The Talons of Weng-Chiang part 2

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    Craig @craig

    Part 2 of The Talons of Weng-Chiang. I think this is perhaps my favourite episode of this story. It races along, after the set-up last week a lot of things are revealed in this one, it has some fantastic dialogue, and the scenes with Litefoot and Leela are just a joy. Baker is much more his mischievous self in this one too. I hope you enjoy!

    And just in case it needs to be reiterated, if you’ve seen it all before, NO SPOILERS.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    Lots to love in this one, especially from Louise Jamieson. From being about to happily confirm she killed the Doctors would-be assailant to a Policeman, and into those great scenes with Trevor Baxter as Litefoot. A true Victorian gent, as he manfully picks up food with his hands to put his guest at ease. The other double act, Jago “The Rock of Gibraltar” and the Doctor are really funny as well.

    The mysterious Weng Chiang seemed very spry as he negotiated backstage of the Palace considering he seemed at deaths door earlier, but what the hell. The mention by him of Time Agents is interesting in the context of the AG series. Jack was one, and River secured a time device from Dorium in Pandorica Opens, who mentioned it belonged to a “handsome young Time Agent”.

    Back later.

    wolfweed @wolfweed

    Notable for the phrase ‘Pixelated Leprechaun’, the wonderful ‘Cold Collation’, the redirection of the story into ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ homage.

    Also, the mention of Time Agents and a glimmer of how they operate.

    Perhaps that mysterious villain is expecting Captain Jack on his tail…


    stevethewhistle @steve-thorp

    I liked the line that the “Blue Guards” would only call the “Sanit(ar)y Inspector”.
    Also that the professor’s housekeeper was called Mrs Hudson; and the giant money spider, which I think worked better and more subtle than the giant rat.

    Other things that I particularly liked have already been mentioned.

    I thought that the shining eyes was a bit too much of a cliche for that time, and that the scene would have worked better without it. Of course, it could have been meant as a joke.

    In keeping with the spirit of this forum, I have only watched it once, so there are probably things that haven’t lodged in my memory or that I haven’t noticed.

    I reckon that it was quite dense but nicely paced, and that the slowish pursuit scenes lead nicely into the finale.

    PS Does anyone think that there was a love interest developing between Leela and the professor?

    It may be worth mentioning that lasers only started to come to the fore in the early ’70s

    and holograms were a relatively new concept when the programme was made.


    Arkleseizure @arkleseizure

    Great stuff! Wrong again about the cliffhanger: I’d thought there’d be one when the Doctor was hanging from the  curtain or falling off the lighting gantry. Mr Sin holding a knife at Leela was at least a secondary guess, though!

    The scenes with Leela and Litefoot enjoying supper stuck in the memory very clearly. What a perfect gentleman, letting the lady think she had her etiquette right! Rock of Gibraltar Jago was damned funny, too.

    Anyway, here’s something else I didn’t like about those old VHS releases. I don’t know why, but it really used to creep me out (and I hope this works):

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    @stevethewhistle @steve-thorp

    I’m not sure “love interest”, but you can see Litefoot is absolutely gobsmacked by her. I loved the Doctor delivering a cunning backstory for her “Found in a hatbox floating down the Amazon”.

    I was going to mention, at the end of the series it would be interesting if those with the DVD could give any views on the special features on the release, if you are up for it. One of them is the Melvyn Bragg documentary “Whose Doctor Who”, which is an interesting period piece.


    Back to the Eighties – The Horror! 😀

    ScaryB @scaryb

    Ah, that was great – and Mr Sin at the end still made me jump! (creeped me out completely in the 70s). In the context of casting a caucasian actor – John Bennett does a great job, and Chang is well written. I like the pacing, slowly revealing how much power he has, then suddenly seeing him subservient, worried in the presence of Wang Chiang. I saw this at the time but I’ve forgotten how it plays out – Weng Chiang seems to be being set up as some sort of Time Lord.  And time agents mentioned 🙂

    @phaseshift Leela is great in this – and a perfect example of the companion not doing what she’s told. And just as well. She has such a forthright honesty. The jury was out for me re Litefoot till his scene with Leela eating. His comment about Chinese being odd “coves” caused the Dr to leave the cab. It’s in character for the period (and his character as son of a career colonial officer) but it’s nice to see him have a more empathic side.

    (Been watchng on DVD (I love ebay!) – the add-ons sound interesting, will try to watch and feedback, unless someone else with more time does it first!)

    stevethewhistle Great to see you back  – have tried to tag you re a couple of previous posts but just realised why it didn’t link. Agree with you about the spider, there again I’ve always found spiders creepier than rats. I didn’t mind the shiny eyes but it’s Jago’s reaction that makes it.  You might be right about it playing on the conventions, tying in with the whole Phantom of the Opera pastiche.

    Aren’t theatre backstages wonderfully creepy though? 😉

    Loved Jago and Casey’s exchange when Casey comes up from the cellar, rattled:

    Jago; Have you been drinking?

    Casey: No sir

    Jago: Well have one!

    Whisht @whisht

    really enjoying this!

    I don’t think I saw it first time ’round, but weirdly don’t want to off bonkers theorising(!).
    Nothing much to add I’m afraid, just wanted to say I’m watching (as I’m sure other lurkers are too!)

    Anonymous @

    Well, this continues to be bloody wonderful. If every Who story was as considered and detailed as this one then the asgills of this world would have a point when they say that Nu-Who is rushed and garish by comparison. Robert Holmes continues to produce some marvellous stuff here — the literary call-outs continuing with further Holmes references, as well as with Phantom of the Opera and Pygmalion into the bargain.

    And there’s lovely little details in characterisation and dialogue. Litefoot is great here and his scenes with Louise Jameson are wonderful. The ‘cold collation’  and ‘napkin’ scenes are great. Jago is terrific also. But what I like about this story so much is that even the most incidental characters are given some great moments. Both the policemen in this episode come across as real people. For me, my favourite line is the ‘Mrs Nellie Gussett’ one. (But why do I imagine Mrs Gussett as being Terry Jones in drag.)

    And we get our first look at the Big Bad of the story. I’ll leave talking about him until later for fear of spoilers. But you’ve got to love a villain who still feels the need to pull off a natty velvet hat.

    And the cliffhanger of Mr Sin shuffling towards Leela has got to be one of my most vivid childhood Who memories and still gives me something of a wiggins to this day.

    There’s the merest hint of padding started to creep in now and I thought the chase through the rafters of the theatre got a bit on the interminable side, despite still being just on the right side of spooky and atmospheric.

    Really enjoying this but am I the only one thinking that they’d love to see the Paternoster Gang show up in some kind of sequel?

    Anonymous @

    Hello All – well, I for one am disappointed that the scenes at the end of Part 1 and here at the beginning of Part 2 were so dark – all I saw was a matte black screen and NO GIANT RAT!  {sob}

    In fact, that blackness alternately bothered me and delighted me.  It bothered me because I often couldn’t make out what was happening.  It delighted me because where in current TV programmes would you have so much darkness, so many black-screen moments in between brief glimpses of [dimly-lit] action?  It added to the scare factor for me immensely.  However, overall I would have liked the scenes to be just a teensy bit more lit for clarity.

    Great stuff all ’round.  Can’t wait for next weekend’s instalment!


    ScaryB @scaryb

    @Shazzbot – I suspect the lighting you’re seeing is down to youtube being a poor copy. I’ve been watching on DVD and the quality’s great, dark but discernable! OTOH the more the giant rat is conjured up by your imagination the better it will be, trust me!

    I’m loving going back to this – I missed a few episodes of the story, due to having an intermittent Saturday job and no video. Also remember watching in b/w – no colour TV.  And the one week at a time is great too, tho I cheated with a double dose this week 😉

    @jimthefishBut why do I imagine Mrs Gussett as being Terry Jones in drag“?  I’ve no idea, but the image is now indelibly planted in my brain 🙂

    ScaryB @scaryb

    @jimthefish Re a follow up involving the Paternoster Gang – nice idea, but it also struck me that there’s a dark equivalent to them when Chang & co  are driving around in the cab – they must have been paying the driver a LOT! Or maybe he just filed them under “theatrical types”!

    HTPBDET @htpbdet


    WENG:  Chang, I have given you mental powers undreamt of in this century. You are thousands of years ahead of your time. What can you fear from these primitives?
    CHANG: True, Lord, I read their minds with ease, but tonight there was a stranger, a man whose thoughts were hidden. A man different from all others.
    WENG: Describe him.
    CHANG: He is a doctor. Tall with wide pale eyes and hair that curls like the ram. He ask many questions.
    WENG: A time agent would not ask questions. A time agent would know.

    This is Holmes at his very best. Episode one sets the scene, establishes the mystery; Episode two runs with the mystery, solidifies the characters and ups the stakes.

    The balance between comic delight and genuine tension is almost impossibly perfect in this episode.

    Litefoot and Jago emerge from this episode perfectly formed; what they both do here makes even more clear the work they did in episode 1. I can remember wishing that they both would travel with the Doctor and Leela : the prospect of that dynamic, so carefully set up here, was almost irresistible.  Still is.

    The trio of Leela, Litefoot and Jago is clearly the progenitor of the Paternoster Gang which is one of the reasons I like them so very much. In a number of ways – tonally, thematically and narratively – Crimson Hide strikes me as a kind of sequel to Talons of Weng-Chiang. But I join with the others who would like to see Jago and Litefoot working with the Paternoster Gang: that could be a fabulous Doctor-light episode.

    I was excited by the concept of “Time Agents” as introduced here – the small tantalising discussions promised a lot. It took til The Empty Child for that promise to be fulfilled – but it was worth the wait.

    And I am with @scaryb – the cliff-hanger with Mr Sin’s surprise reveal as an autonomous murderous thing is still chilling.

    I spent the week wondering what Leela would do…

    chickenelly @chickenelly

    Just caught up.  I think it’s testament to the nature of this particular story is that the three little segments [you tubed segments that is] zip along so quick that I’m always surprised when one runs out and I have to switch to the next one.

    When the episode started, the giant rat did make me chuckle again.  @wolfweed‘s picture of the rubber rat is actually more realistic.  I must have watched these episodes the first time around, but have no memory of them at all which is good.  As a result I still have no idea who Weng Chiang is.  I thought the other bloke was him, but clearly not.  My thought at the moment is that he is going through a Voldemort stage a la Philosopher’s Stone, except sucking the life force of women instead of unicorns.

    If we were speculating on this episode, I’d suggest he is the Master.


    Miapatrick @miapatrick

    OK, feel confirmed on my ‘Phantom of the Opera’ reference from the last episode- not that this story is a ‘version’ of that just that at least one person behind this story knew Gaston Leroux’s writings. Echoes in this episode include the morally compromised owner of the theatre, someone (though very un-Erick-like) in a mask, connections of tunnels under the theatre, including a river, and the Doctors reference to a ‘reclusive phantom’. This episode has a very GL vibe aside from that one novel famously adapted by ALW.

    Not much in special effects- I felt that although the flashing eyes were, to modern eyes, rather basic, the eyes of the theatre owner were fantastic, the ripples across his face so well done, the scene really worked,

    I like the concept of the doctor here. ‘a man different from all of us’. ‘A dilettante’ (and Leela laughs). I like the way he bares his teeth. I like the angry way he explains the fireworks at someone’s death, building on the last episodes revelation that he knows several ‘Chinese’ languages, I’d say this is cleared from any suggestion of racism by this.

    and I love Leela- meat! flesh!

    some of what the Doctor says here, re: anachronisms, I think really drives home the perfectness of, many years later, the Doctor marrying/;marrying’ an archaeologist- archaeology is about things found out of place, and examining why. The Doctor is a huge, walking anachronism. How could either resist?


    HTPBDET @htpbdet


    McLeela and I were convinced Weng-Chiang was the Master by the end of this episode.

    After Deadly Assassin which Robert Holmes also wrote…

    Miapatrick @miapatrick

    @wolfweed– re: phantom of the opera/opera ghost- there was a clear reference in the last episode, so the homage started there, though quite subtlety.


    curvedspace @curvedspace

    @miapatrick – enjoyed your thoughts about the Doctor marrying an archeologist. Of course he would!

    I liked everything y’all liked. This is a great episode!

    Being American, I always notice the language. “It’s as black as Newgate’s knocker!”  Had to look that one up. How’s the usage for that one these days? (I’m still in love with “that takes the biscuit.”) Also, lots of use of the word “queer” in its original context. How funny to see how much usage of that word has changed in a few decades!

    Cheese factor: the glowing eyes during the hypnotism bit. Not even some Delgado-esque eyebrow action! Speaking of Delgado…I know that actor can’t be under the duct tape mask, but the dialogue sounds quite Master-esque.

    Oh, yay, Baker smiled! Glad to see him cracking some jokes. This is the price of meeting him out of order, I suppose. But ooh, I quite like him. I can see that once I bid my dear Pertwee farewell I’ll be having a good time with Tom Baker…


    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    Well, I love those mysterious SF illnesses in which someone is in danger of imminent death: but can still climb forty foot ladders and swing gymnastically across the stage.

    Barring the theatre chase scene – definitely padding – that episode really zipped along, very gripping. And nice characterisation – yes, we see the other side to Litefoot when he doesn’t correct Leela’s table manners, but instead simply imitates them. One wonders how much of his casual racism is ‘acceptable conversation for the Victorian gentleman’.

    And the After Gap Who picked up the idea of Time Agents and ran with it.

    So far, this story is so good that it could really benefit from being remastered and having the effects re-done. You miss the good writing because you’re distracted by the terrible giant rat, the iffy glowing eyes, and I swear they’d simply thrown a straw covered tarpaulin over a modern car in one of those street scenes (the one with Chang and Weng-Chiang in the cab). ‘No money’ is being replaced by a well-written script and solid repertory-style acting.

    And yes, definitely riffing off Phantom of the Opera as well as Sherlock Holmes. Oh, well – at least Weng-Chiang is just creating giant spiders instead of playing his giant organ. 😈

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