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Doctor Who: The Talons Of Weng-Chiang- Special Edition DVD Review

“The Talons Of Weng-Chiang” easily ranks as one of the top 15 classic “Doctor Who” episodes.

The plot: The Doctor and Leela arrive in foggy Victorian London only to become embroiled in a twisted mystery involving grizzly murders, a magician named Li H’sen Chang, giant rats, Mr. Sin (a dummy/cyborg/Homonculus) a and the powerful Lord Weng-Chiang who craves life essence and a time cabinet. How do all of these stories connect? That would be telling.

When it comes to the 2 hour plus classic “Doctor Who’ adventures, you will often find that they suffer from poor pacing and drawn out storylines. Thankfully, that is not the case for the suspenseful and intriguing 146 minute “The Talons Of Weng-Chiang.”

While the “Sherlock Holmes” esque story does a fine job of holding your interest throughout, it’s the characters that really make this episode so memorable. Naturally, Tom Baker shines as the Doctor as he flawlessly delivers witty one-liners, but the rest of the cast delivers stand-out performances as well. I was never too fond of the companion character Leela (played by Louise Jameson), but this is one of the few episodes where her character actually worked for me. I liked seeing how she tried to adjust to a different time period as well as her interactions with characters like the medical examiner (Professor Lifefoot). Speaking of Lifefoot (Trevor Baxter), both he and theater manager Henry Gordon Jago (Christopher Benjamin) are delightful characters. It’s not hard to see why these characters live on in Big Finish audio dramas. They are the rare one-off characters that actually make an impression on the viewers. It’s a shame they never showed up in another televised episode.

The production values are another reason this works for well. It’s no secret that classic ‘Who’ is often mocked for cheap sets and costumes, but that is certainly not a complaint here. The costume wardrobe and even the make-up f/x are first rate for the time period.

As enjoyable as the episode is, it isn’t a flawless story. As you may have heard, there’s always been controversy about this episode’s racial stereotypes and racist dialogue in regards to Chinese characters. It can certainly be cringe-worthy and offensive, but I don’t think it ruins the episode if you can look past these flaws.

Summary: The ensemble cast alone makes “The Talons Of Weng-Chiang” worth seeing.

Video/Audio:

The picture and audio have been digitally remastered for this DVD release and it certainly looks and sounds it. The episode has never looked or sounded better. The picture has been cleaned up and the Dolby Digital Mono audio track is surprisingly crisp and clean.

Extras:
* “Doctor Who” series 5 “Colony In Space” trailers, info text, photo galleries, trails and continuity, and Radio Times Listings.
* Commentary by Louise Jameson, John Bennett, Christopher Benjamin, Philip Hinchcliffe, and David Maloney. While I would have liked to have hear Tom Baker on this track, there’s plenty of interesting chatter about a cameo, careers, set stories, the script, etc.
* “The Foe From The Future”- A short featurette about the episode that was never made. On a side note, this story is actually being turned into a Big Finish audio drama starring Tom Baker.
* “Now And Then”- Another look at locations at the time the episode was shot and in modern day.
* “Look East”- A news story about “Doctor Who” filming in a theater.
* “Moving On”- Philip Hinchcliffe chats about ideas he had for ‘Who’ had he stayed on.

* “Limehouse- A Victorian Chinatown”- A featurette about the setting of ‘Talons.’
* “Music Hall”- A featurette about music halls.
* “Victoriana And Chinoiserie”- A featurette about literary inspirations and references in ‘Talons’.
* “The Last Hurrah”- Tom Baker, Philip Hinchcliffe, Louise Jameson, and others chat about the script, the Victorian era, behind-the-scenes stories, the cast, costumes, etc.
* “TARDIS-Cam No. 6”- A CGI TARDIS scene.

* An interview with Philip Hinchcliffe on a TV program.
* “Blue Peter Theatre”-A nearly 26 minute “Blue Peter” episode that mainly covers cardboard model theaters

* “Whose Doctor Who”- A 58 ½ minute retrospective documentary about “Doctor Who” hosted by Melvyn Bragg. Expect show clips, interviews with Tom Baker and others, behind-the-scenes footage, etc.
* “Behind The Scenes”- 24 minutes of rough looking behind-the-scenes B&W footage of ‘Talons.’

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October 17, 2011 - Posted by | DVD review | , , , ,

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