The Pirate Planet
The City of Death

Episodes 4 Baker and Ward pose with a semi-famous landmark.
Story No# 105
Production Code 5H
Season 17
Dates Sept. 29, 1979 -
Oct. 20, 1979

With Tom Baker, Lalla Ward.
Written by David Agnew
(Douglas Adams and Graham Williams,
based on a story by David Fisher).
Script-edited by Douglas Adams. Directed by Michael Hayes.
Produced by Graham Williams.

Synopsis: The last member of a dead race fights to prevent his own catastrophe with the help of a Parisian art collector who plans to steal the Mona Lisa. The Doctor and Romana discover the collector's plans when dangerous shifts in time lead them to a remarkable discovery....

Reviews 1-20

A Shade Off of Perfect by Carl Malmstrom 26/4/97

I recently watched City of Death again and I was impressed. I had always remembered it being one of my favorite stories, but it was better than I had remembered. The plot was well thought out, the actors were great, the humor was wonderful, the chemistry between the Doctor and Romana was superb, and the special effects were...well, you can't have everything.

Doulgas Adams almost always did a good job with Doctor Who. City of Death and Shada are two of my favorite stories and The Pirate Planet was...well, this isn't about The Pirate Planet. City of Death works well because, among other reasons, Douglas Adams comes at a story from a slightly different angle than we are expecting. He also has the interaction between Romana and the Doctor down to a science. It's hard to explain, and if you haven't seen it then I can't explain it. Just watch City of Death and you'll see what I mean. To boot, Julian Glover is outstanding as Scaroth and the cameo by John Cleese is a nice touch. Even the location shooting in Paris is great.

Paris, however, brings to mind a couple of minor points. One: the continual running through the streets of Paris grew old about Episode Three. Two: Did these folks who made Who ever think of hiring a scientific advisor (no pun intended)??? Four hundred million years ago there was abundant life on Earth. Hopefully any high schooler and certainly college student knows that. Why didn't Douglas Adams? Ditto for the "Intense-Radiation-Brings-About-Life-On-Earth" bit. Three: The special effects were adequate, but I would've expected better for a story of this caliber. Primeval Earth was painfully obviously a sound stage.

However, beyond that it was a triumph, certainly only surpassed in the Tom Baker era by The Talons of Weng-Chiang. If you haven't seen City of Death, you haven't really seen Doctor Who.

A Classic? by Michael Hickerson 17/3/98

A prominent science-fiction magazine recently picked City of Death as the one story that most exemplifies what makes Doctor Who great. And while it was nice for the series to be prasied alongside such mainstream hits as Star Trek and The X-Files, it's a shame they picked City of Death as the story that really sums up what Doctor Who is all about.

To be quite honest, the honor should have gone to such classics as The Curse of Fenric, Genesis of the Daleks, Pyramids of Mars, Caves of Androzani, or Tomb of the Cybermen. City of Death doesn't even hold a candle to these stories.

So, why then, do fans go ga-ga over the story?

Well, it could be the one-liners. Let's face it, the story has it's share of memorable lines and the cast delivers them with great penache. And while they are funny the first fifty or so times you see the story, they wear thin and soon fail to cover the glaring problems with the story. (I'll get to those in a minute!)

Another factor could be the excellent use of location filming. Unlike other location heavy stories such as Arc of Infinity or The Two Doctors, the Parisian setting actualy adds an interesting depth to the story.

But these strengths don't draw attention away from the overall weaknesses of the story that make it fall far short of classic status. The whole plot is simply ludicrous and strains credibility beyond measure. I understand that watching the show I must be willing to suspend disbelief at times, but the leaps Adams asks us to make are too great. Also, the whole premise of aliens interferring with human development really isn't that exciting nor interesting. In fact, there are such gaping plot holes in Adams' logic that it makes the whole plotline that much more frustrating.

I think the real reason that the fandom loves this story and why it seems to stand out is the competition around it. Let's face it, season seventeen is not the best season Doctor Who has ever produced. And I will give you that City of Death is head and shoulders above most of the stories in that season. I think if you take City of Death and plunk it down in the middle of season 18, 13, or 14 and you'd see a different reaction. It'd be seen as the weakest story of an otherwise strong season.

So, while others may consider City of Death a classic and one of the ten greatest, I beg to differ. It's good, I'll give it that. It's just not great and certainly not worthy of the multitude of praise that has been heaped on it.

Julian Glover's Dimensionally-Transcendental Head by Guy Thompson 14/12/98

Taken from the patchy season seventeen, City of Death is perhaps the only really good story from the Graham Williams era of Doctor Who, which was mostly mediocre. The humour as a result of Douglas Adams's contribution to the script sits comfortably alongside an excellent plot involving time travel, the theft of the Mona Lisa and the last of the Jaggaroth.

The scenes set on primordial Earth are well done, with the set not looking too much like a set, and the Jaggaroth spaceship being very well designed (if a little shaky on take-off). The only fault in terms of production is that the crew perhaps went overboard on the scenes in the streets of Paris (I suppose they were on holiday, really) and none of the studio shots give very much feeling of being in France, despite a few dodgy French accents and the odd extra wearing a beret.

The best part of City of Death are the performers themselves. Tom Baker is especially good, still as eccentric as in all his Williams-produced stories, but still in control and able to take things seriously when important enough. Lalla Ward is also good (and sexy in that school uniform) as the 125-year old Time Lady, while Julian Glover is simply superb in his multiple guises as Count Scarlioni, Captain Tancrierdi and Scaroth: Last of the Jaggaroth. His interplay with all the other characters is excellent, and he suffers only from that infamous Who problem of having a larger head when he removes his mask. Never mind.

The music's not bad here either, Dudley Simpson taking a rare trip into diversity having been stuck in a musical rut since about 1975. In fact, there's so little to fault about this story, it should really be Top 10 stuff. And it's got John Cleese too, albeit in a wholly unnecessary cameo. Great stuff.

A Review by Joseph Nunweek 18/12/98

City of Death seemed fantastic upon first viewing. The prologue on primeval Earth looked good (except for the piece of broccoli in tin foil with an eye which is meant to be an alien) , there was a constant stream of excellent humor and mystery throughout episode one which stayed throughout most of ths story, with a bit of padding.

And this where we come to the story's main dilemma -- obvious padding. I have become convinced that the story gets ten minutes more padding each time I view it. I love all the location filming of Paris, and I know that the producers would be eager to get as much out of the show's first overseas filming as possible, but when the Doctor and Romana have spend five minutes walking through beautiful location shots each time thay want to go from one place to another, you've forgotten why they were going where they did in the first place.

That said, the one thing that does not get worse with time is the characters and acting. This, combined with an interesting though padding-affected plot, makes the story of highest Who caliber. Tom Baker and Lalla Ward have excellent chemistry in what is only their second story together, and the guest stars, especially Julian Glover's Scaroth/Scarlioni, who steals the entire show. Lady Scarlioni and the hapless Professor Kosinski also perform ably.

And finally, the whole story had me ROTFL. This is probably because of Douglas Adams's script (his novels have the same effect on me) but it also shows how versatile a show Doctor Who was, trancending from science-fiction to drama to horror to comedy.

All this and an appearance from John Cleese. 8/10

"Let's not be ostentatious" by Ken Wrable 8/2/00

Oh, this just magnificent. Graham Williams didn't have an easy ride as producer of Doctor Who and was certainly responsible for letting some fairly cheap and shoddy episodes through, but this is an unalloyed classic. It's the best Who story ever made that Robert Holmes had no hand in and it's better than all but one or two that he did contribute to. I wouldn't want to spoil anything for those of you out there who haven't had the pleasure of viewing this gem yet so I'm not going to reveal too much about the plot (which is a real cracker, with hardly any holes). Instead, here are some of the things that elevate City of Death high above your average ninety minutes of Who:

  1. The script is just fabulous, brimming with wit and sharp exchanges. Most of Douglas Adams' other contributions to the show seem slightly forced and awkward, as though he found it hard to work within Doctor Who's parameters, but here he and Graham Williams make it seem completely effortless. Some of the situations, pay-offs and one-liners here are worthy of Fawlty Towers.
  2. Tom Baker. He was capable of making even the most pedestrian episodes of Who watchable at least (see The Armageddon Factor) but here he reaches another plane entirely. Favourite moments: "What a wonderful butler, he's so violent" and "You're a very beautiful woman, probably".
  3. Lalla Ward. Calm, assured, totally on top of the situation. The absolute antithesis of the traditional helpless, screaming Who assistant. And her scenes with Tom Baker are a delight to behold.
  4. Julian Glover and Tom Chadbon. All the supporting cast in this one are good, but these two could carry this story even if The Doctor and Romana weren't in it at all. Julian Glover wisely plays Scaroth as an urbane sophisticat (have you noticed that all the best Who villains never have to raise their voices and get all unnecessarily shouty), while Tom Chadbon plays Duggan perfectly as the self-important buffoon who is tacitly recognised by everybody else in the story as pure comic relief.
  5. The cameos. John Cleese's entire contribution to the twenty-six year run of Doctor Who is about thirty seconds. But what a contribution! And how appropriate that it comes in this story, as opposed to some sorry piece of eighties lameness like, oh I don't know, Time and the Rani.
  6. The location shooting. OK, maybe there are a few too many gratuitous shots of the Doctor and Romana running around Paris but this story has an atmosphere and a sense of place that few other stories can match.
  7. The score. Dudley Simpson's best, I reckon.

Well, I could go on. Look, it's easy: If you're only going to watch one Doctor Who story in your life it had probably better be something like Genesis of the Daleks or Pyramids of Mars. But if you've got the time to watch two, don't miss out on this one.

"I used to do divorce investigations- it was never like this!" by Jonathan Martin 4/4/01

When you watch City of Death (the title of which is incidentally the worst part of this story - trying to put even more emphasis on the fact that it's Paris)," you should watch it simply for the interaction between the characters:

-The Doctor and Romana (of course)
-" " " and Kerensky
-" " " and Duggan
-The Count and the Countess
-" " " and Kerensky

And I haven't even scratched the surface! Who cares about the plot when the dialogue's like this!?

The acting is all perfect, and Tom Baker and Julian Glover would have to be the best hero-and-villian combination since Pat Troughton and Kevin Stoney. I mean, compare the lines Julian is given here compared to when he plays the bad guy in "For Your Eyes Only" (he was also in "The Last Crusade," and "The Empire Strikes Back")!" The whole thing is an absolute pisser, and it gets funnier every time you see it.

A Review by Alan Thomas 8/6/01

In a tribute to the late Douglas Adams, I have decided to review the great classic of his stories: City Of Death. The greatest thing about City Of Death is its humour. Unlike the other less-than-adequate stories of this season, City Of Death manages to present an excellent use of humour. Tom Baker and Lalla Ward shine and get the best lines. The cameos by John Cleese and Eleanor Bron are excellent and brilliantly funny. Julian Glover is, as in all his roles, excellent as the Count.

Adams' writing and obvious quirky approach is well-used here. He doesn't make the viewer gasp in awe like in The Pirate Planet. He gives us a very original plot and great execution. Likewise, the direction is very different from a DW story of this time. It's a bit more fun, with different camera angles helping enjoyment. I can't finish this review without mentioning the incidental music. It's excellent. The music is so strident and blends beautifully with the story.

I think many would agree when I say that City Of Death is the best story of the season. It is Douglas Adams' greatest legacy to Doctor Who and a perfect story to remember him by.

A Review by Terrence Keenan 17/10/01

Here's a story idea to ponder:

An eccentric British couple arrive in Paris in 1979 for a holiday but instead get involved with a plot to steal the Mona Lisa in order to finance a dangerous experiment in time travel.

Doesn't sound like much does it?

There is much more than meets the eye.

City of Death, from season 17 is a very special slice of DW. Not in the way of making a great offering to the Continuity God, nor in showing the return of a famous foe.

It's a very special slice of DW because it focuses on the two things that make DW great: Character and Plot. The guest characters all are well-rounded and are far more than cliches. Duggan is a man who is far out of his depth, but shows a stubborn reliance on what he does best -- thumping. Kerensky is a typical genius scientist who only wants to get some sleep and get on with his work for the best intentions, not realizing that his work is really leading to a dream of a lifetime discovery for all the worst reasons. The Countess is in love with an idea of what she believes the Count to be, but not what he truly is. The Count is using the romance of the criminal life for a very pragmatic and important mission to him. Definitely not your typical Nazis in green rubber suits. The plot is tight and inventive, dealing rather intelligently with aspects of time travel -- alternate time lines running concurrently, the practical costs of funding such experiments, reasons for experimenting with time -- as well as the theft of a priceless work of art. The twists come at the right beats, and even one of the running punch-lines becomes important in the end.

Now we get to the humor, which is what City of Death is known for. This episode will have you laughing out loud, full stop. The dialogue sparkles with wit. And everybody gets a zinger or two in, not just the regulars.

And is there a better acted episode of DW around? I doubt it. Everyone in City gives it their best, helped along by solid characterization. For the guests, Julian Glover as Scarlioni and Tom Chadbourne as Duggan shine brightest, as they have the most time, but Catherine Schell, David Graham and Kevin Flood are no slouches.

Wither Tom and Lalla? Perfection. We see how well these two play off each other, from the "Let's not be ostentatious," scene at the beginning, to the debate on painting/art, to the wonderful closing moments with Duggan back at the Eiffel Tower, Tom and Lalla are brilliant.

Niggles? Life at 400 million years ago isn't the first blunder that DW has made in a show, and the exterior shots in Paris might be padding, but the show had to prove that they were working in Paris...... it doesn¹t detract form the story in any discernible way.

I would also like to say that this was my first full Doctor Who story -- I had seen a few minutes of The Sontaran Experiment and The Armageddon Factor. This is the story that made me an Card Carrying, fees paid in full Anorak. I was intrigued by the Doctor, his attitudes and beliefs and by the gorgeous woman at his side, his partner in adventure. I loved the challenging Villain who was more shade of gray than Fascist Black. And a plot that dealt with time travel and changing history in a show about time travelers made perfect sense to me.

So, where does City of Death stand in the canon of televised DW?

This is the best ever. The quote from the Discontinuity Guide "It's a pity that the rest of Doctor Who continuity exists to make this story part of a bigger continuity, because it deserves to stand alone" sums this up better than anything else I've read about City of Death. When I'm down, or sad, or just in the mood for DW, I pop in this story more than any other.

On a scale of 1 to 10, "This goes to Eleven," to quote Nigel Tufnel.

Mundane by Andrew Wixon 27/3/02

All right, stop frothing - when I call City of Death mundane it's in the nicest possible way. Because, no matter how much you'd like to, you can't deny that this is one of the great stories. For all the broadness of some of the supporting performances, the interminable Paris travelogues, and some slightly corny jokes, it still scores big-time - Tom at the height of his powers, a fabulous music score, the orrery-intricate plot, great guest turns by Julian Glover and Catherine Schell, and some very witty lines.

By mundane I mean the story has an atmosphere and emphasis distinctly different to almost any other. The villain's plan revolves around stealing a famous, real-world painting in order to raise money. This is not your typical DW-villain's modus operandi, indeed, it's virtually unheard of for anyone in DW (outside a Robert Holmes script) to have any kind of financial concerns at all. It feels - odd. The 'real worldliness' of CoD is added to by a lot of those Paris travelogue sequences - it's so unusual, at this point in the series' history, to see the Doctor walking down a city street or using public transport.

The sense that CoD isn't playing by the usual rules is added to by the very wittiness and emphasis of the script. This is DW not exactly being played for laughs, but still taking the inherent absurdity of the series' concept and energetically running with it. CoD isn't quite an out-and-out comedy - but it's impossible to take seriously as drama, either. Once again, it's unique - enough to guarantee it a place in the hall of fame but still deny it the 'best ever' crown it's so often accorded. A remarkable achievement - Doctor Who being made in new territory in more ways than one.

The obvious title is too rude by Tim Roll-Pickering 23/10/02

City of Death is by far the most overrated story in the entire series. The story sees the series descend ever more into a farce, sending itself up and never taking itself seriously. The story also features the series' first ever overseas location filming, which has been gratuitously added into the story to try to boost it even though there is no essential reason for the story to be set in Paris.

The story's inability to take itself seriously is pervasive throughout and the result is a continual stream of lines that are more at home in a comedy than here, scenes such as the one with John Cleese and Eleanor Bron in the art gallery that may look nice but add nothing whatsoever to the story, characters such as Duggan who is so buffoonish that it is impossible to take him seriously at all, an all too coy ending in which the human race is literally saved by a single punch and above all a performance by Tom Baker that is played almost completely for laughs and thus makes it much harder to take the Doctor seriously. Equally the plot of City of Death is weak and contains many illogical elements such as Scaroth's ability to disguise himself from the Countess (and presumably other partners in his other incarnations) for many years or the extremely dodgy science surrounding Kerensky's time experiments.

The script is a second contribution from 'David Agnew' and like The Invasion of Time it contains much humour but lacks the drive and seriousness underlying that story. Instead we are treated to a parade of memorable images and scenes, including the Doctor and Romana holidaying in Paris, but there's very little for the viewer to sink their teeth into. Midway through the story it seems as though we are going to meet Leonardo da Vinci himself, but instead all we get is the Doctor and Tancredi talking about him. The use of the Mona Lisa in this story is gratuitous and the story advocates the notion that appearances are all important rather than what's inside. Many scenes take liberties that would never have occurred in any other season of the series, such as the scene at the end where the Doctor and Romana make it down from the top of Eiffel Tower so quickly that they can only have flown, and the result is a tale of excesses. Its attempts to send up the spy detective genre are laudable but completely out of place in a series such as Doctor Who.

The cast can be divided between those such as Tom Chadborn (Duggan) and Catherine Schell (the Countess) who struggle strongly with their poorly written parts and those such as Kevin Flood (Hermann) and David Graham (Kerensky) who instead give lacklustre performances that only further reduce their characters. Both Tom Baker and Lalla Ward give overindulgent performances that are far less effective than earlier more subdued performance. Of all the cast only Julian Glover succeeds in pulling up his character and delivers a strong and distinguished performance as both Count Scarlioni and Captain Tancredi, though in the mercifully few scenes where Scaroth is shown without his disguise the character is less effective.

Productionwise there's not much that can be said for the story. The Paris location filming may look nice but contains few scenes of any substance and the series could so easily have spent the money in better places. The studio sets are done reasonably well, but in a contemporary story such as this few challenges arise. However the model work is good and the Jaggoroth spaceship makes a change from the stereotypical designs that have often appeared in the series. However these few points are not enough to redeem this story which in my humble opinion is perhaps the worst in the entire series. 1/10

A Review by Rob Matthews 24/10/02

I saw City of Death for the first time only about a year ago, give or take, and - given its good reputation with fans - with high expectations.Though I did enjoy the story, I was mildly disappointed with it on first viewing. I expected a comic masterpiece of some sort, instead I got a watchable bit of unusually frivolous Who.

I watched it again recently without the burden of hype and this time I really enjoyed it. It's candyfloss in spirit certainly, and yet intriguingly and audaciously plotted candyfloss. The Scaroth plot could have easily been done 'straight' (something you can't claim for, say, the plot of Mad Dogs & Englishmen), but it's a refreshing change to see Big ideas dealt with so blithely and playfully - the story attributing both the genesis of life on Earth and all mankind's millennia of development to a big green-faced spaghetti monster. There's a cheeky irreverence to that which I just love. There's a lovely sense of assurance to the Tom and Lalla partnership in this serial too. The story comes right after Romana II's introduction in Destiny of the Daleks, but this is where Lalla Ward really establishes herself in the role, with none of that silly crying at Daleks that marred her debut. Right from the off in City of Death, with our delightful duo running gleefully around the most romantic city in the world, there's a sense that the Doctor and Romana are on honeymoon, too full of joy and goodwill to let silly things like time slips and evil aliens spoil their fun.

Yep, fun. No point in me elaborating there as this'll just turn into a list of my favourite funny bits ("You're a beautiful woman, probably", "Garcon, two glasses of water. Make them doubles!", "How very discourteous, when I've gone to all the trouble of fetching the thumbscrew", the bit with the Egyptian scroll ... argh, I can't stop myself).

But for all that it's fun, it's also a great depiction both of the nature of the Doctor's existence and just how much fun it would be to live his life. Often in the show we've heard him refer to his old pal Galileo/Napoleon/the Venerable Bede etc, but this is the first time we've got a sense of just how at home the Doctor is in the timestream - his flopping into DaVinci's study and casually discussing "that dreadful woman with no eyebrows who wouldn't sit still" is delightful, as is the bit where he recognises the handwriting on the Hamlet folio - "You recognise Shakespeare's handwriting?"/"Not Shakespeare's. Mine. He sprained his wrist writing sonnets". And I think its really quite tasteful that we don't see DaVinci in the flesh during the course of the story. I suspect that some actor doing a broad Italian accent wouldn't have been particularly effective. Here Leo retains an aura through his absence.

And I should also point out that the story's humour is anchored by a real sense of threat. The serial might not have worked if the villain himself were a figure of fun, and rather than ham it up like that fella in Nimon Julian Glover pitches his performance just right and makes Scarlioni a genuinely malevolent presence.

Plus the fact that it is so frivolous, and that Baker's having such a good time makes the one moment where the Doctor becomes deadly serious all the more effective; "Because I'm going to stop you" he says to Scaroth, and by gum I believe him (great lighting in that bit too - Baker's pale blue eyes are amazing).

Certain problems remain - the Paris location scenes are a bit touristy - (though it's hardly 'gratuitous' to set a story in Paris; people have made the same complaint about the use of Spain in The Two Doctors and I don't understand that either - the Doctor can travel anywhere, bloody anywhere in the whole of space and time and yet it's gratuitious to materialise outside of Swindon for once?) - and I'd have preferred the whole thing to be filmed on location a la Spearhead from Space/Curse of Fenric, rather than have an obvious contrast between the location shooting and studio scenes. I guess the Beeb only sent three actors and a skeleton camera crew on a day return trip to Paris, but really, adequate locations for the cafe and Scarlioni's chateau - as well as a decent substitute for the Louvre interior - could probably have been found easily enough in London.

Other problems; Duggan's a bit of a one-note character and not really that great. And yes, Scaroth's head is too big to fit in that Scarlioni mask (unless all that spaghetti scrunches up), but that isn't something I can summon up the energy to agonise over.

Oh yeah, Tim Roll-Pickering has criticised the story for suggesting that 'what's on the outside is more important than what's on the inside'. If I thought that was true I'd consider it quite a problem, but I've just watched the story again and I really can't work out what he's referring to. Exactly where's it supposed to do this?

So, a few little flaws - as is par for the course with our lovely show -, but they're vastly outweighed by the virtues. Look, it has a hell of a lot more merits than one might rightfully expect from some tacky kids show from the seventies. I only take Doctor Who stories as seriously as the stories themselves ask me to, and all this one is inviting me to do is flop out and have a laugh. And unlike, say, Delta and the Bannermen, it actually provides those laughs. If you're complaining because the Doctor and Romana descend the Eiffel Tower impossibly quickly at the end, then you're missing the point by the widest possible mark. The Doctor and Romana are impossible, magical wondrous figures and that scene's a playful way of topping off the story. So just for goodness' sake watch it on its own terms, and with a sense of humour. Respectfully, Tim - lighten up!

The Horrible Truth by John Velazquez 8/11/02

You may want to sit down for this one, folks: it may not be pretty. Comfortable? Ready? In the appropriate Zen state to receive newly imparted wisdom, and all that? Righto.

Ladies and gentlemen of all species, presenting, in its first appearance online, the absolute, horrible truth, about that great T. Baker escapade, Doctor Who: City of Death...

City of Death, my friends, is complete and utter crap.

Still paying attention? Awfully decent of you.

According to the commonly held rules of what makes good, traditional Doctor Who, City of Death is absolutely awful. Seriously, just step away from it for a minute, and look at the thing. There is a plot (bwahaha!), but, besides being daft to begin with (aliens trying to steal the Mona Lisa? they can have it!), it features in... maybe an eighth of the whole story. Sorry, make that the first ten minutes of episode three, and the last ten minutes of episode four, in which the Doctor suddenly realises what Scarlioni is up to (“Yes, I know, and I’m going to stop you...” or words to that effect) without any prior warning, and Romana suddenly conveniently reveals that she rigged her device to bring Scarlioni back early from his jaunt in the past for no particular reason so that Duggan’s last great punch actually counts for something (gasp)... Did she read the script in advance? Maybe – she is a Time Lord, after all, perhaps they can do that sort of thing...

Anyway, the said script also requires Scarlioni to jerk back and forth between suave gentleman and hammy megalomaniac without any good reason (and I’m not talking Delgado shifts here – we’re talking crude of the lowest order). Kerensky is cornier than all the Zaroffs in the universe put together, the Countess is underwritten way beyond the call of laziness, and Duggan makes the Vogans look bright.

The story’s much praised wit is not witty at all – wit is character based, and there are no real characters here to base it on. What we get instead are wisecracks that are... oh, all right, I they’re funny. But then, I laugh at The Invisible Enemy. Bloody hell, I laugh at The Power of Kroll and Underworld (if, perhaps, not for the reasons intended), but never crack a smile during Nightmare of Eden. So don’t take my word for it.

Still there? You’re too kind.

Meanwhile, the rest of the story (i.e. most of it) is taken up by shots of people walking through Paris. And shots of people running through Paris. And shots of people running back the way they came through Paris. And shots of people standing still in Paris. And shots of Paris standing still around people (okay, I made that one up, but I had to end this somehow)... Ah, got it: “And shots of the Doctor and Romana taking the Paris metro.” 1979’s a table wine? Hah! More like cheap beer. And no one in Paris speaks French. In fact, hardly anyone speaks at all! Local colour? Where?

And the final horrible truth of the day: the Cleese/Bron cameo wasn’t funny the first time.

So, all you poor fools who have placed this story on your top ten lists, do I hear you gathering up the stones? Don’t bother – because City of Death is on my top ten list too. Make that my top five. It’s my favourite Tom Baker story, and no one will convince me otherwise. So there.

Why? For all the reasons listed above. And, if that’s not enough to wet your appetite, here are a few more:

a) Tom Baker
Not my favourite Doctor (no one, say no one, beats Pat Troughton), but clearly loving every minute of this. And, dash it all, I love him in every minute of it too.

b) Lalla Ward
Remember how Mary Tamm’s Romana was touted as the first companion to be the Doctor’s equal, rather than just another fawning ninny? Remember how disappointed we all were when she left the end of her first episode screaming? Someone, somewhere, deserves credit for realising that a companion who can truly stand up to the Doctor can have the intellect of a super-computer on smart drugs, but will still be left in the background if she cannot match his confidence, and his ability to look evil in the face and still churn out the wisecracks. Lalla Ward’s Romana is such a character – in fact, she may be the only true companion (as opposed to assistant) that the Doctor ever had.

c) Tom Baker AND Lalla Ward
They really are in love! Their chemistry is amazing! They're saving the human race, and never let it get them down (except in the twenty minutes or so just described, but hey, the plot has to show up some time, I guess). They’re on holiday in Paris, seeing the sights, meeting the locals (who don’t speak French, remember – but who cares?), getting drawn by artists, schmoozing with low-rent Philip Marlowe clones, saving the human race... and getting back in time to go drifting off into Paris without a care in the world (the final shot is the most wonderfully free-spirit-celebrating in the show’s history!).

And so, through them, we lucky viewers get treated to a Parisian holiday! That, I think, is the story’s real success. But just in case, that’s still not enough...

d) Tom Chadbon
Duggan’s an idiot, yes, but Chadbon plays him with a grin in the corner of his mouth, as though he knows how ridiculous he is, and does not care an iota. And his chemistry with the leads his also lovely.

e) Julian Glover
Scarlioni is yet another in the long line of hammy megalomaniacs who inhabited the Graham Williams universe, but Glover also plays him with a grin in the corner of his mouth. And considerable charm (in his less hammy moments), as through Scarlioni, too, knows just how ridiculous he is, and he does not care. Yes, many actors playing megalomaniacs (i.e. themselves – sorry, cheap shot) probably feel that way – but how often do their characters seem to be in on the joke as well?

f) Catherine Schell [Shell? Schel?]
Adds pathos to a thankless role, and actually manages a few touching moments. No small accomplishment.

g) Kerensky (sorry, don’t remember the actor’s name)
Ditto. And his scenes with Baker are a riot and then some. “Mona Lisas...”

h) Herman the Butler (Flood was his last name, wasn’t it?)
Gets laughs simply by raising his eyebrow. Or just standing still. To quote Tom, “Well, I’m impressed...”

i) Paris
Every excessive scene of it. And I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it one more time for effect, it really feels like watching a romance in bloom over Paris! If this is cheap beer, bring on the next round!

j)...oh, all right, enough’s enough. You follow. Basically, it’s crap, everyone involved knew it was crap, and they just decided to have a good time. And, unlike certain other stories with such a history behind them (ahem, The Time Monster, ahem), we can, too.

So, to summarise: City of Death is a stinky, awful, Doctor Who story, in the traditional sense. It’s everything that the Graham Williams era did wrong, done stark raving right. And it totally rocks!

(P.S. Sorry, Tim.)

"You're a beautiful woman probably..." by Joe Ford 10/7/03

So many of my favourite scenes appear in City of Death it is stuffed full of magical moments you just want to watch over an again to remind yourself why Doctor Who was the best show ever. My all time favourite bit though is a scene that is never mentioned and yet for me it epitomises everything that is good about the Graeme Williams era, Douglas Adam's writing and Doctor Who in general. It is the scene where Kerensky enters the hidden room in the cellar and looks up at all the copies of the Mona Lisa's and stands there, aghast and says "Mona Lisa's!". It makes me crack up every time I watch it. Only Doctor Who could get away with something this absurd, this ingenious, this perfect. Such a simple line and yet it would seem out of place in almost any other show and every other era of Doctor Who.

This is Doctor Who: The Movie, a story so sumptuous to look at you are disappointed to come back to the drab old world we call reality at the end. People bemoan the scenes of the Doctor and Romana wandering through Paris are padding and just showing off the location... well yeah! Why not! Paris is a gorgeous city, full of wondrous sights and smells, why not put on the screen for everyone to enjoy. And Michael Hayes directs these scenes with a gorgeous romantic edge with some delicious angles and lets the actors' out of work relation spill over on screen. Dudley Simpson provides a score that ties my tummy in knots its so perfect, a shattering contrast to his regular plod-plod-plodding music... it's almost as though they took him along on the shoot with them and he got all wrapped in the stylish atmosphere of it all.

I love it when they are walking towards the Louvre arguing about the Braxiatial Collection, I love it when they run off the subway hand in hand, I love the shot through the postcard rack, I love the high angles as they dodge the traffic, I love it when they sit outside the cafe and chat about time slips. Its all so absurd, two Time Lords deciding to have a nice holiday instead of saving the universe... it's just so wonderful.

The plot is hard as nails perfect too. It encompasses so much and yet still manages to tell a hugely enjoyable adventure story. The Jagorath spaceship exploding caused the birth of the human race and scattered Scaroth throughout time where he pushed the human race forwards to a point where they could help him go back in time and stop it all happening. It's so bogglingly audacious it's flawless. It takes brilliant ideas like the Doctor popping in for a chat with Leo Da Vinci, the man drawing a picture of a Time-Lady with the crack through the face to explain the time slip, seven Mona Lisa's, a ruthlessly inept Detective who punches out everyone the Doctor talks to, a suave and elegant bad guy, the Doctor dodging traffic trying to hail a taxi screaming out "IS NO INTERESTED IN HISTORY!!!?". City of Death is the work of incredibly skilled writers with formidable imagination and a real sense of humour. I could never hope to have a hundredth of the talent of Douglas Adams and Graeme Williams.

Brilliant actors abound. I cannot believe people whinge about Duggan, one of the best characters in Doctor Who ever, a detective who is so utterly useless and yet still hugely lovable. The bloody tone of the story is as absurd as Duggan which why he fits in so perfectly, his chemistry with the Doctor is brilliant, so good you almost wish he could have left with them at the end of the story. The scene where he purposely touches the lazer beams surrounding the Mona Lisa and screams "Hells Bells!" is just brilliant. Tom Chadbon is a sorely underrated actor, he's fab here and he's fab in The Mysterious Planet, he always finds the right note for the story and plays it to the hilt. Dontcha just love "Bye Bye Duggan!"

Then there's Julian Glover, appearing in his second classic. His controlled performance is crucial to the story's success because if he had chosen to play it up the story would have descended into a horrible farce but as it is I totally believed Scaroth's menace. He has the perfect face for the role, icily evil and with a real sneer. And yet he is so charming and suave he is possibly the 'coolest' Doctor Who bad guy ever. His "concise answers" scene in the cellar where he holds the Doctor and co at gunpoint in a silk dressing gown is pure genius!

Kerensky is played by the irreplaceable David Graham who provides the story with laugh a minute hilarity. Everytime he opens his mouth and that terrible accent emerges I am laughing my head off. The script itself gives him some of the best moments ("It's the Jagroth who want all the chickens?" and the aforementioned "Mona Lisa's!").

Tom Baker spends the whole stories walking the fine line between genius and lunacy and gets every second of his screen time sparkling. He's stopped giving a shit what directors think and is playing the script for every single chuckle he can. He succeeds admirably because I sat and watched this with my boyfriend and on this one story alone Simon decided Tom Baker was his favourite Doctor. "Which came first the chicken or the egg?", "Duggan what are you doing... that's a Louis Kearns!", "1979, more of a table wine", "I've been threatened, thumped and abducted, I've discovered alien technology and been through two time slips..." Simon laughed his head off throughout. He loves the camper Williams stories but he really loved this especially Baker's inexplicable ability to spit out unbelievable dialogue so naturally and get a laugh out of something so simple as just grinning. I love watching Doctor Who anyway but when I can share it with the person I love it becomes enjoyable on a whole new level.

And let's never forget the sexy as hell Lalla Ward who charges through the story with matching wit and charm. Her costume is every guy's wet dream (come on... a schoolgirl outfit???) and for a relative newcomer her performance is extremely assured. A love story has begun and we get to see the first faltering steps in this story. Romana treats are plentiful, her opening of the puzzle box, her quiet insistence he says "world" and not "universe", the charming "bouquet" scene, any scene where she's patronising Duggan (oh that's every single one then!), the way she bobs the torch as they run away from the Louvre in episode two...

Even John Cleese and Elenor Bron appear! Can this story get any more perfect! Oh yes because the D Simpson score just gets better and better and touches on a number of genres... the cool saxophone theme when it comes to the gangster scenes, the bumbling detective piano score as Duggan pursues the Doc and Romana through the streets of Paris in a piss take of all those Pink Panther films, the stirring music as they explore the streets together. And of course the final charming sting as the Doctor and Romana run away from the Eiffel Tower together. This is the best musical score for a Doctor Who story ever that isn't by Mark Ayres.

Too much joy, too little time I guess the only bad thing you could say about City of Death is that while it is toe-sucklingly perfect (erm, what?) it exposes the rest of Doctor Who for all the standard, traditional fare that it is.

Brave, funny, atmospheric, perfectly performed and scored Doctor Who.

A Review by Keith Bennett 11/12/03

Wow. It seems this Doctor Who story is seen in so many ways by viewers, that it can be called the greatest story of all time and the worst story of all time!

How anyone can call it the worst is beyond me. To my eyes, the story is very clever, the dialogue is often terrific, and the characters, and performances, are wonderful.

Nearly everyone seems to agree that Julian Glover is outstanding, but I also have a liking for the character of Duggan. Is he just a moron? No, I don't think so. What he struggles most with is his growing realization of time travel and million-years old aliens. Some humans would find this easier accept than others, but surely it is quite acceptable for this detective to become more and more bewildered by it. He's a straight up and down, black and white person, who looks for instance answers and solutions, hence is habit for punching people.

The music is absolutely lovely, and I don't even mind all the shots of Paris. Why not do a bit of special location footage, just to show that the Doctor goes to more places than just London and disused quarries?

But also, the sight of the Doctor and Romana travelling around the city is quite charming; they obviously enjoy each other's company immensely.

It is true that there might be too much humour at times; one wishes the Doctor could occasionally sit down and actually talk sense with Scarlioni, rather than babble nonsense, admittedly witty nonsence, nearly all the time.

The title is a bit ordinary too. Surely something like "The Last Of The Jagaroth" would have been a much more fitting title. I also am a bit bewildered how, in the first episode, men keeping coming into a cafe with guns, and no-one else there seems to care!

The mind also boggles at the thought of the Countess' "years" of living with an alien. Have they ever had rumpy pumpy???

I would not call this the greatest story of all, but it's certainly one of the best. The postitives definitely outweigh the negatives.

Just Joking? by Mike Morris 19/12/03

Extensive Preamble:

I've found a curious thing happening to me in the last few months. The Williams era and I are beginning to look at each other quizzically. I'm starting to look at these stories, and well... erm...

No, that's really not true. I love it. I love Williams era Who. Anyone who doubts this should read a top ten list I made about the thing a few, wow, years ago (time passes, and all that). It's more that I'm starting to feel like a stuffed shirt lately. There are some Graham Williams stories I just can't bring myself to like, even while they appear to be undergoing "re-evaluation".

People are starting to excuse The Creature From The Pit, and I don't understand. I seem to be the only sentient lifeform who abhors The Sun Makers. I find the second half of The Stones of Blood increasingly unwatchable, and I read what I wrote about The Power of Kroll (even more) years ago and I cringe. I can't believe that I espoused the "It's So Bad It's Good" theory, even though I do still like The Power of Kroll. I'm hugely confused, Ted.

And the reason for the swelling tide of affection for these stories is one I just can't tap into - that, hey, they're a bit of a laugh.

I don't understand this. Just as I don't understand why people find Graham Norton funny, or why Graham Norton finds Big Brother funny, or the whole notion that I'm overcritical and overanalytical and I need to relax and just enjoy stuff. But dammit, I don't enjoy crap. I think The Creature From The Pit is stereotypical, silly, cheap garbage. It is that bad.

Okay, okay, enough with my Tory Boy chat, I'll be talking about why the Empire fell next. Trust me, this is connected with my absolute love of City of Death and all will become clear. Just bear with me a moment, because I want to dwell on "it's a bit of a laugh" a little longer. The stories above have all had reviews on the sites that have said this. Matthew Harris, bless him, said of The Sun Makers that you aren't supposed to take the fact that you aren't supposed to take it seriously seriously, or something, but I know what he meant. Rob Matthews has referred to the sense of fun and enjoyment in The Stones of Blood - to be fair, something that I've referred to myself connected with other stories - and the positive reviews of Creature from the Pit seem to centre around the fact that it's, hey, just a bit of fun.

What unsettles me about this viewpoint is that it devalues an era I adore (my recent slating of Season Fifteen notwithstanding). It makes me wonder if people look upon City of Death in the same way... and here's the thing, I just can't see it as belonging to the same universe. City of Death is close to perfection, a wonderful wonderful story that reaches giddying heights and leaves me with a magalore glow.

It is, of course, hilarious. It is no more or less than witty escapism, and because of that it is so much more. It's silliness in the right way. What those other stories do so wrong, this one does incredibly right.

I think the real joy of City of Death, if it could be summed up, is that it's entertainment that is unique to Doctor Who. No other programme could ever make a story like this. Shortly after moving in to a new house a while back I played this to my housemate as an introduction to a series he was going to have to learn to love (or at least tolerate), and his reaction was amazing to see. He spent most of the first episode laughing, then shaking his head and muttering "this show is taking liberties" (as a straight-laced Star Trek TNG fan could say nothing else). But he watched all of it and he enjoyed it, and didn't ask me to move out.

What blew him away - and confused him a bit - was the very idea that sci-fi could be funny. Actually funny, without being a comedy (a la Hitchhikers). Buffy-lovers can point out that their show has a fair few one-liners, and they might be right, but the learned-eccentric-erudite-childlike-innocent-knowing-farcical humour of City of Death is something different.

But the one-liners, fantastic as they are, are not the foundation of what makes the story special. There's more to it than that. It's really quite simple, actually; this story is imaginative, has well thought-out character motivation, and is plotted as beautifully as the Mona Lisa itself. And this is what elevates it above its imitators. The humour gives it a light, waltzing feel, but the basis of the story is solid and very dramatic.

It opens, of course, with the Doctor and Romana on holiday. The cheery opening is lovely, and the simplicity of showing them running around Paris enables the story to achieve a naturalism that other stories don't manage. Great music too. We see them enjoying themselves in an inconsequential way, we enjoy them being witty and happy and it's all incredibly blissful. This isn't as easy as it might sound. If you watch an average night of telly, you don't see many people actually being happy. It's rather hard to achieve, is happiness. Misery is easy. Anger is easy. Melodrama is easy. Two people frolicking (frolicking is sadly out of fashion. Nobody frolicks anymore) around Paris, that's rather difficult. City of Death does it with ease...

...and intercuts it with its actual plot, the rather arch Mona Lisa plot, the careful suggestion that there's an alien intelligence somewhere, the fantastical elements becoming gradually more prevalent and worming their way into a very earthbound setting... as in the following scene where the Doctor and Romana examine the Jagaroth bracelet (which I'm quoting from memory, so excuse any errors):-

Doctor: ...someone was using it to get a readout on all the alarm systems around the Louvre.
Romana: You mean someone's trying to steal the Mona Lisa?
D: It is a very pretty painting...
R: This is a very sophisticated device for a Level 5 civilisation.
D: What, that? That's never a product of Earth's civilisation.
R: What, you mean an alien's trying to steal the Mona Lisa?
D: It is a very pretty painting...
There's a touch of genius there. The notion that an alien is trying a bit of art theft... that's a brilliantly banal and oddly believable aim, and the way the Doctor shrugs it off is wonderful. Scaroth doesn't want to conquer earth. His aims are entirely understandable, and his concerns are very real - what other Doctor Who villain had to worry about funding? That makes him a marvellous villain, who has a twisted nobility and whose sophisticated, witty exterior will inevitably break down eventually. As the episode comes to a close and we finally know, we know, we're sure that Scarlioni isn't a human being, off comes his mask and tcheeeuuuwwww, it's cliffhanger time. The shitty mask doesn't matter; it's a fantastic moment to close a great episode.

The deceptive amount of thought put into these elements is what lifts City of Death far, far above anything that surrounds it. Duggan is light comic relief, sure, and a pretty unbelievable detective at that; but what prevents his character being gratuitous is that other elements are very, very dramatic. Part Two is the most overtly comedic of the episodes (the first Doctor-Scarlioni meeting, the "I like concise answers scene", the Doctor bouncing witticisms off Duggan), but it still explains the time-travel element, reveals the Mona Lisas and has a definite storytelling function. Its conclusion is, again, magnificent. The way the story can be funny one minute and dramatic the next is staggering. It switches modes with ease. The Doctor's confrontation with the (oddly cockney) guard in Italy is played for laughs, but Scarlioni enters the room and suddenly things change. That's a ripping cliffhanger, staying one step ahead of its audience. We've guessed it's Scarlioni, we've assumed that he's been around for years and years and made the connection with the artworks... but his recognition of the Doctor is a shock worthy of ending the episode.

Part Three: oh me oh my, it's blissful. It's possibly the single greatest Doctor Who episode. It has so many spectacular set-pieces - the cross-time communications of the Jagaroth being particularly creepy. Scarlioni finally loses his mannered exterior, and it's shocking. The direction of these scenes is marvellous, using mid-distance shots that show Scarlioni's ravings as ungainly, awkward and almost comedic - his "The centuries that divide me shall be undone" is shown on the TARDIS monitor, baldly and without melodrama, and is so pathetic that it's very disturbing. The concept of a creature being splintered in time like that is one of the greatest ideas in the programme's history - dammit, in any programme's history - and it's carried out flawlessly. Particularly brilliant is the "perhaps a dream" scene, which hints that Scaroth has to keep rediscovering his true identity, again and again, that his memories are incomplete and that he is very much a shadow of a true being... which gives a quiet hint of his torturous half-life...

...a torture which he lightly dismisses to Romana as "not a very satisfactory mode of existence", understating the horror and so preventing the story from drifting to melodrama... and this is, again, what makes the story so successful, the way the horrific and straight elements are underplayed, the way the more clichéd chase scenes are subverted, so that the Doctor's last-minute race to save the planet is instead a desperate attempt to hail a taxi... although the story is a barrelful of laughs, achingly funny, a comedy tale, it's got any number of hugely dramatic scenes... "so, the Doctor has the secret, the Doctor and the girl" murmurs Scarlioni at the thumping climax of his cross-time communication... and one cannot ignore the sheer quiet brilliance of the Doctor's defiance of Scarlioni, the careless and understated phrase "That blackmail's not going to work" somehow being thrilling and exciting and dramatic... the story doesn't need shouting, or gun-waving, or close-up camera zooms, or torture, in fact these things are used as comedy, lampooned as the witless hamminess they are. And the story can do this because, for all its fantastical elements and ridiculous comedy characters, City of Death steers clear of horror-clichés and manages to be as plausible as Doctor Who ever was.

Although it might seem to be against the programme's spirit to undercut (or maybe underpin is a better word) any scenes of ranting drama, it's actually absolutely within the ethos of Doctor Who - because Doctor Who's villains are always ranting maniacs, narrow-minded fanatics, people who are overbearing and have no sense of humility. Bluntly, they're people with no sense of humour - which makes the comedy is so damn right... Williams-era stories simply can't be melodramatic, because melodrama is self-important and overbearing, and these are the very qualities the Williams-era villainises... it's the most self-effacing of eras and this is the most self-effacing of stories, it hides all its most difficult elements, it does its level best to be inconsequential, it shrugs and laughs and says "oh it was nothing..." and yet there's probably no-one on the planet who could write a science fiction story as well as this one. Much as I love The Curse of Fenric, or The Caves of Androzani - and I really do - City of Death shows them up as self-important, loud, vulgar nonsense... and it does this by smiling, winking, by glorifying and lionising humour and modesty and imagination and joy... not by anything as crass as allegory, or metaphor, but just by its freewheeling, carefree tone. And what's more important than that?

Take the conclusion. The setting. The brilliant delivery of the Doctor picking up some sludge and telling Duggan it will become him. The appearance of Scaroth, his ranting of 'but then I will be splintered in time all over again' and the Doctor's defiance of him... 'that has happened, it will happen, history cannot change, it cannot'... this is all smart stuff, delivered with a smile. And then the Doctor and Romana step aside and let Duggan save the day with a simple punch, winking at the audience as they steer clear of the boom-bang fight scene we might have expected, but which would have been a boring an inappropriate way to finish things off.

And so, in its own hilarious way, the story is - really, really, really is - a very serious story.

And here is the reason why, boiled down into two lines; the two greatest, most apt, most brilliant lines that the Graham Williams era had to offer about its hero:

Countess: My dear, I don't think he's as stupid as he seems.
Count: My dear, nobody could be as stupid as he seems.
The Doctor is the Graham Williams era. He is City of Death. He plays the fool, he pretends to be a grinning imbecile, he pretends not to care about anything. He cracks joke after joke. He tells everyone that he's on holiday, that he's just having fun. He acts as though everything's an excuse for a BBC Radio 4 witticism. He and Romana banter their way through life, dropouts fluttering in the breeze, ne'er-do-wells careering around the universe in a blissed-out intoxicated daze of joy; 750-year-olds with a child's wisdom.

But their idiot-act doesn't ever fool Scarlioni. Which is perfect, because the Doctor never fooled us either.

And nor does City of Death. This is fluff, and yet it isn't. It's more than the inconsequential froth it pretends to be. There's something deeply beautiful about it that, for all my efforts, I still can't put into words; so all I can say is that it's a peerless tale, perfectly told. That, I suppose, has to be enough.

A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 4/2/04

City Of Death is a highly entertaining yarn, thanks largely to the humour in the script and the way that it is portrayed. Storywise it is very much an average tale of an alien stranded throughout Earth history, with the timelines at stake. Notable as the first tale to feature overseas filming, the story benefits from this although all it serves to do is give the viewer a glimpse of Paris, as the story could just easily have been set in the UK (or anywhere else).

Thanks to the cast though, we have a memorable tale, Julian Glover is excellent as Scaroth, seemingly unfazed by the Doctor`s buffoonry and brings subtle differences to each of his splintered selves, most effectively as Tancredi. Catherine Schell is also credible, as she flirts with the Doctor and is hostile towards Romana. David Graham plays Kerensky with the right amount of nervousness and Hermann brings a realism to the story, in a season reknowned for its silliness. Tom Baker and Lalla Ward are on fine form and so much better than in Destiny Of The Daleks, and Tom Chadbon`s Duggan is a character who should be deserving of a returning appearance. Effective model work, convincing sets, evocative music and a cameo by John Cleese are all thrown into what counts as a great bit of Doctor Who.

Sex and the City by Jamie Feather 21/3/04

"While I was contemplating one of the pinnacles of Doctor Who, the Doctor and Romana were contemplating a pinnacle of their own. Having arrived in Paris in 1979 they decided to make the best of it and see the sights and generally sparkle and glitter like the fabulous people they were. At the top of the Eiffel Tower they sipped the bouquet of Paris in the springtime and found it delicious. In fact, it quite went to their heads.

"Meanwhile, Count Scarlioni had a date with a beautiful woman, probably, in fact seven of them, or at least seven paintings of one. Confused? Count was, being actually an alien who was fragmented and spread across the striations of the space/time continuum. Like a credit card at Dior, Count really was stretched to his limit.

"Across town, Countess Scarlioni (perhaps best described as 'Eurotrash') was enjoying an afternoon at the Louvre when she was accosted by a strange man. This was not altogether unusual except that on this occasion he left with some jewellery instead of her.

"Duggan was a top detective with a top detective firm. Finding himself in Paris investigating mysterious goings-on in the art world he ran into the Doctor and Romana in one of the most chic cafes in town. But before they could crack open the champagne, they were surprised to experience a crack in time.

"Ever had one of those days when nothing goes quite as planned? The Doctor popped across to Florence for lunch 'al fresco' with his stylish artist friend Leonardo, but was perturbed to find he was out. He was even more perturbed to run into Count Scarlioni, especially as he thought the Count was in another century entirely.

"Romana and Duggan arrived late for an exclusive gallery opening hosted by the Count and Countess and were more than a little put out to discover that not only had all the canapes gone, so had all the art.

"Returning from Florence the Doctor discovered that not only was Count Scarlioni not interested in history, but that Professor Kerensky was history. The Count had a date at the dawn of creation, which shocked the Doctor and Romana because they knew that even with the TARDIS they would never get a table there at such short notice.

"In her elegant Paris drawing room, the Countess was also in shock. She could handle the fact that her husband wouldn't give head, but discovering he had a really big green one was another thing altogether. Countess called it a day there and then - she knew they would never be able to see eye-to-eye again.

"Meanwhile, the Count/Scaroth was trying to gatecrash a Jagaroth leaving party that was getting out of hand a couple of million years earlier. He was pissed that the Doctor, Romana and Duggan had got there ahead of him, and even more pissed when Duggan's punch went straight to his big green head. As is so often the case, Scaroth woke up much, much later wishing that he'd made other plans.

"Later, back in Paris 1979, the Doctor and Romana said goodbye to Duggan at the Eiffel Tower. It had been a great adventure, but in the end two's company and three's a crowd. And so it was that in the most romantic city in the world, the Doctor and Romana realised that the Jagaroth might be history, but love was very much alive and well.

"And I couldn't help but wonder... why couldn't all Doctor Who be this great?"

Paris has an ethos, ditto the City of Death by Konstantin Hubert 8/7/04

In beauty and finesse very few episodes of Doctor Who can rival City of Death, the most acclaimed serial of the Graham Williams era. Its beautiful image is attributed to the ravishing Parisian atmosphere with its elegant, pittoresque architecture, the large parks and vibrant areas. Although David Agnew, pseudonym for Douglas Adams, David Fisher and Graham Williams, is credited with its script, the contribution of the late Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy, is the most important one since he himself always had the rights of the script and used many of its elements in his 1987 novel Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. Douglas Adams, by setting this ingeniously crafted story in one of the most beautiful megacities in the world and by weaving a peerless scenario with a witty and at times humorous dialogue, authored a classic of televised science fiction, which thrills fans and non-fans alike.

The serial's irrelevant title belies its true scenario and misleads the viewer, who would think at first City of Death is a story of urban terror, a dystopian society for example or a horror story of a series of murders. The city itself, more specifically its environment, largely contributes to City of Death's success, pleases the viewer and isn't depicted as a seat of evil and corruption, so that I fail to understand what motivated Douglas Adams or David Fisher and Graham Williams to choose this irrelevant title, which reminds me of horror B-movies. Death and evil are in fact personified by Scaroth, the last member of the alien race of Jagaroth, who strives to travel back in time, 400 million years before the story's principal timeline and by preventing the destruction of his race restores it to life. If he succeeds, he will radically and tragically alter the course of human history and eliminate the entire human race. For this purpose he needs a special time machine and he plans to finance the project of this device's creation by stealing objects of art, including the very famous Mona Lisa from the Louvre museum. A most extravagant but sublime time travelling concept in the finest time travelling TV series ever. The exciting opening scene, in which we watch the spider shaped spaceship of the Jagaroth trying to take off from Earth's very eerie desert landscape and then exploding in the sky, sets the ground for a classic of the series. This scene warns us that a special episode has begun.

In the subsequent scene we are transferred in a totally diffferent spacetime, with the Doctor and Romana perched on top of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, in the year 1979. Along with Leisure Hive and Paradise Towers, this is one of the very few times the time travellers are seen as tourists only arriving in a place as a part of their vacation and for relaxation and not for exploration or out of curiosity. The viewer identifies with them and becomes a tourist too in the world's most visited capital. The interaction between the well-dressed Romana and the carefree Doctor is described as heralding the romance between the actors Tom Baker and Lalla Ward (they eventually married only to get divorced a year and a half later). The two characters' chemistry is marvellous, they exchange several memorable lines and since vigorous and in high spirits seem to literally enjoy their stay in Paris.

On the other hand, we encounter another duo, Count Scarlioni (Scaroth) and his Countess, who belong among the series' great villains and stand out not because of their wickedness - the Master, Davros, the Sontarans, Sil and many others are more evil - but because of their glamour and humanness, which oppose the monstrosity of most villains. Though the Count is revealed to be an one-eyed green skinned creature, a Jagaroth in disguise, he is presented in his human form during a large part of the serial. Marcus Scarman in Pyramids of Mars and Ratcliffe in Remembrance of the Daleks have a human form too but, unlike Count Scarlioni, they function as servants carrying out the orders of their non-human master. In City of Death, the bad guys are human masters of themselves, give orders, whilst their den is a lavish, luxurious Parisian dwelling, a house and not a spaceship or true head-quarters or their natural residence. In their battle against the two villains aforementioned, the Doctor and Romana are assisted by the aloof and gutsy British private detective Duggan, one of the most memorable one-off characters in the history of the series and who is defined as a one-off companion. All five principal actors offer an excellent performance and their interaction serves as a model. City of Death features unique, peculiar characters with their own idiosyncrasy. Even Kerensky, Scaroth's ingenious scientist with very distinctive foreign accent, although not a major character manages to conserve himself in the viewer's memory.

City of Death is usually praised for its brilliant, witty dialogue. Although I confess the dialogue seems exaggerates at times and becomes pretentious, it is worth the praises. This serial contains some of my favourite lines ever and I will mention some of them. While on the train, Romana asks where they are going. The Doctor asks, "Are you talking philosophically or geographically?" Romana says, "Philosophically" and the Time Lord replies "Then we're going to lunch". Afterwards, they go to a cafe and the Doctor says to Romana, "You and I exist in a special relationship to time, you know. Perpetual outsiders." and Romana tells him not to be so portentous. When they are heading for Louvre, the Doctor compliments its gallery by calling it "one of the greatest art galleries in the whole galaxy". In the second episode, when Kerensky claims he is the foremost scientist on temporal physics in the whole world, the Doctor mockingly replies "That is a small place when you think about the size of the universe". It is a pity that the series in general lacks an equivalent of Douglas Adams' ingenious sense of humour. Tom Baker's era however, which since the moment I started exploring the fascinating world of Doctor Who, I have been presuming it is the funniest of them all, was marked by comic elements. Episodes such as Robot, City of Death, to a lesser extent The Sun Makers justify this impression I have of the era of Tom Baker, who brought humour and a whimsical attitude in the Doctor and so even in grave stories, he usually offers us a comic relief.

While on top of the Eiffel Tower, the Doctor calls Paris a city with an ethos. I will paraphrase the Time Lord's statement and call City of Death a serial with an ethos, with a distinctive spirit. To label it a "science fiction adventure" wouldn't be accurate because it lacks essential features of a typical science fiction adventure. We are not exposed to battles nor to gunshots/explosions (the explosion of Jagaroth's spaceship excepted), we don't get a glimpse of the outer space, there's no violence (Duggan's fake punches on Kerensky and on the Count don't count) and inevitably there's not exactly action either! As it was pointed out in the third paragraph of this review, this is one of the very few times the Doctor is seen as a tourist. His role as a tourist is overshadowed when he is portrayed as an authentic time traveller because unlike in the vast majority of televised stories, the Doctor of City of Death twice travels in different spacetimes in his attempt to hinder the plans of the enemy. He doesn't remain fixed on one place/area in one timezone, like he does in Inside the Spaceship, Tenth Planet, Tomb of Cybermen, Happiness Patrol and in many other adventures, but maneuvres in three different spacetimes. So unusual an episode City of Death is, that even the location in which it was filmed is striking, transcending for the first time in the show's history the British frontiers and I strongly believe on this foreign atmosphere is grounded its uniqueness. Dudley Simpson's acclaimed and memorable incidental music (my favourite one so far, rivaled only by Paddy Kingsland's incidental music of Logopolis) is melodic and as if emanating from a soap opera, perfectly renders the elegance of this foreign atmosphere and the luxury of the villains' dwelling. Taking into account its distinctive spirit, City of Death could be described as a "humorous science fiction/fantasy soap opera of intrigue", a long but I reckon a truly accurate characterisation.

When it comes to the production values, they are excellent and the serial although it looks dated, that is old-fashioned, doesn't look cheap, of a low budget. The bizarre, deserted settings of prehistoric Earth are so superb that it saddens me they were used only a little, at the beginning and in the end, for about five minutes. Since it is set in the modern era the story doesn't feature many futuristic/science fiction elements. The few special effects used are to be praised, including Jagaroth's spider shaped spaceship and to a lesser extent Scaroth's monstrous face, which although it betrays its true nature, that of a mask, is usually not laughed at.

City of Death's brilliance is by no means spared from imperfection, this time imputed to the severe plot vaguenesses. How did the Doctor know the Countess, a woman he is not acquainted with at all, wore a powerful bracelet of a supernatural function around her wrist and why did he take (steal) it? The Doctor at first seems to grasp the bracelet unwillingly while fainting, but the Countess doesn't react immediately to this incident, to this theft. She doesn't immediately notice that her precious bracelet she was wearing has been clutched, stolen! Why do the cracks in the fabric of time affect only the Doctor and Romana? The manner in which they accidentally get mingled in the affairs of the Count and the Countess, the adventure hook, is flawed, ludicrous. Why did the Doctor travel to Italy of the Renaissance period to meet Leonardo da Vinci? Through his encounter with Captain Tancredi he learns about Scaroth's experiments with time but his "This is a Fake" message to da Vinci proves futile afterwards. In the third part Romana and Duggan break into a closed cafe at night and discuss the situation and future plans. The question is: why? What was the point in breaking into the cafe? Those flaws in the plot and few others abate City of Death but don't detract it of course from its brilliance.

Elegant, original, very agreeable but with a somewhat flawed and pedantic storyline, City of Death ranks among the most classic moments of the series. It enjoyed unprecedently high ratings, averaging 14.5 million viewers, and attracted the attention of 16.1 million persons for the fourth episode: the biggest audience ever for a Doctor Who episode. Since the story offers us a visual tour in the French capital, I decided to end this review in French: Vive la Ville de Mort!

Grade: 8.5 or 9/10

A Review by Kathryn Young 2/12/04

Wow, what a corker. Having just watched The Visitation I went straight on to this - and who knew what a difference good writing, companions who can act, decent direction, well written supporting characters who can also act (or perhaps in this case it should be "not overact" too much) and a cameo from John Cleese can make?

Although my first question was regarding the title: What normally comes to your mind when you think of Paris - the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Allo Allo, death? Spot the odd one out.

Yes that is right - Allo Allo was set in a small country town (and what a nice show it was too).

Most people think of "gay Pari - the city of love", rather than the "city of death" (or else there is something I have totally missed about Paris).

Oh no you say - there was death stuff happening. All right I admit there was, but does one green one eyed alien in a white lounge suit really justify tarring the entire city with this "death" label. I mean sure he has got some pretty "death related" designs on the human race, but it's not as if he is asking the whole of Paris to join in or that it is specifically Paris related - being a green one eyed monster with taste, style and distinction he just happens to live there.

But then again, wot with all the craziness going on at Doctor Who at the time, you get the feeling that the title was probably decided by Doug and Tom over a liquid lunch down the pub, and very possibly could have been "the city of reasonable comfort and some lovely little outdoor cafes".

[Someone actually came up with a theory in regard to titles: If it has "death" in the title it will be a classic, but if it has "time" in the title it will be a complete dog. Not sure where this theory puts Death Comes To Time?]

Filming in "gay Pari" (aka "city of death")

"Hey Terry, I got this great idea. We all go on holiday to France and charge it to the BBC and call it art." Well it is nice work if you can get it, and considering the story was set in Paris it did make sense.

The upshot of this was the running scenes. They certainly did get their money out of that city. They were always running somewhere. Sometimes they ran towards the Arc de Triumph, sometimes they ran away from the Arc de Triumph and sometimes they ran around the Arc de Triumph (both clockwise and anti clockwise). I think that arch should have been listed in the credits as an extra.

Lack of decently dressed villains.

Sometimes I despair of those grotty little Doctor Who villains who attempt badly dressed word domination. Is it so hard to put on a tie? If a Bond villain can do it luv so can you. Bond villains are the standard every megalomaniacal super villain should aspire too. Not only do they tend to dress in very well ironed quasi Mao type outfits, they also dress their hench people in natty little uniforms with the villain's logo embroidered on the front pocket. Now that to me screams "this is a man who has his own hollowed out volcano". And if you look at it the best Doctor Who villains have always taken a bit of pride in their appearance. The Master always dresses for the occasion and I love Davros' little black leather bondage number.

That is why I was so impressed with Scaroth. He may have been a one eyed green tenticly monster, but he wore a lovely tailored suit (and a white one - not easy to keep clean when you are wandering around prehistoric Earth trying to destroy the human race). Now that shows class - you don't see the Cybermen wearing safari suits. Perhaps if they had they had things might have been different.

And finally...

Just how did Romana's hat stay on her head? And what a stupid way to wear a hat. Although I think Lalla might be one of the few people able to get away with it. By the end of the story I was becoming totally obsessed with the physics of Lalla's hat and so I have absolutely no idea as to the plot. Let's just say it was a darn good excuse for a holiday in Paris, er sorry, a darn good story.

A Review by Thomas Cookson 1/3/06

City of Death is quite rightly regarded as one of the best Doctor Who stories.

At this point in the show, the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) is accompanied by one of his own people, the Time Lady Romana (Lalla Ward). Together they visit Paris, Earth in the present day for a needed relaxing unwind after the business of their Key to Time hunt and their most recent battle with the Daleks.

But whilst they are enjoying their holiday, a chain of events unfold involving distortions in time, a plot to steal the Mona Lisa with the aid of advanced technology, and further thickening of the plot when six authentic copies of the Mona Lisa painting are discovered, all drawing the Doctor and Romana into a grand scheme to travel back in time to save an extinct alien species. But since this is against all the laws of time, the Doctor has to stop them.

Despite the fact that the new series of Doctor Who has reached unprecedented heights of popularity since it began showing last year, it does appear to me that the old series is still considered something of a forgettable embarrassment by popular culture. This disappoints me because I had hoped that the launch of the new series would provoke interest and aid promotion of the old series. On the contrary, they both seem to be treated as separate entities. So whilst popular magazines promote the new series box set, they treat the DVD releases of old stories as something that no-one would be interested in, save the 'geeky fans' who like laughing at crap special effects. Sometimes it seems to me that the more praise the new series gets, the more the old series gets talked down to in comparison.

Of course there are plenty of things to talk down about the old series, and I have never expected the general public to like all of old Doctor Who, warts and all, or to venture with a plunge into Doctor Who's convoluted continuity, particularly given the fact that the DVD releases are completely unchronological. But having said that, there were some classic individual serials of Doctor Who, that I believe anyone outside of fandom can enjoy, and since none of these magazines or other popular media is promoting or suggesting them, as a reviewer, I guess I'll have to do it myself.

City of Death is one such story that can be enjoyed in its own right. It was written in The Discontinuity Guide's review of the episode that "It's a pity that the rest of Doctor Who exists to make this story part of a bigger continuity, because it deserves to stand alone", and that is very true. This story actually has all the makings of what could have been a pilot episode for Doctor Who. We begin with the Doctor and Romana already in Paris and for a newcomer watching them together, it gradually becomes apparent in their conversations that they are time travellers and aliens from the planet Gallifrey, so we're gradually taken into the characters and their time-travelling TARDIS, before actually seeing the TARDIS in action as it makes a few time journeys. With the pre-established pairing of the Doctor and Romana, a new audience wouldn't feel cheated of a backstory as to how the two travellers first met and came together, since we are told that they're both from the same planet. Indeed a lot of the action of the story is seen through the relateable human eyes of the bystander character Duggan, the private detective who's on the hunt of this trail of multiple Mona Lisas, and becomes in effect a temporary companion to the Doctor and Romana. And even without a series to follow it, it would work as a standalone as it contains multiple time journeys that actually do document well 'the human adventure'.

Well it's easy to watch, what else is so good about it?

The script is written by David Fisher and Douglas Adams, and they craft something truly outstanding together. The late Douglas Adams will eternally be known for his Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy legacy, and his style of writing translates very well here. Douglas is a masterful writer who perfectly crafts both the overall narrative and the incidental dialogue with a big pinch of stimulating intelligence and tickling humour, both done with accessible universal appeal.

This was one of the really well-thought-out and hard-science type of episodes, which wouldn't be done again after the Tom Baker era, but it is delivered in a simplistic way, aided by surreal visual promps. For instance, the scientist's experiments in time travel involve putting an egg in an accelerated time bubble and growing a chicken in it. This is of course a representation of the 'chicken and the egg' theory. It may sound corny, but it actually works and makes you think. The science in this episode is not without a few theoretical flaws, and the same goes for the historical dating, but it is nothing if not stimulating, and I dare anyone to name a TV show today which is anywhere near as stimulating as this.

The cast do a wonderful job here with their characters. Tom Baker was arguably the best actor to play the Doctor, and he is funny with perfect timing in his delivery. He is overpoweringly charming and enthusiastic and, more than that, conveys an air of omnipotence that makes us trust his judgement much more than other Doctors. Lalla Ward does well as Romana at playing the Doctor's more detached equal, and they really look like they had a lot of fun here. Tom Chadbon is appropriately deadpan and hammy as the detective Duggan; Julian Glover is great as the villain of the piece, the cheerfully ascerbic sophisticate and gangser on the side, Count Scarlioni; and Catherine Schell is delightfully classy and rather saucy and tasty, but also rather sympathetic as the Countess. Adding a few cameos with John Cleese and Eleanor Bron and you have a perfect little cast of characters.

The interior locations are traditionally Doctor Who with cozy lighting and a stronger element of the bohemian and antiquated than the technological or gleaming. The music by Dudley Simpson is wonderfully perky and low key and has a nice orchestrated longevity. The special effects and spacecraft model work are very good for the era and stand up well, and whilst the alien masks are pretty rubbery, the moments where they are seen are kept suitably brief and effective.

It is TV that really takes me away, by engaging my spirits as well as my brain. It is feelgood in an insideous way; as feelgood as watching episodes of "Moonlighting" or "The Comic Strip Presents", or listening to some Gloria Estefan songs. There was a time a few months ago when I hit a financial crisis, and I was feeling very worried and stressed out and I decided to watch this, because I knew it was exactly what the doctor ordered (if you'll pardon the pun) and it really did cheer me up in a big way.

It is hard to believe in some ways that the unholy marriage between the worlds of Douglas Adams and Doctor Who could produce something so feelgood, given how both bodies of fiction are usually synonymous with bleakness and the grotesque, brutality and death and planets exploding. In this episode there is actually very little violence or death, and indeed this allows the few deaths we witness to have a hard impact and be dealt with poignantly. But centrally this is an episode about being on holiday: about seeing the sights and enjoying yourself, laughing at life's surrealism and enjoying the company of those around you, meeting new people, experiencing a different culture, visiting the louvre and having a self-portrait by a street artist, and such. I remember watching this for the first time in 2002 on my 20th Birthday - it was my present - and it was around the same time that I got exposed to the film "Fight Club", and collectively they were the kind of entertainment that showed me that TV and cinema was capable of so much more than simply echoing our cynicism about society or feeding our desire to enjoy the sound of our own moaning. It showed me the kind of TV and cinema that showed a lot of the wonderful things about life and the world and the possibilities of really getting out there and enjoying life and meeting new people and making achievements, and collectively that became the whole spirit of the year for me.

The episode seems to carry with it the mood from the previous stories The Armageddon Factor and Destiny of the Daleks, where the Doctor and Romana managed to finally defeat, or at least contain, two of the greatest threats to the universe - the all powerful Black Guardian, and the all-destroying expansion of the Dalek Empire - and as such it feels as though a weight of bleakness has been lifted off the series, and the world finally seems like a safer place.

Not only that, but as a 1979 story, the serial does encapsulate not only Doctor Who and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but also the feel of the 1970's as a whole, in various ways, but first and foremost it encapsulates the spirit of 70's films like "American Graffitti", "Westworld", "Mean Streets", "The Deer Hunter", "Harold and Maude" and of course "Grease" and "Saturday Night Fever" and even "The Exorcist", in which a long stretch of the film is devoted to its characters simply having an outlandishly fun time together, and that is what happens throughout the first fifteen minutes of this episode between the Doctor and Romana, and it is wonderful and natural and very endearing indeed.

But given how over the decades, society's view of itself had become gradually more negative, and degraded and shallow, this is the kind of TV and cinema that died out coming into the 80's, where generally TV and film, and even music, couldn't communicate a sense of fun to an audience, unless it was fun at the expense of others, i.e. showing unhappy lives and grumpy people for the sake of giving the audience something to relate to or which involved people proving themselves to be the one in the right in a bit of personal drama and getting one over on their antagonist. In some ways I blame the gender wars for this attraction to inane assertiveness and belligerence and fingerpointing at all that is wrong and negative about men or women or society in general. I think the spirit of simple, happy and inclusive fun we see here has all but died out in the realms of mainstream TV and cinema, although it did have a resurgence of sorts in the 90's, mainly because the 90's was such a nostalgic decade.

This is an episode that will probably be forever known as 'the funny one'. This is mainly courtesy of Douglas Adams' input of wit, as well as Tom Baker's usual classy delivery, and it is one of Doctor Who's more successful forays into comedic stories; in fact, the only other story I have seen that is as effectively humorous as this story is The Three Doctors. Comedy is not something that Doctor Who has always done well, and if you look at episodes like The Romans, The Chase, Creature From the Pit, a lot of the later 80's stories and most of Russell T. Davis' most recent episodes, they tend to be unfunny or have the humour strongly mismatched with the gravitas. In this story the humour is used well indeed, by hanging the drama on such bumbling characters and having the humour sometimes work as an eagerly expected punchline, or sometimes come out unawares from the most dramatic of moments, and still managing to not upset the drama.

I've got to talk about the Paris setting of the episode. This was the first Doctor Who story to be filmed overseas, and it was a gimmick that was returned to in the mid 80's in the episodes Arc of Infinity (Amsterdam in Holland), Planet of Fire (Lanzarote) and The Two Doctors (Seville in Spain). Whilst the latter three stories seemed to be set in a foreign location just for the hell of it, there is something very important here about the Paris setting. It is of course the centre of the art world, which is appropriate to not only its Mona Lisa plot, but its central alien villain who appears as some kind of hybrid that is human from the neck down, and alien from the neck up, which seems to make him into a moving picture by an expressionist painter drawing a parodying or metaphoric image of a man.

The setting of course adds immensely to the feelgood factor, and the sense of being on holiday and loosening inhibitions. In keeping with the 70's in a nutshell feel of the episode, the Doctor and Romana, in their bohemian dress, their boundless ways of interacting with people around them and their clearly well-educated elocution and being of the more connoisseur persuasion, in this Paris location perhaps represent the later years of the 60's counterculture generation of college students in Britain and America who had revolted against traditional values in the 60's, but by the late 70's had either settled down to conformity with a family and job, or in the case of the more radical segments, had retreated to foreign countries like France and India, which were apparently more liberated, to escape the conservativeness and conformity of Britain or America. As we watch the sights of Paris, a bush of cockelshells, or an arial view of the city from the Eiffel tower or the classical architecture of the buildings and interiors, it is all superbly directed in such an unnoticed way. The directing is edgy with unconventional shots: it breathes the fresh air of the outdoors, and portrays Paris streets as beautiful without being too polished or too clean, and when we hear the Doctor's line "It's the only place in the universe where one can relax entirely", it fits like a glove and immediately puts the viewer in such a pleasant mood.

There is one more important aspect about the Paris setting I must draw attention to. What people forget about some of the films of the 70's is that they sometimes featured some very elaborate twists indeed. A lot of people think that cinematic twists are a purely 90's and modern thing and the domain of The Usual Suspects, Fight Club, The Sixth Sense, Seven (indeed they have become largely obligatory in cinema these days) but it was a kind of cinema that was present in the early 70's as well, in mindbender films like "The Wicker Man" and "Don't Look Now", and it was something that creeped its way into television serials as well, in Doctor Who and more often in Doctor Who's rival sci-fi series Sapphire & Steel (which ran for six feature-length serial adventures from 1979 to 1982, and is now available to buy in the complete DVD collection - go on, you know you want to). This story, along with Evil of the Daleks and Ghost Light, is the closest in feel to Sapphire & Steel territory, in that the serial runs with an air of mystery and puzzle pieces coming to form until the concluding part where all the revelations are finally made. There is a midway twist in the proceedings followed by a twist right before the end of the episode that ties up the mystery and reveals how we've been manipulated and misled by the antagonist in a way that I found most impressive.

Indeed, much like "The Wicker Man" and "Don't Look Now", the serial characterises its sense of mystery by the use of a foreign location for its setting, in this case Paris, just like Don't Look Now used the location of Venice, and The Wicker Man was set in an isolated island village. The idea of a foreign place populated by strangers, being a treacherous place and a community that is collectively conspiring against you and manipulating your perception, and to a small degree this is true: we do see aliens in disguise that we weren't expecting and even passerby locals do show an unusual awareness of the paranormal in some rather surreal moments.

The comedy works well to create this air of mystery in subtle but solidifying ways, as a piece of television it's almost what I'd call a comedy of errors of perception, topped off by a most impressive climax where things suddenly get really serious. Initially there was a moment where the Doctor and his companions had been escorted as prisoners of the Count Scarlioni and his wife which was played for laughs, in which the Doctor was behaving like an invited guest and was simultaneously charming but also behaving as he pleased whilst under gunpoint. On first viewing I was a bit cheesed off by this complete disregard for the gravity of the drama, but I came to realise how in fact it was a means of the episode manipulating me into seeing the villains as civilised and amicable, with a rather sympathetic goal, and pulling me to their side over the Doctor's dogged determination to stop them because of some 'laws of time' technicality only to hit me with the sinister bigger picture in the final moments. For the longest period we feel as if the Doctor shouldn't be interfering in Scarlioni's plan but in a superb twist at the end, we realise the whole scope of the villain's plan and that the Doctor was right all along.

All in all, it was, and still is, pretty fantastic. I give it full stars! It's content is appropriate for family viewing of all ages, and I feel it would appeal to a lot of people outside of Doctor Who fandom if they gave it a chance. If you've yet to watch any classic Doctor Who story, make it this one. 10/10

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