Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Doctor Who: The Talons of Weng Chiang, Episode 2

I raised lots of questions about this Doctor Who adventure at the end of my last post about it - some of them were even meant seriously. Reading them now, it strikes me that my questions make ridiculous the confrontation with the world's largest rat that begins this episode. The Doctor & Leela act their fear admirably; the enlarged rat would be truly terrifying if it existed. But this is Doctor Who - the implausible is meat & drink.
The giant rat gives way to two straightforward scenes of detection & Victorian London life, which I like hugely. I'll say it again: anything set in smoggy Victorian London is on to a winner. The anachronism of Chang's flashing eyes as a method of hypnosis is what makes it a Doctor Who - my only query would be why the Doctor himself has to use more conventional means later in the programme. Although... But... To me this doesn't feel like a Doctor Who. It feels like a Sapphire & Steel. It's taken me for ever to work out why this is & I think the flashing eyes routine has made me draw the conclusion that it is because of the special effects of the time, which give a visual similarity to the two shows. Also it is clear that time is all over the place in this world - such as a hologram appearing in a century where it hasn't been discovered yet - which for me creates an expectation of something Sapphire & Steelish happening. There is even a mention of Chang's inferiority to a Time Lord (or something similar) by the Lord & Master that of course Chang simply has to have.
I love Leela in this one: her knowledge of how to kill someone is so useful. I love her eating. I also love Professor Litefoot, the way he's sure the Doctor isn't a gentleman, on account of listening to the address he gave the cab driver. It is essential of course that Litefoot grew up in China, to provide us with the obligatory person with inside knowledge, that nonetheless doesn't compare to the Doctor's. In this, this Who is so classically detective genre.
Yet it isn't really about that: it actually continues to be about culture clash. It cleverly uses the conventional plot device of detective literature (blinkered detective - or in this case a whole city who probably won"t be able to see the whole picture - meets wiser character who solves the mystery) is harnessed in the service of a clash of larger clash. Nor is it merely derivative again - the various literary references are nods merely.
Reasonably enough, I suppose, for a series, this episode raises even more questions than the last episode:
Who is E.B.?
Who is Chang's Lord?
What is the Doctor thinking?
My favourite bit: The Doctor pulling flags out of Jago's sleeve.
My one criticism is that the Doctor & Leela are separated for the cliffhanger at the end - reasonable enough - but when it comes to the actual cliffhanger the dummy isn't nearly sinister enough. Sick, twisted, monster that I am, it made me laugh out loud. And that means that there's something very wrong here, & it must be with the TV programme; it couldn't possibly be with me...
------------------

No comments: