Doctor Who – City of Death

Now this is classic “Classic” Doctor Who. Starring Tom Baker at his manic best, with Lalla Ward as Romana, this was the first time the series had employed location filming outside the UK, and is all the better for it.

The Doctor and Romana visit Paris in 1979[1] for a holiday. But they soon find that something is affecting time itself, and falling in with a private detective called Duggan, they begin to investigate. Now I could tell you all about the story, but that would spoil the fun, wouldn’t it? Suffice it to say there is the traditional peril to life on earth, and aristocrat who isn’t what he seems to be, the Mona Lisa, explosions, and some lovely one-liners. And if all that isn’t enough, John Cleese makes an appearance.

The story is credited to “David Agnew” a BBC house pseudonym used when either the original writer prefers not to have his name attached, or if BBC staff have written or re-written the work to a great extent. The first version was written by David Fisher, who had written for the series previously, but by the time came to make the story, it was clear that extensive rewrites were needed, and as Fisher wasn’t available, it was agreed that the work would be done by producer Graham Williams and script editor Douglas Adams. Yes, that Douglas Adams, of fond memory. And it’s abundantly clear that most of the script was the work of Doug. And that is, in my not even slightly humble opinion, a very Good Thing indeed. Tom Baker’s manic performance is a perfect match for Doug’s one-liners, and a good time is apparently had by all.

Extra features include usual commentary and the ever fascinating production subtitles on the main disc, plus a second disc of goodies:

  • Paris in the springtime – a making-of documentary, featuring archive interviews with Douglas Adams[2] and other people involved
  • Eye on Blatchford – some extreme silliness. Very silly. Very very silly.
  • And various behind the scenes bits and bobs

All in all, after the less than spectacular release of The Web Planet, this is a major return to form for the Doctor Who DVD releases. Best summed up by Eleanor Bron’s[3] line:

Exquisite

Wonderful stuff. Now if only they’d hurry up and give Genesis of the Daleks the DVD treatment.

[1] “Not a vintage year, more of a table wine”
[2] Which I don’t recall seeing anywhere previously, which makes the DVD a bargain
[3] She appears with John Cleese