City Of Death: Doctor Who: Season 17
City Of Death SYNOPSIS:
While in the city of Paris with Romana in 1979, the Doctor feels effects of time repeating. This happens at the Louvre near the the Mona Lisa painting and when he falls he gets an alien bracelet off the wrist of the Countess Scarlioni. The Doctor and Romana meet Inspector Duggan who has been tailing Count Scarlioni for some time, fearing the Scarlioni's will steal the Mona Lisa.
The Count captures the three but they escape and explore the basement in the Count's mansion, where Dr. Kerensky is experimenting with the time equipment which caused the earlier time distortions. Behind a wall, they discover six copies of the Mona Lisa, all painted by Leonardo Da Vinci. The Doctor travels alone back to meet Leonardo instead meeting Captain Tancredi, whose appearance is the same as Count Scarlioni.
Tancredi reveals he is Scaroth, the last of the Jagaroth race, stranded on Earth and fragmented through time due to an explosion of their spacecraft on Earth 400 million years ago. Seeking to restore himself and his race, Scaroth plans advancing human science so equipment to time travel will exist in 1979 funded by the selling of extra copies of the Mona Lisa.
Returning to the present, the Doctor learns that Scaroth has succeeded in stealing the Mona Lisa and threatens to destroy Paris if Romana does not provide the missing time travel element. Scaroth travels back 400 million years to save his race however the Doctor asserts if Scaroth stops the explosion of the Jagaroth ship, which created life on Earth - humanity will cease to exist.
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City Of Death DETAILS:
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City Of Death CAST & CREW
Tom Baker (Fourth Doctor)
Lalla Ward (Romana II)
Julian Glover — Count
Catherine Schell — Countess
David Graham — Kerensky
Kevin Flood — Hermann
Tom Chadbon — Duggan
Peter Halliday — Soldier
Eleanor Bron, John Cleese — Art Gallery Visitors
Pamela Stirling — Louvre Guide
Production Staff for Serial 5H:
Writer - David Agnew (pseudonym for David Fisher, Douglas Adams and Graham Williams)
Director - Michael Hayes
Script editor - Douglas Adams
Producer - Graham Williams
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City Of Death REVIEWS
We know where the money went this season. Graham Williams decided to do for the next producer what Hinchcliffe did to him, blow the budget but with a trip to Paris! Am sure the French were impressed with the story title description of their city too. Yeah City Of Death is not bad but instant classic status is maybe not a deserving badge.
The location filming is well used, the regulars sparkle and bounce perfectly off each other (apparently behind the scenes too) with Douglas Adams' witty and thoughtful script. Ok the actual plot of it is weird and totally outlandish but the dialogue and performances make it more than watchable. Tom is really turning the Doctor into an intergalactic comedian now who treats any threat with childish disdain, which is unfortunate as it really dulls the dramatic impact. But he's got some great lines "I say what a wonderful butler he's so violent" & his banter with the Count and Countess Scarioni is perfect.
As for the Count / Scaroth Julian Glover makes him a classic villain not only because he can match banter with the regulars but his way of switching from silky smoothness and charm to arrogant, sneering and menacing in an instant. And it is curious how he manages to squeeze his bulbous jaggeroth head into the human mask without making fart noises. Scared the willies actually seeing him rip his face off as a kid to show his true alien self. Also Tom Chadbon is perfect as the moronic Duggan, you do really wonder how the Doctor and Romana tolerate such a idiotic detective for so long but he does become more sympathetic.
The bits in renaissance Italy sort of detracted from the story, really only necessary to show Scarlioni travelled in time and all the stuff with the paintings and trying to perfect an experiment to turn back time to stop himself pushing the button was interesting but felt slightly contrived and the bad ancient earth design that's clearly a set detracted from the climax. Although one thing that ties these episodes together well is probably Dudley Simpson's music which perfectly blends the Parisan elements into the story, possible his best Who score and the music now fair plays around my head. Shit! That last sentence sounded too pretentious, almost like the City Of Death in some parts so will sign off with a 7.8/10
I sometimes wonder if City Of Death is considered a classic because of it's enormous rating... which was overstated as ITV were on strike for the bulk of this story's screening.
That said, each time I watch this I do enjoy it a lot.
There's a fair bit of "look it's Paris" in the first episode, and, well, it doesn't really add to the story... although I guess it brings us closer to The Mona Lisa, so it's all good.
Last time I saw City Of Death I thought it would probably make a good play... not so sure now... I must have forgotten about the whole machine timifies things... yeah, that'd be easy to do!
It does have a lot of good dialogue though, and that's what really makes it stand out from the rest of this season. Tom and Lalla are really working well here (and in that school uniform, why wouldn't you click!), and the support cast of baddies are excellent... right down to Neil Barnett as Herman. Although their token scientist does seem to be channelling Manuel from Fawlty Towers. Duggan I'm never quite sure about. There are times when you think that he could make an excellent sidekick... but then there are times when he's just awful. He's certainly purely comic relief, so he's probably best off just being in the one... who the hell was working for when he was looking at the Mona Lisa anyway?! I do love the bit just after they've escaped from the cellar and Tom has explained to us what the machine is, and then says "See what Romana's up to - looks interesting doesn't it"!
Pace and story wise City Of Death all holds up pretty well. The almost meeting with Da Vinci works well - as does Scaroth's interference with Da Vinci to get him to paint 6 more Mona Lisas. I guess while the Jaggeroth are hardly recognised as a classic Who monster (which makes it hard to think how this becomes an instant 10/10 for some), it's the inclusion of the Mona Lisa that gives it it's iconic feel?
The time changing machine thing all works well, and is both a nice plot mover and nice looking sciency thing. The time loops it creates in episode 1 are a much needed bolt to the story, as they come at a time when you're thinking that this is just going to be a postcard.
All up, the story could be a bit far-fetched... have we had the origins of the big bang theory before? Or since? Could be dangerous playing with such a massive thing, so hopefully if it does get used in the future, they know to reference this one! Pity it does look a little like Time Flight in the end, but I guess they'd used all the budget by then and couldn't even afford a quarry!
It will always be an enjoyable one though.