‘CITY OF DEATH’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Paris in the Springtime with the Fourth Doctor and Romana
So, ‘Black Orchid’ is my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ story ever! My second favourite ‘Doctor Who’ story would have to be ‘City of Death’! I love ‘City of Death’! It’s my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ story from the Tom Baker era! It’s also amazing that this ‘Doctor Who’ story is done right in the Douglas Adams era.
It’s truly a masterpiece as much as the Mona Lisa is! It’s a vintage ‘Doctor Who’ tale. Perhaps not the best vintage, but certainly more of a table wine you might say. I’m glad I had a sip of it in its first viewing and I continue to enjoy it since then on DVD and Blu-ray. It’s a truly a ‘Doctor Who’ classic. 🙂
‘City of Death’ is also one of the ‘Doctor Who’ stories that inspired me to write some of my fan-fiction adventures with the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Billy, including ‘The Railway of Time’, ‘The Space Hotel’ and ‘The Austen Code’. I’m sure Douglas Adams had a huge part to play in that regard here. 😀
I’ve had my DVD cover of ‘City of Death’ signed by Lalla Ward at the ‘London Film and Comic Con’ in July 2017 as well as by Julian Glover at the ‘Worcester Comic Con’ in August 2016. I hold very fond memories of ‘City of Death’ and I cherish it every time I watch it on DVD and nowadays on Blu-ray. 🙂
The first time I saw ‘City of Death’ was when I was invited to stay overnight at a flat that belonged to two friends of mine in Hampshire, England. They’re a married couple and ‘Doctor Who’ fans like me. We were working on a ‘Doctor Who’ quiz for a summer drama camp around August 2008 back then.
They currently have their own house and have a little girl. At that time, after we worked on the ‘Doctor Who’ quiz in 2008, we watched ‘City of Death’ on their TV over a breakfast of egg sandwiches the following morning. This was on a reissued VHS edition, released in 2001. So vintage!
Knowing my love of ‘Doctor Who’, they’d thought that I would enjoy ‘City of Death’. I certainly did! I loved every minute of it! Not long after watching the story, I eventually purchased the ‘City of Death’ DVD when on a day trip in Bath. At that time, we had some builders working on our family house! 😀
‘City of Death’ was released on a 2-disc DVD set in 2005. The story was on Disc 1 and the special features were on Disc 2. Nowadays the story can be seen on its Blu-ray disc in the Season 17 Blu-ray box set of ‘Doctor Who’ as well as on Britbox. It’s pretty amazing how much has changed since 2005.
The story ‘City of Death’ happens to be is a four-part adventure from the sixth season of Tom Baker’s era of ‘Doctor Who’ (Season 17). The story is by David Agnew. David Agnew?!!! Who on earth is that? Apparently, according to Terrance Dicks, David Agnew is to a really good friend of Robin Bland.
In actual fact, David Agnew does not exist! Not at all! Ever! David Agnew is actually a pseudonym. It was previously used for ‘The Invasion of Time’ when script editor Anthony Read couldn’t credit those scripts by himself and he worked with producer Graham Williams who became his script editor then.
Apparently, there’s another ‘Doctor Who’ story by David Agnew, which is one of the Short Trips featured in ‘Short Trips and Side Steps’ called ‘Special Occasions: 4. Playing with Toys’. I assume the editors of that anthology – Stephen Cole and Jacqueline Rayner – were responsible in writing that. 😀
Essentially, ‘City of Death’ is by script editor Douglas Adams, based on the ideas of another ‘Doctor Who’ story called ‘The Gamble with Time’ by David Fisher. David Fisher previously contributed the stories ‘The Stones of Blood’ and ‘The Androids of Tara’ for ‘The Key to Time’ season (Season 16). 😀
‘City of Death’ was also script-edited by the producer Graham Williams. I found ‘City of Death’ to be funny, witty and cleverly well-written as a ‘Doctor Who’ story. It contains a good plot as well as some lovely dialogue. It also makes Paris delicious when you watch the story. It does excite the taste buds!
Perhaps in the same way that the Disney/Pixar film ‘Ratatouille’ can excite the taste buds. 😀 I mention ‘Ratatouille’ since that film also takes place in Paris and it happens to be one of Sarah Sutton’s favourite films. Gosh, thinking of Paris and ‘Ratatouille’ makes me want to cook a lasagne! 😀
I enjoy the ‘Doctor Who’ stories by Douglas Adams. They’re a treat to watch and listen to, especially when the stories have Douglas Adams-esque humour to them. I’ve come across this in certain TV stories as well as the Big Finish audios like ‘The Romance of Crime’ and ‘The English Way of Death’. 🙂
As established in my ‘Destiny of the Daleks’ review, Douglas Adams is well-known for writing ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, which has become popular in radio, TV and books. But of course this is not that story. Here, Douglas Adams delivers a terrific ‘Doctor Who’ adventure that is a comedy-drama in itself and is lovely to see.
Sometimes, I don’t get some of the science stuff featured in Douglas Adams’ ‘Doctor Who’ stories, particularly with this one – ‘City of Death’. But that doesn’t matter, as I always look for the humour featured in Douglas Adams’ ‘Doctor Who’ stories, since they can be quite juicy and tasty to revel in. 🙂
‘City of Death’ has to be one of the best highlights about Season 17 of ‘Doctor Who’ overall. It’s certainly well-remembered by the ‘Doctor Who’ fans, especially since when it was shown in 1979, the BBC’s rival channel ITV was shut down due to a strike. ‘Part Four’ of ‘City of Death’ got 16.1 million viewers. 😀
I don’t know if ‘City of Death’ would be lucky if it was shown today on initial broadcast. The ratings probably wouldn’t have been great and the story would’ve been seen more on BBC iPlayer than BBC One. ‘City of Death’ was lucky when it had more viewers watching it from September to October 1979.
Apparently, Douglas Adams rewrote the scripts of ‘The Gamble with Time’ to become ‘City of Death’ under a heavy dose of whiskey and black coffee, given to him by producer Graham Williams (who locked him in his study) and director Michael Hayes. Imagining that scenario is amusing to think about.
It must have been hard work for Douglas Adams to work in those conditions and under that pressure, but from those long nights of rewriting the scripts; a cracking good ‘Doctor Who’ story was delivered. It’s so good; it’s managed to win in the list of top 10 favourite ‘Doctor Who’ stories by fans. 🙂
Back in 2009, ‘City of Death’ was listed No. 8 in the top 10 favourite ‘Doctor Who’ stories by fans in ‘Doctor Who Magazine’. Its listing might have changed since then, but it’s good to know that ‘City of Death’ is considered a fan favourite in ‘Doctor Who’ and it does win in my category of ‘Doctor Who’.
I love the humour featured throughout this story. It does have a good-feel to it when it questions art and how we appreciate and perceive art in a different light compared to thinking art is pretty, which I found so intriguing. I’m not claiming to be an expert on art culture, but I appreciate its significance.
In the story, the Doctor and Romana have a holiday in Paris, 1979. I love the Paris location featured in this story. Paris is lush, eloquent and lovely to see. This story makes me want to go Paris, even if it’s for a day or two. I’d love to visit Paris and to have a cup of tea with a cheesy ham croissant there.
Or a cheesy ham crêpe! 😀 The story’s director Michael Hayes does well with utilising the filming location of Paris in ‘City of Death’. It’s interesting that a small cast and crew was utilised to go to Paris. Tom Baker, Lalla Ward and Tom Chadbon were the only ones to go to the particular location. 🙂
Seeing the Doctor and Romana walking and running about the streets of Paris and seeing the landmarks like Notre-Dame, the Louvre, the Champs-Élysées and of course the Eiffel Tower was a joy. Even Dudley Simpson’s gorgeous incidental music in the background made my heart skip a beat.
However, the Doctor and Romana’s Paris holiday is cut short when something strange occurs with time. The two Gallifreyans experience time loops in a café. They know something’s amiss. Soon, the Doctor takes Romana to the Louvre where they can see the Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo da Vinci.
Apparently, the Louvre is ‘one of the greatest art galleries in the whole galaxy’. And the Mona Lisa is ‘one of the great treasures of the universe’. Fancy the Doctor knowing that. 😀 It was funny when Romana told the Doctor to ‘shush’ when they’re in the Louvre but he doesn’t care if people ‘gawp’. 😀
Soon, the Doctor and Romana have a happy fists detective named Duggan on their tail. The trio also end up in the chateau of the one Count Scarlioni who resides with his wife, the Countess named Heidi. Both the Count and the Countess are involved in an organised crime to steal the Mona Lisa. 😮
Julian Glover guest stars as Count Scarlioni/Scaroth in the adventure. I’ve met Julian Glover at a number of conventions, including ‘Regenerations 2010’ in Swansea, September 2010, the ‘Cardiff Film and Comic Con’ in March 2014 and the aforementioned ‘Worcester Comic Con’ in August 2016.
I like Julian Glover as an actor. He also in ‘The Crusade’ with William Hartnell! I’ve also seen him in other productions like episodes of ‘The Avengers’ and ‘The Saint’; the James Bond 007 film ‘For Your Eyes Only’, ‘Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back’ and ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’.
Count Scarlioni is actually an alien disguised as a human. He’s the last of a race that was wiped out during Earth’s prehistoric age. In actuality, he is Scaroth, the last of the Jagoroth. The Jagoroth were a ‘vicious, callous, war-like race’. Scaroth is a green-skinned alien who has a really spaghetti-like face.
He also has only one eye like a Cyclops. 😀 Unlike the Ood however, Scaroth means business and can be pretty vicious when he wants to get results. I became inspired by ‘City of Death’ to include a similar alien race called the Macorinroth in my very first ‘Doctor Who’ story ‘The Railway of Time’. 🙂
Scaroth was splintered into twelve versions of himself across space and time in Earth’s history. He’s trying to restore himself and get back to where his spaceship is/was and save himself. To do this, he utilises Leonardo da Vinci in order to rustle up copies of the Mona Lisa to fund the time-travel experiments.
Are you with me so far? It does get confusing, I grant you. But trust me! Scaroth is a great ‘Doctor Who’ villain! Julian Glover plays him wonderfully, as he knows how to play villains with charm, finesse and menace. His performance is not over-the-top and he’s really threatening when he’s calm.
As well as Scarlioni, we also meet Captain Tancredi, another of Scaroth’s twelve splinters across space and time when the Doctor meets him in Florence, Italy in 1505. It must have been a shocking revelation when viewers watching Captain Tancredi made his appearance at the end of ‘Part Two’. 🙂
Catherine Schell guest stars as the Countess Heidi, who is the wife to Count Scarlioni. I enjoyed Catherine’s performance as the exotic, aristocratic lady married to the Count. She’s a beautiful woman ‘probably’ and well-cast to play the Countess. I’ve also met dear Catherine Schell in real-life.
It was at the ‘MCM Birmingham Comic Con’ in March 2016 where Fantom Films were also in attendance. I had a lovely time chatting to Catherine about her performance in ‘City of Death’. In the story, I liked it when the Countess is at the Louvre and she seemed to be pretty mysterious at first. 🙂
Heidi believes the Count is a genius. I assume they were happily married together, although I agree it is a bit strange that the Countess never realised that her husband was an alien. I know it’s something that doesn’t require a lot of exploration, but it does make you wonder how he kept it well-hidden. 🙂
I enjoyed the scenes the Countess has with the Doctor when they’re checking out Shakespeare’s first draft of ‘Hamlet’ and when he tells the Countess that she’s being wilfully blind to the Count’s alien identity. When she does find out the truth, she’s terribly shocked and she soon has a very sticky end.
Tom Chadbon guest stars as the detective Duggan. After ‘City of Death’, Tom Chadbon would appear in ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ as well as some Big Finish audios. Duggan is quite a rough character, as he’s all happy fists…and a bit thick. 😀 He does like to hit things or people and he doesn’t hold back. 😀
“If it moves, hit it!” as the Doctor would say. Duggan smashes glass a lot, especially when it comes to smashing through windows and when he’s breaking a bottle of wine instead of uncorking it. It’s pretty amusing Douglas Adams created Duggan’s character in terms of how the story was rewritten.
The Doctor finds it annoying when Duggan tends to hit things first before he asks questions. But Duggan’s got a good heart and is definitely on the side of good. He even gets to help Romana out as her ‘glamorous assistant’. I enjoyed it when Duggan didn’t get the time travel stuff and goes blank. 🙂
The story’s guest cast also includes David Graham as Professor Kerensky. For me, there are times when Kerensky looks like Manuel from ‘Fawlty Towers’. 😀 David Graham is well-known for voicing the Daleks in the original 1960s stories as well as voicing Brains in the original ‘Thunderbirds’ series.
Peter Halliday guest stars as the soldier who captures the Doctor in Leonardo da Vinci’s study in Florence, Italy in 1505. Peter Halliday played Packer in the ‘Doctor Who’ story ‘The Invasion’ with Patrick Troughton. He also voiced the Silurians in ‘The Silurians’ and he was in ‘Carnival of Monsters’.
Kevin Flood guest stars as Hermann, Scarlioni’s butler. Hermann is fiercely loyal to the Count. I found it funny when the Doctor was pushed around by Hermann and he goes “I say! What a wonderful butler. He’s so violent.” Like the Countness, Hermann doesn’t realise that Count Scarlioni is an alien.
And there’s Pamela Stirling who plays the Louvre Guide. I found it funny when she told the Doctor to move along when other people wanted to see the Mona Lisa painting. She’s also sweet when the Doctor asks her the whereabouts of Romana and Duggan once the Mona Lisa painting’s been stolen.
In this story, a moment I enjoyed very much was the cameo appearance of John Cleese and Eleanor Bron as the two art lovers that comment on the TARDIS standing in a museum. Seeing John Cleese in ‘City of Death’ was a joy and a surprise when I first saw the story with my Hampshire friends in 2008.
John Cleese of course played Basil Fawlty in ‘Fawlty Towers’. Eleanor Bron has also been in many TV/film productions, including the 1995 film ‘A Little Princess’. She would later return to appear in the TV story ‘Revelation of the Daleks’ and she’s also appeared in the audio drama ‘Loups-Garoux’. 🙂
I love it when the Doctor, Romana and Duggan walk past John Cleese and Eleanor Brom before they go inside the TARDIS and they take off in it to stop Scarlioni. It’s a very funny moment. I enjoy watching it every time. Indeed ‘it has no call to be there’ but ‘the art lies in the fact that it is’ there. 🙂
Tom Baker is on fine form as the Doctor here. He clearly loves the humour and wit provided by Douglas Adams, which suits his Doctor well. It shows him at his best. I enjoyed the scenes where he’s taking the mick out of the villains first before he becomes deadly serious by the story’s conclusion. 🙂
This is especially when he’s confronting Scarlioni once he learns more of his plan to go back in time and stop him from pressing the button in his Jagoroth ship. Going back to ‘the Hermann as the violent butler’ moment, it’s pretty funny when the Doctor has that wild grin when he says his lines. 🙂
I also love it when he’s introducing himself, Romana and Duggan to the Countess and he soon ends up in a Louis Quinze chair before helping himself to a drink. By this point, Tom Baker has become confident in playing the Doctor and I think he works well when Douglas Adams is writing for him. 😀
I love it when the Doctor has witty dialogue. I love his scenes with Kerensky and he says his line about ‘reversing the polarity’. I also like it when he barks, “Duggan! What are you doing for heaven’s sake?! That’s a Louis Quinze!” ‘City of Death’ does have one of Tom’s best performances in the show.
Lalla Ward is very good as Romana. She too is enjoying being in this Douglas Adams story. It’s interesting and bizarre when Romana gets to dress up in a school girl’s uniform. I’m not sure if the intentions Lalla had were in the right place. I’m not sure many girls wear school uniforms nowadays.
It’s amusing when Romana thinks that computers can draw pictures better compared to actual hand-drawn artistry. The Doctor admonishes her by taking her to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa. I’m not sure after having this adventure; Romana’s opinion about art has changed very much here. 😐
I also enjoyed it when Romana unlocks the puzzle box which contains the alien bracelet inside, much to the Countess’ annoyance. It’s a funny moment. Lalla’s Romana can be quite childlike in a simiar style to Tom’s Doctor. The two do bounce off each other very well in this ‘Doctor Who’ adventure. 🙂
Romana also shows off her Time Lady qualities rather well, especially when she’s good in leading Duggan in solving a mystery or when she’s confronting Scarlioni in the basement. Going back to costumes, I would’ve preferred it if Romana kept her Doctor-like outfit from ‘Destinty of the Daleks’.
As established, ‘City of Death’ is a story filled with humour and comedic moments. It’s also a story that questions art and how we as people perceive it. Many would perceive art for its wealth; many would perceive it for its fidelity; many would perceive it for precision; and some as a badge of status.
It’s interesting that this story addresses how we might take art for granted sometimes. We might forget and become ignorant of what art represents. I’m sure I’m in that same position, since sometimes I can’t be a good judge of what good art is meant to be like, as opinion can be subjective.
When seven copies of the Mona Lisa are made, the Doctor writes on six paintworks ‘THIS IS A FAKE!’ in an attempt to foil Scarlioni’s plans. It doesn’t work out the way the Doctor had in mind, but in defeating Scaroth, one of the seven Mona Lisas survived and it happens to be one of the ‘fake’ ones.
Duggan is aghast that the Doctor is casual about it being put on show in the Louvre. The Doctor has the final say in that painting is not for wealth or fame, but for its human achievement. So, because the Mona Lisa has the word ‘fake’ written underneath, it doesn’t affect what it looks like, does it? 😐
Mind you, after what I’ve seen in ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’ story called ‘Mona Lisa’s Revenge’, there might be more to that painting than it seems. And in reality, what do I think of the Mona Lisa as a painting? I think it’s nice. I wouldn’t go mad over it, but I feel it’s a decent Leonard da Vinci painting.
The original DVD special features were as follows. There was an info-text commentary option to enjoy. There was a mono sound audio mix option for the story and an audio commentary with director Michael Hayes, Julian Glover and Tom Chadbon.
There was a making-of documentary called ‘Paris in the Springtime’ with behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews. There was also ‘Paris, W12’, which features studio footage of ‘City of Death’; ‘Prehistoric Landscapes’ which features some unused model effects sequences from the filming of the prehistoric Earth sections of the story; and ‘Chicken Wrangler’, which features some visual effects footage of live chickens. There was a photo gallery of the story, the ‘Eye on…Blatchford’ spoof which features the story of the Second-to-Last of the Jagoroth, and the ‘Doctor Who Annual 1980’ PDF. There were also some Easter Eggs to look out for on the second DVD disc, including a ‘Jagoroth Battlecrusiers Inc.’ advert, an interview with Douglas Adams about him and ‘Destiny of the Daleks’ director Ken Grieve visiting Paris in 1979, the ‘Good Wolf’/’Bad Wolf’ sketch which is an extra to ‘Eye on…Blatchford’ (I believe), and a Tom Baker/John Cleese sketch from the 1979 BBC Christmas Tape.
On Disc 2 of the ‘Doctor Who – The Collection – Season 17’ Blu-ray, the mono sound audio mix option, the DVD audio commentary, the ‘Paris in the Springtime’ making-of documentary, the ‘Paris, W12’ studio footage, ‘Prehistoric Landscapes’, the Douglas Adams interview about him and ‘Destiny of the Daleks’ director Ken Grieve visiting Paris in 1979, and the Tom Baker/John Cleese sketch can be found on there. The info-text commentary option and the photo gallery for ‘City of Death’ as well as the ‘Chicken Wrangler’ visual effects footage have been updated for 2021 on the Blu-ray. Sadly, the ‘Eye on…Blatchford’ spoof, the ‘Doctor Who Annual 1980’ PDF, the ‘Jagoroth Battlecrusiers Inc.’ advert and the ‘Good Wolf’/’Bad Wolf’ sketch aren’t included on the ‘City of Death’ Blu-ray disc.
The new special features on Blu-ray include the ‘Behind the Sofa’ feature on ‘City of Death’ with Colin Baker (The Sixth Doctor) and Matthew Waterhouse (Adric) as well as Katy Manning (Jo Grant) and Nicola Bryant (Peri) as well as visual effects designer Mat Irvine, costume designer June Hudson and director Graeme Harper. There’s the ‘Directing Who’ interview with director Michael Hayes (taken from ‘The Armageddon Factor’ DVD); a ‘Designing City of Death’ interview with designer Richard McManan-Smith; a documentary about Douglas Adams called ‘The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to Douglas Adams’; film trims called ‘From The Cutting Room Floor’; a ‘Blue Peter’ item with K-9; the BBC trailers and continuity announcements of the story, including an announcement for the next story in Season 17 called ‘The Creature From The Pit’ which was included at the end of ‘Part Four’ of ‘City of Death’; and a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘The Creature From The Pit’ with Tom Baker, Lalla Ward and K-9. There are also two brand-new Blu-ray audio commentaries for ‘City of Death’. The first one is on ‘Parts One and Four’ of the story with Tom Baker, moderated by Toby Hadoke; and the second one is on ‘Parts One to Four’ of the story with Lalla Ward and Catherine Schell, moderated by Matthew Sweet.
On the PDF front, there are production documents; scripts for the story, including four rehearsal scripts, four camera scripts and four editing scripts; Ian Scoones’ visual effects storyboards; Doreen James’ costume designs; the chateau set design drawings; the ‘Radio Times Listings’ of the story; studio footage and location footage.
If you want comedy-drama in ‘Doctor Who’, this story is the one for you! With Julian Glover as the villain; Tom Baker as the Doctor; a fantastic John Cleese and Eleanor Bron cameo; and lovely, witty dialogue by Douglas Adams himself, this does provide the ingredients of a good French cheese omelette! 😀
‘City of Death’ is a classy, stylish ‘Doctor Who’ story that is one of my favourites and one that I will always cherish! I have dreams of going to Paris from watching this story and it’s definitely a story that became my inspiration in writing my own fan-fiction and embracing my love for the TV series. 🙂
“Bye, bye Duggan!” 😀
‘City of Death’ rating – 10/10
‘CITY OF DEATH’ (TV SOUNDTRACK)
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Paris in the Springtime on Audio
In 2017, I listened to the TV soundtrack of one of my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ stories with Tom Baker – ‘The Pirate Planet’. So it was only fair for me to listen to the TV soundtrack of another one of my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ stories with Tom Baker – ‘City of Death’. How was it? It was pretty amazing!!!
‘City of Death’ is my second favourite ‘Doctor Who’ story from the TV series (the first being ‘Black Orchid’). It’s also my absolute favourite story from the Tom Baker era in general. I’ve seen the TV story and I’ve enjoyed reading/hearing the novelization/audiobook. The TV soundtrack was such a delight for me!
I love everything about this story, including Tom Baker himself; the great writing by Douglas Adams from the story ideas of David Fisher; Duggan; and the brilliant villainous performance of Julian Glover as Scarlioni/Scaroth. So listening to the TV story on audio via a download on Audible was irresistible.
The TV soundtrack is given linking narration by Lalla Ward. I enjoyed listening to Lalla’s linking narration and how she described certain scenes in the story. There were times when the soundtrack paused in certain scenes to allow Lalla to provide the narration of what was happening in the action.
Again, like with ‘The Pirate Planet’ TV soundtrack, I’m not sure why ‘City of Death’ was given a TV soundtrack audio release, since it’s not one of the lost stories from the black-and-white days. The same has applied to other Fourth Doctor stories such as ‘Horror of Fang Rock’ and ‘Destiny of the Daleks’.
But it’s nice to have and it’s good to listen to when you’re on holiday, whether it’s on audio CD or as an audio download from Audible. The TV soundtrack has also allowed me to rediscover ‘City of Death’ in a new way by finding new aspects to the story I hadn’t noticed before when I saw it on DVD.
At the end of the ‘City of Death’ TV soundtrack, there’s an interview with Lalla Ward who shares her experiences of working on the story. I hadn’t realised the filming of scenes in Paris was hard work for Lalla. It was also intriguing to hear Lalla compare the approaches of ‘Doctor Who’ in the 1970s and 1980s.
The ‘City of Death’ TV soundtrack has been great to listen to on audio. The story remains my absolute favourite from the Tom Baker era. Having revisited the story again in its TV soundtrack on audio and hearing the linking narration by Lalla Ward has been really delightful and delicious for me.
By the way, I didn’t purchase the ‘City of Death’ vinyl on Record Stores Day in April 2018 in case you were wondering. I’m guessing the vinyl is the same as the TV soundtrack of the story with Lalla Ward narrating it. Also, why have they done an abridged Target novelization of ‘City of Death’ lately?
‘City of Death’ (TV Soundtrack) rating – 9/10
‘DOCTOR WHO – CITY OF DEATH’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Romance à Paris
I absolutely loved reading and hearing the novelization/audiobook of ‘City of Death’!
‘City of Death’ is one of my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ stories with Tom Baker! It has an ethos; a life; a spirit all of its own; a bouquet. I love the humour; I love the story; I love the characters; I love Julian Glover’s performance as Scarlioni/Scaroth; and I even love John Cleese and Eleanor Brom’s cameo.
The story was released on DVD in 2005. It was a joy to watch when I saw it in 2008 with friends over a breakfast of egg sandwiches. Tom Baker shone throughout with his opulence and witty quips. ‘City of Death’ was the highly-watched story in 1979. It’s well-loved by the fans and well-loved by me too!
So, it came as a surprise when I discovered ‘City of Death’ would be novelized into a book for 2015. I thought, why novelize it? There’s nothing wrong with ‘City of Death’ at all! It’s perfect! But, of course, the book adds more to the story. I was looking forward to finding out more and to revisit Paris again.
‘City of Death’ was originally meant to be novelized by Gareth Roberts, who novelized the lost Douglas Adams story ‘Shada’ in 2012. This book follows the same line of book as ‘Shada’ did, in that it’s so big and chock-a-block full of detail. It was like another ‘Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey’!
Sadly, Gareth Roberts wasn’t able to novelise ‘City of Death’ as hoped, which is a shame, since he did a good job on ‘Shada’. ‘City of Death’ was eventually novelised by James Goss, who does a cracking good job. He’s no Gareth Roberts, but the spirit of ‘City of Death’ shines throughout the great book!
The book is based on the TV scripts by David Agnew, who is actually Douglas Adams from a story by David Fisher. It was interesting to read the book and discover from James Goss’ afternote on how much detail was being put into the book and what changes were made to certain scenes in the story.
Thankfully, not much has changed in the story throughout the book. ‘City of Death’ is still the same, cracking good, French cheese omelette I love and it’s how I remember it from watching the TV story on DVD. What James Goss has done very well is enhance the characters and give more to Scaroth’s background.
I was surprised by how absorbing the book was. Certain scenes were expanded upon in greater detail. The thoughts and feelings of certain characters are explored, including the Doctor, Romana, Duggan, the Count, the Countess, Hermann, Kerensky and the Louvre Guide, who is called Madame Henriette.
The book is divided into 19 very chunky chapters with titles. The book is also divided into four episodes for us to enjoy with the chapters inside. This book took me quite a while to read and listen to, but I took my time with reading/hearing the book, as I enjoyed every minute of it before I finished it to the end.
The audiobook is read by Lalla Ward, who played Romana in ‘Doctor Who’. She does a fine job in reading the story and she provides some interesting interpretations of the characters. The audiobook is an 8-disc CD set. That’s quite a lot of CDs for one big book, but it was great listening to the CDs each in turn.
I’ve had the audiobook CD cover of ‘Doctor Who – City of Death’ signed by Lalla Ward at the ‘London Film and Comic Con’ at the Olympia in July 2017. I’ve enjoyed sharing how much I consider ‘City of Death’ to be one of my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ stories to Lalla. She has fond memories of making the story.
In the book, each episode of ‘City of Death’ begins with a quotation. These quotations range from texts to people such as ‘The Pursuit of Love’; Cole Porter; Napoleon Bonaparte and Hôtel du Nord. I hadn’t realised how much research James Goss had put into writing this book and in making it so French. 😀
Chapter 1 has a very long prologue, which adds to the prehistoric scenes involving Scaroth’s ship taking off and exploding. Goss adds more background to how Scarlioni and Heidi met each other for the first time; how Duggan ended up in Paris at all; and how Kerensky worked for the Count in the first place.
There are additional scenes where Leonardo da Vinci is painting the Mona Lisa in his study in 16th century Florence and where Shakespeare is playing croquet, which was interesting and unusual. I expected more of David Fisher’s ‘Gamble with Time’ original story in this book. Sadly, there wasn’t. 😦
We soon move to Chapter 2 of the story for the Doctor and Romana to appear properly. I sometimes felt that Goss’ novelization of ‘City of Death’ was rather slow and wasn’t quick enough in getting to the Doctor and Romana in Paris. But reading those earlier scenes was well-worth it and it does add more to the story.
As I write this review with a cup of coffee (not French coffee sadly), I’d like to mention how pleased I was that the Countess’ first name was Heidi. I knew it was Heidi from watching the ‘Paris in the Springtime’ DVD documentary, but she was simply referred to as ‘the Countess’ and I didn’t feel that was quite right.
Scaroth’s background, as I mentioned before, is delved deeper in the book. More is given about what happened to Scaroth after he was splintered into twelve selves throughout Earth’s history and how he formed the gestalt link, as his first self in primeval times makes contact with his other selves.
It was also interesting to read how Count Scarlioni forgets who he really is when he rips off his mask at the end of ‘Part One’. I thought he was getting rid of the itch in his right eye when I read it. But he does it to find out that he’s an alien and he happened to have forgotten about it, which was a surprise.
In the book (and the TV story), it’s implied Scarlioni shaped humanity from its beginning to the present day when he was splintered across time in various periods of Earth’s history. This is to indicate that humanity is a result of the Jagoroth”s destruction. This I will never agree with, but it was intriguing.
I like how Duggan is developed as a character in the book. There are references to his ‘chief’ back home and he’s written as constantly growling and wanting to throw a punch. Lalla Ward’s voice for Duggan was amusing to listen to, as she makes him more aggressive compared to how he was on TV.
Professor Kerensky was also interesting to read as a character. More is explored about his ego when he’s working for Count Scarlioni and how he imagines the wealth, fame and achievement he will get for creating his Kerensky Accelerator. It makes him not the innocent scientist he seemed as on TV.
It was interesting to read how Countess Heidi was developed in the book. Her marriage to Count Scarlioni is touched upon, but it’s not done too greatly and explicitly as I anticipated. It’s clear the Countess is very close to the Count, even though she doesn’t realise her husband is actually an alien.
There is a new scene featured in the book. In ‘Part Three’, Romana gets to be out on the town with Duggan in Paris at night-time. This was interesting and was never depicted in the TV story. Romana gets drunk and it was funny to listen to, especially as Lalla gets to play Romana being tiddly, which was never done before.
Apparently, in the original script, it was Romana who smashed the vase onto Countess Heidi’s head when she, the Doctor and Duggan were escaping in ‘Part Two’. This is resurfaced in the book and I prefer it being Romana who hits the Countess on the head with a vase instead of Duggan as depicted in the TV story.
In ‘Part Four’ of the story, the Doctor gets to be angry with Romana. He’s boiling with anger when he finds out she’s been making a time machine for Scarlioni. This was never shown in the TV story between the Doctor and Romana, and I wonder if that was a new addition to the book by James Goss.
John Cleese and Eleanor Brom have an extended cameo as the art critics in the book compared to the TV story. They’re also given names as Cleese is called Harrison and Brom is called Elena (not Kim Bread and Helena Swanetsky). I hadn’t realised their extended cameo till halfway through the book.
The artist who drew a sketch of Romana, now called Bourget, also has an extended appearance. There is more added about why he drew a sketch of Romana with a fractured clock on the face. It was funny when he tried to draw a clock and it ended up with the face of the Mona Lisa in the centre.
I like how the Mona Lisa has her impact in the events of the story (all seven of them). Her smile keeps shinning throughout both in good moments and bad moments. It’s a surprise she didn’t step out and caused trouble, like when she did in ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’ story ‘Mona Lisa’s Revenge’.
K-9 also gets to have an appearance in the book compared to his non-appearance in the TV story, even if it’s for a little bit. Even John Leeson gets to voice K-9 in the audiobook when Duggan talks to him. This was a nice addition, although I do wonder if it was necessary to have K-9 in the book at all.
Kerensky’s death scene in ‘Part Three’ is very elongated compared to what was shown in the TV story. The death is taken from Kerensky’s point-of-view when he’s inside the time bubble, as he’s slowly aged to death. It’s very horrifying and disturbing to read, as he’s slowly being bored to death.
The most important aspect of this book that appealed to me was the humour of ‘City of Death’. The jokes are still there, as well as the wittiness of the story. Goss adds some of his own embellishments to the story in the descriptive narrative and plot, which makes ‘City of Death’ juicier like French wine.
The locations of Paris are touched upon. I like how Goss elaborates on some of the background and history of Paris in the book when the Doctor and Romana are running around from the Eiffel Tower to the Champs-Élysées to the Louvre. He did his research and it makes me want to go to Paris now.
It was interesting how people perceive art differently in the book as well as on TV. Romana sticks to it that computer pictures are better than hand-painted ones; Countess Heidi is diligent in the wealth the Mona Lisa will give her and her husband; and Duggan is so appalled that the Mona Lisa is a ‘fake’.
As I said before, there is an afternote by James Goss on the background to writing this book. It was interesting how James Goss approached the story and how he depended on the rehearsal scripts for the description and detail as well as adding in Tom Baker’s adlibs and jokes that worked great on TV.
‘City of Death’ has been a great ‘Doctor Who’ book to read and listen to. It was one of my favourite stories from the TV series and it was interesting to see how much more is added to the story in the book. Very much in the same vein as the ‘Shada’ book, this is a treat and delight in a Douglas Adams-style of way.
‘Doctor Who – City of Death’ rating – 9/10
‘DOCTOR WHO – CITY OF DEATH’ (TARGET NOVELIZATION)
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Romance à Paris (Again)
Wait, have I done this one already?
Yeah, to start off – WHY?!!! Why, James Goss? Why?! Why did you say ‘yes’ to doing a junior novelization of ‘City of Death’? You’ve done it already! There was no need for you to do a slimmer version of the novelization you’d done. The one you did in 2015 that was chunkier was very good. Why, Mr. Goss? Why?
In 2018, BBC Books released some brand new Target novelizations of ‘Doctor Who’ stories from the new series including ‘Rose’, ‘The Christmas Invasion’, ‘The Day of the Doctor’ and ‘Twice Upon A Time’. I had the books for my birthday in May 2018. I was so really looking forward to reading and hearing them.
I didn’t expect my parents to also get for me, what I call, the junior Target novelization of ‘City of Death’ by James Goss, based on the amazing TV story by Douglas Adams with ideas by David Fisher (pseudonym: ‘David Agnew’). As you probably know, ‘City of Death’ is my second favourite ‘Doctor Who’ story.
But I didn’t think I needed to have this junior version of the ‘City of Death’ novelization for my birthday. For the simple reason being, it had been done already. James Goss already novelized ‘City of Death’ back in 2015 and that was a massive book in the style of Gareth Roberts’ great novelization for ‘Shada’.
So, the reason for ‘City of Death’ to be re-released in a brand-new novelization in the same manner as the new series ‘Doctor Who’ Target novelizations as well as the classic series novelizations from the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s is unclear. It’s unnecessary as the original novelization by James Goss is great.
But I suppose the book is nice to have for my birthday and I’m grateful my parents purchased it for me, since they know how much I’m into ‘Doctor Who’ anyway. But it is rather strange to have ‘City of Death’ re-released in a condensed form when that original chunkier version by James Goss is superior.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if James Goss did brand-new novelizations of ‘The Pirate Planet’ and ‘Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen’ if he were asked – it’s bound to happen, isn’t it? I’m not sure if the same can be said for the ‘Shada’ novelization by Gareth Roberts, but chances are it’s bound to happen.
I contemplated whether I should do a review on the ‘City of Death’ Target novelization by James Goss. I could’ve done it in the same manner as when I reviewed the TV soundtrack version of ‘City of Death’, but I decided to do a full-on review in order to identify what’s similar and what’s different from the original book.
I should point out there’s no audiobook reading for this condensed version of ‘City of Death’. That had been provided for the chunkier novelization of ‘City of Death’ back in 2015 and it was read by Lalla Ward. I’m glad there wasn’t one provided for the condensed version, since that would be overkill here.
The book is divided into 12 chapters with a prologue at the beginning and an epilogue at the end. It matches the novelization style of Terrance Dicks’ novelizations for ‘Doctor Who’ with 3 chapters comprising an episode. So 3 episodes times 4 equals 12 chapters with a prologue and an epilogue attached.
That’s rather different compared to the original novelization by James Goss. In that book, it had 19 very chunky chapters with titles to them and the story was divided into four episodes. The chapter titles of the junior Target novelization are also different compared to the original ones in the chunky version.
I checked both versions of the ‘City of Death’ novelization to see how they differed in terms of text being written by James Goss. The text is more or less the same, except that James Goss cut out a lot of the original text to slim it down into what was shown on the TV screen rather than have the extra bits in it.
There aren’t any fleshed-out backgrounds of character development to the supporting characters in the book including Scaroth, Heidi the Countess, Duggan and Professor Kerensky. The prologue in the junior novelization of ‘City of Death’ only has the Scaroth’s ship’s take-off scene in primeval times.
In the chunkier version, there was more given to the set-up of many characters, including Scarlioni and Heidi meeting each other for the first time, Duggan’s arrival in Paris, and Kerensky first meeting Scarlioni. Those bits aren’t in the condensed version of ‘City of Death’, as they were not shown on TV.
One thing that frustrated me about this novelization is that the Countess isn’t called Heidi throughout. She’s simply referred to as ‘the Countess’. Why couldn’t James Goss have given ‘the Countess’ her first name in order for us to identify her with. I preferred it when she was called ‘Heidi’ in the original book.
Actually, there is an instance where the Countess is called Heidi in the junior novelization, but it’s when Scaroth kills her on the spot towards the end. Did James Goss forget to edit out that bit and call Heidi ‘the Countess’ instead in that moment. There wasn’t a build-up to the actual reveal of the Countess’ name.
The scene where Romana is drunk and out on the town in Paris with Duggan at night is omitted in the junior novelization as opposed to appearing in the original book. This I approve of, as it wouldn’t be appropriate to include a scene where Romana’s drunk in the junior Target novelization meant for kids.
The John Cleese and Eleanor Brom cameo featured in ‘City of Death’ is reduced to…well, that cameo in the junior novelization compared to the original book. In the original book, the two had extra scenes and were called Harrison and Elena. I suppose their extended cameo would have slowed the junior version.
There’s also no K-9 appearance in the junior novelization as opposed to the original. Well, I say there’s no K-9 appearance, but there is a certain scene where K-9’s with the Doctor as they watch Captain Tancredi during his mental breakdown state in the TARDIS. But K-9 has no lines of dialogue in this junior book.
Thankfully, James Goss keeps certain things in the junior novelization that were in the original. This includes the bizarre cliffhanger ending in ‘Part One’ when Scarlioni realises he’s Scaroth after he takes off the mask. The scenes where he’s talking to his previous selves and what they are like are also kept.
Little things from the original novelization are kept in the junior Target novelization. This includes Kerensky’s desire for wealth, fame and achievement as well as Romana smashing a vase onto the Countess’ head instead of Duggan. The Doctor getting so angry with Romana in ‘Part Four’ is also kept.
I like how James Goss keeps the original elongated death scene for Kerensky where he’s bored to death in his own Kerensky Accelerator machine. I’m sure the material for that scene in the original novelization is the same as in the junior version. It’s an effective scene to close the ‘Part Three’ section.
I think that the elaborate descriptions for Paris and the humour featured throughout the story are kept in the junior novelization, but I don’t think when reading the book you’d be able to appreciate that. The junior book does feel like it’s getting to the point of certain scenes in the TV story whereas the original book didn’t.
Like I said, the prologue scene features only the take-off scene for Scaroth’s ship in prehistoric times on Earth. The epilogue is about three pages long and only features the last scene with the Doctor, Romana and Duggan in the Eiffel Tower as they talk about the Mona Lisa. This scene went by so swiftly.
The junior novelization of ‘City of Death’ is…pretty decent. I’m not going to lie and say the junior novelization is better than the original chunkier novelization, as I feel the original chunky novelization is superior. I also don’t see the sense of doing the slimmer and condensed novelization of the story to begin with.
But the junior novelization of ‘City of Death’ was fun to read and I wouldn’t be against reading junior novelizations of ‘The Pirate Planet’, ‘Shada’ and ‘Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen’ should it happen in the future. Just don’t expect me to read the books in a hurry if I ever receive them for my birthday. 😀
Timelord007’s got a point. I must have ‘City of Deathed’ and ‘Shadaed’ these ‘Doctor Who’ stories to death. As much as I love these ‘Doctor Who’ stories by Douglas Adams, I don’t know if I can keep on with checking up on these various adaptations. As if that vinyl version of ‘City of Death’ wasn’t enough.
‘Doctor Who – City of Death’ (Target Novelization) rating – 7/10
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