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YMMV / Doctor Who S14 E3 "The Deadly Assassin"

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  • Best Known for the Fanservice: The story is an Out-of-Genre Experience, World Building of Time Lord culture, a Noir Episode, a horrible zombie Master, as much Surreal Horror as the BBC budget could allow, so shockingly violent it nearly got the show canned. It is remembered for all of that, but you'll still be hard-pressed to find a member of the Classic Who Estrogen Brigade that isn't going to mention the fact that Tom Baker spends most of the story wearing a see-through white shirt and there's a bit where he gets wet and strikes a pose.
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  • Broken Base: This story has been divisive at times for giving us a good look at Gallifrey and finally stripping the Time Lords of much of their mystery. Instead of an awe-inspiring race of god-like beings, they're a bunch of petty, pompous, hypocritical, lying, self-serving bureaucrats with no idea how most of their fantastic technology works anymore. Robert Holmes felt this was important for the Doctor as a character - seeing his people aren't the utopian authority figures and Defenders of Time he thought they were is what justifies his original decision to run away and his efforts to help people in the first place, as well as the end of their attempts to control his life. Needless to say, this has divided people between those that prefer the earlier mystery to the later revelation.
  • Common Knowledge: Not so much any more following the regeneration limit being addressed at the end of Matt Smith's run in the title role, but for a while there was a surprisingly common misconception among fandom — with David Tennant, of all people, being one of the people who helped spread it — that this was the only story that mentioned a limit on the number of regenerations, and that all other classic-era stories went with the implication in "The War Games" that Time Lords had an unlimited number of regenerations and could only die permanently if their body was too badly damaged. In actual fact, the limit of twelve regenerations was a plot point in at least three other classic stories — "The Keeper of Traken", "Mawdryn Undead", and "The Ultimate Foe" — and was mentioned in passing several times, mostly in relation with the Master's various attempts to get a new regeneration cycle.
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  • He Really Can Act: Tom Baker was already well established in the role of the Doctor by now and had already had a number of classic stories (such as "Genesis of the Daleks"), but this one was something entirely different for him. Put into an entirely unique situation (forced to return to the home he'd fled from and the people he'd renounced) and without a companion to play off, Baker's performance sees the Doctor as a grim, subdued, joyless figure, put through some of the worst ordeals of his life (particularly the battle in the Matrix), and he rises to the challenge to deliver a peerless performance.
  • Narm: The Master is depicted as a decaying husk, as he is at the end of his twelfth and final life. This being the 1970's BBC, that meant that Peter Pratt had to wear a cumbersome rubber mask, which sometimes muffled his lines. During the climatic scene where the Doctor and the Master face off, he utters this jewel:
    ''You can do better than that Doctor! Even in extremis, I WEAH TEH TASH TEHTOGOO!"
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  • Values Resonance: The story follows all the major post-Brexit satire tropes: A tired old political establishment that does no good for anyone, and a slick politician whose only intention is personal career advancement handing the capacity to break it to a racist zombie obsessed with returning to a long-gone golden age that exists only in its imagination. The Doctor observes that to follow the Zombie's (The Master) plan would ultimately just destroy him and his world, but he's accused of lying. There's no way this was intentional considering the episode's release in 1976; the actual Who Brexit allegory story (the Monks trilogy) is somewhat less on-the-nose.
  • Vindicated by History: The serial was viewed at the time as a failed experiment at best (the absence of The Watson made the plot much harder to follow than normal, and the execs said it was never to happen again no matter how much Tom Baker insisted that it worked) and tasteless and audience-inappropriate at worst (notoriously attracting so many complaints that the show was ReTooled into a much less violent, more comedy-based series for most of the rest of his run). Fans nowadays tend to appreciate the attempt at trying something other than Monster of the Week, the more impressionistic and political tone, the especially brutal and exciting action, and in particular the Alternate Character Interpretation that the Doctor gets in the story; due to not having an ally to talk to, he comes off as a brooding, quiet and much more mysterious character with a pinch of Spaghetti Western hero about him, a sharp contrast to his usual funniness and Obfuscating Stupidity. It's not a usual candidate for Baker's best serial (those would be "Genesis of the Daleks", "The Talons of Weng-Chiang", or "City of Death") but is often listed as a standout, must-see episode and a bit of a hipster favourite. Its reputation may go up further now that it's had a Spiritual Successor in the wildly-acclaimed modern-Who episode "Heaven Sent" (no companion aside from a mental construct the Doctor's using as a coping mechanism, extremely dark story involving a deadly adversary in an Eldritch Location, Family-Unfriendly Violence, the Doctor at his broodiest, etc.).


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