The Talons of Weng-Chiang part 5

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    Craig @craig

    Weng-Chiang, the “filthy bounder”, has the cabinet and all seems lost but one essential component is missing. The Doctor and Leela follow one clue to his new lair while Jago and Litefoot team up to follow another, Litefoot’s heroism conquering Jago’s cowardice. Was there ever a better pairing?

    Opium use is shown in a kids’ show (could they do that today?), the Doctor opens a locked door without reaching for the sonic, and what is it about the recurrence, here and in Moffat, of the 51st century and technology running on wetware?

    Once again, if you’ve seen it NO SPOILERS.

    Anonymous @

    Some quick notes after watching (I’ll leave the learned analysis to those who do it so much better than I do; and besides, I’m off to watch Forest of the Dead 🙂 .)

    The Doctor to Leela:  ‘Get him a drink … ‘ [she gets ready to hand over the decanter] ‘ … in a glass.’  😀

    The ‘Peking Homonculus’ – so, Mr Sin all along was a pig brain in plastic.  Never would have guessed that.

    Lightfoot is in the mould of a consummate companion: he decides to do a dangerous thing when the Doctor is not around, and convinces someone more reluctant (Jago) that it’s the right thing to do.

    The Doctor on Chang’s death:  ‘He’s left us a Chinese puzzle.’  haw haw.  A throw-away comedy line which I had no idea BG Who did so easily as in AG Who.

    The Doctor to Leela:  ‘Do you know what that is?’
    Leela:  ‘You ask me so you can tell me.’   ahh, ’twas ever thus.  It wouldn’t be the Doctor without a bit of showing-off.

    The Doctor:   ‘Eureka’s Greek for “this bath is too hot”.’  Another throw-away comedy line.  Golden.

    Lightfoot:  ‘You know what this is … it’s a dumb-waiter!’
    Jago:  ‘Well, I’m not feeling very peckish right now; I’m surprised you can think of food at a time like this!’  The comedy keeps rolling along in this instalment.

    The Doctor to Leela:  ‘I’ve brought you to the wrong time, my dear – you’d have loved Agincourt.’  Not knowing anything more about Leela than through this episode, she would indeed have been a formidable battle-companion.  It’s a bit strange that I’ve come to know her in full Victorian formal dress.

    OOOOH!  That final reveal of Weng-Chiang!  Fantastic cliff-hanger moment.

    wolfweed @wolfweed

    The penultimate episode is always the tricky one. Thankfully, here we’re shown the joy that being taught how to ‘break & enter’ can bring. Also, the health benefits of Opium are extolled. We are presented with the concept of drugging under-age girls to get your own way with them, too.

    Furthermore, we are also educated to the fact that pigs hate us (Humans). And that we can expect an Ice Age in the year 5000 (And 3 more World Wars before then).

    The true nature of Mr Sin has an interesting mirror in the Space-Pigs of ‘Aliens of London’.

    One last thought – seeing as Weng-Chiang comes from the future, perhaps he should have thought of getting a bum-bag to carry the Key to the Time-Cabinet around. That way, when he found the Cabinet, he wouldn’t be back to square one & blaming his minions for it again! But then we wouldn’t need 6 episodes…

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord


    Ahh…the dialogue is fantastic in this one, as the worlds of Jago and Litefoot crash together in a fan pleasing way.

    The Doctor and Leela relationship is special to me. I think she remains firmly my number one BG companion because it happened at an age when I was seven. Leela was direct in a way that we children were, and with that great curiosity and occasionally getting things wrong that we did as well. She was so easy to relate to. At that age, the sexual attraction thing and her normal costume didn’t matter. She was hilarious and always spoiling for a rumble “We must prepare to do battle with this underground crab!”. She was really knowing though, as “You ask me so you can tell me” reveals.

    It was fun playing along with the Chang is dead thoughts last week. As a kid, I didn’t expect him to return and so for this experiment I remembered how I felt. A bit shortchanged to be honest, and Bennett is brilliant in his little scene here. Compare the over the top fiend of “Weng Chiang” to Bennett’s dying Chang and I hope you understand why I forgive the “Yellow face” thing completely. Chang is so more nuanced. Doctor Who has occasionally played with references to “made up” drugs to talk about the issue, but to see opium use dealt with so casually is very jarring to the modern eye.

    I remember being convinced as a kid (for some reason) that Weng-Chiang would look like a skeleton under his mask (I was probably thinking about the earlier “Master” story) so when Leela ripped his mask off to reveal that melted face I was absolutely horrified (while loving every second of it). Glorious stuff.

    HTPBDET @htpbdet

    DOCTOR: The Peking Homunculus was a toy, a plaything for the Commissioner’s children. It contained a series of magnetic fields operating on a printed circuit and a small computer. It had one organic component. The cerebral cortex of a pig. Anyway, something went wrong. It almost caused World War Six.

    LITEFOOT: What?
    DOCTOR: Yes, somehow the pig part took over. So Weng-Chiang has brought the Peking Homunculus back through time. He could have done. It disappeared completely. It was never found.
    LITEFOOT: I say, I may have had a bang on the head but this is a dashed queer story. Time travel?
    DOCTOR: Unsuccessful time travel, Professor. Findicker’s discovery of the double nexus particle sent human science up a technological cul-de-sac.
    LITEFOOT: Are you following this?
    LEELA: Not a word.

    There is, again, much to admire and enjoy here. This is a close second for my favourite episode.

    It has many twists and turns, and is laced with genuinely funny material which comes directly from the care taken to establish who the key players are.

    It’s a neat trick to find Chang in the Opium den, alive after all,  his leg lost to the Giant Rats and his earthly time numbered. The insanity and murderous nature of Weng-Chang is emphasised and the time spent with the detained Jago and Litefoot sets us up to believe the next crisis will be with them, but that turns out to be clever mis-direction again.

    This particular Chinese puzzle is full of gems: the scene where Leela suspects the Doctor is a coward is magic; so is the scene where Litefoot persuades Jago to attempt escape by the dumb waiter.

    Who is Weng-Chiang? Coming so close after Deadly Assassin ( another Robert Holmes story ) and given that he has a deformed body that is degenerating,  surely he is the Master? Somehow trapped without his TARDIS?


    Only a week to wait…

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord


    seeing as Weng-Chiang comes from the future, perhaps he should have thought of getting a bum-bag to carry the Key to the Time-Cabinet around

    I may be misremembering, but were they not outlawed under Subsection 675 (4.1.4.B) of the Nu-Geneva convention of 3166 as a “fashion disaster likely to cause global warfare”? 😀

    The reveal of Mr. Sin’s semi-porcine nature is really interesting. I think someone argued on the Girl in the Fireplace thread that integrating human parts in machines was unbelievable, but it is established here (for the same time period). To me it always seemed like the extrapolation of a Cyborg (human adopting machine parts becomes an intelligent machine adopting human parts) and no more unbelievable. As @craig puts it “technology running on wet-ware”.

    Craig @craig


    Thankfully, here we’re shown the joy that being taught how to ‘break & enter’ can bring. Also, the health benefits of Opium are extolled. We are presented with the concept of drugging under-age girls to get your own way with them, too.

    I properly did LOL, are you Bizarro Mary Whitehouse? 😀

    Right, am off to watch the radio, is that how you do it?

    ScaryB @scaryb

    A great episode. Loved it at the time (Mum… what’s an opium den..?!), and for a second last one it fairly zips along (I’ll forgive them the nonsense about forgetting the key). Bennett as Chang, broken physically now as well as mentally, is so convincing, it’s such a subtle performance.

    And yes, that 51st century again. I’m not great on technical details like this – anyone know of any other BG stories set in that time?

    @phaseshift Thanks a mill for explaining wet-ware so I didn’t have to look stupid by asking what it meant 😉 Mr Sin gets more creepy the more we find out about him.  (Used to guest star in my nightmares sometimes!) Small but highly malevolent. And very difficult to kill.

    Anonymous @

    @wolfweed“perhaps he [Weng-Chiang] should have thought of getting a bum-bag to carry the Key to the Time-Cabinet around”

    Or, as the Yanks call it, a ‘fanny pack’.  😀  [Yes, that was a ridiculous attempt at humour.  In my many years as a Brit, my sense-of-humour balance has swung full-tilt between ‘bloody’ (awww, that’s kinda cute) and ‘fanny’ (that is seriously wrong on so many levels!).]

    @scaryb – who explained @craig‘s use of ‘wet-ware’?  I’m still clueless.

    ScaryB @scaryb


    @phaseshift did:

    a Cyborg (human adopting machine parts becomes an intelligent machine adopting human parts) and no more unbelievable. As @craig puts it “technology running on wet-ware”.

    Anonymous @

    @scaryb – Thanks.  I’m still clueless but I have to guess that the ‘wet’ in ‘wetware’ means a live brain of some sort.

    Which means ‘software’ describes my last boyfriend on so many different levels.

    [haw haw]

    stevethewhistle @steve-thorp

    I finally got to watch this after a walk in the hot sun in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (in Cumbria) and missing the thunderstorms. A bottle of wine was also consumed tonight.

    Weng-Chiang’s incoherent OTT screaming left me puzzled as to what had been left behind, and I had to turn the subtitles on. Not all the dialogue was included in the subtitles.

    The scene of Weng-Chiang’s den is still unknown (surely the B is not Buckingham Palace), but we are building up for the final battle. I hope that Leela has not been too affected by the chloroform.

    wolfweed @wolfweed

    @Shazzbot – Yes – ‘Fanny-Pack’ means something else entirely in this neck of the woods…

    @scaryb – As mentioned on the Girl in the fireplace thread, other BG 51st century(ish) Who are the AI age stories like Robots of Death, Invisible Enemy and the Androids of Tara.

    ScaryB @scaryb

    Thanks @wolfweed for 51st century spots. Apologies for missing it, but  I’m working backwords on the SM threads (forwards on Talons). Late with the homework and all that. Feeble excuse of RL cutting in 😉

    Anonymous @

    This is probably my favourite episode of the lot. And that’s saying something when it uses my most hated Old Who plot device of the foiled escape, not to mention the old ‘lost trionic lattice’ thing.

    But none of that matters because this is just glorious character work. At last, we see Jago and Litefoot together and their every scene is a joy. Jago has so many great lines (‘dash me optics’, ‘I’m a tiger when my gander’s up, you know’ and it’s not surprising that there were constant calls for them to have their own series almost as soon as this show was over. I still think it would have been a winner and should the Paternoster Gang ever get their own show, I really hope they do make some kind of appearance.

    Leela too continues to be great. It’s fascinating to observe her really quite well thought-out character — moving from fierce loyalty to the Doctor, to her subtle undercutting of his tendency to show off. And as @phaseshift pointed out last week, she might be a savage but she’s no fool. Rewatching these episodes has had me dramatically re-evaluating Leela to the point where she’s now one of my favourite companions.

    But the centrepoint of this episode is Chang’s death. Like @phaseshift, I’ve been enjoying playing along with the ”Chang is dead’ comments of last week. How many henchmen villains in Who get such a great backstory? Or the opportunity to justify themselves with such a monologue. And John Bennett played this part to perfection — from early sinister malice, to cod stage Chinaman to wronged vassal. I know I’ve banged on about this before, but he really does put in one of the best Who villain performances in the show’s history. Perhaps second only to Delgado himself.

    Which makes me agree with @htpbdet, that you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was in fact a Master story. For much of this story, Chang has been rather like a classic Master and Weng-Chiang very similar to Deadly Assassin’s decayed version. And what’s a TARDIS but a Time Cabinet? But I think I’ll leave a detailed discussion on this topic until after the final episode.

    And the Peking Homunculus. The stuff of my childhood nightmares. And knowing what it was didn’t help in the slightest. There’s something terrifying about this child-like mute creature that you know just delights in killing and sadism. More horrific than a 1,000 daleks in my opinion.

    stevethewhistle @steve-thorp

    At least we know that Weng-Chiang isn’t Weng-Chiang (unless he was named after a Chinese god).

    Anonymous @

    the one thing that bugs me is if Weng-Chiang had the spacious and seemingly well-guarded  House of the Dragon at his disposal, why did he spend all his time living in that underground hovel with only Chang and a few giant rats for company?

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    @jimthefish – because all the best 51st Century Mad Scientists know that Mad Science is always best practised in a cellar/underground sewer/storm drain. That way, when the inevitable happens and the Doctor turns up, the only things he can blow up are the underground hovel, your henchman, and a few giant rats.

    See Song, R (Prof. Univ. Luna), Tomb Raider: An archaeological study of the headquarters of former enemies of The Doctor. 

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    @jimthefish – I think the ‘foiled escape’ worked because it subverted the ridiculous escapes found in that kind of literature. In the Fu Manchu/Bulldog Drummond type of story, the ‘escape via dumb waiter’ would have worked. Despite the point that no villain with two brain cells would lock anyone in a room with an obvious escape route to the outside.

    Here, the reason they’ve been locked in a room with a dumb waiter is that the dumb waiter only goes between the room they’re in and the main temple. They can’t use it to escape. 😉

    chickenelly @chickenelly

    Just finally caught up with the episode.  I forgot how old Who had the tendency to show you something horrific (ie Weng Chiang’s melted face) just before the end credits, leaving the viewers with a really disturbing image in their heads till next week.  That used to give me nightmares as a young’un.

    What stood out for me in this episode were the Sherlock Holmes references:

    1) Opium den – ‘Man with the twisted lip’

    2) The Doctor getting the key out of the door by sliding a bit of paper under it and poking it out – Sign of Four (I think)

    3) The Doctor solving all the crimes for Scotland Yard but letting them get the credit – virtually all the Sherlock Holmes stories.

    4) Plus there is the giant rat of Sumatra which is alluded to in the Holmes stories.

    Right off to Forest of the Dead….

    mattwalter @mattwalter

    Just like one idea from this site, which I always wanted to play this. Its a real addicting game.

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