THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
TV STORIES "DESTINY OF
THE DALEKS" AND "THE
CREATURE FROM THE
DAVID FISHER &
THE GAMBLE WITH TIME
& THE CURSE OF THE
'CITY OF DEATH' DVD
Whilst on holiday in
Paris, the Doctor and
that something is
amiss with time. Who
is conducting the
what connects them
to the Mona Lisa? The
answers lead them to
discover a secret
that has been hidden
for four hundred
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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