In terms of importance, to both the “canon” and the history of the show, Assassin has to be right there near the very top. It’s influence on everything that came after it, certainly in terms of the Timelords, is undeniable but it also had an undoubted impact on the future direction of the show that wasn’t discernible at the time, at least not to the general viewing public like me.
I’d only started watching Who in 1972 with The Sea Devils and wasn’t around in the early days of London Fandom, so Jan Vincent Rudski’s famous/infamous rant made no impact on me whatsoever. Yes there is a huge discrepancy between the way the Timelords are depicted here compared to The War Games, but that doesn’t mean that they are incompatible. TWG gives us Lords of Time who are pretty much Gods in all but name and the ultimate in Deus Ex Machina as they literally sort out all the problems in the story, including the problem of The Doctor. TDA, on the other hand presents us with Timelords who are decidedly non-Olympian and more like human politicians and academics. Is that really such a problem?
Only if you’re the kind of fan who comes up with a whole load of extra-textual info-dumping to do with Pythia and Looms to explain why there are no children on Gallifrey. Seriously? The reason you don’t see children on Gallifrey is they aren’t relevant to the story that’s being told, and just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there. As any half-decent lawyer will tell you, lack of evidence is not evidence of lack. Thankfully the New Series has dispensed with Marc Platt’s fanwank, yet another reason to be thankful for Sir Russell Tea Gayness.
Is it really so hard to accept that there are two types of Timelords? After all, Pat isn’t exactly an Olympian God like what his tribunal are, is he? Yet there’s nothing within the text of TWG that says he’s any less a Timelord than they are. Ergo, not all Timelords are “Gods”, some are “Mortals” so what was all the fuss about?
So in TDA we have one of the most important stories in the show’s entire run, one that, fictionally, upsets the fandom continuity applecart and, factually, is indirectly responsible for initiating the decline and demise of the show itself.
The Drowning Of Doctor Who is a bit of a yawnfest nowadays but it’s important to know that it was the point at which it all started to go wrong; the BBC blinked first and threw Mrs Whitehouse a bone in the forlorn hope that she would shut up, go away and leave them alone. The Sixth Floor interfered, much like certain Olympian Gods might, and sorted out all the problems the show was causing them by moving Hinchcliffe off the show, swapping him with Williams and inadvertently creating the unintended consequences with which we are all too familiar. It’s a testament to the strength of the show that it took another thirteen years for them to kill it off altogether.
So how do you go about fan editing one of the most important shows in the whole of the Classic Series? Just like any other really, cutting out the padding and trimming back the stuff that doesn’t advance the plot, and there’s a huge big chunk of the story that does both those things. It’s called Part Three.
Before I even started work on Assassin, I knew that I was going to lose the bulk of the third episode, which is a runaround worthy of Pertwee and Uncle Tewwance. Yes it’s all very entertaining in its own way, but really all we’re doing is treading water until Goth gets unmasked as the Master’s henchman.
When I started work, I thought I might put in some shots of New Series Gallifrey behind Tom`s opening voice over. For one thing, that’s what everyone watching the edit would be expecting and if I was them I probably would too. However, when I came to do it, I felt that it just didn’t work. The disparity between the two versions of Gallifrey was just too jarring and pulled you out of the story. As a consequence of this I questioned whether we needed the whole Tom Baker voice over anyway…
Then I had the idea of using Sarah’s departure scene from The Hand of Fear as a pre-credits sequence. Watching it like this draws the sting out of it and connects it to the opening proper, which otherwise seems a bit random without it. If you’d been on holiday in the Highlands with the family the week before and missed Eldrad Must Live Part Four, imagine the shock you’d have watching the opening of this, which makes no concessions whatsoever to anyone not familiar with the show and what happened last week. No Sarah Jane? Gallifrey? Eh? Wossapnin?
Using Sarah’s goodbye as a pre-credits here saves me having to include it when I finally come to Fan Edit that story, which will make that edit a lot easier to watch. As for Tom’s voice over, well, the story works just as well without it and having Sarah leave The Doctor’s side before the credits made it superfluous. We’re going to Gallifrey even if Sarah isn’t and we just want to know what happens next!
The other major difference between this Fan Edit and the TX version is the Master. In the original, the mask that Peter Pratt wears is clearly just that, a mask. Quite aside from how the Master manages to speak perfect English with no lips [!], you can’t see the actor’s eyes. To help with the realism and make the mask seem less like a mask, I hit on the idea of making the Master blink. It’s amazing the difference it makes and, since a blink is only three frames, wasn’t that difficult to do.
When it came to the Matrix scenes, we start as per the TX version but, after the Samurai chops the Dr`s scarf in half, we cut straight back to the studio before the dummy falls from the cliff. It`s not the most well realised sequence and looks more like the sort of thing you would have seen on The Goodies! When we cut back to the Matrix it`s to the infamous drowning sequence and Tom`s battered appearance can be put down to his off-screen fall, neatly avoiding any continuity issues from the removal of the rest of the material which, whilst very entertaining in itself, does absolutely nothing to advance the plot.