One recurring topic that keeps popping up here at THT Worldwide is that of Important Doctor Who stories, fulcrum points which turned the direction and forward momentum of the show for years to come. Then there are the Divisive stories, though fewer in number, which seem to propel argument … again for years to come. But there is one story in particular which fits both criteria, although your willingness to see this story as divisive almost entirely depends on how old you are. That story is The Deadly Assassin.
What is not (or at the very least should not be) divisive is the overall quality of the story. The Deadly Assassin was the Baker-Holmes-Hinchcliffe triumvirate at their absolute peak producing a story which was in equal parts a return of the Master, a highly experimental companion-less story, a surreal trippy markdown hunt, and an homage to the 1962 classic film ‘The Manchurian Candidate.’ But more importantly for long-term fans, indeed the longest of the long-term fans, is the unveiling, exploration, and demystification, after fourteen seasons, of the Doctor’s home planet Gallifrey.
The glimpses into the Doctor’s own history were so deservedly few and far between that they were always notable and well-remembered, but in that paucity the Time Lords (a season six revelation) were inextricably built up. To see that the Time Lords were, as mentioned in School Reunion, “dusty old Senators” was divisive to Doctor Who ‘s most loyal fans back in 1976 when first broadcast, but for this fan who has a long memory, just not that long, it was thrilling, and it didn’t even occur to anyone that the episode three cliffhanger of the drowning would be controversial, for its own reasons, for years to come (again).
So much of what we call Doctor Who mythology happened in The Deadly Assassin from Time Lord fashion to the 12-regeneration limit (a problem that one couldn’t have envisioned needing solving at some indeterminate point) that it would not be facetious to state that The Deadly Assassin should be required viewing for any dedicated Doctor Who fan. Then again, the beauty of Doctor Who lies in that (mythology) this is simply accepted today and some clever writer can still make both it and the future continue to propel Doctor Who forward.