Thursday, 13 October 2011

Dr. Who: The Deadly Assassin

‘The Deadly Assassin’ takes us to the Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey for an extended stay and, to be honest, we get a fair idea of why he left: it’s really boring, like a sort of intergalactic Brussels filled with pompous bureaucrats and over-zealous security guards. No wonder he nicked that type 40 Tardis and went off in search of adventure.

The Doctor has been drawn there to act as a patsy for the planned assassination of the President of the Time Lords, a plot that has the horrible, gnarled fingerprints of a very emaciated Master all over it (the Master is literally falling apart, having reached the end of his last regeneration). The overarching story is rather dull, basically ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ with crappy lasers and even more internecine politics, but it is redeemed by, for me, the most memorable twenty minutes of TV broadcast anywhere in 1976.

In order to prove his innocence, the Doctor must enter The Matrix – a virtual world of the mind where anything can happen (as long as it’s not too expensive looking) and this provides a number of really cool scenes as the Doctor fights for his life against crocodiles, Samurai, WW1 snipers and bi-planes in a bizarre dream like environment of jungle, quarry and swamp.

I found it absolutely thrilling as a kid and, although it shows its limitations now, I still think it’s a brilliant sequence – one bound to fire the imagination of any reasonably bloodthirsty and thrill hungry child.

The Doctor survives, of course, the moribund Master gets away and the boring civil servants of Gallifrey rewrite history so that none of it ever happened. Like many trips home, it’s proved to be a tiring and soul sapping experience, leaving you with a desperate urge to go somewhere exciting and meet an aggressive woman in an animal skin bikini.


  1. Perfect summation of this story. Terribly overrated (Mark Campbell's 'Doctor Who Episode Guide' gives it 10/10 FFS) and not helped by George Pravda's often incomprehensible accent.

    Particularly dull and completely off-its-tits (but not, for me, in a good way). Praise be for the imminent and lovely Leela.

  2. The whole Matrix sequence is acid etched on my memory so that I find it impossible to be objective about the rest of this story.

    The Master make-up was really gruesome at the time and the Action Man... who did the prop dept. honestly think they were fooling with that?

  3. Was there a miniature steam train in the Matrix sequence? And a clown? Or am I getting it mixed up with another dream sequence?

  4. @Bollops

    There was indeed a clown; first spied in reflection via a mirror on the ground.

    Can't remember if there's a steam train, though it would be in keeping with the rest of the mad shit. I'd break out the DVD, but I've not the mettle to put myself through it again so soon after the last watch (about once every 10 years is suitable for The Deadly Assassin).

  5. @Jeffman

    Agree completely that though it has it's moments this really is one of the most over rated of all Doctor Who stories.

    And yes, thank god for Leela's imminent debut, her first three stories (Face of Evil, Robots of Death and Talons of Weng Chiang) being three of 70's Who's finest hours.

    Oh yeah, this is the one with the train.

  6. OK, maybe I over sold Face of Evil a little, but it's still a goodie who's reputation will probably improve once 2Entertian/BBC get around to releasing it on DVD.