Note: This is a review of the 3-disc set of The Talons of Weng
Chiang as it appears in the “Revisitations Box Set” which also
Caves of Androzani and Doctor Who: The Movie. The
older 2-disc release of Weng Chiang is identical apart from the
additional of a third disc, which contains a new set of extras.
worth saying upfront that I’m a Doctor Who newbie. I have the
vaguest recollections of Fourth Doctor Tom Baker and the nefarious
Daleks from my childhood, and more recent exposure to Russell T.
Davies imagined series, but otherwise came to this widely regarded
classic Doctor Who story afresh.
Looking at this 6-part serial, 33 years later (it was the final arc
in the 14th season of early 1977), it’s surprising how
well it holds up. Featuring impressive production values and
costumes considering the show’s budget limitations, The Talons of
Weng Chiang sees the Doctor and his assistant Leela go all
Sherlock Holmes in Victorian London, complete with cobbled streets,
Chinese stereotypes, giant sewer rats and a “Peking Homunculus”
henchman named Mr Sin. It’s all very entertaining, theatrical and
cleverly written, and for the first four episodes in particular
(which focus on theatre magician, Li H'sen Chang), it maintains a
cracking pace. But what fans will really want to know about are the
which are smashing. Actors
Louise Jameson, John Bennett and Christopher Benjamin, producer
Philip Hinchcliffe and director David Maloney provide commentaries
for all the episodes, and they are dense and entertaining, as is
often the case when creatives look back on past work with the
benefit of hindsight.
second disc features a bundle of newly released extras, best of
which isThe Last Hurrah, a half-hour documentary featuring
producer Phillip Hinchcliffe interviewing a number of key cast and
crew, including Tom Baker, as the Doctor, and Louise Jameson (who
plays Leela). They, the writers and directors, speak freely and
precisely about every aspect of creating the show, from specifics of
character, to the production design, to the challenges of creating a
passable giant rat on a TV budget.
Baker and Louise Jameson
Other features range from the historically fascinating – a 3-min
contemporary interview with Tom Baker voicing his opinions on his
iconic character – to hard-core fan curiosities such as the “Now &
Then Featurette” which reveals the shooting locations as they are
today, or Radio Times listings presented in PDF format.
third disc features previously released extras including an hour
long 1977 documentary on the Doctor Who series and its
impact, and a curious 24-min of behind-the-scenes footage which is
of so low quality as to be barely watchable.
Overall, though, there’s enough quality extras here to warrant a
double-dip from fans who’ve already picked up the stand-alone 2-disc
set, especially if you don’t already own the accompanying
The Caves of
and Doctor Who: The Movie.
list of extras:
Cast and Crew Commentary
The Last Hurrah Feature
Moving On Featurette
The Foe from the Future Featurette
Now & Then Featurette
Look East Regional News Broadcast
Victoriana and Chinoiserie Featurette
Music Hall Featurette
Radio Times Listings
Whose Doctor Who Lively Arts 1977 Documentary
Blue Peter Theatre
Behind the Scenes Featurette
Philip Hinchcliffe Interview
Trails and Continuity
TARDIS-Cam No.6 Animation