The Deadly Assassin
Working Title: The Dangerous Assassin.
Starring: Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor).
The President of the High Council of the Time Lords is assassinated, and the Doctor, newly returned to Gallifrey, is the prime suspect. But the Doctor knows someone is framing him, and must rely on the help of the reluctant Castellan Kelner to unveil a traitor in the High Council. Ultimately, the trail leads to the dying, vengeful Master, who wishes to harness the powers of Rassilon's greatest discovery, the mythical Eye of Harmony. But to do so would mean the destruction of Gallifrey, and to prevent this, the Doctor must risk his life in the surreal landscape of the Matrix.
The Master, played by Roger Delgado, had been one of Doctor Who's most popular recurring enemies, appearing in no less than eight stories during Seasons Eight, Nine and Ten. A Season Eleven story was to have killed the character off in a "blaze of glory" but unfortunately Delgado was killed in a car crash before it could be made. In devising stories for Season Fourteen, producer Philip Hinchcliffe and script editor Robert Holmes decided the time was ripe to resurrect the Master -- both wanted to feature the return of an old enemy, without resorting to monsters like the Daleks or the Cybermen whom they found boring. However, both Hinchcliffe and Holmes had by this time decided to leave Doctor Who in the near future (indeed, Hinchcliffe had asked to be moved off the programme following the previous season, but had been persuaded to remain for one more year). Consequently, instead of saddling their successors with a version of the Master they might not like, they decided to feature the villain in a transitional state.
Assigned to write the story was Holmes himself, who had earlier been given special dispensation by the BBC to write up to two Doctor Who scripts a season. Inspired by the Frank Sinatra film The Manchurian Candidate, Holmes devised an adventure called The Dangerous Assassin, which was commissioned on May 27th, 1976; the title would later be modified slightly to The Deadly Assassin. In addition to featuring the return of the Master, the serial was also notable for several other reasons. For one thing, the preceding story, The Hand Of Fear, had seen the departure of Sarah Jane Smith, the Doctor's companion. Hinchcliffe and Holmes decided to experiment by not yet introducing a new assistant, but instead having the Doctor go solo, something for which star Tom Baker had been clamoring for some time. The production team felt The Deadly Assassin would prove to Baker what a bad idea this was, although the generally enthusiastic reception of the scripts somewhat undermined this.
At Hinchcliffe's suggestion, Holmes also set the tale entirely on the Doctor's home planet of Gallifrey, a locale only glimpsed at in earlier adventures. Inspired by the seemingly disproportionate number of rogue Time Lords (not just the Doctor and the Master, but also Omega, Morbius, the War Chief and the Meddling Monk), Holmes took the opportunity to totally subvert the audience's idea of the Time Lords, depicting them as a sterile and corrupt culture. Earlier appearances had shown them to be almost godlike in nature. En route, Holmes introduced many of the concepts and characters which have become hallmarks of Doctor Who's mythology, including Rassilon, the Eye of Harmony, the Panopticon, the Matrix, Cardinal Borusa, the Prydonians, and the notion that Time Lords are limited to twelve regenerations.
The director for The Deadly Assassin was David Maloney, whose last Doctor Who work had been a year before, on Planet Of Evil. A number of the other crew also contributed important elements to the depiction of Gallifrey. Designer Roger Murray-Leach elected to reuse a symbol he had designed for Revenge Of The Cybermen as the Prydonian seal. This is now commonly referred to as "the Seal of Rassilon". The costume designer was James Acheson, who conceived the high-collared look of the Time Lords. However, Acheson was dismayed that the allocation of funds for The Deadly Assassin was insufficient for what he and Maloney were trying to achieve, and requested that he be removed from the serial. His head of department agreed to this at first, but later changed his mind due to the impending start of production. Shortly thereafter, Acheson left the BBC altogether, and Joan Ellacott was brought in to replace him. Acheson did subsequently do some additional work on The Deadly Assassin, assisting in the fabrication of the Time Lord outfits.
Location filming for Serial 4P began on July 26th, first at Betchworth Quarry in Surrey and then at the Royal Alexandra and Albert School near Merstham. Unusually, almost all of this material was destined for part three, which had been constructed by Holmes as a rather experimental Doctor Who episode. As with The Hand Of Fear, The Deadly Assassin was allocated five studio dates instead of the usual four: Sunday, August 15th to Tuesday, August 17th and then Wednesday, September 1st and Thursday, September 2nd. Cast to replace Delgado as the Master was the late Peter Pratt, a skilled voice artiste who had also been a friend of Delgado's.
Doctor Who had come under fire from Mary Whitehouse and her National Viewers And Listeners Association, but never to the same degree as after the broadcast of part three on November 13th. Whitehouse protested strongly about several sequences in the surrealistic, nightmarish episode but none more than the freeze-frame shot of the Doctor's head being held under water for several seconds. Whitehouse even quoted one child who had allegedly told his mother that he would do the same to his younger brother the next time he made him mad. Unlike past complaints by the NVALA, this time the group was successful in coaxing an apology from BBC Director General Sir Charles Curran. Indeed, the BBC even edited portions of the offending scene from the master tape of the episode, meaning that the BBC no longer holds a complete copy of part three. Fortunately, the sequence is preserved in its entirety on prints made for international distribution. This would be the last major public outcry by Whitehouse against Doctor Who, but also marked the start of a general reduction in the horror content of the series with the imminent departures of both Hinchcliffe and Holmes.