Welcome to my second September film challenge, this is a more Fandom based challenge but those who know the show are welcome to join in.
Today is day 2 and the prompt is your favourite Classic Who story.
Classic Who for the uninitiated is the original run from 1963-1989 and the 1996 TV movie with Paul McGann.
My favourite is a bit of a controversial choice from modern perspectives, and lets be honest was probably a bit suspect even in 1977, and is the Victorian/Fu Manchu homage “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. It is controversial because one of the principal villains, a Chinese Stage Magician called Li’Sen Chang, is played by English actor John Bennett who appears in yellow face, and in general it doesn’t particularly show the Chinese in a good light. If you take it as a homage to the Yellow Peril genre you just about get away with it, Chang on a couple of occasions makes dismissive jokes about the Western View of the Chinese “Ah, I understand we all look the same”, and later when the Doctor walks out from a magic trick he remarks “the Bird has flown, one of us is yellow.” So there is a self awareness which perhaps should have been dialled up. You could also mention the Ventriloquist doll Mr Sin as being a creepy and grotesque parody of Chang but Ventriloquist dolls usually are grotesque or exaggerated parodies of their operator.
It is often said that Talons borrows from Sherlock Holmes, but I would argue only in a roundabout way, there is the iconography borrowed from the Basil Rathbone films, but the serial has far more in common with Baker’s Street’s other resident detective, a certain Sexton Blake, but that is another story.
The plot is a Jack the Ripper inspired story with missing London girls, one of whom we meet is clearly a lady of night (though not explicitly referred to as such in the dialogue). The highlight of the story are the supporting characters Henry Gordon Jago, the pompous but Cowardly Theatre owner, and Professor Litefoot a Police Pathologist who was bought up in China.
The theatre aspect also reflects The Phantom of the Opera as the story’s villain is a deformed man who hides behind a mask and has a lair under a theatre.
We don’t talk about the giant rat.
The Talons of Weng-Chiang, written by Robert Holmes, directed by David Maloney.
Starring Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Michael Spice, John Bennett, Trevor Baxter, Christopher Benjamin and Deep Roy.