Number : Season 14, episode 3 of 6.
Which One : Who political assassination.
Cast : The Doctor : Tom Baker
The Master : Peter Pratt
Borusa : Angus MacKay
Chancellor Goth : Bernard Horsfall
Co-Ordinator Engin : Erik Chitty
Castellan Spandrell : George Pravda
Commander Hilred : Derek Seaton
Gold Usher : Maurice Quick
Runcible : Hugh Walters
The President : Llewellyn Rees
Solis : Peter Mayock
Written By : Robert Holmes
Produced By : Philip Hinchcliffe
First UK Broadcast : 30 October – 20 November 1976.
Length : 4 x 25 minute parts.
Plot : The Doctor returns to Gallifrey and is implicated in the assassination of the Lord President.
Whats good : Political thriller set on Gallifrey. The Fourth Doctor on his own (doesn’t need a companion). The second wooden Tardis control room. The return of The Master. Bernard Horsfall. The Matrix.
Whats bad : The little train cliffhanger. The idea of a rotting version of the Master.
Review With Spoilers : With a healthy dose of The Manchurian Candidate and JFK, The Deadly Assassin is a political thriller, with plenty of conspiracy and intrigue – set on Gallifrey.
After a 4-year absence, The Master is back but he isn’t the Master of old (due to actor Roger Delgado’s death) but a rotting corpse. Having reached the end of his 12th (and final) regeneration cycle and having unnaturally prolonged his final regeneration – until it began to decay.
It was an interesting take, on the problem of a Time Lord’s lifespan coming to end. However, it didn’t make alot of sense and they could have just as easily recast a “healthy”-looking new actor in the role and written in a further normal regeneration.
You see it was never confirmed in Delgado’s era, that he was infact burning through his remaining regenerations. As the impression was given, he was the Third Doctor’s “contemporary” – from their days at the academy together (and of roughly the same age and regeneration).
As a foot note to this script, Terrence Dicks (and other non-canon story writers) have suggested that the Master had used his other regenerations up; trying to escape the Daleks, after he double crossed them in Frontier In Space.
Anyway, the Master sets the Doctor up into taking the rap for the Lord President’s killing; by having him caught holding a smoking gun. After the real assassin; Chancellor Goth (the Master’s puppet and President elect) slips away. This leaves the Doctor implicated and on the run from the Gallifreyian guard, whilst attempting to solve the mystery of who is behind this plot.
“Through the millennia, the Time Lords of Gallifrey led a life of peace and ordered calm, protected against all threats from lesser civilisations by their great power. But this was to change. Suddenly and terribly, the Time Lords faced the most dangerous crisis in their long history…” The Doctor [narrating the opening text]
What ensues, is an enjoyable The Fugitive-style cat-and-mouse-chase-pic in the real (and digital) world. As the Doctor is persued within the digital-world of the Timelord Matrix, by a masked foe. If the Warchowski Brothers weren’t Who fans as kids, I would be really surprised!
Infact, a scene from the Matrix pursuit; of the Doctor being forcibly drowned by his masked aggressor, was much critiscised at the time; by moral TV crusader – Mary Whitehouse. Additionally, the Doctor with his foot stuck in a train track, as a small train steams towards him – in a fast forwarded piece of film – is a bit lame!
The Master wants to open up the Timelord’s power source; The Eye Of Harmony, to revitalise his decaying body and to throw Timelord society into disarray and destroy itself.
This episode is also notable – as the only episode where the Fourth Doctor is “companionless”; having dropped Sarah-Jane Smith off on Earth at the end of Hand Of Fear but not yet having met Leela, in Face Of Evil.
Although Time Lord’s Spandrell and Elgin pretty much fill in, in the capacity of the episode; as the Doctor’s companions. It’s the only episode where the Doctor has no specific companion. The Deadly Assassin proved that Tom Baker’s Doctor was just as adept at carrying an episode – solo (Tom Baker thought as much suggesting he could continue to be companion-less).
Another high standard from the Hinchcliffe era, which successfully borrows from and homages – the political thriller genre. Not detracted, by the head-scratching idea of a ‘final regeneration’ Master, as a zombie-corpse.
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