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Episode Guide
The Deadly Assassin
Production Code: 4P
Season 14, Story Number 88
Written by Robert Holmes
Directed by David Maloney
No episode stills are currently available for this story.
Archives

Each episode is identified with date of transmission, duration, ratings in millions, and (for 1963-1974 only) archive status.

Part One
30 October 1976 | 21'13" | 11.8
Part Two
06 November 1976 | 24'44" | 12.1
Part Three
13 November 1976 | 24'20" | 13
Part Four
20 November 1976 | 24'30" | 11.8
Archive Status: All four episodes exist in color as PAL 2" videotape, as held by the Film & Videotape Library when audited in 1978. The original master of episode 3 was edited to remove the freeze-frame ending. Episode 3 is also archived on a PAL U-matic Colour recording at the U-Matic library at BBC Television, complete with the original ending.
Cast
Tom Baker (Doctor Who), Peter Pratt (The Master), Llewellyn Rees (The President), Angus Mackay (Cardinal Borusa), Bernard Horsfall (Chancellor Goth), George Pravda (Castellan Spandrell), Hugh Walters (Commentator Runcible), Erik Chitty (Co-ordinator Engin), Derek Seaton (Commander Hilred), Maurice Quick (Gold Usher), John Dawson (Time Lord), Michael Bilton (Time Lord), Peter Mayock (Solis), Helen Blatch (Voice)
Synopsis
Experiencing premonitions of the death of the Time Lord President, the Doctor materialises the TARDIS in the cloisters area outside the Capitol on Gallifrey. There it is impounded by the Chancellory guards, led by Commander Hilred, but the Doctor manages to elude them, his escape aided by a mysterious figure in black. He returns to his ship before it is moved into a museum inside the Capitol by order of Chancellor Goth as an example of an antiquated Type 40 TT capsule.

The Doctor discovers that it is Presidential Resignation Day, an important occasion in Time Lord life as the retiring President must name his successor. Speculation is rife as to who his choice might be. Favourite is Chancellor Goth but only the President knows for sure.

Donning the robes of one of the Time Lords, the Doctor arrives in the Panopticon, the centre of the time-honoured ritual. He sees a staser weapon on the balcony aimed at where the President will appear and rushes to prevent the murder. When he arrives, there is no-one there, just the staser. Seeing a gun in the crowd as the President appears, he aims the staser and fires ... and the President falls down dead, apparently shot by the Doctor.

The Doctor is arrested for murder and put on trial. At the last moment he invokes Article 17 of the constitution and nominates himself as a presidential candidate. This gives him immunity until after the election, and as it is traditional for the incoming president to pardon all political prisoners, the Doctor seems to have secured his continued existence for the time being.

Further investigation reveals that behind all the machinations is the Master, now past his twelfth and final regeneration. He is a wizened husk, seeking to control the Presidency to obtain the symbols of office, the Sash and the Great Key of Rassilon, which in reality have a far more practical purpose than believed. They are the key to the Eye of Harmony, the legendary source of all Time Lord power.

The Doctor, with the help of Coordinator Engin and Castellan Spandrell, links his mind to the Amplified Panatropic Computations (APC) Net, a giant computer containing the accumulated wisdom of the Time Lords, to try and find out what is going on. In the surreal world of the Matrix he finds himself in a life-or-death struggle with a mysterious hooded opponent. They battle each other through a forest-like virtual reality and the Doctor proves the stronger. His opponent is revealed as Goth, whom the Master has been using as a puppet. Following his defeat in the mind battle, Goth dies.

The Master absconds with the Sash and the Great Key of Rassilon and reveals the Eye of Harmony located beneath the Panopticon floor. He starts to disconnect the device so that, using the Sash, he can draw off enough power to enable him to regenerate, but the Doctor manages to stop him before Gallifrey is destroyed. The Master falls down one of the fissures which have opened up in the floor.

Believing his old adversary dead, the Doctor takes his leave of Gallifrey, not seeing that the Master has in fact survived, having absorbed sufficient energy through the Sash. The Master leaves Gallifrey in his own TARDIS, which is disguised as a somewhat incongruous Grandfather clock.

Synopsis from Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Handbook by David J. Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker, reprinted with permission; further reproduction is not permitted.

Production Team
Linda Graeme (Assistant Floor Manager), James Acheson (Costumes), Joan Ellacott (Costumes), Roger Murray-Leach (Designer), Terry Walsh (Fight Arranger), Fred Hamilton (Film Cameraman), Ian McKendrick (Film Editor), Dudley Simpson (Incidental Music), Jean Williams (Make-Up), Philip Hinchcliffe (Producer), Nicholas John (Production Assistant), Chris D'Oyly-John (Production Unit Manager), Robert Holmes (Script Editor), Dick Mills (Special Sounds), Brian Clemett (Studio Lighting), Clive Gifford (Studio Sound), Delia Derbyshire (Theme Arrangement), Ron Grainer (Title Music), Len Hutton (Visual Effects), Peter Day (Visual Effects)
Story Notes
The Deadly Assassin changed everything we knew, or thought we knew, about Gallifrey, and introduces such things as Rassilon, the Matrix, the Panopticon, the Prydonian Academy and the Eye of Harmony. The story uses the Doctor without a companion for the first time in the series' history and returns the character of the Master, played by Peter Pratt after Roger Delgado tragically died in 1973 (this is, however, Pratt's only appearance in the role.) The story opens with a rolling caption and voiceover by Tom Baker: 'Through the millennia, the Time Lords of Gallifrey led a life of peace and ordered calm, protected against all threats from lesser civilisations by their great power. But this was to change. Suddenly, and terribly, the Time Lords faced the most dangerous crisis in their long history ...' This is the first time we hear that Time Lords have only 12 regenerations. The working title for the story was "The Dangerous Assassin." When the story was repeated, the freeze-frame cliff-hanger ending to part three was edited out of the original master-tape following complaints on the original transmission about the Doctor's face being held underwater. Part four was also slightly edited. This explains the difference in duration of the repeat episodes. Longtime guest star Bernard Horsfall, whose first role in the show was as a Time Lord in "The War Games," plays Goth; it is possible the character in the earlier story is the same. Helen Blatch provided the voice of the Time Lord transgram in Part One also, but without on-screen credit. The Prydonian seal seen in this story (referred to later in the series' history as the seal of Rassilon) had previously appeared as the Vogans' emblem in season twelve's Revenge of the Cybermen – a consequence of both stories having the same designer, Roger Murray-Leach. Mary Whitehouse and the National Viewers And Listeners Association protested the drowning sequence in part three, though this was the last such protest by the organization against the show.
For more in-depth information about the contents of this story, a complete episode-by-episode detailed breakdown can be found at the Doctor Who Reference Guide.
Additional, more detailed information about the production of this story can be found at Shannon Patrick Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel).
Video release
     
Released as “The Deadly Assassin” in the UK [October 1991] and Australia/New Zealand [March 1992] (BBC catalog #4645) in episodic format, cover illustration by Andrew Skilleter; and in US/Canada [March 1989] (WHV catalog #E1351) in edited omnibus format, cover illustration by Andrew Skilleter (UK/Australia/New Zealand), photomontage cover (US/Canada). Re-released in remastered format in UK [September 2002] and Australia/New Zealand [April 2003] by W.H. Smith as part of the "The Time Lord Collection Boxed Set" with new photomontage cover, exclusive to their stores and not in general release.
In Print
Novelised as “Doctor Who and the Deadly Assassin” by Terrance Dicks (Target #20), first released in 1977 with cover art by Mike Little. Released in hardcover in 1977. Released in the US in hardcover as "The Further Adventures of Doctor Who" in 1985 with "Doctor Who and the Face of Evil" and "Doctor Who and the Robots of Death". Also re-released in the "Doctor Who Classics" series Star Books in 1989 paired with "Doctor Who and the Seeds of Doom".
For more details on the various novelizations of this story, with additional background material, artwork and details of both UK and foreign releases, visit On Target.