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Recap / Doctor Who S14 E6 "The Talons of Weng-Chiang"

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WhoLock: The Early Yearsnote 

"Doctor, you make me wear strange clothes, you tell me nothing: you are trying to annoy me."

The racist one.

Written by Robert Holmes. This six-episode serial first aired from February 26 to April 2, 1977.

Doctor Who goes all Sherlock Holmes-Meets-Hammer Horror in this tale set in Victorian London. Police pathologist Professor George Litefoot is investigating a body found floating in the Thames, and, with help from the Doctor, determines that hairs found on the body come from a giant rat. Also, Leela has to wear period clothing and learn table manners.

Moving into the sewers to investigate, the Doctor, Leela and Litefoot discover giant rats on the loose and follow the trail to the Palace Theatre. Stage magician Li H'sen Chang has been kidnapping young "wretched girls" for his master, the ancient Chinese god Weng-Chiang. In reality, "Weng-Chiang" is the 51st century war criminal Mangus Greel (Upon hearing about the Doctor's presence in Victorian England, Greel worries about the presence of "Time Agents" - he clearly comes from the same 51st century as a certain conman we meet many years later in the Revival Series). Greel feeds on the kidnapped girls' lifeforce to stabilise his molecular structure, which was ravaged by the trip through time. The theatre's owner, Mr. Jago, teams up with the Doctor to try and stop his former employee.

Greel's "Time Cabinet" was lost in London and has been found by Litefoot, so Greel sends Chang's ventriloquist's doll, "Mr. Sin" (a computerised homonculus with a pig's brain... well, the 51st century is a bit weird like that) to infiltrate Litefoot's house and retrieve it. Mr. Sin succeeds, but the Doctor and friends manage to intervene before Greel can escape. He falls into his own lifeforce-extracting machine and is disintegrated, before the Doctor manages to deactivate Mr. Sin. The Doctor buys everyone muffins to celebrate.

This story is markedly Darker and Edgier, Hotter and Sexier, as well as Bloodier and Gorier than most of classic Doctor Who. At the time of production, producer Philip Hinchcliffe was already functionally sacked following complaints from Moral Guardians about the drowning cliffhanger in "The Deadly Assassin", and Hinchcliffe, feeling that he had nothing left to lose on his last story in the job, went all-out. The show wouldn't reach these levels of grim violence again until Season 22 in 1985, where it would briefly be the norm rather than the exception.

The characters of Jago and Litefoot became quite popular with fans, and for years rumours abounded about a planned spin-off centred around the duo solving crimes in Victorian London, and it was even seriously considered by the BBC a couple of times. While the spin-off never made it to TV, Jago and Litefoot, along with PC Quick, eventually ended up getting their own Big Finish Doctor Who spinoff range, Jago & Litefoot. It also occasionally features the Fourth and Sixth Doctors, as well as Leela.

Christopher Eccleston watched this serial to prepare for his role as the Ninth Doctor.


  • Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: Magnus Greel's lair is in the sewer, the entrance to which is guarded by a giant rat.
  • Actor Allusion: This is not the first time that Tom Baker faced a homunculus. In The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, his character, Koura, is the villain that creates the homunculus to further his evil schemes and become all powerful.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: As many of Jago's lines as he can possibly manage.
    Jago: You mean to say the celestial Chang was involved in all these Machiavellian machinations?
    Doctor: Yes, up to his epicanthic eyebrows.
  • Affably Evil: Li H'sen Chang. He makes a Heel–Face Turn after his master throws him out.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Mister Sin is so Ax-Crazy he ends up gunning down the Tong just when they've got our heroes caught in a crossfire, and shooting at his own master.
  • Almost Dead Guy: Li H'sen Chang.
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: Used by Chang in his act, seeing as how if he spoke normally, his Victorian audience would doubt that he is actually from China.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The Doctor's showcase of his ability to speak fluent Chinese in Part One is represented by him prattling off Chinese-sounding gibberish; this even extends to the camera script, which simply reads "(Speaks Chinese)."
  • Attack of the Killer Whatever: Greel uses Mr. Sin, a killer ventriloquist's dummy, as one of his minions.
  • Badass Boast: Leela's response to an imminent and agonizing death at the hands of Magnus Greel shows a marked difference in attitude to that of previous female companions.
    "When we are both in the Great Hereafter, I will hunt you down, Bent-Face! And put you through my agonies a thousand times!"
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: Sin kills off the Tong of the Black Scorpion when he goes out of control.
  • Batman Grabs a Gun: He even actively asks for it. Not that he would use it on a human, but the Doctor does shoot a giant rat dead when it attacks Leela.
  • BFG: Litefoot's fowling rifle is the period equivalent. It's long, weighty, and packs enough of a punch to instantly kill a lion-sized rat with one shot.
  • Big Bad: Weng-Chiang, aka Magnus Greel, serves as the main antagonist of the story, leading Chang and the Tong of the Black Scorpion in their kidnapping of prostitutes to fuel his experiments with the Time Cabinet.
  • Black Comedy: On being introduced to Li H'sen Chang, the Doctor asks to see a trick. The Tong member promptly drops dead from the suicide pill. The Doctor applauds.
  • Body Horror: We get a very brief look at Greel's face. We see that half of his face is melting!!!
  • Bound and Gagged: Leela in Episode 6 as she is put in Greel's machine, given that she won't stop defying and taunting him.
  • Brats with Slingshots: Jago claims that he was "a dab hand with a catapult when [he] was a nipper".
  • Breakout Character: Jago and Litefoot, who got their own extremely successful audio spinoff.
  • Brits Love Tea: Litefoot attempts to example the etiquette of tea to Leela, who gets very confused.
  • Busman's Holiday: The Doctor was planning on taking Leela to the theatre when they stumble upon the Tongs carrying a dead body.
  • The Butcher: Magnus Greel, "The Butcher of Brisbane", the Minister of Justice who killed 100,000 people in his experiments. And anyone who actually lives in Brisbane will find the concept of it being home to anything so exciting as a war criminal hilarious.
  • Call-Back: A rather sneaky one: The Doctor mentions he hasn't been to China for about 400 years. The Doctor mentions upon meeting Leela that he was 750, meaning he must have been 350 at the time.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • The Doctor repeatedly warn Greel that his Time Cabinet will kill him if he tries to use it. Greel keeps insisting that his experiment with time travel was a "complete success" despite the visible evidence on his face.
    • A dying Li H'sen warns the Doctor to "beware the Eye of the Dragon!" Too late he finds out what this means.
  • Changed My Jumper: When the TARDIS first materializes, Leela steps out complaining about having to wear appropriate clothes. The Doctor's voice from inside the TARDIS tells her, "You can't go around Victorian London in skins, you'd frighten the horses." Then he himself emerges in the stereotypical Sherlock Holmes outfit -- only more colourful -- and says, "We don't want to be conspicuous, do we?"
  • Chinese Launderer: Justified by being set in Victorian London. Mr. Sin smuggles himself in Litefoot's house inside a laundry basket.
  • Clarke's Third Law: Chang's magic is accomplished using 51st century technology.
  • Comic Trio: Chang, whose intelligence rivals even the Doctor's, but derives his means to survive in Victorian society from Greel's approval; Greel, a domineering, vain Mad Scientist with a nonsensical plan that will lead to his demise; and Mr. Sin, an Omnicidal Maniac with the brain of a pig who cares about nothing except getting to kill as many people as possible.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: A flimsy wooden tableinvoked is enough to shield the protagonists from Frickin' Laser Beams. The laser beams at least start punching holes through the table, though.
  • Conqueror from the Future: Downplayed; Greel only hoped to escape capture by travelling into the past, and declares his intention to leave this primitive century as soon as he gets his Time Cabinet back.
  • The Consigliere: Li H'sen Chang in is this to Magnus Greel, reminding him some things are not workable, not that Greel ever wishes to listen to his advice.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The Time-cabinet that Greel is after could be anywhere in London, but as a matter of fact it's in the home of the same pathologist the Doctor has already befriended.
  • Cowardly Yellow: Chang plays to his Victorian audience's racism when he jokes that the Doctor is a coward: "One of us is yellow".
  • Creator Cameo: The conductor of the Palace Theatre's orchestra is played by incidental music composer Dudley Simpson. Because Simpson was not a member of the actors' union Equity, he had to be paid a special fee.
  • Cyanide Pill: Li H'sen Chang slips a scorpion venom pill to a member of the Black Scorpion Tong who has been captured by the police, who then commits suicide to avoid revealing anything under interrogation. Later on, Weng-Chiang forces another Tong member to commit suicide after he makes a mistake, laughing maniacally as the man dies in agony.
  • Darker and Edgier: Heavily implied underage prostitutes. Leela in completely soaked clothes. A guy getting his leg ripped off and dragged through the water, and subsequently smoking opium on screen to dull the pain before he dies in the Doctor's arms. Producer Philip Hinchcliffe had been axed for excessive horrific content and in this, his final serial, had nothing to lose.
  • Death Equals Redemption: Chang is fatally mauled by a giant rat right after being abandoned by Greel. In his dying moments, he realizes that Greel simply used him as a pawn (having previously been promised glory when he first met him as a peasant) and atones for his actions throughout the story, giving the Doctor and Leela information on Greel's whereabouts.
  • Death Ray: The Eye of the Dragon, a laser gun mounted in the eyes of a dragon statue.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: In keeping with the Victorian Penny Dreadful influence, the story doesn't shy away from the racist attitudes towards the Chinese in Victorian England, such as both Jago and Litefoot referring to them as "chinks".
  • Demonic Dummy: Mister Sin is presumed to be one at the beginning of the serial. The Doctor elaborates with a more scientific explanation: he's an animatronic dummy who was given the cerebral cortex of a pig to act as a sentient playmate, but animalistic instinct took over and turned him into a bloodthirsty sadist.
  • Disappearing Box:
    • Li H'sen Chang uses this in his act and tries to murder the Doctor with it. The Doctor walks out of the front of the cabinet when Chang turns it around to show the theatre audience the back in reinforced, forcing Chang to proceed with his normal act. When he opens the box, however, a dead stagehand falls out, having been put there by Greel to humiliate his underling.
    • Played for laughs when the Doctor and Leela depart in the TARDIS, leaving a sputtering Litefoot and an appreciative Jago.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: It's strongly implied that Chang and Greel's victims are child prostitutes, with Greel singling them out because he believes that they're just "a few contemptible slatterns who will never be missed." Chang points out that they are being missed — in fact, the plot kicks off because one of them had a husband who noticed her absence and tried looking for her — and warns that it's drawing the police closer and closer to them.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Litefoot smokes a pipe in the carriage. The Doctor explains that there's no tobacco where Leela comes from. Litefoot concludes it sounds healthy but exceedingly dull.
  • Dumbwaiter Ride: Jago and Litefoot attempt to use a dumbwaiter to escape from Magnus Greel and his followers; they end up bumping into said followers on the way out, leaving them right back where they started.
  • Dying Clue: Dying and unable to speak, Chang tries to give the Doctor and Leela a clue to Greel's headquarters by pointing to their shoes. The pair make a few guesses about the clue but then find the location another way. Turns out that Greel's headquarters is in Boot Court.
  • Earth That Used to Be Better: We learn that in the 51st century, World War VI triggers another wave of colonisation.
  • End of an Era: This story marked the Grand Finale of Philip Hinchcliffe's tenure as producer. Knowing this, he decided to end his era with a bang, indulging in all the graphic and horror contect that had got him to boot, since he was being fired for it anyway.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: The story makes fun of the word itself: the Doctor claims that it translates from Greek as "This bath is too hot."
  • Evil Laugh: Greel gets an amazing one in the Episode 4 cliffhanger as he and Mr. Sin drive off with the recovered Time Cabinet.
  • Expy: Li H'sen Chang was clearly based on Fu Manchu in terms of his design, abilities, and characterization. The key point of divergence between the two is that Chang is a magician who serves as The Dragon to Greel, rather than being the mastermind.
  • Facial Horror: When we briefly glimpse Greel's face, we can see that the right half is melting due to a mutation that occurred during time travel.
  • Fauxshadowing: The original draft of the serial actually had the Master as the villain, but he was vetoed due to him having already appeared earlier in the season. Magnus Greel is also a black-cloaked, physically-decayed villain with a time machine trying to stave off his own death, as the Master was in "The Deadly Assassin".
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Leela doesn't adapt well to Victorian values, and by the closing moments of the serial she's still confused about them, responding to Litefoot's lecture about tea etiquette with puzzlement.
  • For the Evulz: Sin seems to end up like this, killing for the sake of it. He even gets so bloodthirsty he shoots the Tong working for his master, and then takes shots at him as well.
  • For Science!: When the Doctor says that 100,000 deaths can be laid at Greel's door, Greel says they were used for science.
  • Freudian Trio:
    • Ego: Magnus Greel, alias Weng-Chiang — Makes the decisions.
    • Superego: Li H'sen Chang — A sympathetic Anti-Villain. Tries to remind his master that some things are not workable.
    • Id: Mr. Sin — Glories in destruction For the Evulz.
  • Genre Refugee: The story is about putting the Doctor and Leela into the roles of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and pitting them against characters lifted from Fu Manchu stories.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: The 2020 Season 14 Blu-ray box set includes optional CGI effects, including redone versions of Chang's Hypnotic Eyes and the giant rats.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Li H'sen Chang's eyes glow whenever he hypnotises someone. In the original 1977 broadcast, this was portrayed as a simple white, flickering glow, while the optional CGI effects featured on the Blu-ray release simply have Chang's irises glow yellow, with computer-generated ripples emanating from them.
  • God Guise: Magnus Greel posing as Weng-Chiang, though he doesn't try to hide his identity from Chang to whom it makes no difference anyway, as Greel has raised him up from his humble life as a peasant to a man who performs before royalty.
    Doctor: You know he's not a God, don't you?
    Chang: He came to me like a God, in his cabinet of fire!
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Greel's face is terribly disfigured due to his faulty time machine. He wears a mask to cover this, until Leela rips it off in Part 5 and exposes his horrible face.
  • Grand Finale: For producer Philip Hinchcliffe. This was his last serial because he was moved on due to complaints that the programme was too scary for children, so he pulled out all the stops for this story with a higher budget than normal.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: This being Victorian England, characters occasionally say "queer" to mean "strange."
  • Hero-Worshipper: Jago, towards the Doctor. He constantly praises the Doctor's cleverness and resourcefulness.
  • His Name Is...: Chang survives the giant rat enough to tell the Doctor that Weng-Chiang is in the "House of the Dragon", but not long enough to actually tell where it is.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Greel thinks this has happened to him in the future when the Doctor refers to his crimes, saying the winning side writes the history. Considering he is a sadistic murderer who admits to killing 100,000 people for his experiments, this seems unlikely.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Greel ends up killed by his own life-extraction chamber. And this is after the psychotic Mr. Sin ceases to obey him and turns the Eyes of the Dragon against him.
  • Hostage For Macguffin: The Doctor refuses to give the Time Key before Jago and Litefoot are freed. Later, he adds that he wants the girls that are to be Magnus's next meal freed as well. This is the final straw for Greel, who orders Sin to open fire.
  • Human Sacrifice: Jago thinks the Tongs will do this to him and Litefoot, and that the thought of it has been bugging him throughout his imprisonment in Greel's lair. Litefoot points out that he's thinking of the Druids.
  • Humans Are Psychic in the Future: Chang's hypnotic powers (and apparently mind-reading as well) were taught to him by Greel.
    Greel: Chang, I have given you mental powers undreamt of in this century. You are thousands of years ahead of your time. What can you fear from these primitives?
    Chang: True, Lord, I read their minds with ease, but tonight there was a stranger, a man whose thoughts were hidden. A man different from all others.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: Li H'sen Chang can hypnotise people with just a look, which comes in handy for both kidnapping girls for Greel and covering up incriminating information.
  • Improvised Weapon: Our heroes construct a bomb using a gas pipe and a linen mattress cover.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Well, more of You Need A Freaking Drink, as Jago offers Casey a Quick Nip to help him calm down after he says he's seen a ghost. Casey proceeds to drain the flask.
    Jago: You've been drinking.
    Casey: Not a drop, sir!
    Jago: Well, it's time you started.
  • Instant Sedation: Possible subversion — the title villain uses an unspecified knockout drug on a cloth to capture Leela, and she goes down fast... but she has enough time to tear the villain's mask off. Given the time period, it was probably either chloroform or ether.
  • In the Past, Everyone Will Be Famous: Not in the events of the story, but the Doctor mentions having shared a meal with the Venerable Bede.
  • Jabba Table Manners: When Professor Litefoot has Leela for dinner, she ignores the cutlery and eats a leg of lamb with her bare hands. Being a Quintessential British Gentleman who would never make a guest uncomfortable, Litefoot proceeds to do likewise. Although he politely stops her from wiping her mouth on the tablecloth.
  • Jack the Ripoff: The disappearances and murder of several women in Whitechapel? You guessed it. The original draft had the Doctor chasing Jack the Ripper. Casey, the theater stagehand, hangs a lampshade on this. Jago is immediately dismissive.
  • Large Ham:
    • MAGNUS GREEL!!!!! Dear Lord, he was always ranting and raving about something.
    Magnus Greel: Let the talons of Weng-Chiang tear your flesh-ah!
    • Henry Gordon Jago comes a fairly close second. Being the master of ceremonies for the Palace Theatre in addition to owning the place, he naturally ends up approaching casual conversation with the same level of bombast as announcing each night's acts.
  • Life Drinker: Greel has Chang kidnap young women so Greel can drain their life essence to improve his own failing health after having sustained damage from his experimental time machine. The process becomes less and less effective however, forcing Chang to take greater risks to kidnap more and more women.
  • Lovable Coward: Jago. He even admits to it.
  • Magicians Are Wizards: Li H'sen Chang is a Stage Magician... and a bit more, with the technology and skills given to him by his master.
  • Military Brat: Litefoot's father was a brigadier-general who was involved in the punitive expedition to China in 1860. He lived in Peking as an attaché and George spent most of his childhood in China.
  • Mistaken for Servant: Jago mistakes Litefoot for a servant when they first meet. In this case, the misunderstanding arises more because Jago arrives at Litefoot's house and sees him with a dustpan and brush in his hands, and just comes to the wrong conclusion. However, Litefoot is quick to correct him.
    Litefoot: Consider yourself announced, sir. I'm Litefoot.
  • Mood Whiplash: Moments after all the villains have been killed, the Doctor cheerfully offers to buy everyone muffins.
  • Mooks: The Tong of the Black Scorpion serve as henchmen for Chang and Greel.
  • Nightmare Face: Magnus Greel has a melted, spaghetti-like face due to a mutation.
  • Noodle Incident: We gets hints of a vastly changed world from what the Doctor mentions of the 51st Century. An Ice Age in which the assassination of the Commissioner of the Icelandic Alliance triggered World War Six, and the Doctor served with a Filipino army in the final advance on Reykjavik.
  • Opium Den: Chang retreats to one to smoke opium to dull the pain as he dies after his leg is torn off by a giant rat.
  • Our Homunculi Are Different: Mr. Sin is actually the Peking Homunculus, an android from the 51st century created as a playmate for a government official's son; Mr. Sin was fitted with the cerebral cortex of a pig to give him sentience, but the pig's animalistic instincts took over, giving him an insatiable lust for carnage, which Greel exploits.
  • Paper Key-Retrieval Trick: Used by the Doctor to break into the laundry house. Use of this trope caused controversy, as the British Board of Film Classification argued that it would teach children criminal skills; the show's producers successfully argued back that Enid Blyton used the same trick in her children's books, and it didn't work on modern locks anyway.
  • Pig Man: The Peking Homunculus is a murderous midget robot made from the cerebral cortex of a pig.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Litefoot and especially Jago are clear products of the late 19th century with the phrases they use and the way they act, but they are still good and brave men who do their best to help the Doctor.
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: Litefoot. Jago merely thinks he is.
  • Racial Face Blindness: Chang sarcastically says, "I understand we all look the same," when the Doctor asks if they've met before. However, it is not an act of prejudice of the Doctor's part; he had seen Chang on a poster (which reappears continuously throughout the serial) and was just struggling to remember.
  • Raised by Natives: The Doctor's cover story for Leela is that she's a "savage" that he found floating down a river in a hatbox.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The bombastic Jago and the mild-mannered Litefoot.
  • Reliably Unreliable Guns: Litefoot worries that the Doctor's elephant gun (which hasn't been used in years) might go off in the Doctor's face. "Nonsense," the Doctor assures him, "it was made in Birmingham."
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: Greel's lair is guarded by giant, ten-foot-long sewer rats.
  • See You in Hell: Leela, when she tells the villain she'll hunt him down in the next life.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: Greel scares people away from the cellar he's hiding in by using a hologram to make them think it's haunted.
  • Self-Plagiarism: Robert Holmes rehashed the plot of "The Time Warrior" — an alien criminal hides out in the past and allies himself with a human in order to fix his machine via kidnapping people.
  • Sexy Soaked Shirt: In the scene where Leela is attacked by the rat, her shift is soaked with water and her breasts become completely visible. How 1970s censors didn't notice is incomprehensible.
  • Sherlock Homage:
    • Throughout the serial, the Doctor wears an Inverness cape and a deerstalker hat.
    • The name of Litefoot's housekeeper, Mrs Hudson, is borrowed from Holmes' housekeeper at 221B Baker Street.
    • The giant rat echoes a famous Noodle Incident in the Holmes canon: in "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire", Holmes mentions "the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared." Likewise, its status as a mythical, modified attack creature that meets its end at the barrel of a shotgun recalls The Hound of the Baskervilles.
    • The Doctor says at one point, "Elementary, my dear Litefoot".
    • Litefoot's role, as a police surgeon, is an almost-exact parallel of Dr Watson in the Conan Doyle stories, who was an Army surgeon, but had retired into a civilian medical practice: Litefoot is playing Dr Watson to the Doctor's Sherlock Holmes.
    • Victorian London is generally depicted as shrouded in fog: another characteristic element of the Hollywood adaptations of the Holmes stories.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To The Importance of Being Earnest ("A hatbox?").
    • Jago's alliterative speeches are a shout out to Leonard Sachs' turn as the compere in The BBC's music-hall revival show The Good Old Days.
    • Magnus Greel's lair beneath the theatre, his deformed face, the mask he uses to hide it, and the climactic scene in which the mask is torn off to reveal his true face, all derive from The Phantom of the Opera.
    • Li H'Sen Chang is a villainous fictional version of the real-world (fake) Chinese conjurer Chung Ling Soo.
    • The Doctor enjoys messing around in boats.
    • The giant rat is reminiscent of animals grown to enormous size in the H. G. Wells science fiction novel Food of the Gods.
    • Litefoot quotes from The Pilgrim's Progress and attributes it to John Bunyan.
    • The Doctor quotes from the monologue The Green Eye of the Yellow God, incorrectly attributing it to Henry Champion (it was J. Milton Hayes).
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: When Greel talks about how he is remembered as a villain due to the other side writing the history and how the people he killed helped his time travel experiments, the Doctor tells him the people were slaughtered and that the experiments came to nothing.
  • Skewed Priorities: Mr. Jago's first concern when he discovers his employee has been helping to murder many innocent young women is how he can make a profit with a guided tour of the villains lair.
  • Slurpasaur: That giant rat is played, at least in part, by a perfectly normal rat in a model sewer.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Jago acts like a brave, clever detective hero but he can't walk the talk.
  • Smart People Play Chess: The Doctor puts Greel into Checkmate. Greel knocks the pieces over.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: The Doctor tells Leela to wait in safety multiple times. Played with in that he's telling her to wait more because he knows how deadly a warrior she is, and is trying to limit the amount of deaths she causes.
  • Straight Man: Litefoot acts as this when confronted by Jago's ego, Leela's lack of social etiquette and the Doctor's general weirdness.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: "Your opium-addicted scum are all bunglers, Chang!"
  • Temporary Substitute: Magnus Greel is one for the Master, as the story originally followed up on his escape in "The Deadly Assassin". Remnants of that idea include both being hammy, vampiric serial killers on the run with a time machine, dying and desperately looking for a way to cheat death. Magnus even talks about regeneration a few times.
  • Terrifying Pet Store Rat: Done literally as one of the ways of portraying Greel's giant sewer rats, together with a series of large puppets. Tom Baker riffed on how unconvincing the results were in the years since the serial's airing.
  • Theatre Phantom: Magnus Greel is a disfigured genius dwelling the cellars of a theatre; his mangled face concealed by a mask. He also uses holographic ghosts to keep the stagehands away from the hidden opening leading to his hideout, which leads to rumours that the theater is haunted.
  • Title Drop: Inverted; when Magnus is about to kill Leela, he shouts "Let the talons of Weng-Chiang tear your flesh-ah!" The serial was renamed using this line shortly before production began.
  • Those Two Guys: Jago & Litefoot, the most iconic example of the Robert Holmes double act. Jago owns the theatre where Weng-Chiang is hidden and his agent plies his trade, and Litefoot is a police pathologist and the Doctor's de facto landlord for the story. Both important to the plot to the point that they are more important than the Doctor until the finale. In fact; Jago and Litefoot were so popular they eventually got their own series.
  • Translation Convention: The Doctor and Litefoot both get to show off their fluency in Chinese, but all conversation between Weng-Chiang and his Chinese henchmen is in (bad) English.
  • The Triads and the Tongs: Greel's mooks are members of the Tong of the Black Scorpion.
  • Two-Faced: The right half of Greel's face is melted and looks like soggy noodles.
  • Victorian London: The story is set in this era and takes noticeable influence from the Sherlock Holmes series.
  • The Watson:
    • Interestingly enough, not Leela. As the AV Club noted, Jago and Litefoot fulfil the role of Watson — Jago behaves as the traditional film depiction of Watson being a pompous, boisterous, easily puzzled sleaze while Litefoot behaves as literature's Watson being a quiet, calm, observant gentleman.
    • Though the trope is lampshaded when Leela sardonically comments that the Doctor has only asked her a question (about some 51st Century technology that she obviously wouldn't know about) to give him an excuse to answer it.
  • We Need a Distraction: Jago shows he's a Cowardly Lion when he allows Sin to shoot at him with his Death Ray while Leela grabs a gun.
  • Wetware CPU: Mr. Sin's one organic component is the cerebral cortex of a pig, the animalistic instincts of which turned him into a psychopathic slasher.
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: The Doctor says this to Litefoot before hunting the rat in the sewers. Litefoot replies "the elephant gun". Fortunately, it doesn't (being made in Birmingham).
  • Whole Costume Reference: The Doctor dresses like Sherlock Holmes. Leela, not to be outdone, dresses at first as Tinker (the Kid Sidekick of British pulp hero Sexton Blake) and later more femininely as Eliza Doolitle.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: To the Hammer Horror film The Terror of the Tongs, right down to the expy of Fu Manchu in yellowface, but incorporating elements of Sherlock Holmes.
  • World War Whatever: Greel is described as having almost caused World War VI.
  • The X of Y: One of the over 100 Doctor Who story titles to be this.
  • Yellowface: A particularly noteworthy example, especially within the annals of Who, with Li H'sen Chang being portrayed by John Bennett under heavy makeup. Lampshaded in the novelisation where Jago notes that Li H'sen is at least Chinese, unlike other 'Chinese' performers who look English enough when the makeup is off.
  • Yellow Peril: The story is closely based on Fu Manchu stories, and as such, the only Chinese characters who aren't voiceless laborers are villainous Tong members. White characters regularly describe the Chinese cast in negative terms, and even the Doctor implies that the Tongs' Chinese ethnicity makes them more ruthless than if they were white. This negative portrayal of Anglo-Chinese characters, together with the use of yellowface for Li H'sen Chang, would lead to the story being banned by broadcasters in Los Angeles (which has a large East Asian community) and Canada. invoked
  • You Have Failed Me:
    • Averted at first as Li H'sen is simply fired by Greel, and sets out to save face on his own by killing the Doctor. However Greel sets him up for a public humiliation, which he knows is a Fate Worse than Death.
    • Later on, a Tong member who failed to recover the key to the Time Cabinet is forced to commit suicide.
  • You Rebel Scum!: Magnus Greel repeatedly refers to his Tong hatchetmen mooks as "opium-addicted scum".


Video Example(s):


Chang hypnotizes Jago

Li H'sen Chang is able to hypnotize people with a specialized glare, in this case using the ability to make Jago forget potentially incriminating information.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / HypnoticEyes

Media sources: