Doctor Who episode 452: The Talons of Weng-Chiang – Part Five (26/3/1977)
Five episodes in, the first meeting of Henry Gordon Jago and Professor George Litefoot, one of the most delightful double acts in the entire series. It seems everyone involved in making this recognised that fact: Holmes’ script focuses more on their comic misadventures than it does the Doctor and Leela (who get all the legwork and exposition). Their first meeting is classic: Jago, mistaking Litefoot for a footman, has to slather on the flattery when he realises his mistake. And, rather wonderfully, Litefoot laps it up, his ego almost visibly inflating as Jago declares, ‘It’s a great honour and privilege for me to be working with you on this devilish affair.’ Jago spurs Litefoot on to greatness, Litefoot drags Jago up with him.
This practically becomes the Classic equivalent of a New Doctor Who “Doctor-lite” episode, with Jago and Litefoot tracking Greel to his lair, confronting the monster, getting captured, escaping, and recaptured, and bickering like an old couple all the time. Meanwhile, Leela and the Doctor have a final, and some would say irrelevant, interview with a dying Chang, which merely serves to keep them out of the action at the House of the Dragon for a bit longer. That said, it’s a beautiful, poignant scene, performed with wet-eyed conviction by John Bennett, and the serial wouldn’t be quite as great without it.
The Doctor has already deduced that “Weng-Chiang” has fled the year 5000 with the ‘Peking Homunculus’, a pig’s brain plugged into a cyborg body. Mr Sin apparently almost caused World War Six (the Doctor doesn’t elaborate how, but given it was a gift for the children of the Commissioner of the Icelandic Alliance from the Chinese, we can deduce the Commissioner never had grandchildren). So it seems “Weng-Chiang” is another of the Hinchliffe era’s deposed dictators, like Sutekh, Morbius and Eldrad. And like Morbius and Eldrad (and the Master), he’s desperate for a new body: ‘To be free of this putrefying carcass, to fashion myself anew in some distant time and place.’ At the cliffhanger, we see what that means: a piece of melted, distorted flesh leering at us.
Next episode: The Talons of Weng-Chiang – Part Six