Why is an ancient Chinese god living under a music hall and feasting on the flesh of young women?
Arriving in London at the end of the 19th Century, the Doctor and Leela make friends with a police pathologist, Professor Litefoot, and learn that hairs taken from the clothing of a dead body found floating in the Thames seem to have originated from a very large rat.
The Doctor's investigations take him first to the sewers, where there are indeed giant rats on the loose, and then to the Palace Theatre, where a stage magician, Li H'sen Chang, is procuring young girls for his master, the ancient Chinese god Weng-Chiang. Weng-Chiang is in fact Magnus Greel, a war criminal from the 51st Century. The journey back through time has disrupted his molecular structure and he now needs to feed on the life force of others - hence his use for the young girls. He has come to London to retrieve his lost time cabinet, which is in the possession of Litefoot. Infiltrating Litefoot's home with Chang's ventriloquist doll Mr Sin - a computerised homonculus with the brain of a pig - he retrieves the cabinet and prepares to travel back to his own time.
The Doctor, aided by Leela, Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago, the proprietor of the Theatre, tracks him down to his lair and traps him before he can escape. Greel falls into his life force extraction machine and disintegrates. The Doctor is then attacked by Mr Sin but manages to disconnect its circuitry, rendering it inanimate.
Every so often, Doctor Who would produce a story that almost defies the reviewer to find something wrong with it. The Talons of Weng-Chiang is such a story. As Jan Vincent-Rudzki wrote in TARDIS Volume 2 Number 4 in 1977: 'Dark, fog-laden streets, oriental mystery, alien technology, a walking sinister doll and amateur sleuths all added up to a very atmospheric and enjoyable story.' The BBC is justly renowned for its excellence in producing period costume drama. This is combined here with a...