Number : Season 14, serial 3 of 6.

Which One : Who does “Manchurian Candidate” – 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 episodes.

Plot : The Doctor returns to Gallifrey at request 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 is cool. The return of The Master. Bernard Horsfall. The Matrix.

Whats bad : The idea of a rotting version of the Master. The little train cliffhanger.

Review With Spoilers : With a healthy dose of The Manchurian Candidate and future echo’s of 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 this isn’t the Master of old (due to actor Roger Delgado’s death) but a rotting corpse. Having reached the end and 12th (and final) regeneration cycle; having unnaturally, prolonged the final regeneration – until it began to decay.

It was an interesting take, on the problem of a Time Lord’s lifespan, coming to end and the lengths some Time Lords goto to prevent death. 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 simply used-up his other regenerations. Whilst trying to escape the Daleks, after he double-crossing them – in Frontier In Space. However, this doesn’t make a lot of sense as to why the Master would get – continually ‘caught out’ like this.

Anyway, the Master sets the Doctor up – into taking the rap for the Lord President’s killing; by having the Doctor 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 and clear the Time Lord’s name.

“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 – in the real and digital worlds. As the Doctor is persued, within the digital-world of the ‘Timelord Matrix’, by a masked foe. The Warchowski Brothers must have been Doctor Who fans, as kids.

Infact, a scene from the Matrix pursuit; of the Doctor being forcibly drowned by his masked aggressor, was (again) much criticised – at the time; by moral TV crusader – Mary Whitehouse.

Additionally, the Doctor with his foot stuck in a train track, as a small toy-train steams towards him – in an obviously fast forwarded piece of film – takes the viewer out of the moment.

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.

This story is also notable – as the only episode, where the Fourth Doctor is “companionless”; having dropped Sarah-Jane 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 here, within the companion capacity. It’s the only episode, where the Doctor has no specific companion. The Deadly Assassin proved beyond doubt that Tom Baker’s Doctor, was just as adept at carrying an episode – solo (Tom Baker thought as much suggesting afterwards he could continue to travel 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.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5)

Old Doctor Who

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