Friday, 13 September 2013

City of Death

Hmmm, Paris is the city of Death? I’m not sure about that one! This story was conceived by David Fisher as a story called ‘Gamble with Time’. Although Fisher didn’t want to take credit for the finished product, largely written by script editor Douglas Adams, most of the concepts and ideas and indeed character names survive from the original concept.
Julian Glover
The result is a wonderful collection of barmy ideas, humour, seriousness and running up and down the Champs de L’eysee which go together to make ‘City of Death’. Add a wonderful cast, with the standouts being Julian Glover as Scaroth and Tom Chadborn as Duggan, and you have a true Doctor Who classic.
Lalla Ward grows a bit more into her role as Romana too which helps, and by now has a strong relationship with Tom Baker (which would grow even stronger). Tom is fantastic throughout this story, and we even have a guest appearance by Peter Halliday as a guard in Renaissance Europe. Peter Halliday has had numerous Doctor Who appearances, highlighted by ‘The Invasion’ and ‘Carnival of Monsters’ and it’s nice to see he pop up here again.
What a lot of Monas!
The story is perhaps just a little light on, and it’s fair to say it doesn’t use Paris quite as well as James Bond did with a fist fight on the Eiffel Tower, but we do have the first example of Doctor Who filming out of England and Wales which is nice, and it certainly helps the story. The only issue that essentially apart from a couple of scenes is that all the shots in Paris are basically the Doctor, Romana and sometimes Duggan running around. Dudley Simpson underscores them beautifully with a very memorable (in a good way) piece of music which is basically the theme song for this story.  Dada dada da, da dada dada da, da dada da da da da da….  well that’s how it goes in my head!
The Doctor finds Scarlioni again - in the past!
There is definitely too much of that throughout the four episodes, especially in the first and fourth, but it’s a lovely setting for Doctor Who. The sets are really nicely done too. We have the Doctor returning to Earth millions of years ago before life existed in the fourth episode to stop Scaroth from stopping himself from taking off, and that set could have been really bad, but for something shot in a studio it was quite good. And we have the plot of Scaroth’s foiled by Duggan landing a great punch on Scaroth’s green-spaghetti head!
Duggan is a great character and must have been a lot of fun to play. The cop who hits first and asks questions later. The story is about a creature,
Did someone say spinach linguini?
Scaroth, last of the Jagaroth, whose ship explodes millions of years ago on take off from Earth, splintering him through Earth’s history. All efforts and therefore devoted to returning to that time and stopping the explosion. Might have been good to visit more Scaroths, but they were on a budget. Nevertheless, it’s a great use of time in a story, something which Doctor Who has done surprisingly little so far.

Tom Chadborn (right) prepares to hit someone.

I say surprisingly little although there are some great examples – ‘The Space Museum’, ‘Day of the Daleks’ and ‘City of Death’ immediately spring to mind for the first 17 years, but Doctor Who is a show about space and TIME travel. Usually it’s just limited to going forward or back in time, but Doctor Who is the perfect platform for ideas like ‘A Gamble with Time’ and others.
After three extremely poor entries, City of Death is a welcome breath of fresh air. I can only hope that it continues for the rest of season 17!


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