CITY OF DEATH

Part One

City of DeathNicol: Who the hell is David Agnew?
Sue: Oh, no. That name rings a bell. And not in a good way.
Me: David Agnew doesn’t exist. It’s a pseudonym. Practically every line of the script is written by Douglas Adams, although some of the ideas originate from David Fisher. He wrote The Stones of Blood and The Androids of Tara.
Sue: I liked them.
Me: Don’t worry, Nic, this is very Douglas Adams.
Nicol: It had better be.

The story begins 400 million years ago.

Sue: This is very alien. You can tell straight away that this story isn’t going to be set anywhere near Earth.

She’s wrong, of course. But she means well.

Sue: Nice matte painting at the back, there. The spaceship is very War of the Worlds, too. I like the model a lot.

City of DeathWe cut to the ship’s cockpit.

Sue: Waiter, there’s an eyeball floating in my linguini!
Nicol: Is his spacesuit made from Lego?
Sue: I don’t see how this part of the ship fits in with the exterior we saw a minute ago. They don’t match up.

I sigh.

Scaroth the Jagaroth is worried that his spaceship’s warp drive engines will explode if he revs them up.

Sue: I can’t understand a single word he’s saying.
Nicol: Bane made more sense than this guy.

Things aren’t looking too good, folks. But at least a nice explosion takes their mind off things for a bit.

And then we cut to some blossoming trees, and as the camera pans across them, it reveals a very iconic tower standing in the background.

City of DeathSue: It’s Blackpool.
Nicol: Mother! It’s the Eiffel Tower!
Sue: Great stock footage.

At the top of the tower, the Doctor and Romana are flirting outrageously with each other. It takes a good 30 seconds for Sue and Nicol to process the scene.

Sue: Are they really in Paris?
Me: Yes, they are really in Paris.
Sue: Wow. I love this already.
Nicol: Paris and Douglas Adams. What more could I want?

Nicol is half-French. She actually turned her phone off at this point.

Sue: I bet you like Romana’s outfit, eh?
Nicol: Yes, why is she dressed as an extra from Grange Hill?
Sue: Ann Summers, surely?
Nicol: Mother!

The Doctor and Romana skip through the streets of Paris.

Nicol: I like the music.
Sue: You like Dudley Simpson?
Nicol: I like show tunes. I keep expecting somebody to break into song.
Sue: They should do a Doctor Who musical. Buffy did it and it was brilliant. A planet where everybody has to sing or die. That could work.
Me: Could you play this tune on your piano, Nic?
Nicol: Possibly. Why?
Me: If I filmed you playing it and I put it on YouTube, we’d get loads of hits.
Sue: After what happened with the photo? Forget it!
Nicol: It wasn’t even a good photo.

In the cellar of a nearby château, we meet the eccentric Professor Kerenksy.

Nicol: Is he supposed to be Italian or Russian?
Sue: He sounds like Manuel from Fawlty Towers if you ask me. And he looks like my old science teacher, Mr. Windermere.

We also meet Kerensky’s employer, the incredibly suave Count Scarlioni.

City of DeathSue: He is definitely famous. And good. Good and famous.
Me: Right on both counts.
Nicol: I won’t know who he is.
Me: Yes, you will. He’s in one of your favourite TV shows.
Nicol: Community?
Me: Game of Thrones.
Nicol: Really? Who the hell is he?
Me: He plays Grand Maester Pycelle.
Nicol: I haven’t got my Game of Thrones flow chart with me. Which one is he again?
Me: The randy priest with the tremendously long beard.
Sue: You get to see him naked in one episode.
Nicol: Mother!

The Doctor and Romana are enjoying a drink at a cafe when they experience an unexpected time jump.

Sue: It’s Le Groundhog Day.
Nicol: It’s a time loop.
Sue: Or there’s a fault with the DVD. It wouldn’t be the first time.

The Doctor thinks it could be a crack in time.

Sue: Like the crack from the new series. Spooky, eh? Oh, I used to have a Renault 5. I loved that car.

Yes, Romana and the Doctor are running through the streets of Paris again.

City of DeathSue: This is basically them screaming at the viewers: LOOK AT US! WE WENT TO PARIS! LOOK!
Nicol: I’m not complaining.
Sue: It makes a lovely change from what I usually have to put with. Why can’t they all be like this?

The Doctor takes Romana to the Louvre.

Sue: You can tell that they couldn’t get permission to film there. The camera is miles away.
Nicol: Where’s the pyramid? That’s shocking.

The Doctor and Romana are admiring the Mona Lisa when they experience another time jump. The Doctor faints spectacularly.

Nicol: Is he always like this?
Sue: Oh, this is just his normal behaviour, Nicol. He’s been much worse than this.

The Doctor and Romana head back to the cafe and we all end up singing Dudley’s City of Death theme together as they stroll down the boulevards of Paris. When they reach the cafe, the Doctor and Romana talk about art.

Nicol: They are sitting in front of a French police box. That’s very funny.

A British private eye named Duggan forces the Time Lords into the cafe at gunpoint. We leave the delights of Paris for the confines of BBC Television Centre where some “French” extras, hired to provide some local colour, leave a lot to be desired.

Nicol: Why don’t they just give them some onions to wear round their necks and be done with it?

At one point, one of the extras attempts a gallic shrug that ‘Allo ‘Allo would have baulked at, and Nicol threatened to switch her phone back on.

Back at the château, the Countess Scarlioni is disappointed when she learns that husband is tinkering in the cellar with the professor. Again.

Sue: Does she suspect that her husband is having an affair with the kooky scientist?
Me: Hold that thought. It might come in handy later.

The episode concludes with a classic cliffhanger, as Count Scarlioni rips off his mask to reveal the Jagaroth beneath.

City of DeathNicol: You can see his nose.
Me: What?
Nicol: You can see the actor’s nose behind all that spaghetti.

My God, she’s right. I’d never noticed that before. Well, that’s the last time I’ll ever invite her to a screening.

Nicol: It’s either a chin or a nose.
Sue: Well, I liked the cliffhanger. That was a great start. Oh look, Rosie Crowson is the PA for this story. That’s brilliant. She taught me everything I know about production management. I loved Rosie. Rosie, if you are reading this, email the site.

 

Part Two

Neil in 1979Me: This is our 500th episode of Doctor Who!
Sue: That definitely deserves a big hug. I’d offer to dance for you but Nicol would die of embarrassment.
Nicol: If you’d warned me it was the 500th episode, I would have baked a cake. I could have made the Arc de Triomphe out of marzipan.
Me: Funnily enough, this episode originally aired on my 10th birthday.
Sue: And you weren’t in the country. What a shame.
Me: I know. I didn’t see this story for another twelve years, when it was released on video. How sad is that? I did spend my 10th birthday in a a jet boat, though, so it wasn’t all bad news.

It’s around this point that the comments from Sue and Nicol begin to dry up.

The Louis Quinze chair routine gets a massive thumbs up, though.

Me: It doesn’t get any better than that. It makes me laugh every time I see it. And I must have seen it dozens of times. Hundreds, possibly. I used to play that scene in some of my lectures. Even the ones that weren’t about science fiction.
Sue: I love it. I feel like I’m watching a play. A really good play where everyone feels really comfortable because they’ve learnt all their lines and they know what they’re doing. They’re enjoying themselves and it’s infectious.
Nicol: Shhhh, I’m trying to listen to this.

The Doctor, Romana and Duggan are locked up the cellar.

Nicol: Why are they locking them up next to the top-secret lab? That’s a bit daft, isn’t it?
Sue: Don’t think about it too much, Nicol. It’s Doctor Who.

We can all agree on one thing, though. Everybody loves Duggan.

Sue: He should be a companion. He’d be perfect for the Doctor and Romana. They could take it in turns to play with him.

The Doctor escapes from his cell and he spies on Kerensky as he experiments with time. It seems that the professor has the power to age chickens to death.

Sue: Just switch off the machine before the chicken dies. I don’t see what the problem is.

City of DeathThe Doctor explains the problem: the two time continuums are incompatible.

Kerensky: Ah. I don’t know what you mean.
Sue: Even I understand what he meant, and I’m not a scientist!

The Doctor reverses the polarity (“Of course he does”) and the chicken turns back into an egg. And then the face of a Jagaroth appears in the time bubble.

Sue: Did the chicken turn into the alien? Is that an important clue? What does that mean?

I ignore her, hoping she’ll forget all about it. Just like the cafe artist who paints a portrait of Romana with a fractured timepiece for a face, it makes no sense at all.

Back at the château, Scarlioni is overseeing a dress rehearsal for the crime of the century.

Sue: They should have attached the suction pads on the glass it before they cut it. Amateurs.

Scarlioni neutralises the laser beams that protect the Mona Lisa by altering the refractive index of the air.

Nicol: That’s plausible.
Sue: Apart from the fact that they touched the beams when they were carrying the painting out. Amateurs!

Meanwhile, in the château’s cellar, Romana finds a hidden room that has been bricked up for hundreds of years. Duggan breaks the wall down with his shoulder.

Sue: Wait! It could be a supporting wall! Look, the whole set is going to fall down.

City of DeathInside the room, they discover six copies of the Mona Lisa, all painted by Leonardo da Vinci.

Sue: Clever.
Nicol: Very clever.

The Doctor wants to get to the bottom of this mystery, so he uses his TARDIS to visit Italy in 1505.

Sue: I thought he couldn’t steer his TARDIS properly?
Me: He must have turned the randomiser off.
Sue: But that means the Black Guardian might find him.
Nicol: Who?

The Doctor is exploring Da Vinci’s study, but he is interrupted by a soldier working for Captain Tancredi. And than an imposing frame fills the doorway.

The Doctor: You! What are you doing here?
Sue: Is it the Black Guardian?
Me: No.
Sue: Is it the Master?
Me: No!
Nicol: Mother!

No, it’s Captain Tancredi aka Count Scarlioni!

Sue: Fabulous cliffhanger.
Me: You didn’t say very much, Nicol. Are you bored?
Nicol: Not at all. Let’s keep going.

500 episodes down. Well done us.

 

Part Three

City of DeathSue: I love the set design. It’s gorgeous.

Scarlioni/Tancredi orders his solider to torture the Doctor.

Me: Paaaaaacker.
Sue: Is it Packer? So it is. Even the small parts are big in this.

Duggan and Romana arrive at the Louvre but the Mona Lisa has already been stolen. Duggan manages to set off the alarms and he escapes by throwing himself through a window.

Nicol: I’m pretty sure that the Mona Lisa is kept on display in a room with no windows. Just saying.
Me: There are forums for people like you.

And then we hit a type of silence that I haven’t experienced since The Seeds of Doom Part Five. Well, I say silence. Silence punctuated by loud, raucous laughter would be a more apt description.

I put down my notebook and I let them enjoy it.

City of DeathSue: I’m really sorry, I didn’t say very much, did I?
Me: Don’t worry about it. I’m just happy to see you enjoying it so much.
Sue: Did you ever think you’d see the day when all three of us would sit down together and watch old Doctor Who like this? It’s lovely, isn’t it?
Me: Stop it, you’ll make me cry.
Sue: I always find it difficult to say anything when a story is really good. What more can I say? It’s brilliant.
Me: What about you, Nicol? You’ve been very quiet as well.
Nicol: I’m really enjoying it. It reminds me of the new series a lot. The humour and the timey-wimey twists. It feels modern. That surprised me.
Me: If I had to choose a classic Doctor Who story to show to someone who’d never ever seen the programme before, I would probably choose this one.
Sue: I wouldn’t. It’s not your typical Doctor Who story at all.
Nicol: That’s why he chose it, mother. Doesn’t that tell you something?

 

Part Four

StrikeMe: This episode was watched by 16.1 million people. Live.
Sue: Wow.
Me: It still holds the record for Doctor Who‘s highest ever viewing figures.
Sue: I’m not surprised. I can see how word of mouth would have spread, and more and more people would have wanted to watch this.
Me: That’s a lovely theory but ITV were on strike so there wasn’t that much choice, really. It was either City of Death or Championship Lawn Green Bowls on BBC2. Probably.
Sue: Even so, it’s the perfect story to hold that record. Imagine if it was something really shit, like the last one?

After another extended silence, Sue asks me to stop the DVD.

Sue: Is the Countess an alien?
Me: No.
Sue: But she knows that her husband is an alien, right?
Me: No.
Sue: Right. No, wait, that doesn’t make any sense.
Me: In the first episode you said you thought that she thought her husband was shagging the professor.
Nicol: I can’t believe you are having this conversation.

The Doctor, Romana and Duggan are reunited in the chateau’s cellar.

Sue: I’ll be really upset if Duggan isn’t a companion for at least one more adventure.
Me: I loved Duggan so much, he featured in my one and only attempt at fan fiction.
Sue: When did you write that? When you were 12?
Me: No, when I was 24 and I was living with you. I toyed with the idea of sending a proposal to Virgin’s New Adventures range. Their guidelines specifically told you not to use any established characters or monsters, so my story featured Duggan and the Zygons. It was terrible. I never sent it.

Scarlioni and the Doctor discuss the merits of meddling with time.

Sue: Best villain ever. How can you not love him?

And then the Countess confronts Scarlioni. With a gun. Scarlioni has a lot explaining to do.

City of DeathScarlioni: It has not been difficult keeping secrets from you, my dear. A few fur coats, a few trinkets, a little nefarious excitement.
Sue: Nefarious? What the hell does that mean?
Me: Maybe he wore a gimp mask and an all-in-one –
Nicol: Can we please stop talking about this now?

Scarlioni tears off his mask and he becomes Scaroth last of the Jagaroth.

Me: I bet she’s happy that they had separate rooms now, eh?
Sue: They should have left his voice alone. It would have been funnier, not to mention easier for me to understand.

Scaroth throws himself back 400 million years. The Doctor, Romana and Duggan race through the streets of Paris.

Sue: Hang on a minute. Where’s K9?
Me: I can’t believe it’s taken you three and a half episodes to notice.
Nicol: That’s how good this is. I didn’t notice, either. I miss him now, though.

City of DeathThe Doctor and Romana hurl themselves in front of the Paris traffic.

Sue: Aww, they are holding hands. That’s sweet.
Me: You can actually see Tom Baker and Lalla Ward falling in love with each other over the course of this story.
Nicol: What?
Me: They fell in love. They marry eventually.
Sue: I’m sure you’ve told me this before. I wasn’t that bothered the first time. Now I want to know everything.
Nicol: How long were they married for?
Me: They divorced a year later.
Sue: Still longer than my first marriage.
Me: She’s married to Richard Dawkins now.
Nicol: Oh well, you can’t have everything.

The Doctor, Romana and Duggan enter the art gallery where the Doctor parked his TARDIS.

City of DeathSue and Nicol: Ahhhhhh!!!!

They’ve just spotted John Cleese.

Sue: Brilliant, just brilliant.

The TARDIS arrives on earth 400 million years ago and we are told that life on Earth is the direct consequence of the Jagaroth’s misfortune.

Sue: Creationists wouldn’t like that.
Nicol: It’s very clever. The twists keep coming.

Scaroth arrives at the site of the Jagaroth’s ship. He wants to stop himself from starting the engines that cause the explosion.

Sue: Just hit him!

Duggan obliges.

Scaroth is thrown back to the château in 1979, where his manservant, Herman, kills him by accident.

Sue: That’s very funny. I think Herman loved him as well.

The story is wrapped up at the top of the Eifel Tower, but Duggan isn’t asked to join the crew.

City of DeathSue: Take him with you!

When the Doctor reaches the ground, he turns back to wave farewell.

The Doctor and Me: Bye, bye, Duggan!
Sue: He can’t hear you. He’s too far away. But it is a lovely touch. Bye, bye, Duggan.

 

The Score

Sue didn’t hesitate when it came to her score.

10/10

Sue: That was faultless. It’s as simple as that.
Nicol: Yeah, I’ll give it 10/10 as well.
Me: Me too.
Sue: Nobody cares what you think, Neil.
Me: You could stick that on BBC2 right now and no one would bat an eyelid.
Sue: Stick it on BBC1 during the 50th anniversary celebrations. That’s what I’d do.

 

Sue was very keen to watch some extra features (Nicol, not so much). We started with Paris in the Springtime, which is written by Jonathan Morris and directed by Ed Stradling.

Rob ShearmanSue: That was an excellent documentary. You could tell that a lot of love went into that. A couple of things, though: first, what kind of weird lens were they using to film Rob Shearman? Secondly, you can’t get red chardonnay, Rob. Duggan breaks a bottle of red wine and you said it was the correct way for him to serve chardonnay. And I don’t even drink that much wine! And finally, I’m really sorry, Mr Moffat, but you said the John Cleese cameo is the only bit of comedy that doesn’t have anything to do with the plot. But it does. It shows us yet another way that people look at art – in this case, in a very pretentious way – and that ties into the themes of the story. Apart from that, it was great. I can’t believe Douglas knocked out the script in a weekend. Imagine what it could have been like if he’d had a whole week!

But the next extra, Paris, W2, blew her away.

Sue: Oh. My. God. I can hear Rosie.
Me: No you can’t. Rosie’s the PA, that must be the floor manager doing all the talking.
Sue: I am telling you – that’s Rosie. I’d know that voice anywhere.

City of DeathI turned the production notes on and by God, she was right. It is Rosie Crowson acting as the conduit between director Michael Hayes and the actors.

Sue: I can’t believe this. I actually feel quite emotional.

I decided to quit while we were ahead and I skipped Eye on Blatchford and the chicken wrangling. You can have too much of a good thing, you know.

 

Coming Soon

 

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Comments

  1. That Neil Guy  August 3, 2012

    Not to open this can of worms, but Big Finish did a musical episode with Colin Baker…

    • Neil Perryman  August 3, 2012

      Yeah, I’m sure we’ll get there when we cover all the Big Finish audios in chronological order.

      • James  August 3, 2012

        Even though I’m 99.99999% sure you’re joking, I really hope you aren’t! :p 😀

  2. wholahoop  August 3, 2012

    Can’t fault Sue’s views on this. but I genuinely laughed out loud at Greg/Glen Allen’s trailer for the Pits

    FWIW I can remember seeing ep 1 and thinking how weird it was to see the Doctor and Romana in a contemporary but foreign location.

    No mention of the British plug in gay Paris?

  3. Graeme C-G  August 3, 2012

    Always loved ‘City of Death’, ever since I got my paws on the VHS in April 1991 for the princely sum of £10.21.

    I can take or leave most other stories from the Graham Williams era, but this is certainly high up on my list of “Desert Island Who”.

  4. matt bartley  August 3, 2012

    The write up for the first episode is perhaps the funniest yet. It’s almost like there’s a sitcom in this…

  5. Bestbrian  August 3, 2012

    Well, I now know what Anne Summer’s is; Saucy Sue! 🙂

    Great episode, great post; great job by all.

  6. Broadshoulder2  August 3, 2012

    Sue got it in one. I think this one would have got high ratings anyway even with the strike. Its quality in every department especially script. I would like to see it repeated on nostalgia Saturday nights that BBC2 has nowadays.

    And, yes, it is nice to see a family sit down for this one and enjoy it. I hope she doesnt give the next one a bashing. It terrified me as a child.

  7. Simon Harries  August 3, 2012

    Exquisite. Absolutely exquisite. So chuffed that Nicol and Sue liked this 🙂

    • Sean  August 5, 2012

      I agree Simon. Just one niggling point though: I always thought the first part of The Armageddon Factor was the 500th episode? Just me, then…

      • Neil Perryman  August 5, 2012

        We skipped 6 episodes of Marco Polo and we combined a couple of recons…that’s why we are slightly behind.

  8. Glen Allen  August 3, 2012

    Well I wanted, no needed to see the score that was coming for this (after being thrown a curve ball by Neil. Luckily I caught it and threw it right back in his beardy face) but I waited and went through it from the top..

    Im now going to have to find the DVD just to find out which bits Sue & Nicol were “ROFL”ing at in part 3. That was frustrating not knowing whih bits they found hilarious :p

    So we eventually get to the score and I actually did it. I geuinely “LOL”d when I saw it. Sat on my own in my cold damp flat that smells of old trainers I actually laughed out loud. Im thinking of getting help.
    The details of my flat of course have no call to be there, and the art lies in the fact that they are there…

    Greg

    • Simon Harries  August 3, 2012

      I’m always delighted by the notion in part 3 that the Doctor changes his mind and seems about to tell the Count everything, rather than be tortured by someone with cold hands… Or the chatty cockney guard, who says he’s paid simply to fight, and not to notice… I’m curious to know if Sue made any further comment about the relationship between the Count and Countess – Catherine Schell’s comment on the DVD doc is priceless in that respect. “Did they never take a bath together?!”

      • Neil Perryman  August 3, 2012

        She concluded that the Countess thought her husband was gay and she was only in it for the title and the money.

        • Perry Armstrong  August 4, 2012

          The Count & Countess Scarlioni relationship bothered me a bit upon initial viewing (‘How did she not know?’), but then ‘Fridge Brilliance’ sets in when you think about numerous real-life examples of marriages between rich guys and their trophy wives. Looking at, say, the marriage of Anna Nicole Smith and J. Howard Marshall, theirs looks positively normal by comparison!

    • Neil Perryman  August 3, 2012

      “I’m now going to have to find the DVD just to find out which bits Sue & Nicol were “ROFL”ing at in part 3. That was frustrating not knowing whih bits they found hilarious :p”

      All of it, Glen. All of it.

    • Jazza1971  August 3, 2012

      Loving your work! 😉

    • David Embery  August 3, 2012

      Laughed out loud at the audio trailer for Creature, there’s only one reason Creature was voted as a video commentary and it’s in Part Two,

      10/10 for City of Death. Hooray. I love season 17 and its ramshackle nature so I hope Nightmare of Eden and Horns of Nimon are taken in the spirit they are intended.

      • Leo  August 3, 2012

        “there’s only one reason Creature was voted as a video commentary and it’s in Part Two,”

        If you’re thinking of the scene mentioned in the trailer, it’s Part Three.

        • David Embery  August 5, 2012

          I’m not as far gone as I thought, phew. Glad it’s not imprinted in my head as much as I thought it was.

  9. Lewis Christian  August 3, 2012

    We’re gunna need another counter on the homepage for Nicol – “Mother!”

    • Frankymole  August 6, 2012

      Congratulations to Neil (and David Agnew) for managing to distract Nicol’s scientific sense in the denouement. 400 million years ago, there was plenty of evolved life on earth – it should’ve been 4 billion years ago, when life began in the oceans. And there would’ve been no oxygen then. Lots of fan theories about the TARDIS extruding a protective bubble or tunnel of air, though… who knows, we might get to see that happen one day 😉

  10. Dave Sanders  August 3, 2012

    Phew! For a while I was worried that Sue wouldn’t be won over by the scenery when the plot stops repeatedly to give us a good look at it, and the rallying cry would become ‘forward through Paris, fast forward through Paris, fast forward through Paris, skip all these scenes’.

  11. Richard Lyth  August 3, 2012

    Thank God Sue liked this, I’d have lost all respect for her judgement otherwise. This is far and away my favourite classic Who story, pure unadulterated joy from start to finish. They should definitely repeat this next year, and bring back Duggan in the new series as well.

  12. Ian Ferguson  August 3, 2012

    I would have been devastated if Sue hadn’t loved this

  13. Ozzy Baxter  August 3, 2012

    10/10!! YES! Thank you for validating my belief system in what makes Doctor Who marvelous. Well done, Susan! 🙂

  14. P.Sanders  August 3, 2012

    Huzzah, I wasn’t sure if Sue would take to this but glad the whole family enjoyed it. Now onto the testing trilogy – 3 studio-based (discounting the splendid filmwork in CftP), alien/space-age whimsy with not terribly well-regarded monsters. Personally I love ’em but looking forward to seeing what Sue makes of it all…

    • Dave Sanders  August 3, 2012

      I expect that after this one, the biggest let-down for Sue will be that, like Desperately Wheeling On The Daleks, none of the next three have any good villains. At all.

      • encyclops  August 3, 2012

        It depends on what you like, really. Of the humanoid villains, one’s sexy, one’s hilarious, and one’s…okay, fucking awful. Of the monsters, one I always found oddly cool, one I still want a huggable stuffed version of, and one’s…okay, fucking awful. I’ll leave it to you to guess which of those sentences takes them in chronological order and which in reverse chronological.

        And as much as I like a decent chunk of what’s to come, these next few are the last three stories that are ANY fun at all until 1987 at the soonest. I’m a little worried about what that means for Sue’s morale.

        • Dave Sanders  August 3, 2012

          Not even Meglos? Or The Twin Dilemma? Which is clearly supposed to be an end-of-term romp, even if it only manages to be so in the sense of a primary (coloured) school play.

          • encyclops  August 3, 2012

            I barely remember Meglos, so maybe. As for The Twin Dilemma, I did actually sort of like it when I was a kid, but even then the first episode kinda sucked a lot of the fun out of the room. Parts of the episode that season with the same initials are fun, I guess, but not quite in the same way.

            Not that “fun” is the most important thing about Doctor Who. But I do find I value it more and more as I get older.

        • Broadshoulder2  August 3, 2012

          I agree with that. After Nimon the fun and energy went out the series and it didn’t quite resonate as well with the public. season 17 is an Indian summer. I have a feeling she might find the Davison era a slog.

          • encyclops  August 3, 2012

            I think the energy was renewed, actually — season 18 is really quite excellent, and I enjoy most of season 19 too, though I know that’s not how most people feel about it. It’s just that the tone changed dramatically, in both senses of the word, meaning that when the script is weak, there’s nothing left to like. One of the chief virtues of the new series is getting the balance right between comedy and drama, and so even when the stories themselves aren’t so great (which is the case more often than I’d like), there’s enough dialogue and personality to make the show fun to watch.

    • Thomas  August 4, 2012

      I haven’t seen Eden or Nimon yet, but the next one is just brilliant. Love it to death, monster and all. And I’d say it has extremely good villains, too.

  15. Ben Gilbert  August 3, 2012

    So glad everyone enjoyed this. It’s a stonker. Everything just comes together perfectly.

    And the reveal of Scarlioni/Tancredi in Leonardo’s study is my favourite ever DW cliffhanger, bar none. And the perfectly-crafted last line to show that this isn’t Scarlioni’s double, it is, somehow, the same man the Doctor met in 1979.

    “What are you doing here?”
    “I think that’s exactly the question I ought to be asking you… Doctor.”

    Brilliant.

  16. Doffi Ghanstazo  August 3, 2012

    This is the first Who I have actual concrete memories of – the ep 1 reveal, the relationship between the count and the professor (which I mixed up with memories Egrorian and Pinder in Blake’s 7), the ray ageing the professor to death (ditto), Duggan generally, the spacecraft. A really distinctive childhood memory, aged 5.

    A lovely commentary here too – really glad it went down so well. Never trust anyone who doesn’t like City Of Death. 😉

  17. Craig  August 3, 2012

    I showed this to my girlfriend recently + she noticed “the nose” at the end of the first episode too. My fan friends have said just a bit of the Scarlioni mask left behind but i have a horrible feeling the missus is right:(
    Great site btw!

    • Dave Sanders  August 3, 2012

      Well Julian Glover has to be able to *breathe*…

    • AST  August 4, 2012

      I just watched it again and I think it’s the background scenery showing through the front of the mask from ear-holes in the side. I reckon the mask sits far enough forward of the actor’s face to allow space inside to show through at that angle. Or something.

      • Frankymole  August 6, 2012

        You’ve got me overthinking this in true rabid fan style… We don’t know that Jagaroth have brains in their heads like we do. Maybe they really are a mass of tentacles and the “nose” etc seen below the surface is the gestation of a new “human skin disguise” which the Count can formulate within his body before needing it again (he does rip the human face “masks” when he removes them). After all, the Ancient Egyptian and Crusader splinters probably don’t have access to latex to make convincing human-looking masks with… I always wondered how he worked the eyes. Probably it’s an actual outer skin which he sloughs off like a snake (only quicker!)…

        Nearly as uncomfortable to contemplate as the Count and Countess’s bedroom/bathtime shenanigans.

  18. Tim Cook  August 3, 2012

    Odd how when I first saw City of Death at the age of 7, it seemed no better or no worse than the other serials around it, all of which I loved. Now, it’s one of the best of the entire classic series, and it’s a pity Douglas Adams’ contributions to Who aren’t generally better known.

    As for the next story, tell yourself it’s meant to be a spoof…even if it wasn’t!

    • Dave Sanders  August 3, 2012

      Sadly, it is. But of a very specific Star Trek episode.

    • PolarityReversed  August 4, 2012

      “Practically every line of the script is written by Douglas Adams.”

      More nuance required surely? Far as I can ascertain, Fisher wrote it, Williams had some suggestions, JNT fancied a jolly to gay Paree, so Adams and Willams did a last-minute rewrite.

      As with pop music collaborations the credits are bound to be contentious, but I’m really not comfortable with people regarding it as fundamentally an Adams story.

      Presumably the Silurians, Daemons, Osirans, Fendahl (and that funny spider thing in the middle, plus any others I’ve forgotten) represent a similar collaboration with ol’ spaghetti chops in determining the course of life on earth.

      As to Sandifer – oh god, I went and read it (fool!). Well, fair play to the Eruditor, but I’m not convinced by his grounding in political economics.

  19. Mark Taylor  August 3, 2012

    Gives you a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling that Sue and Nicol (and Neil!) enjoyed it so much!

    Best Williams story, by a country mile, very possibly best Tom, best everything. Blah blah etc!

  20. Ryan Hall  August 3, 2012

    Loved this as a kid ( and still do as a bigger kid ) , i just love how they both swan around paris without a care in the world , massivly remember the cliffhanger to part one , i wonder how many of us have been at the top of the Efil tower and thought “bye bye duggen” : D
    luv how it took sue 3 and a half eps in to notice the lack of k9 , even though i loved him as a kid i dont think i missed him in this story at all back then.

    & still didnt get a st trinnians outfit for my then Romana doll lol.

  21. Noodles  August 3, 2012

    You know what? I didn’t have one single moment’s doubt that this would score 10/10. I mean, it’s “City Of Death”.

  22. Broton  August 3, 2012

    And a big poke in the eye to all those who complain about “undergraduate humour” – City of Death fully deserves 10/10, I’m really glad Sue and Nicol enjoyed it.

  23. ainthalfhotmum  August 3, 2012

    NO no no…blinded by a weak script, comic acting to the extreme ( some nice lines admittely ) and location shots that if put together can extend to half an episode. Yes, City is a good un’ – id argue that last best WHO..seriously all downhill from here big time! But it does not deserve a 10…an 8 at best.

    Nice comment by Sue re Moffet being wrong on Cleese….so true..you seem to admire this chap…why when the last two seasons of WHO have been dismal..totally confused arcs and seriously it bordering on WHO going down the pan and another 10yr exodus await..we can only hope Dino on a spaceship and Daleks return bring back the fans!!!

    • PolarityReversed  August 5, 2012

      Are you suggesting that WHO is LOST?

      Hmm. A gazillion CGI daleks, more “take away the number you first thought of” Moffatry and the emotional farewell to yet another shrieking overcompensating harridan. To be replaced, we are led to believe, by a totally game-changing companion. Well, as long as she doesn’t turn out to be the physical embodiment of the Higgs Boson who will give birth to the entire concept of space-time in three years time, but in an averted reality that never happened (but sort of did, plus drip of a boyfriend called Antiquark who eventually discovers his spin).

      I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt for now, but I agree broadly that the shark has been if not jumped, then at least ridden hard and put away wet of late…

      • John Williams  August 5, 2012

        The people who want to turn the comments on this blog into an argument about the current series – please go forth and multiply.

        • PolarityReversed  August 5, 2012

          Well, sorry for OTing (and with, I’ll admit, some acid), but the new trailer is pretty topical.
          Please let me know exactly the range within which we are supposed to or allowed to discuss here, John, and I shall adhere to your guidelines.

  24. encyclops  August 3, 2012

    There’s absolutely nothing controversial or unique about my choice of this as my absolute favorite Doctor Who story ever, new series or old, but it is. I’m so glad Sue and Nicol loved it too! Just reading the commentary made me almost as happy as watching it would have.

  25. Scott Edwards  August 3, 2012

    My favourite episode, ever. Genuinely the greatest bit of TV ever made. I’m delighted that Sue and Nicol also rated it so highly – and you, too, Neil 😉

  26. David Embery  August 3, 2012

    When the chicken is reversed to an egg then Scaroth is seen, I took that to say that all life on Earth comes from Scaroth. Still doesn’t make sense but I think I see why it was included.

    • AST  August 4, 2012

      Agreed. I think it’s implying the common ancestor hypothesis suggested by Darwinian evolution.

  27. Colleen  August 3, 2012

    First time poster, long time reader of this site.

    I always thought Romana’s outfit in this serial was more like Madeline from the Madeline books. But I do get the St. Trinian’s vibe as well.

    Glad that everyone one that liked this adventure. It’s been one of my favorite since seeing on re-transmission in the mid 80’s in America.

    • charles yoakum  August 3, 2012

      thank you, the Madeline vibe is waht i thought they were going for as well. Romana is practically looking like she should be schooling Pepito.

  28. jsd  August 3, 2012

    This story is just pure joy, and the sense of joy experienced by the 3 of you came across beautifully in the writeup. 10/10!

  29. PolarityReversed  August 3, 2012

    “Where’s the pyramid?” Oh, bless! They used to have their own currency too…
    As I recall, the nearest you could get to the Moaning Minnie was peering at it from about 40ft away – looked like a postage stamp.
    A real favourite of mine, and I love the fact that the “blow it up” staple ending gets rejigged as a punch up the conk.

  30. Stuart Ian Burns  August 3, 2012

    My favourite ever Doctor Who story.

    About ten years ago, the night before I went to Paris I transcribed the scene set on the Eiffel Tower. The idea was that I’d copy it onto a postcard to send home. But when I finally got there and was standing in the same place as Tom and Lalla, there was only one thing I knew I had to do.

    I got it out. I started to read. Out loud.

    My Tom Baker impression was only serviceable. Imagine John Calshaw with a cold. My Lalla Ward is non-existent. So I didn’t read it that loudly – also for embarrassments sake.
    When I’d finished, an American turned to me.
    ‘Are you sermonizing?’
    ‘No.’ I said.
    ‘What was that?’
    ‘Erm …’ I said. ‘Did you ever see Doctor Who?’ And I ended up telling him the whole story. About Tom and Lalla. About how it was filmed just were he was standing. He asked for a photo. I get one too. Then he tottered off, his wife close behind.
    ‘What was that about Bob?’ She asked. I expect.

    After filling in some postcards, I headed to the lift. I looked over at the Arc de Triumphe.
    ‘You’re next.’ I said.
    I started to queue for the lift down. From behind I heard a familiar voice.
    ‘Oooh look Mary – it’s Doctor Who….’

  31. DPC  August 3, 2012

    “He should be a companion. He’d be perfect for the Doctor and Romana. They could take it in turns to play with him.”

    Sue wins the internet with that line!! 😀

  32. Philippa Sidle  August 3, 2012

    Wow. Long time lurker, first time commentator. I think I’m getting especially into this blog now that you’re reaching the episodes I watched myself first time round as a teenage fan, and I actually found myself anxious about Sue’s reaction to this – to the extent that I genuinely dreamed about it last night (she gave it a 10/10 in my dream, so clearly I’m psychic)! While there are other Doctor Who stories that I admire more, objectively, City of Death has always been the one I truly love with all my heart. I’ve only just realised this!

    They’re right though. It’s NOT a typical example of classic era Who. Show this to a newbie and their expectations will be skewed.

    • encyclops  August 3, 2012

      I’d say the difference between this and classic Who is more degree (of excellence) than kind.

  33. John G  August 3, 2012

    “Is it the Black Guardian?”

    I’m fairly sure that won’t be the last time Sue asks that question! Seriously though, this was a great post about a great story – it gave me a warm feeling inside to see how much you all enjoyed it. The only questionable element for me is Lalla’s costume, but I imagine this looked more innocent in 1979! I was born two days after episode 1 was first transmitted, and I am very pleased indeed that this is my “birth story.” Glad also to see Julian Glover singled out for praise, as he is one of Who’s best ever guest stars with two superb performances under his belt.

    It will be interesting to see how Sue reacts to Creature, and whether she will notice what is going on in THAT scene…

    • Jazza1971  August 3, 2012

      My birth story is “The Mind of Evil”. Meh.

      • encyclops  August 3, 2012

        I was born between “Planet of the Spiders” and “Robot,” which I’ve always found kind of apropos.

        • Noodles  August 4, 2012

          That makes us twins.

        • Doffi Ghanstazo  August 5, 2012

          I was also born between Planet of The Spiders and Robot.

          • David Embery  August 5, 2012

            I can join the between Spiders and Robot club as well.

      • Harry  August 4, 2012

        Born on the very last day of Tom’s first season…suppose it explains my soft spot for “Revenge of the Cybermen”…

      • Bestbrian  August 4, 2012

        I’m in between Inferno, and Terror of the Autons. 🙂

      • wholahoop  August 4, 2012

        Mine’s Tenth Planet between Episodes 1&2. No wonder I was confused about the change in lead character!!! I wasn’t even on solids and they did that to me

      • Dave Sanders  August 4, 2012

        I missed the very end of The War Games by nearly two months. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

        • Mag  August 4, 2012

          Mine falls between The War Games and Spearhead From Space as well. I guess that makes “Devious”, Doctor 2.5, my retroactive first story in a timey-wimey non-canonical sort of way.

        • John Callaghan  August 4, 2012

          You and I are the same age! And happy birthday!

      • Thomas  August 4, 2012

        I’m…oh dear. Apparently Dimensions in Time.

        • PolarityReversed  August 4, 2012

          I was born under the sign of Packerrrr…

          • Frankymole  August 6, 2012

            I was born nearly two days after Zoe Heriot joined the TARDIS crew at the end of “Wheel in Space”, so my first Who in life was her being introduced to the Doctor’s head in the “Evil of the Daleks” repeat the following Saturday (complete with unique voice-over introduction by them both – does this make my first companion Zoe or Victoria?); I suppose the entirety of Doctor Who ever since could all be a fantasy of the Doctor’s…

        • BWT  August 4, 2012

          Going by the NZ broadcasts I was born just a few months after “The Wheel in Space”. Ermmm… No, I’m not really sure why we’re doing this either but there you go…

      • James C  August 6, 2012

        I’m another Mind of Evildoer

    • Paul Greaves  August 29, 2012

      I was born the day before Episode 2 of The Green Death was shown. Therefore I missed all of the Pertwee era on original showing. Thank ****.

    • chris-too-old-too-watch  August 29, 2012

      I was born several years before An Unearthly Child, and (oh the shame, the shame) watched it from that story onwards. Not only doe this make me an Ubernerd, but also a geriatric Ubernerd…..

  34. Harry  August 3, 2012

    Delighted this story scored a perfect 10, nuff said!

  35. Shelley Lee  August 3, 2012

    So glad everyone loved this story! It is one of my favorites as well!

  36. John Callaghan  August 4, 2012

    Wonderful that my favourite Who story gets the top score, and that it’s all smiles all round!

    No mention of the plot regarding Dirk Gently, from Nicole?

    • John Callaghan  August 4, 2012

      Nicol*. Very sorry!

    • AST  August 4, 2012

      Yeah, what with Douglas skinning this and Shada for the first book, Dirk Gently owes more than a little to Dr Who.

  37. Billy Smart  August 4, 2012

    “ITV were on strike so there wasn’t that much choice, really. It was either City of Death or Championship Lawn Green Bowls on BBC2. Probably.”

    Even more negligible opposition in fact – ‘Grapevine’, a grassroots current affairs series made by the BBC Community Programme Unit.

  38. BWT  August 4, 2012

    “It’s Blackpool!”

    Words fail me…

  39. jamieskilt  August 4, 2012

    Surely Romana’s costume is an homage to the English schoolgirls who run rings round Alec Guiness and Stanley Holloway while visiting the Eiffel Tower in the film The Lavender Hill Mob?

  40. Marty  August 5, 2012

    Is this the first 10/10 story?

    Sue’s right, they didn’t have permission to film any of it, which is kinda nice it gives the story a real sense of urgency.

    I did not realise that the randy priest in Game of Thrones was Julian Glover!

    • Leo  August 5, 2012

      Spearhead from Space and Seeds of Doom also got 10/10.

      • Frankymole  August 7, 2012

        As it was a larger than usual audience for all 4 parts of this Adventure, it made me wonder: what Gary would’ve made of this story? Even he might have been converted!

        (Although as Gary is a Lost In Space fan, aka the giant carrot show, perhaps Seeds of Doom or even the Erato story would be a better bet…)

  41. Matthew Marcus  August 5, 2012

    I saw the 10/10 coming a long way off and, for once… I can’t quibble with it at all. Everything that you could ask a Doctor Who adventure to be, in the sense that it’s not really anything like the adventures that come before or after it, but just completely strange and wonderful.

    The Williams era has its detractors compared to more “classic” ages, but although sticking to a fairly rigid formula of “what good Doctor Who should be like” gave us some of the best regarded Lloyd, Letts, Hinchcliffe and Moffat seasons, I’ll take the crazy highs and lows of S15-17 over them any time I think.

  42. Jay Taylor  August 5, 2012

    I adore this and wouldn’t change a moment. “Absolutely exquisite.”

    Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better the Baker / Cleese out-take surfaced…

    • DPC  August 5, 2012

      EEK! That BBC logo is Trion in origin! 😀

  43. Frankymole  August 6, 2012

    Didn’t Graham Williams write some of this too? I seem to recall reminiscences about both of them shut away for a weekend somewhere hosed down with whisky and black coffee trying to write it.

  44. CJJC  August 7, 2012

    One thing I love about WiS is having things pointed out that I’ve never seen before. Not the nose but the Doctor and Romana sitting near a French police telephone box.

    After reading this, I did a rewatch and – though I’d noticed before – realised I’d never connected Scarlioni (and Tancredi’s) minor obsession with the colour green hinting at the creature within. Scarlioni even drinks crème de menthe..

  45. Paul Mudie  August 10, 2012

    Congrats on your 500th episode! I’m glad it was such a lovely one. 🙂

  46. PV  August 13, 2012

    I’m surprised that Nichol didn’t recognize bits of the plot from the first Dirk Gently book. Still, a well-earned 10 for the best doctor who episode of all time.

    • Neil Perryman  August 13, 2012

      She hasn’t read it as far as I know.