City of Death part 1
7 June 2014 at 12:16 #28059
And so we come to the fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, and City of Death. It was written by “David Agnew” – a pseudonym for David Fisher, script editor Douglas Adams and producer Graham Williams. The storyline was devised by Fisher but was heavily re-written by Douglas Adams, aided by Williams. Adams’ humour shines through, although it’s not to everyone’s taste. It’s a lighter story.
The Doctor and Romana are enjoying Paris but something strange is happening – time distortions. At the Louvre the Doctor encounters the Countess Scarlioni wearing an alien bracelet. The Doctor and Romana then meet Inspector Duggan, who has been tailing Count Scarlioni. Is the Mona Lisa about to be stolen?
In honour of Douglas Adams we’re also rewatching The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, which you can find here: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy part 1
We’re discussing this story one episode per week, as it was originally broadcast. If you’ve seen it before, for the convenience of anyone approaching this for the first time, NO SPOILERS for subsequent episodes please.7 June 2014 at 12:59 #28079
To be honest I think this story is a bit overrated. It’s got nice scenery, some great dialogue and Lalla Ward in a school uniform, but that’s it really. It’s still very enjoyable but I wouldn’t put it in my top 20.7 June 2014 at 13:18 #28097
I also think Mary Tamm was a better Romana than Lalla. I like both of them, but Mary had better chemistry with Tom in my opinion. The Doctor and Romana 2, particularly in this story, just come off as a couple of horny teenagers who can’t keep their hands off each other. They’re both in my top 10 companions though.7 June 2014 at 14:09 #281047 June 2014 at 16:04 #281097 June 2014 at 16:22 #28110
@thekrynoidman I did say it wasn’t to everyone’s taste. But I kinda like it and it’s a nice change of pace for us after Day of the Daleks, I think. It’s good to see that Doctor Who can do all sorts of different stories.
You sound a bit disappointed so I thought I’d drop this in (which I think I first heard in LA Confidential).7 June 2014 at 16:39 #28111
And for anyone looking at Julian Glover (Count Scarlioni) and thinking I know that face but I can’t quite place it, he was in The Empire Stikes Back, For Your Eyes Only and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He’s also still going strong and currently starring in Game of Thrones.7 June 2014 at 16:59 #281127 June 2014 at 17:02 #28113
Personally, I’m on the side of “absolute classic” when it comes to City of Death. I think it’s great.
A lot of it is down to the chemistry between the Doctor and Romana. While I enjoyed Mary Tamms Romana I, I don’t think she may have worked in the overall scheme of her “arc”, which was to convert Romana from the cold, haughty Time Lady to something more like the Doctor, picking up his quirks. Lalla was ideal for that part of her story.
It was the first bit of major foreign location work done in Who, and it’s a bit of genius dropping Tom’s peculiar bohemian into Paris. The one thing you do notice is there are lots of establishing shots, overheads and scenery which the series didn’t often do, but you can excuse it to a certain extent. What’s the point of going to Paris if you’re not going to show it?
I love Dudley Simpsons score for this, and it was great to hear it last year in the Medley of BG tunes at the Prom.
The dialogue crackles as well. I love the scene on the Eiffel Tower.
Romana Shall we take the lift or fly?
Doctor Let’s not be ostentatious.
Romana All right… let’s fly, then.
Doctor That would look silly… we’ll take the lift.
Julian Glover is great in even minor roles, and always seems to be a commanding presence. His Count here is playful but with an underlying hardness. Catherine Schell as the Countess was familiar to me as a kid because she was in Space 1999 as the shapeshifter.
So weird alien in a barren landscape, art thefts, fraud, and time jumps. It all seems to be linked to the Count, so what’s his game? All of a sudden – off with his head! Or his face at least.
Even as a kid, I can remember thinking “Man – he’s batting WAY above average in pulling Catherine Schell with a mug like that”. I take it the marriage wasn’t consummated? 😀7 June 2014 at 17:05 #281147 June 2014 at 18:38 #28115
@craig I got Julian Glover’s autograph at the Newcastle Film and Comic Con earlier this year. He signed a Quatermass and the Pit postcard that came with a Hammer Horror box set I own. I also got the novelization of Survival signed by Sylvester McCoy Sophie Aldred and a Withnail and I Blu Ray signed by Paul McGann, who is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. No photo’s though, I hate having my picture taken.
If anyone else was there, I was the one who asked McCoy if he can still stuff ferrets down his trousers during the Q and A session.7 June 2014 at 19:03 #28117
Full disclosure, this is where I came in. Channel surfing late one night and came across this very odd show at least half way through (our local channel used to broadcast a complete serial every Saturday night). I might not have paused for long, but I was caught by the scenes of Paris, by the tall, eccentric figure wrapped in the long scarf, and by a plot that was absolutely baffling to me. I have never looked back. 🙂
The story is nicely established in this opening episode: the Parisian setting, the villainous count and countess, their various thugs and tools, and of course, the redoubtable Duggan, all leading up to the alien-revealing cliffhanger. The secondary characters would read like stereotypes on paper, but are perfectly cast and charmingly played– a classic setting into which to drop the disruptive element of the Doctor.
I can’t begin to quote all the fabulous Adamsesque dialogue, but it flows beautifully. And then lines that aren’t especially fab, but are made so by Tom Baker’s particularly quirky delivery: “It is a very pretty picture.” “Well, we’ve only just landed on Earth.” The Doctor’s conversations with Duggan and his calm resignation in the face of thuggery are quintessential Fourth Doctor.
Romana II, being my first companion, was something of a gold standard for me, although I later came to understand that she was actually quite unique. She was the Doctor’s equal in everything except experience, and she for one clearly didn’t view this as a lack! I love the argument about human vs. computer art. She is calmly assertive in her views and leaves the Doctor sputtering. I am exercising maximum self-control to wait for next week’s installment. 😀7 June 2014 at 22:15 #28118Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip
Ooh, look, a seemingly alien planet and a definitely alien spaceship. Plus a warp drive malfunction. Whee!
And now we’re in Paris in the Springtime! Le Eiffel Tower! Le Metro! Le-definitely-not-taking-Romana-on-a-date, honestly. It was the randomiser. Really, it was the randomiser.
The Doctor is so taking Romana on a date. She, meanwhile, seems very happy to be taken on a date. With bouillabaisse. Yum, yum.
There are indeed a lot of establishing shots, but since this was the first time Doctor Who had been allowed to film in a foreign location, that can be excused. Having managed to persuade the BBC that everyone knew the chalk pit and other regular locations all too well, Graham Williams must have told Michael Hayes to make sure the money showed on screen. It looks great, and it is a perfect location for Tom Baker’s bohemian Doctor. I do like the ‘paint’ badge he’s wearing. Romana’s got a matching style of badge, but hers is ‘sweets’.
The dialogue really does show off Douglas Adams’ work: “I appreciate walks in the country, I appreciate sleep, I appreciate regular meals.” Mind you, it’s a pity they couldn’t get a better copy of the Mona Lisa.
Is that cafe a regular spot for little-chats-with-guns? There’s a lovely little shrug from one of the extras as the Countess’ tough nuts exit. Its a sort of ‘who is this strange man, and why do people keep pointing guns at him? And where are my escargots?’ shrug.
Much use of the transparent coloured plastics that were just coming in for Scarlioni’s alien tech. The bracelet and the mysterious machine the Professor’s working on both have those bright neon colours. And how many aliens are there on Earth with zips in their foreheads?
@phaseshift – I believe the Count and Countess’ sex life was the subject of discussion amongst the cast. Julian Glover concluded in an interview that it was probably best not to think about it too much. 😈7 June 2014 at 23:29 #28120Anonymous @
This is a bona fide belter and one of the stories I most remember from my youth but tonally it’s so different to say The Day of the Daleks etc. While sometimes I feel that there’s something a bit too smuggitty sixth-form about it, if it catches you in the right mood, it is a delightful piece with fine writing and great performances. It’s also probably Classic Who at its zenith. It never again quite reaches the success that it had with this story. I seem to remember the ratings for this story being huge at the time.
I think what it does really well is illustrate that whereas the first three Doctors were essentially playing variations of the dilettante boffin/professor archetype, Baker was essentially going for the ‘irritatingly gifted undergraduate’ instead, something I think Davison did also, but in a different way. And he’s never better than here.
Also must disagree with @thekrynoidman about Romana. I think Lalla Ward far outshone Mary Tamm as Romana and ‘got’ the part much more and that Tamm’s ice maiden routine rather quickly just descended into plain old ‘wooden’. And the interplay between Ward and Baker here is delicious. I’d say it’s almost palpable that the two of them are on the verge of knocking each other off at this point. Ward’s Romana is one of my favourite companions ever and the first I think who was allowed to be the Doctor’s equal.
Julian Glover is also fab and, yes, @phaseshift I did catch Glover’s programme on Beowulf. It’s well worth checking out. All the supporting characters are great, despite the broad strokes of the performances. Even a certain Mr Fell in future episodes is quite fun.
What struck me this time is how much this story, perhaps uniquely in the original series, really doesn’t need a special edition. The model work is great and even the Scaroth make-up (despite obvious pitfalls) works pretty well. And the music is great as well and really fits the tone of the piece — compare that to the one niggling point of Day of the Daleks for me, the crappy flatulent ‘electronic’ music.
A cracking first episode in my opinion.8 June 2014 at 12:11 #28123
The Jagaroth ship is a brilliant design. I remember seeing the model in an exhibition in Bristol and being surprised at how small it actually is.
The tenth Dr rates 1979 much more than a table wine (see tooth & claw). New face, new rules.
This location is extremely exotic to us – A ‘dirty’ weekend in Paris.
The 4th looks right at home, his look being derived from French cabaret singer, Aristide Bruant.
The Doctor demonstrates that until Parisians discover the pedestrian crossing, crossing the road is an extremely perilous affair (don’t try this at home, kids).
Romana notices that the painting has no eyebrows. So what? Tom Baker also has no eyebrows.
The Doctor is pretty determined to drink water rather than wine. Perhaps it stems from that time he was drugged in ‘The Androids of Tara’.
The 2nd Romana is one of my favourite companions, even if she is playing the part of the philistine here.
I remember watching the cliffhanger aged 5 & it imprinting itself deeply in my mind.
I suppose if there was a CGI special edition of this, the alien’s face would consist of wriggly worms…8 June 2014 at 13:17 #28125janetteB @janetteb
I think my avatar shows just what I think of Ward’s Romana. Watching this as a teenager, Romana II was the first female companion that I could really identify with or a at least aspire to be. She was the first and only companion to view herself as the Doctor’s equal. I am always amused when I read acticles proclaiming that AG companions are stronger, more feisty than the BG ones. It is obvious that whoever says that has not watched City of Death.
City of Death is one of my favourite Dr Who stories. Firstly it is set in Paris. At the time I first watched it I was still only dreaming of travelling O.S. so the location was magical in my teenage eyes. It was also such a long overdue and refreshing change from London or one of those gravel pits. Tom Baker was at his peak in the role and he had Lalla Ward beside him. They sparkle together. It was no surprise at all that they married at the end of the series. I loved the rapport between them. (Every time I have visited Paris since I have pictured Tom Baker and Lalla Ward there and looked for the cafe they were at. For me now Paris is synonymous with Dr Who, something the French would no doubt NOT appreciate.)
Julian Glover is wonderful as the comic book villian, (and one of the few good things about GoT which I am still struggling to like). He was also memorable playing the older Monet in The Impressionists. I wasn’t so impressed with the Countess who was a little too B move Hollywood sterotype for my taste. Duggan though manages to carry off being a two dimensional sterotype.
And I am really looking forward to re-watching this episode Tuesday. (When I next have the house to myself.) I am sure I will be able to say a lot more then.
Janette8 June 2014 at 13:56 #28126
Le-definitely-not-taking-Romana-on-a-date, honestly. It was the randomiser. Really, it was the randomiser.
it’s almost palpable that the two of them are on the verge of knocking each other off at this point
A ‘dirty’ weekend in Paris.
Yep – it passed me by as a nipper, but rewatching the episodes with Lalla later, there is an increasing strand of “dates gone wrong” to the stories. So in something like Nightmare on Eden, they sort out a hyperspace crash they come across which just happens to have occurred around a very famous pleasure planet.
It continues throughout, and it’s a shame Shada wasn’t finished. But even the footage that was used in the Five Doctors (the Doctor punting Romana along while she relaxes) just screams “Romantic Date”.
When you get to the start of The Leisure Hive on Brighton beach, you can’t help feeling the Doctors fugue is largely down to “It keeps going wrong!”.
@wolfweed mentioning the design of the ship made me remember that I always thought the exterior design of the Timeship of the Lodger was a bit of a call-out to it.8 June 2014 at 14:08 #28127
@arbutus – It’s one hell of a story to be introduced to Doctor Who through, isn’t it? I think in DWM it topped the old series in a poll to find the story you’d recommend to actually get people into it.
I think @jimthefish mentioned the ratings. There was a strike over at ITV at the time, which certainly helped, but the ratings were something like 14-16 million.
Yeah, the Fourth Doctor in Paris just works on a fundamental level for me as well. It’s funny when you see them get a curious look on the streets as they are running around. I don’t think they could have pulled that off in the UK. Tom Baker would have just been mobbed.8 June 2014 at 16:26 #28128blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave
Back from a short hiatus. Well, lots to catch up on! First up: City of Death.
I find myself tempted to agree with @thekrynoidman on this one. Well partly. Well, for this episode. I too, always preferred Mary Tamm’s Romana. There was a strength of character in her Romana, that I never saw in Lalla Ward. And in light of Operation Yewtree and the late 70s, seeing Lalla Ward flirting with Tom Baker while dressed in a schoolgirl uniform is, well, I hate to say this, but…just a bit creepy.
The whole tone of the acting is almost Panto. I know that they were playing with it (the silly large black hats on the hired henchmen) and we are not meant to take it too seriously, but if you compare it to the tone The Avengers could strike with Steed and Mrs Peel, you realise that this is decidedly more Panto than whimsical.
But it is still fun, nonetheless. And it gets better as the story goes on!8 June 2014 at 18:24 #28131ScaryB @scaryb
Ah, so much to catch up, so little time 🙂
I liked this episode, on the whole, and the chemistry between Tom and Lalla really makes it work, which is just as well because I find Lalla’s costume very offputting.
Thank you @blenkinsopthebrave for mentioning it. I hated it at the time (being not long out of a school that made you wear hats – there was NOTHING aspirational about a character in a school uniform) and I hate it even more now, with a more adult awareness of the associations. Whoever came up with that idea should have been shot. They could have done it in Paris. No one noticed people brandishing guns there 😉
I don’t mind the panto-ishness of it, it’s meant to be off-kilter with the time experiments going on. (Chuckled at the customers in the background around 20:20 – they take a lot of interest in the conversation at the Doctor’s table even if they don’t bat an eyelid at guns)8 June 2014 at 18:33 #28132
@phaseshift Yes, it hooked me no question! I know that people have complained over the years that Tom Baker’s portrayal in later stories got out of hand, but certainly I thought this episode was perfectly balanced. The silliness was never too silly, just a nice light touch and an interesting plot that really appealed to me (although I will say more about that after further episodes).
@janetteb, I am usually in the same situation, I see all these exciting things to watch when I get up Saturday morning, and can’t usually watch them until Monday! I got lucky this weekend and could fit one in, because the family members were off at a baseball practice. 🙂 I agree that Lalla Ward is wonderful, with all the confidence and arrogance of a Time Lord, but with the humour and youthfulness that suggests she is ready to be indoctrinated by the Doctor’s approach to the universe.8 June 2014 at 18:42 #28133
@scaryb I don’t think I realized until many years after the fact that it was a school uniform! I don’t know whether that was my overall naivete (I was and am pretty naive in some respects) or just my lack of experience with school uniforms at that time. Over the years since, I have given music lessons to a number of private school kids, and have more familiarity with the look (although they never wore hats!), but at the time, if I gave it any thought, I probably just thought she fit in with the general oddness of the show. After all, her companion was sporting a twenty-foot scarf!8 June 2014 at 20:30 #28134ScaryB @scaryb
I think Lalla’s school uniform style was very much of a time and place – very 50s, British (check out various films, inc St Trinians (orig), British girls’ comics from the 60s in particular; it was quite an upper class/private school look). Glad it’s not a universal thing then.
@janetteb I can’t find it now, but you said something recently on another thread along the lines of –
“your favourite Doctor is the one you’re watching now”
That was brilliant
🙂8 June 2014 at 21:29 #28137
@janetteb Paris is synonymous with Dr Who for me too. When I went it might as well have been a City of Death tour. The Louvre, Notre Dame… I even stumbled upon the chateau, which had a great comic stall opposite it at the time.9 June 2014 at 22:09 #28153Whisht @whisht
agree that the tone is silly-sixth-form-intelligent-smirking
I watch and giggle the whole way through.
So that makes me shallow [check] and not wanting Doctor Who to be serious all the time [check] and erm…. ah whatever.
Did I mention it made me giggle all the way through?
No eyebrows? Damn those restorations!
[and if only they’d turned a corner in the Louvre we could’ve seen some Cezanne! So much more important and interesting than Van Gogh. Mind you they’ve probably moved away from seeing him as the father of modern art (in the response to photography), I’m just getting old].
oh and even though she’s dressed as an older-schoolchild, Ward acts as the equal to Baker which is lovely (rather than the all-too-typical “what do you mean doctor?” “I don’t understand!“10 June 2014 at 10:03 #28158Anonymous @
@arbutus how’s you be? Uniforms? Oh indeede @scaryb the uniform complete with velvet banded hat, shapeless skirt -often a pinafore too (even in Queensland), stockings and tie is still the preference for both the expensive and el-cheapo private girls schools in Aus. Even the state schools (we call ’em public here) do this too in an effort to look ‘tidy’. Often skirts are rolled up to show eerm, meaty (Ok, well nourished) thighs and the stockings have a few ladders. Eew.
@whisht Cezanne better than Van Gogh?? You breaka ma heart!! Maybe, equal to? I understand, or opine that Cezanne’s repertory was probably wider than Van Gogh’s but I wonder whether that was due to his rather maudlin personality (the ‘black dog of depression’) or his financial position? Yes, on topic of City of Death I both love her look and her equality with the Dr: her building of structures, taking everything in happy stride. I also love the music as Baker walks quickly from one delightful aspect to the next.
Kinda reminds me of that movie of Paris called Rendezvous, a film by Claude Lelouch. A must see and one of his better offerings.
Do we have a count down to the first episode yet? Or are we only half way there ah hah ….itching for some Jon Bon Jovi (I know, I am an 80s chick at heart).
purofilion10 June 2014 at 10:05 #28159Anonymous @
sorry mods that post of mine (well most of it) was way off topic. However, I had been missing a few things lately 🙂10 June 2014 at 16:50 #28166
@purofilion In those days in Canada, public school kids such as myself wore jeans most of the time. Nowadays, of course, it has changed. When I go to my son’s sports events at school, I am surrounded by teenage girls in leggings and tee shirts (sometimes with the nominal addition of short shorts, but not always). I always want to say, “Honey, enjoy that outfit now, because it won’t be doing you any favours five years from now!” The private school girls seem to all wear pleated plaid skirts, white blouses, and sweaters. We live up the road from St. Patrick’s Catholic school, and of course the St. Pat’s sweaters are all emerald green. 🙂
I forgot to mention in my post that I, too, love the soundtrack for this story. Definitely right in sync with the setting and tone, and quite unlike most of the soundtracks in style. Because of the way DW was shown here at that time, as complete stories rather than individual episodes, I wasn’t sure what I was watching at first. I thought it was some strange film!
@whisht I sometimes think that Four, of all the Doctors, was the least attached to wanting to explain things all the time. This might be why he worked so well with Romana. His conversations with both Leela and Sarah Jane were often filled with “I’ll explain later”, as I recall!10 June 2014 at 20:43 #28168Whisht @whisht
erm @purofilion – oops, apologies.
I’m sure that I had a point/joke in mind with that Cezanne/Gogh/Who reference, but re-reading my post doesn’t remind me what I was on about and just shows me never to post whilst distracted*.
(* booze)10 June 2014 at 22:35 #28170Anonymous @
@whisht I totally get it. I recall a similar evening about 2 weeks ago! However, you wouldn’t be ‘apologising’ would you?? No, no, not right…because really, what do I know about Cezanne and Van Gogh? I do like them both actually. And if Bill Nighy was the tour guide and academic I’d listen to every word. I wonder what he’d have to say about Cezanne though?
@arbutus oh yes the short shorts. God awful. When we have a ‘free dress day’ -as infrequently as possible – the girls sure compete as to whose in seem (is that the phrase or should it be one word?) is shorter than the others. Yes, they should enjoy ‘it’ while it lasts and those legs go on forever…sounding slightly creepy now…. Kindest, purofilion. Off for coffee.11 June 2014 at 04:11 #28174janetteB @janetteb
At the time I thought of Romana’s costume as reflecting her ineptness at “being human.” She has attempted to be very clever and do some research but got it slightly wrong. Also at this stage I am sure the scripts weren’t written with the realisation that there was anything more between her and the doctor than the usual, slightly suggestive Doctor/Companion duo. However the person chemistry between the two actors gives that an electric charge and so the school uniform becomes a rather unfortunate costume choice, still that wouldn’t be the first time for the series or the last.
Re the point made by @phaseshift about the locations.Yes he is certainly taking her for the pleasure tour but I think that is not so unusual. Most incarnations set out to impress the new companion with a whiz bang tour of the sights of the universe which invariably goes wrong. It is just that the chemistry between the two actors adds unintended innuendo to the stories.
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