Number : Season 17, episode 2 of 6.
Which One : Ole noodle head is back.
Cast : The Doctor : Tom Baker
Romana : Lalla Ward
Scaroth / Count Scarlioni / Tancredi : Julian Glover
Duggan : Tom Chadborn
The Countess Scarlioni : Catherine Schell
Kerensky : David Graham
Hermann : Kevin Flood
Soldier : Peter Halliday
Lourve Patrons : Eleanor Bron, John Cleese
Lourve Guide : Pamela Stirling
Written By : David Fisher, Douglas Adams & Graham Williams
Produced By : Graeme Williams
First UK Broadcast : 20th September – 23 October 1979.
Length : 4 x 25 minute parts.
Plot : A Jagaroth alien stranded on Earth, pushes Earth achievement and technology in an attempt to build a time machine and undo the events which stranded it in the first place.
Whats good : Strong Euro heist caper. Good concept. Julian Glover. Nice location work. Aliens influencing Earth scenario. Humourous turn by Tom Baker.
Whats bad : Lalla Ward in a schoolgirl costume. More naughty than bad.
Review With Spoilers : City Of Death is the best episode of the Graham Williams era – by far. It was also the first Who episode, to have it’s location work filmed aboard.
Paris – the city of love, (or in Who’s case – the city of death!) forms the impressive backdrop to this Euro-heist story and gives Who (for once) a much needed air of authenticity about proceedings – yes, they really are in Paris!
City Of Death is about the last of the Jagaroth – Scaroth whose ship exploded taking off from Earth 400 millions years ago, splintering Scaroth into 12 different bodies – in 12 different Earth periods.
Using his alien knowledge, Scaroth sets about pushing Earth technology to the limit. So he can create a time machine and go back and stop himself blowing his ship up. Funded by the black market trade of a cupboard full of genuine Mona Lisa’s – painted by Da Vinci himself.
The Doctor and Romana (bizarrely dressed as a schoolgirl!) are sightseeing in Paris, when they are drawn into the dastardly scheme of Count Scarlioni (Scaroth in his human disguise!).
If the interference in humankind angle – wasn’t high stakes enough. Then we also have to contend with the fact that the Jagaroth ship exploding – kickstarts the very first life on Earth. So the Doctor has more reason to stop Scaroth’s schemes.
Whilst Tom Baker continues to impress in the role of the Doctor. It’s hard to think of a better badguy performance in Who – than Julian Glover as Count Scarlioni / Scaroth; save for Philip Madoc’s turn as Dr Soren in Brain Of Morbius.
“You underestimate the problems with which I was faced. My twelve various selves have been working throughout history to push forward this miserably primitive race so that even this low level of technology could be available to me now!” Scarlioni
Glover excels, as the debonair and sinister Scarlioni and stranded pot noodle faced -alien Jagaroth; known as Scaroth. A badguy turn he was to go on and repeat successfully as General Veers in Star Wars : Empire Strikes Back and as Donovan in Indy Jones & The Last Crusade.
And that’s not to detract from Baker performance as the Doctor either; who also excels, with the right blend of manic charm and gloating seriousness.
Not only do we have a good story, strong location work and strong performances firing City Of Death along. We have a purpose written memorable musical score for proceedings.
Especially noticable when the Doctor and Romana are running around Paris. Which is alot more, than the usual stock musical interludes; usually dropped into pivotal scenes – in other episodes.
The alien influencing Earth development scenario – is dropped in here. Which when done right, is a staple feature of Who. The freighter crashing in Earthshock wiped out the Dinosaurs. The Loch Ness Monster in Terror Of The Zygons was a cyborg weapon, etc.
There is also an underlying layer of humour permeating proceedings, which serves to compliment the story – rather than undermine. The Doctor’s dealings with Scarlioni’s tough butler Hermann and John Cleese humourous cameo in the Louvre.
Graham Williams Who had never hit these dizzying heights before – and would not hit these heights again, in the remainder of his tenure.
City Of Death shows what can be achieved if enough time, effort and craft – is devoted to the production.
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