Saturday, July 25, 2009

Elementary My Dear Doctor

The other day I took a geeky trip down memory lane and re-watched my all-time favorite Doctor Who story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang.” This is the good stuff; it's got all the elements. Set in Victorian London it's got great sets and costumes, wonderful characters, ridiculous references to unlikely future and past events, and elements of Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper, The Phantom of the Opera, and Fu Manchu. It's got that same smart-cool vibe you got from The League of Extraordinary Gentleman (the book, not the silly movie). It also has the very worst special effects in Doctor Who history, and that's saying a lot. When the Doctor, dressed in deerstalker and Inverness coat, hunts a giant rat in the sewers beneath the great city, it is supposed to be scary. While you might start by thinking about the tale of Sumatra that Dr Watson never told us, you soon loose all thought to fits of laughter at the sight of the pathetic attempt to depict the mutant rodent.

That one flaw (and I wouldn't have it any other way) aside, this is still a great TARDIS trip. It includes my favorite supporting characters (Jago and Lightfoot), and my two favorite Doctor quotes.

Of Leela: “Savage. Found her floating down the Amazon in a hatbox.”
“Eureka is Greek for 'this bath is too hot.'”

One note of caution for the easily offended. Since part of the idea was to riff on Fu Manchu and other “yellow peril” genre fiction, there are a lot of stereotypical depictions of the servants of the evil Weng-Chiang. This story has been banned now and again, which is rather a pity.

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