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Published on October 21st, 2010 | by James Whittington

Revisitations 1 – Discs 1-3: The Talons of Weng-Chiang

A classic in every sense of the word, The Talons Of Weng-Chiang is Doctor Who at its very best. Tom Baker is in his prime here with Louise Jameson perfectly placed as Amazonian style assistant Leela. Its Victorian setting is accurate and very real and though it may seem slightly racist when viewed in these more enlightened times, it is one of the finest 6-parters the show spawned.

Doctor Who Revisitations Boxset Vol 1The Doctor and Leela are confronted by sinister and seemingly inexplicable occurrences in the shadowy depths of nineteenth century London. With the help of Professor Litefoot, the Doctor investigates the gruesome murder of a cabbie and the mysterious disappearances of young girls. Whilst being chased by giant rats and forced to pit his wits against an evil doll and a merciless illusionist, he comes face-to-face with his most deadly enemy to date: Magnus Greel – a fifty-first century war criminal posing as Weng Chiang, an ancient Chinese God.

Fun with a capital F, this is one of the most rightfully celebrated pieces of Doctor Who. Perfectly paced with a grand setting and even grander idea, the story pushes along nicely without ever feeling as long as a six-parter should. Baker shines in the Sherlock Holmes themed story and Jameson, obviously as an Eliza Doolittle/Pygmalion kind-of-a role. The supporting cast all throw themselves into their respective roles, especially Christopher Benjamin as Jago and Trevor Baxter as Lightfoot, a perfect choice. By the way, Deep Roy who plays Mr Sin was the guy who played the Oompa Loompas in Tim Burton’s Charlie And the Chocolate Factory movie. The rat effects still look crap though!

Extras

Disc 1

Commentary – Louise Jameson, John Bennett, Christopher Benjamin, Philip Hinchcliffe and David Maloney contribute to a lively gag-track which is packed with wit and wisdom from the recording of this classic serial. It’s packed with information and we learn that this is Louise Jameson’s second favourite story, The Sun Makers is her first!

Coming Soon – Trailer for the forthcoming DVD release of The Seeds Of Doom, can’t wait for this one.

Subtitle Production Notes – Always a winner, this textual source of information is always worth having up on screen.

Disc 2

The Last Hurrah – Tom Baker and Philip Hinchcliffe discuss at length this adventure in and around Tom’s home. This was their final adventure together and it’s a homely, warm and luvvie filled discussion with comments from Louise Jameson, Trevor Baxter, Christopher Benjamin, David Maloney, Roger Murray-Leach and John Bloomfield.

Moving On – As Talons was Hichcliffe’s final story as Producer on Doctor Who he ended on a bit of a high. This looks at the ideas he had if he had stayed on for another season if hadn’t been moved on. It’s interesting to hear his thoughts about his successor Graham Williams.

The Foe From The Future – Talons replaced a story, The Foe From The Future an uncommisioned idea from Robert Banks Stewart and this extra charts its concept, its development and how it was replaced by Talons when he moved to do a job at Thames. With contributions from Hinchcliffe and writer Robert Banks Stewart.

Doctor Who Revisitations Boxset Vol 1Now & Then – Another part of the ongoing series looks at how the locations used for this story have changed since the crew filmed there way back in 1977. Fun if you’re into TV production this is for the serious fan rather than the casual viewer.

Look East – Again its back to 1977 and this location report from BBC local news was shot in the Northampton Repertory Theatre. Reporter David Cass chats lightly to Tom Baker with some great production footage of the crew shooting on location. It’s only three and a half minutes long but is a nostalgic treat of how local news used to be. Tom is his charming self giving superb and honest answers to the short run of questions.

Victoriana and Chinoiserie – We get a bit cerebral here with a discussion of literary references which crop up during this story.  Hinchcliffe and University of Westminster lecturer in English Literature Dr Anne Witchard take us through the motifs and themes that occurred in the story. It tries a bit hard to show how it went against stereotypes of the time as well as the stereotypical “ladies of the night” ladies. Its fun to know about a magician who dressed as a Chinese man and did perform at the time of this story.

Music Hall: The Talents Of Ones Who Sang - This look at the traditions of music hall culture is a nice bit of fun. They were the pleasure gardens of another time and with such stars as Victor Spinetti on hand to tell us about them it’s an unexpected treat.

Limehouse: A Victorian Chinatown – Located in the Docklands area of London’s East End this area has been the setting for many stories from English literature so once again Dr Anne Witchard is on hand to guide us through its history with the help of Dr Matthew Sweet and other clever bods. An unusual extra that will probably only get one viewing.

Photo Gallery – A large collection of snaps from the production of the story complete with sound effects and tunes from the story.

PDF Materials – Pop the disc into a PC or MAC and look lovingly at the Radio Times listings from when this adventure was originally shown.

Disc 3

Whose Doctor Who – Now here is a real gem of an extra. This documentary from 1977 formed part of BBC 2’s The Lively Arts strand and is introduced by old floppy hair himself Melvyn Bragg. This edition was designed to look at the history of the programme and the psychological impact on viewers, especially children. At nearly an hour long its one of the great documentaries about the show ever made and packed with classic clips and behind the scenes footage of post-production some from Talons. Did you know the average cost of an episode of Doctor Who in 1977 was £20,000?

Blue Peter Theatre – More Doctor Who meets Blue Peter shenanigans this time (after the now infamous 1974 introduction from the set of Robot) it’s the pieces from the 1977 run in which the team create a Doctor Who theatre complete with sets and monsters. Sound effects man Dick Mills pops in to inform us how to make our own atmospheric noises. A wonderful and nostalgic piece from times long gone (sigh). I’ve not tried but will have a go, honest!

Behind The Scenes – Culled from rather ropey time coded tape (when I say ropey I mean very grainy and black and white), this incredibly rare but incredibly interesting footage from the studio recording of the story is a great insight into the shows most celebrated era.

Philip Hinchcliffe Interview – Another classic piece from a TV classic, this is a short interview from Pebble Mill At One, remember that? Not too deep it does cover the effects of on-screen violence with the interviewer making sure the tone is kept light.

Trails And Continuity – Mainly taken from domestic off-air recordings, these wonderful announcements are from an age long lost but are golden gems and a reminder of just how posh the BBC was.

Photo Gallery – A few minutes worth of production snaps from the story with the score playing in the background. Only for hardcore fans.

TARDIS-cam No.6 – Originally created for the official Doctor Who website this shows the TARDIS encountering a pod of space whales. Seriously, what was the point of these?

So then, the first 3 discs of this release have set a rather high standard. Wonder if the others can match it?

The Doctor Who: Revisitations Boxset Vol 1 is out now and has an RRP of £39.99 – but you can pick it up on Amazon for just £29.47!

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About the Author

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James has been a Doctor Who fan for as long as he can recall. A child of the 70s and 80s, he weathered all the storms and controversies the show encountered, though he didn’t buy the “Doctor In Distress” single.




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