The Doctor and Romana II help an excessively aggressive detective out of his jurisdiction solve an inter-temporal Thomas Crown Affair
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The Fourth Doctor and Romana II rather serendipitously arrive in Paris, where they take in the sights and sounds and both instigate and expend the BBC’s full stock of Parisian B-Roll. When visiting the Louvre, however, they stumble upon an apparent plot to steal the Mona Lisa and are soon embroiled in an inter-temporal forgery scheme.
Count Carlos Scarlioni is in fact Skaroth, the last of the Jagaroth, whose personality was splintered in time, and he has solicited the services of Professor Kerensky to develop time travel tech that will allow him to go back and reassemble himself. That sort of engineering doesn’t come cheap, however, and if you think about it, there’s really only one reasonable way of financing it.
As mentioned in this podcast episode, a cornucopia of Julian Glover TV and Film memorabilia relating to Doctor Who, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Ivanhoe, Harry Potter and more is up for auction. Thanks @cafffreys71 for bringing it to our attention!
Check out the auction at: https://bid.eastbristol.co.uk/auctions/7513/sreas10411
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Holy moly, one of the best serials in the history of Who, hands down. Yes, Skaroth’s mask is a bit stiff and rubbery, but his all white three piece suit more than makes up for it, and everything else in this story sparkles. The dialogue is snappy, the sets are GORGEOUS, the location shooting is excellent, the characters are amazing (who else wants a Duggan spin off?), heck, even the prop work is phenomenal, and to top it all of John Cleese pops in.
This is the jewel in the crown of an excellent season, and it beautifully showcases Douglas Adam’s ability to write truly excellent science fiction. Though the credits were split with two other writers, according to Mr. Adams, he was basically marinated in whiskey and black coffee and forced to write this entire story over the course of a weekend. Absolutely one of the stories to use when introducing someone to Doctor Who. Five point zero.
In How I Met Your Mother, it is presented that Star Wars is almost a comfort blanket that one of the titular characters watches in sickness and in health. In my case, this applies to Doctor Who and a handful of stories that I will watch when I feel at my lowest. Last year, when my grandfather died, one of the first things I did when I got home from work was put on City of Death.
This is the perfect combination of Adams’ humour and Baker’s eccentric Doctor and is, in my opinion at least, the high point of the late Tom Baker era of the show. I am obviously viewing this through rose-tinted spectacles but I honestly cannot pick a flaw with this. Julian Glover is probably one of the best one off villains the show has ever had.
God I hope you liked this one.
Ooops, forgot my rating: 5 violent butlers out of 5!
The Doctor headbutting Duggan’s gun in the gallery. The close up of the detailed eye of the Jaggaroth mask at the end of episode one. The saxophone music that plays when the Countess appears. The centuries that divide me shall be undone. The pan across prehistoric Earth in the opening seconds. The effect of the chicken and the egg and the Doctor asking the obvious question. The Doctor’s reaction to the cold of the guard’s hands. Duggan’s method of opening a bottle of wine. The telephone book. The most important punch in history. Too much joy, too little time I guess the only bad thing you could say about City of Death is that it touches upon genius to such an extent that it leaves the majority of this season, of the era it takes part in and I hope you don’t think it crass of me to say but the remainder the of the classic series a little embarrassed to exist beside it. Ambitious, camp, funny, atmospheric, perfectly performed, directed and scored Doctor Who. Little more needs to be said: 5.0
A one-eyed spaghetti headed alien splintered in time, international art thieves and the city of love give us a rip-roaring tale.
Tom Baker and Lalla Ward are at their best as the Doctor and Romana dash around a table wine 1979 Paris in order to find out what is causing time distortions. They are at first tailed and then assisted by Duggan (or Thuggan) the worlds least inconspicuous P.I. a man slow witted but quick fisted whose first instinct is to thump anyone the Doctor happens to speak to.
Thuggan saves the day laying out Spaghetti Head with one punch allowing the life to begin thus saving the whole human race. A similar scene about life on Earth being prevented by time travelling is also seen 15 years later in the Star Trek: TNG finale All Good Things.
This story mostly rewritten by Douglas Adams is dripping with his humour and some of Tom Bakers one-liners are the best in the entire history of Who, his description of the Countess as “a beautiful woman, probably” is one of the many to cherish. Romana gets her share of one-liners too and it’s clear that both Lalla and Tom were having lots of fun making this story. While we’re talking about Romana, her costume must be one of the most memorable and popular – especially with dads apparently – which is more than can be said in her next story!
With a superb supporting cast includes Julian Glover (General Maximillian in The Empire Strikes Back, Bond Villain in For Your Eyes Only and a psycho surgeon in Blakes 7) making a brilliant villain, and Catherine Schell ( Maya in Space: 1999, Bond Girl and also in one of Pink Panther films) is great as the Countess. And of course, there’s the epic cameo by John Cleese and Eleanor Bron.
There are some beefs though:
Despite these beefs this is probably my favourite episode of Doctor Who. Douglas Adams and the cast are on top form and I award it 5 Jagaroths out of 5!
Keep up the good work and Toodle Pip!
Hi WBW people
I’ve slacked off on reviews during lockdown, apologies. Well done on keeping the pod cast going,
But I can give a review of this one.
A it is the first doctor who serial I ever watched, as a kid, way back when in the 1890s.
B if some random dude was to walk down the street / up the street (depends on the gradient) and ask me my favourite classic serial, I would answer that this one is, approx 37.657454745 times.(out of a hundred). I think Douglas Adams had a hand in it. And that definitely helps. Doc and Romana are great, literally at their best. The man villain is in The Last Crusade and again, is brilliant. The story is brilliant. The random Parisian montages are brilliant. And…….DUGGAN!!!!!!!!!
I’ve been binging on your podcast and have nearly caught up!
City of Death is an instant classic. Time travel, Mona Lisas, a green rubber-faced alien and John Cleese. I loved it as a kid and still enjoy it now, although when I realised that Romana and the Doctor were probably ACTUALLY having sex by this time in their relationship it did take the sheen off a bit. What were they thinking – dressing Romana as an school girl!? Shocking!
It was lovely to see actual Paris, and Julian Glover’s villain was delicious. I can’t wait for this story to get the Blu-ray treatment.
Guys – I forgot my rating, which is 4.8. .2 points are removed for having been visualising the Doctor and Romana in all sorts of 70s style Joy Of Sex poses.
City of Death is one of my favourite Classic Who stories which doesn’t feature a recurring monster such as the Daleks or Cybermen. Not only are the two regulars on form (K9 doesn’t get to trundle around Paris for budgetary reasons), but the guest cast is also on a par with Genesis of the Daleks. Julian Glover excels as the Count, with some of the best lines in the story, and despite being an incredibly famous actor, he’s still happy to talk about the story for the DVD extras.
I love the character of Duggan and the way he solves every problem by hitting it – the fact that he ends up saving the human race this way is a nice touch. Even Hermann gets some decent dialogue and screentime, unusual for a henchman where that role usually involves a stuntman with no lines. I like how the Doctor writers “this is a fake” on the back of the Mona Lisa, which may be a nod to Tom Keating, a forger who left clues including writing the same thing behind his paintings.
One very minor thing: Star Wars has been mentioned on the podcast a few times and I did wonder if the line “Help us Scaroth, you are our only hope” was a nod to Episode IV or just a coincidence.
Overall, this is a great story with no major flaws. 4.5/5
Me: Our marriage has strained to breaking point under lockdown so we’re watching this together. It’s the crème de la crème of Classic ‘Who.
My Wife: It had better be. We’re going to miss National Theatre Live.
Me: City of Death is way better than National Theatre Live!
My Wife: Why is she dressed as a schoolgirl? That’s a bit weird.
Me: It’s a French fashion thing! Isn’t it great how they are just running round Paris.
My Wife: There appears to be a lot of that. Confused Parisians are staring at the camera. Is this really the best of old ‘Who?
Me: Classic ‘Who. And yes, it’s in the top twenty (after all fourteen Seventh Doctor stories of course, including the TV Movie and the Doctor Who-Eastenders crossover).
My Wife: The what?
Me: Look, it’s Julian Glover!
My Wife: Who?
Me: JULIAN GLOVER!
My Wife: You promised me John Cleese was in it.
Me: That’s episodes away!
My Wife: Oh. There’s more than one episode?
My Wife: I can’t tell whether this is supposed to be serious or funny.
Me: It’s Douglas Adams! Wait until the next episodes: sharp, witty dialogue and a timely whimy plot that actually works – complete with fake Mona Lisas’ and a time paradox that births humanity!
My Wife: I like the plinky plonky music.
Me: I agree. It was the best of the scores by the late great Dudley Simpson.
My Wife: Erm, quite. Well it’s a lot better than the rubbish episode with the Kandyman you forced me to watch last year.
Me: GET OUT!
Summary: The sacred experience of Episodes 2-4 enjoyed in splendid isolation.
Rating: 4.9/5 servings of the finest caviar that Classic ‘Who has to offer (if somewhat unappreciated by killjoys).
Omg I was about to yell at you for missing my review that I sent I. Weeks ago o. This classic story.
Turns out i checked my sent mail and i never sent it.
So my apologies for accusing you of that thing that never happened. Anyway I’ll post it here when I get home.
Great as always guys
Peter! We’ve missed you!
Every time I watch this thing I can’t help but contemplate how utterly overrated it is. Honestly, what is it that makes this such a well-liked series? Can people honestly think that watching the Doctor and Romana walking the streets in a different country really makes for one of the best stories ever?
Yes, of course it does, I’m totally lying. Swords to thumbscrews how I love this story. The dialog is level 15. The acting is lovely to behold, and the characters….OHHHHH the characters. What’s better, the characters or the dialog? Or the truly wonky storyline? It doesn’t matter because it’s all just marvelous.
Even the padding is great. How do you make crossing the street interesting? Why make it a Paris street of course. I need that timelady sketch on my wall.
(FYI, this was sitting in “Drafts” I think I hit “close” instead of “send”)
Subtle references: Anyone notice the sound of Wotan’s war machines in Scarlioni’s basement? What about the band of the teleport bracelet from Blake’s 7? Notice the goofy FOOT-shaped landing gear on the spaceship? John Cleese himself is here totally delivering the best punchline ever by not even delivering the punchline.
What should I retro-rewrite? Nothing! I wouldn’t dare to presume that I could alter such a work of art. Well… there is a little too much walking around, but there’s also great music. All of me agree, this story rocks, and if I could go back and change it all, I’d punch me and make sure it happens exactly the same way all over again. 4.999999