Doctor Who Monsters, Aliens and Villains

Magnus Greel (AKA Weng-Chiang)
Video - The Talons of Weng-Chiang
The Talons of Weng-Chiang
 Name: Magnus Greel (AKA Weng-Chiang)

 Format: Television show

 Time of Origin: Originally from the year 5000 before he travelled back in time to China in 1872; confronted The Doctor in London in 1889; was almost diverted to 1937; temporarily reconstituted in a new body in 1968.

 Appearances: "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" and "The Butcher of Brisbane" and "Jago & Litefoot: The Final Act"

 Doctors: Fourth Doctor and Fifth Doctor

 Companions: Leela, Nyssa, Tegan Jovanka and Turlough; Professor George Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago

 History: Magnus Greel is, in some ways, one of The Doctor’s most interesting adversaries, representing an intriguing blend of a scientific genius and a total idiot - described by his colleagues as a scientific ruffian with authority over those superior to him in skill -; although he had access to a great deal of advanced technology that he had designed himself, most of it operated on flawed scientific principles, only capable of achieving what Greel had designed it for on a short-term basis while causing significant long-term damage.

The Doctor and Magnus Greel
The Doctor and Magnus Greel
 As the ironically named Minister of Justice of the Supreme Alliance of Eastern States in the year 5,000 - one of many such Alliances that ruled Earth at this time, Earth currently gripped by a new ice age and gutted of its resources as most humans fled to the colonies in the face of the environmental collapse, leaving only a few survivors to serve as a factory processing resources from elsewhere - and a prominent member of the Star Chamber, Greel’s atrocities at this time earned him the title of the "Butcher of Brisbane", with over a hundred thousand deaths being attributed to him as he sought to perfect his ‘catalytic extraction chamber’, an attempt to cannibalise the life energies of others to sustain his own existence. Not only did Greel maintain a tight control of the press to limit their opportunities to investigate him - resulting in a public appearance of a charismatic but well-intentioned leader -, but he sent various prisoners to his alien associate, Professor Findecker, while claiming that he was ‘mercifully’ sending them to work camps instead of executing them, and was rumoured to have shady links to various offworld scientific organisations, as well as those who opposed him often mysteriously disappearing. Greel also considered himself a driving force in the project in which his nation pioneered time travel, although this transference process was dependent on a zygma beam, created based on Findecker’s discovery of the double-nexus particle (A particle where half of it existed outside of the conventional universe in the Time Vortex, resulting in it being assumed to be a vital component of time travel technology, although this revelation known as ‘Findecker’s Folly’ as it sent human science up a technological cul-de-sac due to the dangerous discoveries that were inspired by the particle).

Audio - The Butcher of Brisbane
The Butcher of Brisbane
(Marc Platt)
Greel and The Doctor first encountered each other - from Greel’s perspective, anyway - when the TARDIS accidentally struck a zygma beam while the Fifth Doctor was attempting to take Tegan Jovanka home for a visit, the resulting collision causing a reality breach that pulled Nyssa and Turlough out of the ship, depositing them in a barren wasteland where Greel sent the bodies of those killed in Findecker’s experiments in the future. While waiting for The Doctor and Tegan to find them, acting on the advice of the future version of Earth Free Media reporter Ragan Creezen, Nyssa and Turlough infiltrated Greel’s inner circle, Nyssa eventually managing to become engaged to Greel - noting that he had certain admirable qualities even if she could never genuinely love him - while Turlough worked as her personal secretary. As they slipped information to various contacts, the Earth Free Media worked on re-tracing the zygma beam used to dispose of the prisoners back to its source, although it took almost three years for Nyss and Turlough to find anything genuinely incriminating. When The Doctor and Tegan finally arrived - The Doctor having traced the zygma beam by analysing the particle half in the vortex and following it back to its other half -, they arrived at the source of the beam rather than its destination, where Tegan was rescued by Ragan’s younger self while The Doctor was captured by Findecker.

 While Tegan learned what had happened to Nyssa and Turlough on Earth Free Media’s cloaked satellite, The Doctor was tortured by Findecker until he convinced Findecker to show him his research, Findecker deciding to enjoy the opportunity to talk to someone who could understand his work even if he dismissed The Doctor’s claims that the double-nexus particle was useless despite his own weakening condition from zygma energy exposure. Revealing his origin as a time traveller, The Doctor claimed that he was a time agent to prevent Findecker killing him, leaving him to be held prisoner by Chops - a mutated dingo used as a guard -, but The Doctor managed to reprogram Chops’s cybernetic components to make him loyal to The Doctor just in time for The Doctor to rescue Tegan from Findecker. Meanwhile, Nyssa and Turlough learned that Greel intended to sabotage the upcoming peace accords between the Supreme and Icelandic Alliances so that he could assume a position of single authority rather than the planned republic, Greel presenting the commissioner of the Icelandic Alliance with a gift in the form of the doll-like but homicidal cyborg known as the Peking Homunculus - an artificial construct with the brain of a pig, the swinish instincts leaving it with a deep-rooted hatred of humanity and an obsession with carnage while also being more ruthless than a simple machine would have been -, claiming that it was a toy for her children while intending for it to assassinate her and trigger further conflict. Although Greel’s planned coup was sabotaged, he still attempted to trigger war as the Homunculus attacked the Commissioner, but The Doctor was able to prevent this plan by transmitting a message to a younger version of himself who was currently travelling with the Icelandic army (Which Doctor and why he was with the army was unknown, but it was one of the first four Doctors), allowing the younger Doctor to tell the army what was happening and prevent the resulting conflict degenerating into World War Six while the Fifth Doctor dealt with Greel. Unable to provide either side with time travel due to his inability to access the TARDIS, and driven over the brink by the failure of his plans, Greel attempted to jump to his death, but his suicide attempt was interrupted as Findecker’s cabinet was redirected to Reykjavik by a temporal beacon activated by The Doctor when Findecker was attempting to escape after disposing of Ragan, Greel killing Findecker and taking the cabinet for himself. As Greel departed, travelling back through time along the zygma beam, The Doctor and his companions departed, The Doctor certain that the war would end peacefully while noting that Greel would meet his well-deserved fate.

 Arriving in China in 1872, Greel was discovered by a local peasant, Li H'sen Chang, who mistook him for the legendary Chinese God Weng-Chiang due to the manner of his arrival. However, the passage through time had caused great damage to Greel's DNA, disrupting his metabolism and causing his cells to decay - comparable to a water-bag with a hole in it, his cellular stability ‘leaking’ and becoming increasingly unstable - leaving him hideously deformed. Although Chang was able to keep Greel hidden from the soldiers of the Tung Chui, the Time Cabinet was taken by members of the Chinese Imperial Court while he was hidden, leaving Greel trapped in this time.

Li H'sen Chang with Mr Sin
Li H'sen Chang with Mr Sin
 In order to find the Cabinet, Greel continued to support the illusion of himself as Weng-Chiang to win the allegiance of the Tong of the Black Scorpion, also using unspecified scientific research to grant Chang mysterious hypnotic and telepathic powers that would help him enforce his will on their followers in the Tong. Forced to wear a mask and concealing clothes to hide his true form, Greel’s personality became increasingly twisted, the formerly charming and charismatic - albeit dangerous - man of the year 5000 degenerating into a twisted monster, prone to yelling and dismissing his servants as incompetents when they failed to please him. With Chang posing as a conjurer and the Homunculus as Mr Sin, a ventriloquist's dummy, the group eventually found themselves in London, Greel using the Tong to search for his Time Cabinet after tracking it to the city. While Greel lived in fear of Time Agents from his era tracking him to the past, hiding in the sewers beneath the theatre where Chang performed - even using his equipment to enlarge the local rats to act as ‘guards’, his intellect intact even as he became increasingly short-tempered - Chang abducted young women for him so that he might use their life energy to restore himself using the catalytic extraction chamber to stabilise his own metabolism, a method which was inherently flawed and only accelerated the damage to Greel’s cells.

 This status quo continued until the Fourth Doctor and Leela arrived in London - The Doctor attempting to show Leela how her ancestors entertained themselves in the past - subsequently witnessing members of the Tong disposing of the body of Mr Sin’s latest victim. Aided by Professor Litefoot - the pathologist who examined the victim’s corpse, whose father had been given the Time Cabinet in 1873 as a gift for his military service - and Henry Gordon Jago - the manager of the theatre where Chang performed -, The Doctor and Leela investigated the deaths, The Doctor discovering ‘Weng-Chiang’ in the theatre and Leela later infiltrating his base by switching places with a hypnotised girl Chang had recently kidnapped for Greel (Chang and Greel already interested in The Doctor due to his immunity to Chang’s mind-reading powers). Although Leela managed to escape Greel’s underground base, Greel subsequently abandoned the location, Chang being killed by one of Greel’s giant rats when he tried to flee himself, only surviving long enough to tell The Doctor and Leela how he had met Greel.

Gordon Jago and Professor Litefoot
Gordon Jago and Professor Litefoot
 Having discovered the Cabinet in Litefoot’s house, The Doctor swiftly realised that he was dealing with the Peking Homunculus, although he eventually had to allow himself to be captured - having stolen the Time Cabinet’s key from Greel’s old base to prevent Greel from escaping as the re-ignition of the Zygma beam could vaporise London - in order to specifically identify the individual who had brought Sin to the past. In the subsequent confrontation, Greel - who naturally didn’t recognise the Fourth Doctor as he and the Fifth were so different - concluded that The Doctor was a Time Agent due to The Doctor’s knowledge of the events that led to his ‘exile’ to the past. Although angered at The Doctor’s description of him as a war criminal, Greel proudly proclaimed that The Doctor’s presence proved that the zygma experiments had succeeded, but The Doctor openly derided Greel’s technology, dismissing the extraction chamber as simply cannibalism that saved Greel from having ‘to chew the grisly bits’ and bluntly informing him that the zygma experiments were a disaster. Denying The Doctor’s claims, Greel had The Doctor, Jago and Litefoot locked up in a cell, intending to use the key to take the time cabinet back to his own time and receive proper treatment after interrogating The Doctor for further information about the experiments.

Magnus Greel
Magnus Greel
However, Greel’s plan went wrong when The Doctor and his allies escaped their cell, Greel then finding himself unable to properly control Sin - currently sitting in a dragon statue with lasers in its eyes that Greel had designed as a weapon - as the android’s psychotic tendencies had become too powerful. Driven solely by its own bloodlust, Sin turned against Greel’s followers while The Doctor, Leela, Litefoot and Jago hid behind a table, leaving Greel distracted long enough for Leela to destroy the laser weapon Sin was using. As Greel attempted to shoot Leela, The Doctor tackled him and disposed of the gun, the fight ending as The Doctor shoved Greel into his own extraction chamber, resulting in fatal cellular collapse as the proteins he required were extracted from his body all at once, his entire body falling apart. Having disabled Sin by removing the android’s control circuit, subsequently smashing the key to the Time Cabinet, The Doctor and Leela departed, certain that Greel’s zygma experiments had been ended once and for all.

 The Doctor later dealt with the remnants of Greel’s legacy when he found himself pitted against Li H’sen Chang’s daughter Hsien-Ko ("The Shadow of Weng-Chiang - rendered immortal but sterile due to her father’s exposure to zygma energy before her conception - who sought to draw Greel’s time cabinet to the present to punish him for what he had done to her father by disrupting the zygma beam in 1937, unaware of the implications of the temporal paradox that would result if she succeeded in preventing Greel from reaching 1872 as he had in the original history. Although her plan nearly succeeded at the last minute, The Doctor was able to prevent the Time Cabinet from being diverted from its original course by materialising the TARDIS in the location where the cabinet was to arrive, essentially ‘shoving’ the cabinet back into the Time Vortex to continue on its path to 1872, allowing history to unfold as it should.

 On a later occasion, Professor Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago found themselves dealing with a more personal legacy of Greel's when they were temporarily trapped in 1968 after a brief trip with the Sixth Doctor resulted in them being dropped off in the wrong time period ("Voyage to the New World"). During their time in the future, Jago and Litefoot encountered Guinevere Godiva, the descendant of one of Greel's followers, whose family had managed to partially reconstruct the trionic lattice, with the goal of reactivating the cabinet so that she could retrieve the copy of Greel's mind imprinted on the cabinet's control systems by the zygma energy and thus bring him back to life. Using a Venusian crystal Jago had acquired during his time with The Doctor ("Voyage to Venus") to finish refining the lattice, Godiva was able to reconstitute Greel's mind in the body of Jago and Litefoot's ally Detective Inspector Dave Sacker by using the extraction chamber to power the time cabinet and channel Greel's mental imprint into Sacker's body, at the cost of aging Guinevere while she served as the power source for the cabinet. However, when Greel resolved to use the cabinet to go back in time and destroy Jago and Litefoot's world, this prompted Godiva to attack him for using her family in such a manner, allowing Jago and Litefoot's associate Ellie Higson - who had become immortal as a side effect of an incident where she was nearly turned into a vampire in the 1890s - was able to overload the cabinet by using herself as a power source, her current immortality allowing her to survive the experience while apparently leaving her mortal. With Greel dead, Jago and Litefoot used the cabinet to travel back to 1893, previously confirmed to be secure and safe to use now that the crystal had been perfected, confident that the danger posed by Greel was now over for good.
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Parts of this article were compiled with the assistance of David Spence who can be contacted by e-mail at
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