Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Rapalchan (seen above, as played by David Baron*) is perhaps the most useless guard in the history of Doctor Who. The poor fellow is entrusted to watch the main door to the Detsen Monastery and make sure that no one leaves. Of course, anyone and anything that comes within 30 feet of the main doors manage to get by Rapalchan, be it by bowling him over, hypnosis, or some other sort of subterfuge. Poor fellow. I'm sure he means well.
Another character who is taking his licks in this story is Khrisong. At the start of the story, he is the leader of the warrior monks, and carries a certain amount of authority. After getting whipped by the Yeti in this episode, and by being proven wrong by The Doctor at every turn, he must finally admit failure and cast his lot in with what The Doctor has in store. Norman Jones, who plays Khrisong, has a marvelous voice, as evidenced in one of his later roles, Hieronymous, in The Masque of Mandragora. His Khrisong has an almost vagueness about him when it comes to his ethinicity. It's difficult to peg down what the ethnicity of the other characters are supposed to be. To be Buddhist does not necessarily mean to be Tibetan, even in 1935, but one or two (white) actors seem to trying to channel their inner East Asian, with offensive (by today's standards) results.
Songsen looks and sounds like your average bank manager, but could such a person rise to become head of the monastery? How many monks at the monastery are supposed to be Tibetan, anyway? All of them? None of them? If all, then do they all speak English, so that Travers can understand them? Or can Travers speak Tibetan, too? It's an interesting snapshot of the England of the 1960's, long before it became the multicultural hub that it is today. Finding East Asian actors was, one assumes, rather difficult in 1967, and it's not like racial attitudes of the day were likely to allow strong characters for them to be portrayed onscreen, either. Sadly, this would rear its head again in the history of the series...
*David Baron was actually noted playwright Harold Pinter's stage name at one time. Thus, Harold Pinter absolutely and definitively appeared in The Abominable Snowmen. It's true. Just ask Toby Hadoke.
Posted by Steven at 1:56 PM