IMDb > "Doctor Who" The Talons of Weng-Chiang: Part One (1977)

"Doctor Who" The Talons of Weng-Chiang: Part One (1977)

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Doctor Who: Season 14: Episode 21 -- The Doctor and LeelaÂ’s investigation into the existence of giant rats leads them to a war criminal who needs to feed on the life force of others until he can retrieve his time cabinet and return home.


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View company contact information for The Talons of Weng-Chiang: Part One on IMDbPro.
TV Series:
Original Air Date:
26 February 1977 (Season 14, Episode 21)
The Doctor and Leela land in Victorian London, and find themselves in the middle of missing girls, mutilated bodies, and vicious Chinese gangs. The Palace theater, presenting hypnotist Li H'sen Chang seems to be at the center of it all. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
User Reviews:
Not Rats But Racism See more (5 total) »


 (Episode Cast) (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Tom Baker ... Doctor Who

Louise Jameson ... Leela
John Bennett ... Li H'sen Chang
Christopher Benjamin ... Jago
Chris Gannon ... Casey
Trevor Baxter ... Professor Litefoot

Deep Roy ... Mr. Sin
David McKail ... Sergeant Kyle
Conrad Asquith ... P.C. Quick
Alan Butler ... Buller
Patsy Smart ... Ghoul
Tony Then ... Lee
John Wu ... Coolie
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Charles Adey-Grey ... Theatre Doorkeeper (uncredited)
Lisa Bergmayr ... Riverside Ghouls (uncredited)
Jim Delaney ... Station Policeman (uncredited)
James Haswell ... Beat Policeman (uncredited)
Arnold Lee ... Chimney Sweep (uncredited)
Bernard Price ... (uncredited)
Richard Sheekey ... Beat Policeman (uncredited)
Kevin Sullivan ... Chimney Sweep (uncredited)
Colin Thomas ... Station Policeman (uncredited)
Vincent Wong ... Ho (uncredited)

Episode Crew
Directed by
David Maloney 
Writing credits
Robert Holmes (by)

Sydney Newman  creator (uncredited)

Produced by
Philip Hinchcliffe .... producer
Film Editing by
David Lee 
Production Design by
Roger Murray-Leach 
Costume Design by
John Bloomfield 
Makeup Department
Heather Stewart .... makeup artist
Production Management
Christopher D'Oyly John .... production unit manager (as Chris D'Oyly-John)
Sound Department
John Gatland .... film recordist
Clive Gifford .... studio sound
Vic Godrich .... o.b. sound
Dick Mills .... special sound
Visual Effects by
Michealjohn Harris .... visual effects designer
Bernard Lodge .... title sequence
Stuart Fell .... fight arranger
Camera and Electrical Department
Fred Hamilton .... film cameraman
Mike Jefferies .... studio lighting
John Mason .... o.b. lighting
Music Department
Ron Grainer .... composer: title music
Dudley Simpson .... composer: incidental music
Other crew
Ros Anderson .... production assistant
Linda Graeme .... assistant floor manager (uncredited)
Philip Hinchcliffe .... showrunner (uncredited)
Robert Holmes .... script editor (uncredited)
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

25 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

Did You Know?

Russell T. Davies praised Robert Holmes' writing, particularly for this story - "Take The Talons of Weng-Chiang, for example. Watch episode one. It's the best dialogue ever written. It's up there with Dennis Potter. By a man called Robert Holmes. When the history of television drama comes to be written, Robert Holmes won't be remembered at all because he only wrote genre stuff. And that, I reckon, is a real tragedy."See more »
Anachronisms: Though they tried to cover them up with white tape, the mortuary where the Doctor meets the Professor has a couple of power-points on the white tiled wall.See more »
Leela:This is a big village.
The Doctor:Yes.
Leela:What's the name of the tribe here?
The Doctor:Cockneys.
See more »
Movie Connections:


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Not Rats But Racism, 23 April 2015
Author: James Hitchcock from Tunbridge Wells, England

Did anyone ever use to wonder why Leela, a warrior-maiden from an alien planet, speaks perfect English with a Home Counties accent? The real reason is no doubt the convention, adopted in "Doctor Who" and other science fiction films and television series, that all aliens, regardless of which planet they originally come from, are fluent speakers of the tongue of Shakespeare. (This convention is an improbable but necessary one; the series would not be very interesting if the Doctor could only communicate with his adversaries using an English/Dalek phrasebook containing phrases such as "Take me to your leader!" or "Where is the nearest TARDIS repair shop?") In the series itself, however, the explanation is that Leela is in fact an Englishwoman by blood and descent, some mishap having marooned her forebears on a distant planet. So in this serial the Doctor has taken his lovely companion back to England to learn about the customs of her ancestors, starting with the music halls of Victorian London.

And the Doctor never arrives anywhere without running into trouble. Trouble in this particular instance takes the form of some giant rats in the sewers, a mysterious cabinet, a sinister Chinese stage magician and his even more sinister boss, who is posing as the ancient Chinese god Weng-Chiang. (The name "Chiang" is here pronounced as two separate syllables, as though it were written "Chai-Ang").

"The Talons of Weng-Chiang" is frequently voted among the greatest "Doctor Who" serials ever, and were it not for one problem I would agree with that judgement. Scriptwriters for the series frequently tried to draw upon classic literature for inspiration; the earlier Tom Baker adventure "Planet of Evil", for example, draws upon "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" and, indirectly, upon Shakespeare's "The Tempest". Here the main inspiration is Conan Doyle's "Sherlock Holmes" stories, with a nod in the direction of "The Phantom of the Opera". Baker abandons his trademark scarf in favour of a deerstalker and cape as worn by Holmes, he tries to puzzle out problems by rational deduction rather than relying upon complex scientific apparatus and at one point even says "...elementary, my dear Litefoot". (Yes, I know Holmes never actually said "...elementary, my dear Watson", but a lot of people think he did, and the phrase has passed into legend in the same way as "Play it again, Sam", which Humphrey Bogart never actually utters in "Casablanca").

The serial is wonderfully evocative in the way it conjures up the atmosphere of Victorian London, the story generates plenty of tension, Baker is on top form and there are two splendid characters in the shape of the theatre manager Henry Jago and the gentlemanly scientist Professor Litefoot (thus spelt in the credits), who plays Watson to the Doctor's Holmes. Jago at first seems like a blustering coward, but when danger threatens he finds real reserves of courage within himself. He is played by Christopher Benjamin who had earlier played Sir Keith Gold in the Third Doctor adventure "Inferno". Those giant rats, admittedly, are far from convincing, but they were not the "problem" I mentioned earlier.

The real problem is another R-word, not rats but racism. Looking back, it is amazing just how insensitive British television could be in the seventies. This was the decade of not just the "Black and White Minstrel Show", which still starred white performers in blackface, but also of comedy shows like "Love Thy Neighbour", "It Ain't Half Hot, Mum" and "Mind Your Language" which featured a wide gallery of racial stereotypes. "The Talons of Weng-Chiang", unfortunately, falls firmly within this unlovely tradition. The Chinese characters are all portrayed as criminals, or opium addicts, or both, and the figure of the evil magician Li H'sen Chang, played by a white actor made up (unconvincingly) to look Chinese could come straight from the pages of Fu Manchu. Leela even describes the Chinese as "yellow", which struck me as a goof; the inhabitants of North-East Asia differ little from Europeans in skin-tone and the idea that the Chinese have yellow skin is a European received idea of which a visitor from another world would presumably be ignorant. A pity. Had the scriptwriter been more culturally sensitive this could have been a first-rate serial rather than a tacky piece of seventies racism.

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