in Eden premise, with added elements of a classic political thriller, constructed in a young adult friendly version.


    The matrix scenes is a duel to the death between Goth and the Doctor, where Goth takes sadistic pleasure from drawing out the process on what he deems to be home turf. Isn’t is the main point in Episode 3 ? It isn’t filler, but it certainly doesn’t move the story forwards. But it is art of the duel between the Master and Doctor, that underlies the narrative of the entire story.

    I think I could argue that the episode 3 isn’t actually required by the underlying story at all. I would also argue that whilst the episode delivers some exciting visual ideas for 12 year boys (and let’s face it, the whole concept of the matrix as virtual reality with the  telepresence inside seems like years in advance of its time now) it also does something more than that if you want to see it.

    Of course, you could choose to replace and improve on the individual elements (biplane strafing, train, poisoned water, jungle sniper, manhunt) with something else or even make it shorter and punchier, but would this actually improve on what Holmes actually wrote and the production team delivered ? An alien jungle (planet of evil style). A colonial viper instead of a biplane. A laser gun rather than a bolt action rifle. I don’t actually think any change would have improved the concept any. The scale advantage (acres of landscape, actual aircraft etc) actually outweigh the lack of non-Human setting in giving realism to what is meant to be virtual reality, making the duel to the death stakes more believable.

    I certainly think this story is one of the more effective uses of the Master as foe. Yes, the Master isn’t Delgado or any evolution of Delgado’s personality, but I don’t think this matters. The Master is moments from Death with a burning drive to live at any cost. It follows that the Master’s personality should be much simplified in these terms. The Master isn’t mad, but he is deranged. RTD’s version played by John Simm lacked this subtle difference.


    You could also view the story as a whole in a similar light. Do we have a Gallifrey run by morally bankrupt people (another version of absolute power corrupting absolutely) or do we have the Master corrupting a noble Goth, bring out his base sadism and lust for personal power.

    Could you not argue that the pressure of the assassination crisis and the need for quick resolution corrupts the chancellery guard officer into using torture and worse, enjoying it (shock horror a normal person, put into a terrible situation, racting the wrong way only to discover themselves representing the benign face of the torturer al la Abu Grabe. The banality of evil personified) or is he  another [closet] sadist in the wrong job for the wrong reasons.

    Did Holmes wrote both takes deliberately. I expect so. Even though absolute power does seem to corrupt when it is given to the powerful without a term limit, it also requires a minority to actively participate and the majority to shrug their shoulders and get on with life.

    Two other quick observations. The Master here is the Doctor as Valeyard of course. Terrance Dicks rewrote the idea in the Five Doctors. That’s also a story that uses Gallifrey well (or at least better than most) and could actually have ended up as a classic for much the same reasons, although he anniversary elements stopped that.

    There is a blog post or thread in the Gallifrey question as well. I think this is probably the best take on the place in many ways, although it is still flawed. For Gallifrey to be successfully used in AG Who, I think you really need to do some world building and come up with a premise for what a society with multiple regenerations, very long life, super advanced technology might look like (Hulke/Dicks original conception from the War Games ?). Holmes chose to write a degenerated 1950s (?) UK House of Lords/civil service inspired version of such a society in decay. Lawrence Miles wrote a different one for his Time War Great Houses.

    I’m not sure that any one else in either BG or AG Who spent enough time

    Nick @nick

    one last observation. The Keeper of Traken also reworks the central premise of this story, with the Master (the Snake/Satan) corrupting a different paradise by introducing (or reinforcing rather) using pride and avarice to corrupt certain leading members of society (one unable to cope with it) at a critical junction for his own ends.

    Whisht @whisht

    ok – great posts by everyone before me so I’ll just say “yep – I agree”.

    Now, there is one reason why the Doctor (especially Tom Baker’s) might return to Gallifrey, and that is to say “I told you so”.

    Honestly. To blow a raspberry. To say “I was right”.

    That is a key reason for someone who felt compelled to leave due to others, to return.
    Especially after spending a long, long, long time away having adventures and doing fine things and proving to himself that they were wrong.

    He’d want to go back (in Time if needs be) and prove they were wrong.

    The boy done good. Admit it.

    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    I have been slowly catching up with what I missed during my recent enforced absence, and got a lot out of the erudite discussion of “The Deadly Assassin”.

    By and large, I tend to agree with @thekrynoidman that this story provides a welcome focus on the Doctor, as opposed to his assistants, delivers in terms of its political thriller aspects, and has a real sense of style about it.

    Yes, the Matrix might have been done better, but there is much to like here. Where I think it works better than some discussants do is in its Gallifrey setting. Every generation interprets its subject through the lens of their own concerns and this is one of those cases, I would argue, where Gallifrey in this story needs to be understood in the context of the 1970s. Robert Holmes presents an alien world that his audience can interpret in light of issues and cultural understandings that they were familiar with. (In fact the same could be said of the Matrix, with its planes, trains and WWI allusions.)

    At the very end of episode 4, there is a final interaction between the Doctor and Cardinal Borusa, where the Doctor imitates a schoolboy as a way of sending up the pretensions of the Cardinal (and of Gallifrey for that matter) when he keeps responding to the cardinal with: “Yes Sir”. And then the Cardinal softens, and with a sly smile, admits that the Doctor has done a good job: “9 out of 10”. The doctor returns the smile and leaves. Gallifrey is being presented as an English public school for boys. It is elitist, the Doctor runs away from it because he does not want to be bound by its restrictions, but he will return to save it, as he does here, because…it is part of him, and it always will be.

    The allusion to the English public school would have had great resonance to the audience in the early to mid 70s, in a way that it wouldn’t today, when the audience itself is more international, and more distant from the very English allusions in the representation of both Gallifrey and the Matrix in this story.

    It was only a few years before “The Deadly Assassin” that Lindsay Anderson’s movie “If…” came out. On the one hand, that movie was a savage attack on the English class system, and the institution of the English public school, and yet, in a funny sort of way, it was almost a nostalgic celebration of the very institutions it was attacking. “The Deadly Assassin” and it representation of Gallifrey and the Matrix needs to be understood in that cultural historical context.

    Oh, and there was also a nice bit of continuity by having Bernard Horsfall as Goth, for he had been the Time Lord who had forced the regeneration on Patrick Troughton’s Doctor, and banished him to Earth at the end of “The War Games”.

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