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20 April 2017 @ 09:02 pm
The Randomiser: The Talons of Weng-Chiang  
Tame Layman had sufficiently fond memories of The Talons of Weng Chiang that the Teenager was summoned to watch it with us. She indulged us, but I don't think she was really sold on it. She quite liked Leela and could take or leave the rest.

She prefers The Avengers, I think, which is possibly fair enough.

It is hard to say anything particularly novel about The Talons of Weng Chiang unless, I suppose, one wants to take vehemently against it. It clearly benefits from the flair the BBC of the 1970s had for costume drama. The characters of Jago and Litefoot are a delight and work extremely well together - Tame Layman was very excited to learn they have a Big Finish series, so I suppose that's his birthday taken care of. The dialogue is, in general, great. The giant rat is a bit rubbish. There is yellow face.

I suppose the Teenager's failure to get really engaged is indicative that this is, perhaps, more an episode of its time than one might think. I don't think she was particularly off-put by the yellow face, despite being the tumblr generation, but we had forewarned her of it. I think the tropes of gaslit Victorian streets are less prevalent than when I was growing up, and therefore a lot of the episode lacked much resonance for her. So she was not terribly impressed by the comparatively lavish Victorian sets, and while she liked Leela she did not find her particularly revolutionary. Too many of the idea implicit in the dialogue had to be explained.

Also, let's face it, like so many six-parters Talons of Weng-Chiang would benefit from a certain amount of trimming. I think it tries pretty hard not simply pad out a couple of episodes with the gradual reveal that Chang is in fact working for Magnus Greel, but a lot of that reveal happens as the Doctor, Leela, Jago and Litefoot variously troop back and forth between the theatre, Litefoot's house and Greel's somewhat interchangeable underground lairs.

Tame Layman and I had a lot of fun watching Talons and felt we were reminded what a great companion Leela was, but the Teenager's relative indifference makes me think that this is not a classic with real staying power. It is a bit too long for the material to sustain, it relies a little too much on tropes from stories that are no longer in vogue, and Leela (out of context) is not as refreshing and different as she appears to older eyes.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/443116.html.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on April 20th, 2017 08:13 pm (UTC)
Try Fog for Avengers in the style of Talons?

It's possible that part of Talons' appeal for fans is that it doesn't look like normal Who of the era, although from a contemporary point of view it probably still looks relatively cheap (I haven't compared, but I think the theatre scenes in The Unquiet Dead would have had far more people in the audience thanks to a larger budget for extras and costumes and probably CGI) and studio-bound. But I think pretty much everything dates, if you leave it long enough. What classic Who does the Teenager like, for comparison?
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 20th, 2017 08:20 pm (UTC)
I'd say Talons looks pretty Hinchcliffe, all told and I think (apart from the Rat), it doesn't look all that cheap (though, I'm probably fairly tolerant of cheap 70s TV).

I'm not sure the Teenager is more than indulgently tolerant of most classic Who, to be honest - she was, I would say, more receptive of City of Death, Remembrance of the Daleks, the Five Doctors and (bizarrely) K9 and Company, all of which we've viewed recently with her but I'm not sure I'd describe her as enthused by any of them.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on April 20th, 2017 08:30 pm (UTC)
I'm also tolerant of cheap 70s TV (belying my age!). But I meant that all 70s TV is going to look cheap compared with today's TV, particularly dramas shot on film or treated to look that way.
liadtbunny: Jago and Litefoot Hatsliadtbunny on April 21st, 2017 02:30 pm (UTC)
Despite it's status as a classic 'Talons' could do with some trimming down.

'Jago and Litefoot' are a good listen, the first three series and the initial one off are anyway. I can find you the links to Daily Motion if you want to try before you buy.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 21st, 2017 07:13 pm (UTC)
I think we're tolerant enough of Big Finish stuff (and Tame Layman is fond enough of listening to audio drama in the car) that I might just take the punt and buy them. Thanks anyway though!