Doctor Who (1963)

Season 17 Episode 5

City of Death, Part One

Aired Saturday 5:15 PM Sep 29, 1979 on BBC
out of 10
User Rating
30 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Paris, 1979. The Doctor and Romana are here on holiday, but something is disturbing the flow of time. Could the time travel experiments of Count Scarlioni be to blame?

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  • City of Death Review

    Not only is this the very first episode of the classic series of Doctor Who I ever saw, this is also one of my favorite Doctor Who stories ever, and this is the best part of it. Part 1 starts out as a simple holiday for the Doctor and Romana, but it turns into them trying to save the world, right in Paris. The episode leads from 1 thing to another. A man draws Romana, they start talking about pictures, they go to a gallery, the Doctor sees a woman with a bracelet checking the alarm systems on the Mona Lisa, the Doctor steals the bracelet, etc. This episode is so well-layed-out and has great writing and great actors. This is also probably the funniest Doctor Who story ever, part 2 is the funniest though. "I'll say, what a wonderful butler, he's so Hilarious. I also love that it was actually shot in Paris so it looks more real. People are constantly looking at the camera, so you can tell they are not extras. This episode is so well done and one of the best episodes ever of Doctor Who.moreless
  • Hands down the funniest Who story EVER.

    Turn the writer of "Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy" on Doctor Who and you know the results are going to be unique. But this is even better than you might expect. Utterly witty from beginning to end, with a plot that's actually very intelligent in using time paradoxes and scores of excellent lines.

    You can tell Baker is having a blast with this one, the Doctor jubilant no matter what the circumstances and Romana seems to be infected by this fervor as well. Dugan is a tad too dumb but he is a great foil to both and the bizarre circumstances.

    Scarloni is a good villian and he and his wife get off the all-time best summation of the Fourth Doctor.

    "I don't think he's as stupid as he seems."

    "My dear, nobody could be as stupid as he seems."

    Laugh out loud funny, thrilling, intelligent and just when you think it can't get better John Freaking Cleese shows up! THIS is a must-see Doctor Who story.moreless
  • Easily the wittiest and probably the best Doctor Who serial ever written.

    (This is a spoiler free review of all four parts of City of Death)

    Easily the wittiest and probably the best Doctor Who serial ever written, City of Death benefits from an excellent script written by Graham Williams and Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy creator Douglas Adams as well as the performance of Tom Baker, who as the Doctor clearly has a lot of fun delivering the script's memorable lines and sassy dialogue.

    Apart from being a lot funnier than other Doctor Who stories, City of Death is also a lot more romantic in its style, especially in the first episode where The Doctor and Romana enjoy a 'holiday' in France.

    The supporting cast is excellent. Julian Glover is a particular stand out, creating one of Who's most memorable villains in Count Scarlioni. Lalla Ward doesn't have as much to do as in the previous story Destiny of the Daleks but shines with the sparse dialogue she gets. The sets, namely the red world of the opening and closing scenes, look studio set but glow with a beautiful alien wonder.

    Some filler action set around Paris and a couple of questionable character motives stop this from being a masterpiece, but it as good as science fiction gets and is certainly the most rewatchable Doctor Who ever made. Essential.moreless
  • This is one of my all time favourite Doctor Who stories. The plot is clever, the dialogues are witty, and we have some of the funniest lines ever in a Who story, which is not at all surprising, since Douglas Adams was one of the writers.moreless

    The chemistry between Tom Baker and Lalla Ward is at its best, and the Parisian location adds up to the atmosphere very nicely. All the other actors did an exceptionally good job too. Though Duggan seems a bit too foolish and clownish (mind you, he’s supposed to be private detective, after all), I find him quite funny and likeable. He nearly drives the Doctor mad with his attitude 'punch first, ask questions later': "Duggan, why is it that every time I start to talk to someone, you knock them unconscious?"

    I also like the Jagaroth a lot, especially the scene where he reveals his true face. This always cracks me up, it looks so silly (in a comical way, that is).

    And let’s not forget the hilarious cameo appearance of John Cleese at the end: "Exquisite, absolutely exquisite!"moreless
Catherine Schell

Catherine Schell


Guest Star

Kevin Flood

Kevin Flood


Guest Star

Pamela Stirling

Pamela Stirling

Louvre Guide

Guest Star

Julian Glover

Julian Glover


Recurring Role

Tom Chadbon

Tom Chadbon


Recurring Role

David Graham

David Graham


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (3)

  • QUOTES (7)

    • Duggan: What's Scarlioni's angle?
      The Doctor: Scarlioni's Angle? Never heard of it. [ To Romana ] You ever heard of Scarlioni's Angle?
      Romana: No, I was never any good at geometry.

    • The Doctor: Are you suggesting those men were in my employ?
      Duggan: Yes.
      The Doctor: I don't know if you noticed, but he was pointing a gun at me. Anyone in my employ who behaved like that, I'd sack him on the spot.

    • Romana (incredulous): You mean an alien is trying to steal the Mona Lisa?
      Doctor: It is a very pretty painting.

    • Romana: Where are we going?
      Doctor: Are you talking philosophically or geographically?
      Romana: Philosophically.
      Doctor: Then we're going to lunch.

    • Doctor: What Paris has... It has an ethos. A life. It has...
      Romana: A bouquet?
      Doctor: A spirit all of its own. Like a wine, it has -
      Romana: A bouquet.
      Doctor: It has a bouquet. Like a good wine. You have to choose one of the vintage years, of course.
      Romana: What year is this?
      Doctor: Well, yes. It's 1979. More of a table wine shall we say.

    • Romana: Why hasn't she got any eyebrows?
      The Doctor: What, is that all you can say, no eyebrows? We're talking about the Mona Lisa - it's the Mona ... you know, you're right, she hasn't got any eyebrows.

    • Romana: Shall we take the lift, or fly?
      The Doctor: Let's not be ostentatious.
      Romana: All right, let's fly then.
      The Doctor: That would look silly… We'll take the lift.

  • NOTES (8)

    • DVD: Doctor Who: City of Death (BBCDVD 1664) released in November 2005. Released in U.S.A./Canada (Warner Home Video E2399) in November 2005.

      Video: Doctor Who: City of Death (BBCV 4492) released in July 1991. Released in U.S.A./Canada (Warner Home Video E1259) in May 1994.

    • Director Michael Hayes has a brief cameo as the the man with a case who steps off the train after the Doctor and Romana.

    • In the opening scene, the voices of the other Jagaroth are provided by Tom Chadbon (Duggan) and Peter Halliday (the Renaissance Guard).

    • The title of the story is a subtle play on words. Paris is often known as the "City of Love" (Cité de l'amour). "City of Death" translates into French as Cité de la mort.

    • The working titles for this story were The Curse of the Sephiroth and The Time of Sephiroth.

    • David Graham, who played Professor Theodore Nikolai Kerensky, provided all Dalek voices in the First Doctor serials, as well as that of the Mechanoids in The Chase. He had also portrayed Charlie the barman in The Gunfighters.

    • After David Fisher's Bulldog Drummond inspired script A Gamble with Time fell through, Graham Williams locked Douglas Adams in his flat for the weekend and hosed him down with black coffee until this script was produced. Astounding, given it's generally considered to be the wittiest, cleverest script in the series' history.

    • Shot on location in Paris with only three of the cast and a skeleton crew, this was the show's first foreign location shoot.