Whilst on holiday in

 Paris, the Doctor and

 Romana discover

 that something is

 amiss with time. Who

 is conducting the

 secret time

 experiments, and

 what connects them

 to the Mona Lisa? The

 answers lead them to

 discover a secret

 that has been hidden

 for four hundred

 million years...


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City of Death

29th september 1979 - 20th october 1979







City of Death” is certainly right up there with the best of them in terms of quality. The record of 14.5 million viewers (on average) tuning in each week were well deserved. It is ironic that such a fantastic and much beloved story came during what was in my opinion the nadir of

the whole series – the Graham Williams era.



The location, the script, the characters – all phenomenal. Tom Chadbon’s Duggan is a great foil to the Doctor and Romana; it is a shame that he did not join the Doctor and Romana as they left Paris. The two Time Lords really benefit from being in the company of someone of (much!) lesser intelligence.



Julian Glover is an immense presence as the villain Scaroth – a hideous alien hidden in a human body trying to commit the most dangerous of all crimes – alter time. Moreover, we can see why he feels he must do so – to save his race. It is no surprise that Glover ended up as a Bond villain after this superb performance!



                                    DUGGAN                  But it’s a fake! You can’t hang a fake Mona Lisa in the Louvre!


ROMANA                  How could it be a fake? Leonardo painted it.


                                    DUGGAN                  With the words ‘this is a fake’ written under the paintwork in felt tip?


ROMANA                  It doesn’t affect what it looks like.


DUGGAN                  It doesn’t matter what it looks like!


                                    THE DOCTOR         Doesn’t it? Some people would say that’s the whole point of painting.


Douglas Adams’ script, for once, strikes precisely the right balance between humour and drama to produce something above and beyond the Doctor Who churned out during this period. The story is often criticised as being too funny, but humour is often the way of making a very profound point (as you can see above) and Adams is the master of using humour to tell a great science-fiction story which also leaves a ‘moral’ imprinted upon you. The man was clearly a genius – a pretty abysmal script editor as it happens, but even so without the doubt the greatest, funniest and most imaginative writer of his generation.



The DVD special features naturally focus heavily on Adams’ contribution to the writing of the serial, particularly Jonathan Morris’ excellent “Paris in the Springtime” documentary. It is all too easy to take such excellent special features for granted in this ever-improving range - after all, I doubt that many serials will have a 45-minute documentary of this quality to accompany their release.


The rest of the special features in the two-disc set are nothing to get excited about – a commentary with Glover, Chadbon and director Michael Hayes is insightful though lacking something (namely Tom Baker and Lalla Ward!) and does not really offer up anything worthwhile that “Paris in the Springtime” does not cover. “Paris, W12” is your bog-standard unedited studio footage, of interest to few. Apart from some special effects shots and the

(as always) fantastic production subtitles, this DVD set is rounded up with a photo gallery and “Eye On… Blatchford”, admittedly a product “…of the same warped minds which produced the critically acclaimed ‘Oh Mummy!’ Featurette”; an amusing bit of light-hearted nonsense.



My only possible complaint about this two-disc set is simply that I am sure it could have

easily fitted on one disc! A ‘two-disc’ Doctor Who set has really been something to get excited about in the past (“Dalek Invasion of Earth”, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”, “The Curse of Fenric”, “The Two Doctors” etc) but despite the brilliance of this story I do not feel that on the whole the special features are up to the same standard as the other two-disc

sets available in the range.


As for the story itself, there is one gripe that I have. The title – “City of Death”. Not only does

it sound absolutely awful (it is in the same league as “The Curse of Fatal Death”, and that is meant to sound awful!) but it is at best an exaggeration, at worst a total misnomer – the

body count at the end is pitiful.



Two dead humans and one dead Jagaroth in Paris = a city of death. Hmmm.


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006


E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

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