Skip to content
Advertisements

Tardis Party: Doctor Who serial close-up ~ City Of Death (Season 17/ 1979)

September 15, 2013

doctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardis

doctor_who_city_of_death

doctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardis

Paris pair: “You know, in some cultures, pulling my scarf like that would mean we’re married…”

For many not particularly, er, versed in the ‘Whoniverse’, Doctor Who seems to have offered never-ending lashings of humour, far-fetched fantasy and silly looking aliens, but it wasn’t always so. By the late ’70s, however, after the ace behind-the-scenes team of producer Philip Hinchcliffe and script editor Robert Holmes had shuffled on, the show was in the hands of producer Graham Williams and – maybe or maybe not – under pressure from the likes of ‘Clean up TV’ campaigner Mary Whitehouse, had noticeably toned down the high thrills and mild horror and upped the comedy and camp – and many a Who fan wasn’t that impressed.

The show itself wasn’t suffering awfully in the ratings, though, while the introduction in 1977 of the irresistible robot dog extraordinaire K-9 had surely been all kinds of wonderful, and this era enjoyed its unequivocal crowning glory in the Paris-set, post-modern marvel that is City Of Death. Hopefully then, this post (the latest in George’s Journal‘s current celebration of the sci-fi giant’s golden anniversary) proves just why this serial is just as much a masterpiece as any of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisas

.

.

doctor_who_the_fourth_doctor_question_who_75_blue

.

Doctor: Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor)

Companion: Lalla Ward (Romana II)

Villains: Julian Glover (Count Scarlioni/ Captain Tancredi/ Scaroth); Catherine Schell (Countess Scarlioni)

Ally: Tom Chadbon (Duggan)

Writers: Douglas Adams, Graham Williams and David Fisher (all credited as ‘David Agnew’)

Producer: Graham Williams

Director: Michael Hayes

.

.

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_fourth_doctor_question_when_75_blue

.

Season: 17 (second of five serials – four 25-minute-long episodes)

Original broadcast dates: September 29-October 20 1979 (weekly)

Total average viewers: 14.5 milion

Previous serial: Destiny Of The Daleks

Next serial: The Creature From The Pit

.

doctor_who_city_of_death_catherine_schelldoctor_who_city_death_scarliono_and_scaroth

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_fourth_doctor_question_what_75_blue

.

The Doctor and his current companion Romana (a Time Lady from his own planet Gallifrey) are relaxing atop the Eiffel Tower while on holiday in Paris. They agree the French capital is so agreeable because it has ‘a bouquet’ – ‘like a  fine wine’, The Doctor adds, but concedes the year of their visit, 1979, is ‘more of a table wine really’. As they sit down to lunch in a café, Romana is intrigued an artist is sketching her – and turns around to see. Aggravated by her spoiling her pose, the artist leaves in a huff and tosses away the sketch. Just as he gets up to examine the discarded paper, The Doctor experiences ‘a turn’ – in fact, more than that, as the last few seconds for him, Romana and us replay themselves. Fully aware of this (unlike any of the humans around them), the pair become concerned as they look at the sketch; instead of Romana’s face it features a clock face with a crack through it – ‘a crack in time…’ muses The Doctor.

Meanwhile, in the cellar of a château across town, a Professor Kerensky has just demonstrated what his highly advanced and highly expensive scientific equipment is capable of to his employer – and the château’s owner – Count Scarlioni. The latter, smooth as silk, enigmatic and devious, isn’t impressed, however, and emphasises the need for improvement and urgency – he wants the next test the following day; ‘it’s a matter of time‘, he says. The Doc and Romana have by now made their way to the Louvre art gallery and are examining Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, as the former wants to show the latter the exquisite art humanity is capable of. Nonplussed, Romana declares it merely ‘quite good’.

Just then, another time distortion – or time  slip – occurs, The Doctor ending up on a nearby bench in the corridor, next to an attractive, dignified woman wearing a gaudy bracelet and his head resting against a man in a trenchcoat. The latter asks him whether he is all right, to which he replies ‘my head dented your gun’ (the one in his trenchcoat pocket, that is). Away from the Louvre, The Doctor reveals to Romana he half-inched the woman’s bracelet and placed it in his companion’s pocket. The latter examines it and comes to the same conclusion as he did in the Louvre – the bracelet did not originate on Earth.

The Doc belives it’s a micromeson scanner, which the woman was using to monitor the art gallery’s alarms. Joined by the chap in the trenchcoat now, who’s followed them, they warn him she (and probably others) plan on stealing the Mona Lisa. This piques the former’s interest, a detective named Duggan, for his task it is to put an end to a spate of extremely valuable works of art being stolen while brilliantly impressive fakes are put in their place. He also reveals the woman in the Louvre was Countess Scarlioni, wife of the Count, one of the richest and most notorious men in the world. Quickly, the trio are faced at gunpoint by thugs, while back at the château, the Countess, having on her husband’s orders sent the thugs to apprehend the three (whom she assumes stole her bracelet), is looking for her husband. Behind a locked door, the Count stands now before a mirror and opens up his face to reveal the green-skinned, one-eyed head of an alien.

Countess Scarlioni: [Referring to The Doctor] My dear, I don’t think he’s as stupid as he seems
Count Scarlioni: My dear, nobody could be as stupid as he seems

Taken by the thugs to the château, The Doctor, Romana and Duggan are presented to the Countess in the drawing room; The Doctor being pushed into the room (and to the floor) by a henchman – ‘what a wonderful butler,’ The Doc observes, ‘he so violent!’. As he tries to feign knowledge of what she and the Count are probably up to, Romana picks up a Chinese puzzle box. The Countess informs her it’s impossible to work out the correct combination of sliding components to open it; using her intellect, Romana delightedly opens it on her first attempt and, from it, the bracelet falls into her hand. The Count enters and relieves her of the bracelet, ordering for his opponents to be locked up in the château’s cellar. Duggan picks up a chair to defend himself from the Count’s goons and, seemingly horrified, The Doc asks him what he’s doing – ‘that’s a [priceless] Louis Quinze chair!’ he exclaims.

Using his sonic screwdriver to ensure their escape from the cell, the trio investigate their surroundings, The Doc intrigued by Kerensky’s scientific equipment and Romana working out that there must be a secret room walled-up behind the cell. Just then, Kerensky returns to the cellar and undertakes another test, a seemingly fascinated Doctor happily watching. The experiment sees an egg hatch into a chick, which within seconds grows to a full-sized chicken which then rapidly dies and becomes a skeleton. This is an experiment in time then – on the orders of the Count, of course. The Doc, however, points out it’s not actually a success and reverses the chicken’s existence before the professor’s eyes, claiming it’s dangerous dabbling with time if you don’t actually know what you’re doing.

Stubbornly (and unnecessarily), the ‘force always first’ Duggan knocks out Kerensky and somewhat redeems himself by launching himself against the cell’s wall to ensure the trio manage finally to break through and discover what the secret room conceals – but they’re far from prepared for it. Inside a cupboard they discover a Mona Lisa, which (owing to him having spent time with Leonardo da Vinci, thus becoming an expert on his style and work), The Doctor claims is genuine, then finds five further versions of the painting and declares they’re all genuine too. Duggan is confounded, but points out that if a Mona Lisa were hanging in the Louvre, no-one would buy a fake unless they thought they were getting a real one.

Unbeknownst to them, Scarlioni has joined them in the secret room, taking pleasure in their shock discovery, at which point Duggan characteristically knocks him out so they might escape the château. The Doc leaves Romana and Duggan and scarpers across town to the TARDIS, in which he sets the co-ordinates for Florence, Italy… in the year 1505. He steps out into an artist’s billet, taking in the glorious Renaissance sunshine through its window, before he’s faced by a sword-carrying guard, whom claims Leonardo da Vinci isn’t home because he’s engaged in important work for Captain Tancredi. The Doctor clearly does not know who this is, but immediately finds out as an elegantly dressed soldier walks into the billet – with the face of the Count. The Doctor asks what he’s doing here, to which the Count replies ‘I think that is exactly the question I ought to be asking you, Doctor…’

.

.

Despite having been put in thumbscrews to find out how he’s managed seemingly to be in two places at once, The Doc manages to elicit from his captor how he’s managed literally to achieve that very feat – for the latter can’t help boasting to the former. He says he’s in fact Scaroth, the very last of the Jagaroth. The Doctor has heard of this race; having nearly wiped itself out in a war 400 million years ago, their tiny number of survivors travelled to Earth, which was in a lifeless state. Here they were believed to have finally snuffed it when their spacecraft exploded on take-off from the planet’s surface. What actually happened, however, was that Scaroth survived the explosion – albeit his existence was compromised, as splinters of his being were scattered across Earth’s future time and space; all of them identical, yet none complete. Eventually, his captive is forced too to explain his secret (he can’t stand being tortured by the guard’s cold hands, which are holding the thumbscrews); he tells Scaroth he’s a Time Lord and Romana a Time Lady and then asks the latter how he manages to communicate with his other selves – only to receive an instant, unexpected demonstration.

As he watches, the ‘Tancredi version’ of Scaroth holds counsel with his other ‘splinters’ (the ‘Scarlioni version’ of 1979’s Paris interrupting a discussion with the Countess, whose goons have just successfully stolen from the Louvre its Mona Lisa for them). Owing to the almighty effort this requires Scaroth, The Doctor is able to use this distraction and flee, having earlier (while Scaroth was out of the billet and the guard knocked out) found Leonardo’s original Mona Lisa and identified the canvases on which the artist would paint for Tancredi the further Mona Lisas to be found in the future, he then wrote on each of them the legend ‘This is a fake’ – so they might be assumed as such under examination and scupper Scarlioni’s thieving scheme – and left an explanatory note for Leonardo in the latter’s favoured code of backwards writing.

Safely inside the TARDIS now, he observes on its scanner 12 versions of Scaroth appearing and converging (including one from ancient Egypt, another from Neanderthal times, another from the far future and another that looks suspiciously like Julius Caesar). (The)  Scaroth(s) are blathering on about masterminding the building of Pyramids, discovering fire, inventing the wheel and pushing forward the entire human race to save his own – clearly his grand art thefts (using alien technology such as the bracelet) have financed his time experiments via Kerensky, whose intended result is to ensure he can return to the moment before the Jagaroth spaceship exploded, so he can save the race and unite his splintered selves. Unfortunately, he now knows of both The Doctor and Romana’s time-travel knowledge.

For her part, Romana, with Duggan in tow, has returned to the château; the two of them deciding, as they have found out the Louvre’s Mona Lisa has been stolen, the best thing they can do is to hunt for the real painting – if the Louvre’s is the real one. Once there, they’re immediately captured by Scarlioni’s guards once more and, having been taken back down to the cellar, Scarlioni/ Scaroth enjoys informing them he now knows from The Doctor himself that Romana’s a time-traveller and can aid him in his quest. If she refuses, he’ll use Kerensky’s equipment to destroy Paris. Duggan doesn’t believe any of this, but Romana assures him their captor can do what he’s threatening. Kerensky, though, desperately pleads for all his work and equipment not be used for such malevolent purposes, at the sound of which his employer orders him to stand in the centre of the equipment and check it’s working properly, giving the evil alien the chance to do away with the now unnecessary Kerensky – he switches on the machine and the hapless professor ages at a staggeringly rapid rate, ending up nothing more than a skeleton.

Romana: You should go into partnership with a glazier. You’d have a truly symbiotic working relationship
Duggan: What?
Romana: I’m just pointing out that you break a lot of glass
[She puts a pair of wine glasses in front of him; instead of opening the wine bottle he smashes the neck off it]
Duggan: You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs
Romana: If you wanted an omelette, I’d expect to find a pile of broken crockery, a cooker in flames and an unconscious chef

Scarlioni/ Scaroth declares Kerensky was killed because the equipment’s ‘time field’ is unstable. Whether or not the first part of this statement is true, Romana knows the second part is. She has no alternative then to help him and alter the equipment so it’s safe when operated. Meanwhile, The Doctor has returned to the château and faces the Countess, he casually informs her that a green, one-eyed alien is ransacking the art world to save his species. He is taken down to the cellar, but has unnerved the Countess and got her thinking… she retrieves from a cabinet an Egyptian scroll that features several gods, one of which has a green, one-eyed head.

In the cellar, it appears Romana’s finished her work, ensuring the equipment is ready to be used to send its owner back through time. The evil alien then enters the drawing room to bid farewell to his wife. She levels a gun at him and demands to know just what he is. He smoothly tells her it was easy to deceive her – a fur coat here, a trinket there – and removes his ‘face’ to reveal his green, one-eyed true form to her for the first time. Then he suggests it was kind of her to keep wearing the bracelet; he activates it, instantly killing her – ‘goodbye, my dear, I’m sorry you had to die, but then, in a short while, you will have ceased ever to have existed’. Back in the cellar, Scaroth steps into the centre of the equipment and disappears back through time, only too aware that Romana has rigged the thing so he can remain in his destination only for a few seconds before he has to return, but he only needs a few seconds. Duggan, relieved, believes it must now all be over and they can relax and go for a drink, yet his two companions declare they must go on a journey.

As The Doctor and Romana return to the TARDIS, taking Duggan with them then, the former pilots the machine after the ‘time trace’ left by Scaroth’s journey. The three step out of the time- and space-machine on to barren rock, which The Doc declares is a point that in the future will be at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, but is now 400 million years into the past. He spies the Jagaroth ship of which Scaroth spoke and, nearby, a soup of slurry that contains the amniotic fluid from which all life on Earth will begin. Romana notices the ship’s thrust motors are damaged and when its pilot (the ‘past’ Scaroth) attempts to take-off it’ll explode; the Doctor realises in fact this explosion didn’t just splinter Scaroth through time, but also the radiation thrown out from it ignited the slurry of fluid and kick-started life on Earth. Scaroth must absolutely be stopped from preventing his ‘past’ self from trying to take-off in the ship!

Speak of the devil and, well, the devil appears, fresh from travelling back through time too. As he calls to his fellow Jagaroth not to take-off, The Doc cries that he’s rolled the dice once and doesn’t get another chance – or at least doesn’t deserve one. Duggan, however, reverts to type and simply knocks out Scaroth; this time to The Doctor’s delight – ‘Duggan, I think that was possibly the most important punch in history!’. Scaroth’s time is up and he disappears, travelling back to the future, where (back in the château) his reappearance as a monster causes his henchman to destroy the equipment, blasting Scaroth out of existence and starting a major fire. Back in the past, the trio hurry back into the TARDIS just before the Jagaroth ship attempts to take-off and explodes in a fireball, in turn of course, beginning life on Earth.

Later, atop the Eiffel tower once more, The Doctor attempts to convince Duggan that just because the only one of the seven Mona Lisas to survive the fire in the château has ‘This is a fake’ scrawled on the canvas, underneath the painting, doesn’t make it any less the genuine article – after all, it was undoubtedly painted by Leonardo. If the authorities x-ray the portrait and discover the writing, it serves them right – why should they have to examine such a work so closely to deem it great art, instead of merely looking at it and appreciating it? The two Gallifreyans bid Duggan goodbye and the latter picks up a postcard of the Mona Lisa from a stall next to him, ruefully looking down at the image.

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_fourth_doctor_question_why_75_blue

.

Not only is City Of Death the funniest, it’s also by far the most popular (on original showing) and easily one of the absolute very best Doctor Who serials – and probably my favourite story of the original ‘Classic’ series too. How could you not be pulled in, enthralled and delighted by a four-parter that features ‘ultimate’ Doc Tom Baker with arguably his ultimate companion (a fellow Gallifreyan who’s the cute as a button Lalla Ward; on whom the actor unquestionably had his eye, so much so they got together and eventually married – see bottom video clip) gallivanting around the practically perfect Paris, with a hapless, loveable detective for an ally and a desperate monstrous-looking monster hiding in human form as a suave villain, with his equally charming, aristocratic wife. Oh, and seven – count ’em, seven – Mona Lisas thrown into the mix too.

The primary reason why the serial’s such an utterly entertaining and satisfying entry in the Who canon, though, is the quality of its writing. Unmistakably scripted by Douglas Adams, its story and dialogue has all the hallmarks of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy legend. Undoubtedly, this is Doctor Who as comedy, but Adams’ brilliance isn’t in just writing a thoroughly funny serial, it’s perhaps more so in how he makes it funny.

His script doesn’t so much wallow in the died-in-the-wool and/ or far-fetched fantasy conventions of Who (a rather ridiculous-looking alien; the fact The Doc can go back in time to meet and become chums with Leonardo da Vinci; he and his companion are ‘assisted’ by a slow-on-the-uptake, often useless ally), it delightfully plays around with these conventions (the alien has been hiding as a member of the human race, which he’s deliberately pushed forward in development; The Doc tries to scupper the alien’s scheme of forcing Leonardo to produce a multitude of Mona Lisas by writing on their pre-painted canvasses in, yes, felt-tip and the slow, useless sidekick is a p*ss-take of the Bulldog Drummond-esque trenchcoated detective of pulpy action fiction – his fists-first approach a running gag that always delivers). The clever fooling about even extends to the serial’s title – in the language of its setting City Of Death translates as ‘Cité de la mort’, which sounds an awful lot like ‘Cité de l’amour’ (‘City of Love’, a nickname for Paris). In short, in this story Adams gives Doctor Who the entirely effective post-modern treatment. Never since has the show taken the mickey out of itself – and screen adventure drama in general – with such smarts, confidence and swagger.

Adams’ script isn’t confined just to comedy, though, for the pacing throughout the four episodes is pitch-perfect and the cliffhanger to Episode Two one of Who‘s very best; revealing a villain in Renaissance Florence who’s troubling Leonardo to be exactly the same villain troubling The Doctor and his mates in the present. What the hell! And the explanation for this in Episodes Three and Four is even better – the villain’s entity is scattered throughout time, so versions of himself exist in different eras and places at exactly the same time. It’s almost breathtaking (like the cliffhanger) on first viewing – and so good is it, current ‘NuWho’ show-runner Steven Moffat seemingly borrowed it for the explanation of companion Clara’s mystery in latest episode The Name Of The Doctor (2013). And, let’s not forget too, that nicely-slid-in theme of what constitutes great art, which The Doc, Romana and Duggan disagree over throughout the adventure – all those Mona Lisas, which one’s tops if they’re all Leonardo’s? And what so great about them anyway?

Mind you, City Of Death isn’t just The Douglas Adams Show. Director Michael Hayes does an excellent job in realising the script’s humour, twists and turns and ambitions. Plus, while clearly relishing the story and comedy, Baker’s in his element as our hero, as is Ward as companion Romana. Moreover, the casting of quality, familiar TV faces Julian Glover and Catherine Schell as the villain and villainess is up there with the best guest casting in the show’s history (cf. Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter as Jago and Litefoot in 1977’s The Talons Of Weng-Chiang) and Tom Chadbon’s Duggan makes for a fine foil to all the sci-fi-informed characters around him.

And special mention too must go to a pair of Who story facets that rarely get acknowledged, namely the music and the locations. City Of Death was – maybe surprisingly, given its era of production was the economically depressed, fag end of the ’70s – the first Who serial to feature overseas filming and a good deal of it at that; the Parisian locales adding (up to that point) unique, nay unparalleled atmos, style and class to proceedings (‘a bouquet’, you might say). And regular incidental music composer Dudley Simpson’s work is particularly satisfying – and unusually memorable. The theme that plays over The Doc, Romana and Duggan’s haring around Paris’s streets complements the on-location work perfectly, even adding the mostly comedy-first story an authentic, thriller-esque dimension.

The final word here, though, has to go to those unforgettable few seconds right before the story’s final climax – those two art lovers’ utter guff over why the TARDIS is such a deserving ‘modern art’ piece belonging in the gallery in which The Doc’s parked it (see video clip above). This double cameo from John Cleese and Eleanor Bron, brilliant veterans of British screen comedy already by this point, add a totally unexpected but utterly perfect moment as The Doctor, Romana and Duggan sweep past them, into the TARDIS and the latter disappears. It’s the quintessential example of Doctor Who stepping out of itself and straight back in that this serial is all about.

.

doctor_who_city_of_death_where_are_we_going

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_fourth_doctor_question_how_75_blue

.

As so often with great Who stories of lore, the omens weren’t good for City Of Death. It began life as The Gamble With Time, a 1920s-set adventure in which an alien poses as a human playboy whose wife’s gambling finances his time experiments. It was conceived by David Fisher, author of the previous season’s efforts The Stones Of Blood and The Androids Of Tara (both 1978). Fisher, however, was going through a particularly messy divorce when called on by producer Graham Williams to deliver a final script, in which case then the task of delivering it fell to Williams’ script editor Douglas Adams.

The latter, after struggling for years, had at last – and all at once – landed on his feet. He was fresh from his big success with The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy radio series (1978), plus had just seen his set-to-be-even-bigger-success, the book based on the former, published, and was now of course slogging away as the official overseer/ re-writer of Who‘s scripts. And this particular re-writing job truly was one, requiring Adams to churn out four 25-minute-long episodes in practically no time at all. He was then, clichéd as it may be, holed up in Williams’ home and, fuelled by whisky and coffee, somehow managed to get it done in a single weekend. The rest, of course, is history. So much so, in fact, that Adams re-used elements of his script for that of his fellow brilliant (but ultimately only half-filmed) effort this season Shada (1979) and his later novel Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (1987).

Although filming overseas – not least in a place as aspirational (to the late ’70s British mentality, no doubt) as Paris – was an exciting first for Doctor Who, the reality was far from glamorous. Not only was there a lot of rain, the schedule forced the crew to cross the channel on May Day weekend when many establishments were closed – even a pre-selected café, the rattling of whose door-handle during one scene caused the business’s alarm to go off and the thesps and crew to, well, have to scarper. Also, according to a later interview with Adams, along with Ken Grieve, director of the next story to be filmed that season (Destiny Of The Daleks, which was broadcast directly before City Of Death), on an impulse he jetted off to Paris because he hadn’t been invited to the ‘glamorous’ location. Once they got there, though, neither found themselves particularly welcome as everyone else was hard at work. The pair then spent the evening and night drinking in Parisian bars before flying back to Blighty – essentially, for Adams’ part, so he could boast to anyone who’d listen in BBC TV Centre next day what he’d just done.

Cast-wise, City Of Death affords Who two of its strongest connections to the world of 007 (one of any number of reasons why I love this story, must confess). Both Julian Glover (Scarlioni/ Tancredi/ Scaroth) and Catherine Schell (Countess Scarlioni) would feature or already had featured in supporting roles in James Bond films; Glover as similarly smooth villain Kristatos in For Your Eyes Only (1981) and Schell as one of Blofeld’s delectable ‘Angels of Death’ in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). Moreover, Glover had already played Richard The Lionheart in the Who story The Crusaders (1965) and would achieve maximum fame as General Veers in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and as, yes, smooth villain Walter Donovan in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989), while Schell had co-starred opposite Peter Sellers in The Return Of The Pink Panther (1976) and as a regular player in Gerry Anderson’s TV series Space 1999 (1975-78).

Worth noting too is the fact John Cleese and Eleanor Bron were roped into making their cameos thanks to Douglas Adams knowing them from his Cambridge Footlights days and working – certainly with Cleese – on Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969-74). Lalla Ward, however, had nobody but herself to blame for the highly flattering letters she received from many a red-blooded male thanks to choosing to wear a schoolgirl’s uniform costume throughout – she apparently, and most naïvely, did so because she hated wearing them at school and thought girls watching the programme would enjoy doing the same more if they saw Romana in one.

The boast above that, in terms of original broadcasts, City Of Death remains the most popular Who serial ever isn’t an idle one. Its average audience (across all four episodes) of 14.5 million is exceedingly high in itself, but was boosted by the – now astounding – 16.1 million peeps who tuned in to watch Episode Four (comfortably the highest ever viewing figure for any Doctor Who broadcast) on October 20 1979, albeit a Saturday night when owing to industrial action ITV was forced into a black-out.

All in all then, although City Of Death dates from the much maligned humour-centric, Graham Williams-produced late era of Tom Baker’s tenure, there can surely be no question this generally derided time in the show’s history was well worth it, yes, for all its flaws and false notes, given it gave us this biggest, (possibly) best and definitely funniest of Doctor Who efforts. In the words of Eleanor Bron, exquiste… absolutely exquiste.

.

.

george's_journal_motif

.

Next time: The Five Doctors (Special/ 1983)

.

Previous close-ups/ reviews:

The Talons Of Weng-Chiang (Season 14/ 1977/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Deadly Assassin (Season 14/ 1976/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

Pyramids Of Mars (Season 13/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

Genesis Of The Daleks (Season 12/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Ark In Space (Season 12/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Dæmons (Season 8/ 1971/ Doctor: Jon Pertwee)

Inferno (Season 7/ 1970/ Doctor: Jon Pertwee)

The War Games (Season 6/ 1969/ Doctor: Patrick Troughton)

An Unearthly Child (Season 1/ 1963/ Doctor: William Hartnell)

.

Advertisements
14 Comments leave one →
  1. September 16, 2013 7:53 am

    I always say that you learn something new every day.
    I never realised that John Cleese had appeared in Dr Who. The video clip above tells me otherwise!
    Thanks.

    • September 16, 2013 10:05 pm

      Oh yes, he absolutely did – and filmed one or two moments with Tom Baker for the legendary ‘internal BBC Christmas video’ of that year at the same time. Suspect you can find them on youtube.

      Take it from your comment then, Peter, you heaven’t seen the greatness that is City Of Death? If you’re partial to Doctor Who (which, from your previous comments, I think I can safely assume you are), my advice is to put that right as soon as possible…! 🙂

      • September 17, 2013 12:43 am

        You are partially correct in your initial assumption. I cannot remember “City of Death”, but I am sure I probably have seen it.
        I am as you assumed, partial to the Doctor. I still remember “An Unearthly child”…. Yes, the very FIRST episode!
        I have watched all 12 episodes (YouTube) of “City of Death”… with the exception of number 7 which seems to be missing.
        I remember fondly meeting Tom Baker and Louise Jameson on the London Underground in about 1980. I thanked them for being such excellent actors. Tom Baker was exactly like the Doctor, smiling and exceedingly polite and grateful.
        :-))

Trackbacks

  1. Tardis Party: the Adams apple of Douglas’s eye? Shada ~ Gareth Roberts (Review) | George's Journal
  2. Tardis Party: Doctor Who serial close-up ~ The Talons Of Weng-Chiang (S14/ 1977) | George's Journal
  3. Tardis Party: Doctor Who episode close-up ~ The Five Doctors (Special/ 1983) | George's Journal
  4. Tardis Party: Doctor Who serial close-up ~ The Caves Of Androzani (1984) | George's Journal
  5. Tardis Party: Doctor Who episode close-up ~ Rose (New Season 1/ 2005) | George's Journal
  6. Tardis Party: Doctor Who episode close-up ~ Blink (New Season 3/ 2007) | George's Journal
  7. Tardis Party: Doctor Who episode close-up ~ Doctor Who: The Movie (1996) | George's Journal
  8. Tardis Party: Doctor Who episode close-up ~ The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang (New season 5/ 2010) | George's Journal
  9. Tardis Party: Happy Doctor Who Day! The 10 greatest ever moments of the greatest ever sci-fi TV show | George's Journal
  10. Tardis Party/ Half-century heroics: The Day Of The Doctor (Nov 23)/ An Adventure In Space And Time (Nov 21, BBC2) ~ Reviews | George's Journal
  11. George’s Journal’s fourth birthday party: forty years of undeniable legends (1950-89) | George's Journal

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: