Monday, September 27, 2010

REVIEW: Revisitations DVD box set [Part 3]

PLEASE NOTE: Due to the sheer wealth of material included on the Revisitations box set, the reviews will split into three; one for each story. The review of Doctor Who: The Movie can be read HERE whilst The Caves of Androzani can be found HERE. Lastly, it's...

THE TALONS OF WENG~CHIANG


Not only does Talons share a place in the Revisitations box set with The Caves of Androzani it also shares a number of traits AND writer. Robert Holmes packs memorable duos, poison, sympathetic villains, a facially disfigured lead and the word "jackanapes" into both 'classic' stories. Even back in the Eighties, recycling was an important issue...

And, like Androzani, this story often finds itself at the top of "all time" polls.


Similarly, as with my review for the discs from this collection featuring the 1984 Davison epic, I won't add to the numerous reviews, opinions and thoughts that already exist on this terrific 1977 six~parter. But I will state that, like Androzani, there is a nasty, almost unpleasant tone throughout but, unlike the 80s facsimile, there is levity to lift the licentious mood.


Step up the always alliterating jocular Jago, raising a smile every time he utters, "Oh, corks!" Sublime. Line of the story, however, must go to Tommy B. Upon the suggestion that the gun he is holding may explode, he responds, "Explode? Unthinkable. It was made in Birmingham." There's also a nice allusion to Oscar Wilde - a part Baker would later play on stage - in the use of "A hat box?"


Another part Baker would play, admitting it was a "failure", was Sherlock Holmes - a character at the heart of this tale. Teaming up with the remarkably refined Professor Litefoot, the Time Lord's Dr Watson, they form but one of many pleasing pairs (something that The Caves of Androzani would also ape). Surprising, though, that it is only until the fifth episode when Jago and Litefoot (arguably the most tributed twosome) actually get together.

The Talons of Weng~Chiang demonstrates a show at the height of its powers with everyone involved producing almost unequaled quality. And, despite the objectionably duff giant rat, these six episodes don't outstay their welcome and you'll revel in the Holmesian world The Doctor and Leela find themselves in.


EXTRAS
I have to say that I thought the extras on the original 2~disc release of Talons were perfectly acceptable so I arched a curious eyebrow to note its make~over, as it were. There's a whole new disc of extras, kicked~off with the main feature, The Last Hurrah - a fantastic look at the production of the story from all the main players involved. Phillip Hinchcliffe starts proceedings by visiting Tom Baker in the actor's countryside retreat and it only took Tommy B thirty seconds before he used the word "knickerbockers." Shocking.


Even more shocking was the sight of portraits of both Patrick Troughton and David Tennant in his home. Post~production trickery? A cheeky member of the film crew planting them there without the former Time Lord noticing? Or does Tom Baker actually have pictures of other Doctors in his kitchen? It's a comprehensive feature with thoroughly enjoyable input from all, and produced beautifully too.


A contemporaneous news feature, from Look East, is worth watching alone for Tommy B's remark, "To be honest, there's not much opposition to Doctor Who is there?" Still true to this day. Hinchcliffe entertains again on the featurette Moving On (looking back at the unrealised ideas he had for the next season) and Victoriana and Chinoiserie - a discussion of the literary references that can be found within the story.


Perhaps, like me, you're thinking "Hhmm, that's getting a bit close to not being about Doctor Who at all." Well, set your brains to quizzical for the two docs, Limehouse - A Victorian Chinatown (Dr. Matthew Sweet investigates the area and its history) and Music Hall (a study of the music hall's history). I have the feeling that some fans may be asking why forty minutes is given over to, what can only be called, "off topic" discussion.


Don't get me wrong, the two pieces are highly informative, thoughtfully produced, exquisite in appearance and, as someone who is involved in documentary film~making, I appreciate greatly what they've done. But should these features be on a Doctor Who DVD? Not so sure. And, as there is no new commentary, one wonders if the money spent on forty minutes of filming could have been better used on updating the commentary (which was satisfactory at best).

Anyway, Victor Spinetti makes a most surprising, but most welcome, appearance and Dr Sweet (isn't he a character in Candy Wars?) is, again, an engaging presenter.


There's an extra disc worth of materials for The Talons of Weng~Chiang, but does it dramatically improve on the original release? A 2~disc production that boasted the wonderful Whose Doctor Who? documentary (also included here, along with all the original extras). That, my friend, is up for debate.

The Revisitations DVD box set is released on Oct 4, read more about the seven~disc set HERE

Thanks to 2|entertain

1 comment:

DarkTouch said...

The Talons of Weng-Chiang is one of my absolute favorite episodes. I dunno what it was but it just settled into the consciousness of my 12 year old self and periodically I'll still use the line: "Never trust a man with dirty fingernails."