The Talons of Weng-Chiang
Leela: What’s the tribe here?
The Doctor: Cockneys!
Story Code: C14.6.
Production Code: 4S.
Story Number: 91.
Countdown week: 13…
A faithful companion from a society that didn’t realise the full possible wonders of technology, mentored by the mysterious stranger in the time machine – ready to defend their master…
Leela or Li H’sen Chang?
That the initial paragraph of this review could describe either of these characters perhaps illustrates the clever writing and depth of the characters, this pleasing symmetry just one element.
A story with great characters – on one side, there is the Doctor and Leela (joined by the wonderful duo of Jago and Litefoot); the other, Greel and Chang (and Mr. Sin.)
While Greel is perhaps a regular verbose DW “big bad”, and Mr. Sin communicates in grunts and carnage, the most interesting character (for this blog) on that side is Chang, certainly.
Like Leela’s first story The Face of Evil (like a lot of Season 14 stories!), this is a tale of people coming to terms with the fact that their gods may not be what they seem (though as the Doctor hints, Chang seems too intelligent to not realise what was really going on, and hints that Chang puts on an “act” when believing in his god – that he wishes to serve is out of loyalty rather than a devout wish, perhaps.)
That Chang (in contrast to the two bumbling English sidekicks for the Doc) seems to be the 2nd-cleverest figure in the story underlines the intent of the tale, to portray Chang as a complex figure – a man savvy enough to play up to his audience’s expectations of the Chinese stereotype, dropping the Chinese Pidgin English when away from the stage.
So, yes, number 4 on the 2009 DWM survey of 200 stories, and the story is certainly one of the greats – however, the absence of Chang from the final episode of 6 means a little less charisma onscreen compared to the other parts, and it does feel (for this blog) that the central character of the story has left already.
Even considering the final episode – “Amazing Artistry” declares the Chang poster at the start, the end: it could describe this whole story.