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Doctor Who: The Deadly Assassin (Story 88)

4.7 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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(Sep 01, 2009)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Doctor Who: The Deadly Assassin (DVD) (DVD)

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, anin the shadows lurks his oldest and deadliest enemy.


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

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Tom Baker, Angus Mackay, George Pravda, Bernard Horsfall, Peter Pratt
  • Directors: David Maloney
  • Writers: Robert Holmes
  • Producers: Philip Hinchcliffe
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: September 1, 2009
  • Run Time: 95 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001QCWQ58
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,733 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Eric J. Draves on June 10, 2009
Format: DVD
Every once in a while a TV show decides to put out something different and special, perhaps for better ratings or to stir up the stagnant continuity. In many ways, this is Doctor Who's big moment, smack dab inbetween the two most memorable companions of the Fourth Doctor, and running during the show's midpoint, the 13th anniversary.

Many things make this story stand out from the others-- the Doctor has no companion; the journey to his homeworld for the first time since "The War Games"; the colorful High Council costumes; the unusual method by which the Doctor gets out of his death sentence; a decrepit and decaying foe from the past...

But even with these things, what will strike today's viewers the most is that this story contains the first ever mention of a virtual world called THE MATRIX, some 20+ years before it was shamelessly ripped off for a movie.

I wasn't bothered by the controversial "drowning" incident as much as by the unresolved plot holes that dot the story like singularities. I won't bother the reader with excruciating details, but they'll be easy enough to find. However, this story shines on its own just for being different and is a real treasure.

This is where Tom Baker gets his wish-- to appear in a story with no companions-- and as a result he is surrounded by them the rest of his scarfbearing days. He also gets to narrate, which he doesn't do again until "Shada".

I would recommend this story to anyone wanting to know more about the Doctor's homeworld. Of course, no single story contains everything you might need to know, so I would also recommend "The Invasion of Time" as a companion piece.
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Format: VHS Tape
This episode is unique among all of Tom Baker's many outings as the Doctor because it is his only turn without a companion. Apparently it came off because following Liz Sladen's departure at the end of "Hand of Fear", Baker wanted to try a one-man show for fun and the prodcuers agreed - provided everybody understood it was a one-time-only thing. The result is "The Deadly Assassin" an entertaining and very revealing episode which takes the Doctor, all by his lonesome, back to his home planet of Galifrey to tangle with his oldest enemy, The Master.
"Assassin" has a lot of unusual qualities. In addition to the solo appearance of the Doc, it is an unusually physical and violent episode, and also sheds some light on the society of the Time Lords and on Doctor's (delinquent) youth on Galifrey.
In this episode, the Master has passed his twelfth and supposedly final regeneration, and is now basically a disgusting animated cadaver. He lures the Doctor back home by planting a vision in his mind of the assassination of the Lord President of Galifrey, but when the Doctor returns to foil the plot, he not only fails but becomes the prime suspect. Scheduled for execution ("Vaporization without representation is tyranny!") he has just twenty-four hours to expose not only the real assassin but discover who is pulling his strings.

Much of the episode takes place in a disturbing 'dream reality' in which the Doctor battles Garth, the Master's homidical power-grasping flunky, who stupidly believes serving the Master will lead to something other than a horrible death. The dream reality is more of a nightmare: part swamp, part quarry, part fog, and all ugly.
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Format: VHS Tape
"Through the millennia, the Time Lords of Gallifrey led a life of peace and ordered calm, protected against all threats from lesser civilizations by their great power. But this was to change. Suddenly and terribly, the Time Lords faced the most dangerous crisis in their long history."
So begins the only story where the Doctor is without a companion. After seeing the assassination of the president in a precognitive vision, in which he is the assassin, the Doctor lands on Gallifrey and is ordered arrested by Castellan Spandrell. He leaves a note warning them of the assassination, eludes the bumbling Chancellery guards, led by the [fool] Hildred and tries to stop the killing to no avail.
The Doctor buys time by invoking Article 17 of the constitution, in which he announces his candidacy for the presidency. He has the Castellan, an open-minded Time Lord who is a "simple seeker of the truth," as an ally. He tells the Doctor: "I believe you are going to be executed for it [the assassination]"
His old teacher, the jurist Cardinal Borusa, defends the Doctor's use of Article 17 against Chancellor Goth, who as interim leader, wants the Doctor executed. He says to Goth, "All presidents are faced with difficult decisions. It is by their decisions that they are judged." It's when the shrunken body of the PR announcer's soundman is found in the camera that the Doctor recognizes the Master's trademark method of killing.
The latter part of Episode 2 and all of Episode 3 are spent in a dreamland of the Matrix, where the Doctor battles an unknown adversary--the Master's champion. He carries on, saying, "I deny this reality. The reality is a computation matrix.
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