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Doctor Who: The Deadly Assassin

Doctor Who: The Deadly Assassin, starring Tom Baker, Peter Pratt

Synopsis of Doctor Who: The Deadly Assassin

Doctor Who: The Deadly Assassin – Gallifrey. Planet of the Time Lords. The Doctor has finally come home, but not by choice. Summoned by a vision from the Matrix, he is drawn into a web of political intrigue and assassination. Nothing is quite what it seems, and in the shadows lurks his oldest and deadliest enemy.

Editorial review of Doctor Who: The Deadly Assassin, courtesy of Amazon.com

The Doctor (Tom Baker) becomes embroiled in a political assassination plot after returning to his home planet of Gallifrey in this gripping and historically significant 1976 serial from the venerable British science-fiction series Doctor Who. As Who scholars know, the Doctor had not returned to Gallifrey since the 1969 serial The War Games, but after receiving a summons in the previous story, The Hand of Fear (which saw Elisabeth Sladen’s departure from the series), the Doctor again ventures home in time to see the retirement of the Time Lords’ president; unfortunately, the leader is killed during the ceremony, and the murder pinned on the Doctor. The Master (Peter Pratt) is revealed as the mastermind behind the crime, and the Doctor must enter the virtual reality world of the planet’s computer system, the Matrix, in order to find his archenemy. Though not a fan favorite at the time (die-hards found its depiction of the Gallifreyan government too close to more Earthly ones), The Deadly Assassin has found favor in the ensuing decades thanks to its many firsts in the Doctor Who universe (it’s the first serial to feature the Doctor without a companion, the first to introduce the Matrix, and the first to expand on the workings of the Time Lords–and then there’s that whole business about the Matrix 30 years before the big-screen epic), as well as its imaginative and suspenseful direction.

Fans will find a wealth of supplemental material on the conception and execution of Assassin on the DVD; Baker, producer Phillip Hinchcliffe, and costar Bernard Horsfeld (the formidable Chancellor Goth) provide a lively commentary track, and all three return for “The Matrix Revisited,” a half-hour making-of featurette that traces the serial’s inception from Sladen’s departure through the controversy sparked over its violent fight scenes. The “Gallifreyan Candidate” featurette is a sluggish comparison of Assassin with its inspiration, The Manchurian Candidate, while “The Frighten Factor” utilizes a vast number of clips from all 10 Doctors’ adventures to discuss the scarier aspects of the show. There’s also the by-now standard subtitle production notes, photo gallery, and Radio Times listing in PDF format; the Easter Egg-savvy will find BBC 1’s preview for Deadly Assassin, which followed the final episode of Hand of Fear. –Paul Gaita