Last updated 29 July 2018

Doctor Who: The Talons of Weng-Chiang

The Talons of Weng-Chiang

Story Number: 91 (4S)
No of Episodes: 6

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

Starring: Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, John Bennett, Christopher Benjamin, Trevor Baxter

BBC One (United Kingdom):
First Broadcast: Saturday 26th February 1977 - Saturday 2nd April 1977
Running Time: 2 hours, 23 minutes, 51 seconds

Average Audience: 10.35 Million   Average AI: 20

The Doctor takes Leela to Victorian London, circa 1888, so that she may see how her ancestors lived. He plans to take her to a music hall, but on their way there they witness the abduction of a man, Buller, by a group of Chinese coolies. Leela incapacitates one of the thugs until the police arrive. The Doctor then learns of other disappearances, and, intrigued, makes friends with the police pathologist, Professor Litefoot. He discovers that hairs taken from the clothing of one of the victims found floating in the Thames seem to have originated from a very large rat.

The Doctor explores the sewers and discovers that there are indeed giant rats down there. He also notes that the course of the river Fleet, which empties into the Thames, runs directly underneath the Palace Theatre which is central to the numerous disappearances.

His investigations lead him to Li H'sen Chang, a stage magician at the Theatre, and from Chang to an ancient Chinese god, Weng-Chiang, who has apparently been reincarnated on Earth.

Weng-Chiang is in fact Magnus Greel, a war criminal from the 51st century, whose experiments in time brought him back to 19th Century China. There, his appearance from nowhere prompted his elevation by Chang and his friends to the status of a god. The journey through time has disrupted his molecular structure and Greel needs to feed on the life force drained from human victims, the younger and more vital the better. His precious time cabinet had been lost to him, however, and his travels (aided by a locator) have brought him and his entourage to Victorian London where he has discovered the cabinet to be in the possession of Litefoot.

Infiltrating Litefoot's home with Chang's ventriloquist doll Mr Sin (an advanced computerised children's plaything with the brain of a pig - unfortunately the pig aspect has taken over and it has become unstable and dangerous), Greel retrieves his cabinet and prepares to travel back to his own time, abandoning his long-time worshipper Chang to death in an opium den.

The Doctor, aided by Leela, Litefoot and the proprietor of the Palace Theatre, Henry Gordon Jago, go to Greel's headquarters, a warehouse lair which is also the centre of the deadly Chinese Tong of the Black Scorpion, and trap Greel before he can escape. He falls into his life force extraction machine and disintegrates in front of their astonished eyes. The Doctor is then attacked by Mr Sin but manages to disconnect its circuitry thus rendering it inanimate.

As the London fog closes in the Doctor and Leela take their leave in the TARDIS. Jago and Litefoot look on in astonishment.

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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