In a story written by Hitchhiker's Guide's Douglas Adams and producer Graham Williams, the Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana ta a holiday in Paris where they unravel a mystery involving six original Mona Lisas!DVD Features: — A... more »udio Commentary
"The Doctor and Romana are on holiday in Paris, 1979, which among the vintage of years, is "more of a table wine. Lacks true distinction." They become involved in the doings of Count Scarlioni, a filthy rich art collector who has recently attracted attention by selling heretofore presumed lost masterpieces. He also seems to be selling genuine looking fakes, such as a Gainsborough and a Guttenberg Bible. Also investigating is Duggan, a dim British detective in beige trenchcoat who mainly likes thumping people.Time suddenly jumps a groove for a few seconds, and it is the temporally sensitive Time Lords who notice and realize that something funny is going on. It happens for the second time in the Louvre and while the Doctor is looking at the Mona Lisa. He snatches an unusual bracelet from a pretty woman. Question: what is an Earth woman doing wearing a micromeson scanner, which could be used for detecting the Louvre's alarm system?The Count is involved in conducting some time experiments with the help of the meek Russian scientist Theodor Nikolai Kerensky. For a sample of what he's working on, check the scene involving the egg and chicken.This was the first of three foreign on-location stories, the other two being the Netherlands (Arc Of Infinity) and Spain (The Two Doctors). The story moves quickly in order to flesh out the Parisian scenery, but it's the snappy and witty dialogue that really uplifts this story. Example:Romana: Shall we take the lift or fly?
Doctor: Let's not be ostentatious.
Romana: Let's fly then.
Doctor: That would look silly. We'll take the lift.At least one Who book points out that Duggan sees the Doctor and Romana on the ground so quickly in the end, that from the time they left him, they must have flown from the tower.More witty dialogue:Romana: Where are we going?
Doctor: Philosophically or geographically?
Doctor: Philosophically, we're going to lunch.And the first thing Romana says when the Doctor introduces her to the Mona Lisa is "how come she doesn't have any eyebrows?" Later, the woman who posed for the Mona Lisa is also described by the Doctor as "that dreadful woman with no eyebrows who wouldn't sit still."The Countess (on the Doctor): I don't think he's as stupid as he seems.The Count: Nobody can be as stupid as he seems.Then there's John Cleese and Eleanor Bron's cameos in Episode 4, where they think the TARDIS is an objet d'art whose afunctionalism belies the fact that the art lies in the fact that it is here. When it vanishes, Bron says. "Exquisite, simply exquisite." Which this story is.Other things: the cliffhangers to Episode 1 and 2 are superb. And well-known guest stars are Julian Glover (the Count) who played Richard Coeur de Lion in the Who story The Crusaders and was General Veers in The Empire Strikes Back. Catherine Schell (Countess) has two famous siblings: Maximilian and Maria Schell.
This story got the highest viewing figures for any Who story: 16.3 million viewers for episode 4 and an average of 14.5 million viewers overall! Episode 3 (15.4 million) broke the record set by Episode 4 of the previous story, Destiny of the Daleks (14.4 million) Finally, Douglas Adams wrote this story under the pseudonym David Agnew. Scaroth's ultimate goal was replicated in his novel, Dirk Gently And The Holistic Detective Agency.If not the best Doctor Who story, probably the best and wittiest Tom Baker story."
One of the Greats
Matthew L. Roffman | Smyrna, GA USA | 01/03/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"City of Death is considered to be one of the greatest Dr. Whos ever. This was when the Doctor had the 2nd Romana (and K9 although he doesn't appear in the story) as a companion. So instead of "I'm the Doctor and this is my companion" we have "we're Time Lords". Plus Tom Baker and Lalla Ward's chemistry shows up on screen (they married a year or two later, sadly it didn't last). They arrive in Paris 1979 (more of a table wine year) and proceed to enjoy the sites and sounds. They go to the Louve to see the Mona Lisa and stumble upon a plot to steal it involving some curiously advanced technology. Enter Scalioni (played by Julian Glover, General Veers in Empire Strike's back and Donovan in Indian Jones and the Last Crusade), a rich count with a secret. In reality he is the alien Scarroth, last of the Jagaroth. His spaceship exploded on the surface of prehistoric earth fragmenting his being into several personas throughout history. He is responsible for most all of man's great advances. Now in his last era, he strives to build a time machine to send himself back in time and warn himself of the explosion. Such a paradox would destroy the existence of man. This story is so enjoyable you don't notice some of the obvious plot holes. Thugs robbing the Doctor and companions at gunpoint in the middle of a crowded cafe. Scalioni on a whim telling his butler to kill the same thugs who later show up perfectly unharmed. Scallioni pulling a bundle of a million francs out of his pocket and waving it in a guys face (I laugh my butt off every time I see this scene). Y'see however, the bulk of this story was written by the late Douglas Adams (under a pen name) and it shows. Tom Baker is such a wonderful comedic actor. And Lalla Ward has some great moments of dry wit too. This is Dr. Who at it's best. Look for a cameo by John Cleese.On another note... if you're looking for new Dr. Who material. Look for the audio releases of the missing episodes. Look for my list "Missing Dr. Who's on Audio and DVD" to find out about this. The jewel cases look really cool although amazon USA has not printed most of them on their web pages. Look for "The Web of Fear" for starters. "The Dalek's Master Plan Audio Release is cool too". Also check out Big Finnish productions for the new audio adventures of Dr. Who featuring Doctors ranging from Peter Davison to Paul Mcgann. ..."
"What a wonderful butler, he's so violent!"
Brian May | Australia | 05/05/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This Tom Baker adventure is one of the most original and satisfying Doctor Who stories that has ever been my pleasure to enjoy. It looks wonderful, it is obvious the cast are all having fun, and the story has a terrific blend of humour and seriousness. It is co-scripted by Douglas Adams, which is an automatic sign that there is going to be a certain degree of zaniness in the story - which there certainly is, but not as convoluted as his previous Who effort, "The Pirate Planet". "City of Death" is more down to earth (putting it very loosely!), but it certainly has moments edging on the bizarre, including the central premise, which sees all human learning and endeavour as simply an alien being's means to an end (although not new to Doctor Who - see "The Daemons" and "Image of the Fendahl" among others - but given a more oblique edge). The chief plot device is the Mona Lisa and the attempts of the alien, Scaroth, to steal it. In my humble opinion, the idea of an alien intending to steal the Mona Lisa in order to achieve his goals (which, incidentally, will result in the human race never having existed) is such a wonderful diversion from the standard "alien invasion" plot; in fact, so wonderful that it verges on genius! The Doctor/Romana II combination of Tom Baker and Lalla Ward is at its peak here - in this story it is obvious they are such an ideal team, and probably the best indicator that an off screen relationship was developing between these two actors. The guest list in "City of Death" is also astounding. The brilliant Julian Glover excels as the alien Scaroth (and his various segments), especially so as the final chronological segment, Count Scarlioni. The Count is an elegant villain, charming, disarming and not without a sense of humour. This is Glover's second of two performances in Doctor Who (his first was as Richard the Lionheart in the William Hartnell tale "The Crusade") - what a pity he did not star more times in the programme! The Countess is portrayed by the beautiful Catherine Schell (of Space 1999 fame), who plays up the role tremendously - a glamorous lover/sidekick to the villain, naively unaware that her husband is an alien (perhaps stretching the plot a bit far, but this is Douglas Adams, after all!) Tom Chadbon's Duggan, the dim-witted but amiable detective who joins up with the Doctor and Romana, is another memorable character. Even the lesser roles, such as Professor Kerensky and the butler Hermann, are distinguished. A cameo appearance from John Cleese and Eleanor Bron at the end is the icing on the cake! The story has the honour of being the first Doctor Who adventure filmed outside of the UK - it was made in Paris, and adds to the glamorous feel. The first episode, to its (slight) detriment, is a bit of a travelogue - the Doctor and Romana's walk through the streets of Paris as Duggan follows them IS overindulgent, but because the story is so wonderful, this can be forgiven. "City of Death" is a charming story. It is intelligent, while at the same time enjoyable simply as a great adventure. There are also brilliant moments of dialogue, with many memorable exchanges between the characters. It is certainly a breath of fresh air, and the standout tale from a troubled year of Doctor Who."
Geniuses at work: Tom Baker, Douglas Adams, and more...
Vin de Silva | Claremont, California USA | 10/09/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you are a Doctor Who fan, "City of Death" is absolutely the one to show your doubting friends. If you're not a Doctor Who fan, then this is the one to see first. It's a magnificent extravagance of style and substance, delivered with more panache than you can hurl an egg at.Tom Baker and Lalla Ward star as Time Lord and Time Lady, stuck in Paris with a slow-witted private detective (Tom Chadbon) who is doing his sorry best to keep the Mona Lisa from being stolen. Stolen by whom...?Thuggish bodyguards, a sinister but oddly charming Count (Julian Glover), and a hapless scientific genius called Kerensky individually conspire to confuse, tease, kidnap, and threaten our three heroes as they uncover a plot that involves the fate of the human race in a deadly but somehow uplifting way.Baker is at his deranged, delightful best, and the script is co-written by Douglas "Hitch-Hiker" Adams, on top form.Just when you think it couldn't possibly get any better, there a surprise cameo appearance by... but that would be telling. "City of Death" has it all -- cake, icing, the lot!"
Finally-- the BEST DW story on DVD
Jackie Moleski | Grand Rapids, MI | 09/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Well, I haven't *seen* the DVD yet since it comes out in November, but the Doctor Who Restoration Team always does a steller job on restoring DW prior to release and creating *great* special features.
City of Death has an outstanding cast including Julian Glover (Star Wars, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and numerous guest shots on BOTH sides of the pond), Catherine Schnell (Space: 1999), and a cameo by John Cleese. Even non-Who fans can enjoy this episode.
The plot is bright and creative, with just a touch of the Tom Baker-era mugging the camera and send-up, that Tom later became so well known for.
It's a classic Who that belongs in every fans library."