THE TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG
26th February – 2nd April 1977
Eureka is Greek for, ‘This bath is too hot.
The Doctor to Leela, episode 5
The Doctor promises a trip to see Victorian theatre, but Leela’s first visit to late 19th Century London stalls almost as soon as it starts when the pair witness the macabre murder of a cab driver by a gang of Chinese Tong members. From the police the Doctor learns that a wave of terror is sweeping the fog-bound streets of the city, carried out by Tong members who are also suspected of being responsible for the recent disappearances of several young women. The cab driver was the husband of one such vanished girl.
Clues from the crime lead the Doctor to the Palace Theatre where a brilliant Chinese Illusionist, Li H’sen Chang (John Bennett) is topping the bill. A formidable hypnotist, Li H’sen is indeed both leader of the Tong of the Black Scorpion, and the man responsible for kidnapping all the women who have disappeared. But what is the magician’s motive, and what is the connection between him and a giant, 10-foot rat the Doctor discovers lurking in sewer tunnels beneath the theatre?
Deliberately putting herself in peril, Leela learns the Chinaman serves a higher master: Magnus Greel (Michael Spice), a war criminal from the 51st century who has used a primitive time travel machine to escape to the past, and who has now adopted the guise of an oriental god, Weng-Chiang. But Greel is deformed and dying – an after-effect of his crude time travelling. He needs energy distilled from the life essences of Li H’sen’s victims to stay alive while he seeks ways to stabilise his body and return to the future. The giant rats are by-products of his failed experiments.
After Greel turns on Li H’sen, mistakenly believing he has betrayed him to the police, the Doctor follows a clue from the dying Chinaman to the Tong’s headquarters. Here a final battle ensues, with Greel using sophisticated weapons from the 51st century against his pursuers. But his time is already up. Deprived of further energy distillations Greel is in poor shape to fight the Doctor. Watched aghast by onlookers, Greel’s body cracks and crumbles to dust before their eyes.
Video © BBC