Last updated 21 August 2023

Doctor Who: The Deadly Assassin

The Deadly Assassin

Story Number: 88 (4P)
No of Episodes: 4

Writer: Robert Holmes
Director: David Maloney
Producer: Philip Hinchcliffe

Starring: Tom Baker, Bernard Horsfall, George Pravda, Peter Pratt

BBC One (United Kingdom):
First Broadcast: Saturday 30th October 1976 - Saturday 20th November 1976
Running Time: 1 hour, 34 minutes, 47 seconds

Average Audience: 12.18 Million   Average AI: 30

Experiencing premonitions of the death of the Time Lord President, the Doctor materialises the TARDIS in the cloisters area outside the Capitol on Gallifrey. There it is impounded by the Chancellory guards, led by Commander Hilred, but the Doctor manages to elude them, his escape aided by a mysterious figure in black. He returns to his ship before it is moved into a museum inside the Capitol by order of Chancellor Goth as an example of an antiquated Type 40 TT capsule.

The Doctor discovers that it is Presidential Resignation Day, an important occasion in Time Lord life as the retiring President must name his successor. Speculation is rife as to who his choice might be. Favourite is Chancellor Goth but only the President knows for sure.

Donning the robes of one of the Time Lords, the Doctor arrives in the Panopticon, the centre of the time-honoured ritual. He sees a staser weapon on the balcony aimed at where the President will appear and rushes to prevent the murder. When he arrives, there is no-one there, just the staser. Seeing a gun in the crowd as the President appears, he aims the staser and fires ... and the President falls down dead, apparently shot by the Doctor.

The Doctor is arrested for murder and put on trial. At the last moment he invokes Article 17 of the constitution and nominates himself as a presidential candidate. This gives him immunity until after the election, and as it is traditional for the incoming president to pardon all political prisoners, the Doctor seems to have secured his continued existence for the time being.

Further investigation reveals that behind all the machinations is the Master, now past his twelfth and final regeneration. He is a wizened husk, seeking to control the Presidency to obtain the symbols of office, the Sash and the Great Key of Rassilon, which in reality have a far more practical purpose than believed. They are the key to the Eye of Harmony, the legendary source of all Time Lord power.

The Doctor, with the help of Coordinator Engin and Castellan Spandrell, links his mind to the Amplified Panatropic Computations (APC) Net, a giant computer containing the accumulated wisdom of the Time Lords, to try and find out what is going on. In the surreal world of the Matrix he finds himself in a life-or-death struggle with a mysterious hooded opponent. They battle each other through a forest-like virtual reality and the Doctor proves the stronger. His opponent is revealed as Goth, whom the Master has been using as a puppet. Following his defeat in the mind battle, Goth dies.

The Master absconds with the Sash and the Great Key of Rassilon and reveals the Eye of Harmony located beneath the Panopticon floor. He starts to disconnect the device so that, using the Sash, he can draw off enough power to enable him to regenerate, but the Doctor manages to stop him before Gallifrey is destroyed. The Master falls down one of the fissures which have opened up in the floor.

Believing his old adversary dead, the Doctor takes his leave of Gallifrey, not seeing that the Master has in fact survived, having absorbed sufficient energy through the Sash. The Master leaves Gallifrey in his own TARDIS, which is disguised as a somewhat incongruous Grandfather clock.

Synopsis from Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Handbook by David J. Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker, reprinted with permission; further reproduction is not permitted. Available from Telos

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