Fourth Doctor: City of Death

city-of-death

The Doctor and Romana Enjoy Paris

Writer: David Agnew (pseudonym for David Fisher, Douglas Adams, and Graham Williams)

Director: Michael Hayes

Producer: Graham Williams

Season: 17, ep. 2    No. of Episodes: 4

Companion: Romana II (Lalla Ward)

Summary: The Doctor and Romana II are taking a holiday in France. As they sit down in a restaurant, an artist tries to sketch Romana but because she notices him, the artist becomes angry and throws it away. Romana picks it up and notices that it looks like her, but her face is obscured by a broken clock face. Both the Doctor and Romana sense a distortion in time, disorienting them both.  They decide to go to the Louvre, where they experience another disorientation while looking at the Mona Lisa. They examine the painting further, and discover it’s actually a copy and there is a device on the frame. They step outside to examine it and realize it’s too advanced to be of Earth origin. A detective named Duggan sees them and leads them into a restaurant, where two thieves confiscate the device.  Duggan thinks the thieves were employed by the Doctor, but he denies it. They decide to work together and learn that the thieves are in the employ of Count Scarlioni.

Count Scarlioni is actually an alien who has been making copies of the Mona Lisa. His ship crashed on Earth and he was unable to repair it. He sent copies of himself throughout history, one even posing as Leonardo Da Vinci himself. The Doctor, Duggan, and Romana must work together to thwart his plans to distort time.

Review: This is one of my favorite episodes from Tom Baker’s era. At this point, Gareth Williams’s tenure as producer had established a new feel to the Fourth Doctor, blending comedy with science fiction. (This was in reaction to Mary Whitehouse’s complaints that the previous producer, Phillip Hinchcliffe, had made the show too dark for children to watch.) I think this story plays to Baker’s strengths in comedy. The shots of France are great. Scarlioni is a great villain and it’s fun to see the Doctor outwit him. Duggan is an amusing ally. I highly recommend this, as it’s considered some of Douglas Adams’s best work.

Overall Review: 10/10

Continuity: In the audio Dust Breeding, The Seventh Doctor has one of the copies of the Mona Lisa. The Braxiatiel Collection mentioned here plays a key role in four stories in the Bernice Summerfield series. A copy of the Mona Lisa came alive in the Sarah Jane Adventures episode “Mona Lisa’s Revenge”. The distortions in this episode are similar to the cracks in time the 11th Doctor investigated.

Trivia: This was the first episode of Doctor Who filmed outside of England. It was actually filmed on location in Paris. Lalla Ward reflected that if she had known there was a fetish for schoolgirls, she might not have chosen her uniform. K-9 does not appear in this episode because the BBC was unable to get a permit to use him in France. John Cleese makes a cameo when the Doctor, Duggan, and Romana use the TARDIS to exit in one scene.

 

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