Sunday 15 April 2012

510 City of Death Part One

EPISODE: City of Death Part One
TRANSMITTED: 29 September 1979
WRITER: "David Agnew" (pseudonym for Douglas Adams, Graham Williams, and David Fisher)
DIRECTOR: Michael Hayes
SCRIPT EDITOR: Douglas Adams
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
RATINGS: 12.4 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - City of Death

On a barren planet the spaceship carrying the last of the Jagaroth prepares to lift of. It's pilot Scaroth is ordered to lift off using warp thrust, which he objects to. As the ship leaves the ground it is destroyed. In 1979 Paris the Doctor & Romana enjoy the sights. In an underground laboratory Professor Kerensky complains about the lack of money to continue his experiments so his employer, Count Scarlioni, gives him a million francs and orders his servant Hermann to sell one of their Guttenberg bibles. While taking lunch in a cafe the Doctor & Romana become aware of a time disturbance and decide to investigate. An artist painting a picture of Romana depicts her face as a clock, prompting her and the Doctor to argue about art so he takes her to the Louvre and shows her the Mona Lisa. They encounter another time disturbance there, causing the Doctor to collapse onto woman, and then a man, carrying a gun, who follows them. Scarlioni congratulates Kerensky on the success of his experiments. The Doctor & Romana stop for a rest, and the Doctor shows her a bracelet, actually a high technology scanner, that he took from the woman. The man with the gun catches up with them and marches them into a nearby bar. The woman, the Countess Scarlioni, reports back to her husband what has happened and he orders the bracelet recovered. The Count's men catch up with the Doctor, Romana and the Detective Duggan, who had been following the Countess, and retrieve the bracelet. The Doctor tells Duggan that he thinks someone may want to steel the Mona Lisa. The Count orders the Doctor, Romana & Duggan brought to his house. Duggan tells the Doctor of how missing works of art are turning up which appear connected to Count Scarlioni before some more thugs turn up to take them to the Count. In the locked laboratory the count surveys the equipment, pausing in front of a mirror to remove the mask that forms his face and revealing that of Scaroth, the last of the Jagaroth!

"Well I think it's marvellous"

What I've written really doesn't do what I've seen justice. This is a fabulous episode, a witty script enhanced by some stunning location footage in Paris and some top performances. You really need to buy the DVD & watch it. And yet it's initial viewing figures - remember ITV are still out on strike - are less than those for any episode of Destiny of the Daleks! We get a brief mention of the Braxiatal Collection in this episode which will spawn a character and location featured in several of the Doctor Who New Adventures books.

Hurrah, It's our old friend "David Agnew" again in the writers chair! Except, as we know from Invasion of Time, David Agnew is a pseudonym used when the show's staff end up writing a story in a time of crisis. Once again producer Graham Williams is involved but this time his chief assistant is script editor Douglas Adams. The original story meant for this slot, A Gamble With Time, was originally written by David Fisher, who had already completed The Creature from the Pit, the third story shown this season but the first filmed. Originally written as a Bulldog Drummond parody, the action was shifted to Monte Carlo. *Then* the cost of location filming in Paris was assessed and found to be within the program's budget so the action would have to switched to Paris. At this point Fisher was experiencing marital difficulties so, as the story goes, Williams & Adams locked themselves away for a weekend and wrote the script.

This appears to be the first time that Douglas Adams is locked away until a story is written. It wouldn't be the last and would later prove the most effective method of getting a book out of him with Douglas typing in one room while his editor worked next door!

Both writer/script editor Douglas Adams and director Michael Hayes make cameo appearances in this episode; Hayes is the shifty-looking man wearing a cloth cap and carrying a metal case who exits the train at Boissière Metro Station after the Doctor and Romana. Adams is seen as a man having a drink in the bar, first just behind the Doctor as he gets up to leave the cafe and then sitting at a table as Duggan brings them back in.

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