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Episode Guide
City of Death
Production Code: 5H
Season 17, Story Number 105
Written by David Agnew
Directed by Michael Hayes

Each episode is identified with date of transmission, duration, ratings in millions, and (for 1963-1974 only) archive status.

Part One
29 September 1979 | 24'25" | 12.4
Part Two
06 October 1979 | 24'33" | 14.1
Part Three
13 October 1979 | 25'25" | 15.4
Part Four
20 October 1979 | 25'08" | 16.1
Archive Status: All four episodes exist as PAL 2” colour videotape, always held by the BBC’s Film and Videotape Library.
Tom Baker (Doctor Who), Lalla Ward (Romana), Julian Glover (Scaroth / Count Scarlioni / Captain Tancredi), Catherine Schell (Countess Scarlioni), Tom Chadbon (Duggan), David Graham (Professor Kerensky), Kevin Flood (Hermann), Pamela Stirling (Louvre Guide), Peter Halliday (Soldier), Eleanor Bron (Art Gallery Visitor), John Cleese (Art Gallery Visitor)
The Doctor and Romana are enjoying a holiday in Paris 1979 when time starts to fracture around them. The Doctor is determined to continue the holiday, but time slips again when they visit the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa. The Doctor, dazed by the phenomenon, is helped by a Countess when he falls semi-conscious into her lap. The Doctor takes this opportunity to slip a futuristic alien bracelet from her wrist.

Later, at a roadside cafe, the Doctor and Romana meet a private detective, Duggan, who explains that he has been investigating the Countess's husband, Count Scarlioni. All three are then 'invited' at gunpoint to visit the Count by a group of thugs. Scarlioni locks them in his cellar and the Doctor discovers that he has eight Mona Lisas stored there too, all of them originals!

The Count is actually an alien called Scaroth, the last member of the Jaggaroth race. He was splintered in time when his ship exploded above primeval Earth and in his twelve aspects has been guiding the development of mankind to a point where time travel is possible. He now intends to travel back in time and prevent himself from destroying the ship.

The Doctor travels back to 1505 in the TARDIS to visit the Florentine home of Leonardo Da Vinci and writes 'This is a Fake' in black marker pen on eight canvasses, leaving the artist a note just to paint over them. While he is there he discovers that it was a splinter of Scaroth who arranged for Leonardo do produce eight copies of the painting in the first place. He then follows Scarlioni back 400 million years to primeval Earth and with Duggan's help prevents him from altering the course of time.

Scaroth's ship explodes as before and the resultant blast of radiation brings life into being in the primordial swamps below, life which will eventually develop into mankind.

Synopsis from Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Handbook by David J. Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker, reprinted with permission; further reproduction is not permitted.

Production Team
Carol Scott (Assistant Floor Manager), Doreen James (Costumes), Jan Wright (Costumes), Richard McManan-Smith (Designer), John Walker (Film Cameraman), John Gregory (Film Editor), Dudley Simpson (Incidental Music), Jean Steward (Make-Up), Graham Williams (Producer), Rosemary Crowson (Production Assistant), John Nathan-Turner (Production Unit Manager), Douglas Adams (Script Editor), Dick Mills (Special Sounds), Mike Jefferies (Studio Lighting), Anthony Philpott (Studio Sound), Delia Derbyshire (Theme Arrangement), Ron Grainer (Title Music), Ian Scoones (Visual Effects)
Story Notes
Inspired by the Bulldog Drummond stories and benefiting from a cracking screenplay, "City of Death" is lauded as one of, if not the most, successful Doctor Who tales in the show's history. It was also the first story filmed primarily on location outside the UK; the production team went to Paris, France, to film the exteriors. The story was based on a submission from David Fisher, "A Gamble With Time," which was set first in Las Vegas, then in Monte Carlo, during the 1920's; Douglas Adams and Graham Williams wrote the script under the BBC pen name David Agnew. Julian Glover returned after 13 years to play Scarlioni (he'd last been seen in "The Crusade"), while "Space: 1999" actress Catherine Schell played the Countess, and two art critics were played by well-known actress Eleanor Bron and "Monty Python" alum John Cleese. The working title was "Curse of the Sephiroth." The production was plagued with closed Paris locations, including a spot with the French gendarme when an alarm was set off outside an art museum. This was the highest rated Doctor Who story ever. Some of the elements of the story were later incorporated by Adams into his novel "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency".
For more in-depth information about the contents of this story, a complete episode-by-episode detailed breakdown can be found at the Doctor Who Reference Guide.
Additional, more detailed information about the production of this story can be found at Shannon Patrick Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel).
DVD release
Released in the UK [November 2005] and Australia/NZ [December 2005] (BBC DVD catalog #1664), US/Canada [November 2005] (WHV catalog #E2399); episodic format; photomontage cover. Includes commentary by actors Julian Glover and Tom Chadbon and director Michael Hayes; a 45-minute featurette "Paris in the Springtime", which examines production of the story; clips of interviews with Douglas Adams, Glover, Chadbon, Hayes, Catherine Schell, script editor Anthony Read, writer David Fisher, director Pennant Roberts, and writers Steven Moffat and Rob Shearman; illustrative recreation of the original storyline, "A Gamble With Time"; extracts from the recording sessions; "Prehistoric Landscapes," a montage of landscape and effects for the story; "Eye on... Blatchford," a regional-interest program; plus the 1980 Doctor Who Annual in PDF format, photo gallery, floorplans, easter eggs and production notes.
Video release
Released as “City of Death” in the UK [July 1991] and Australia/New Zealand [September 1991] (BBC catalog #4492), US/Canada [May 1994] (WHV catalog #E1259); episodic format, cover illustration by Andrew Skilleter. Rereleased in US/Canada [March 1998] as part of the "Gateway Collection" with slightly revised photomontage cover but identical contents (and WHV catalog #) as original. Re-released in the UK [May 2001] (BBC catalog #7132), with different photomontage cover but otherwise no difference from original version.
In Print
Never officially novelised. An unsanctioned fan novelisation was penned in 1992 by David Lawrence, re-released later by TSV Books in New Zealand with cover by Alistair Hughes.
Screencap Descriptions
Descriptions of each story screen capture above right, top to bottom:
  • The Jagaroth ship lands on prehistoric Earth
  • Romana (Lalla Ward) and the Doctor (Tom Baker) visit the Louvre in Paris
  • Scaroth (Julian Glover) in his true form
  • Professor Kerensky (David Graham) in the time manipulator
  • Duggan (Tom Chadbon) and the Doctor stumble upon the fake Mona Lisas in Scarlionis crypt
  • Scarlioni along with manservant Hermann (Kevin Flood)
  • the Countess (Catherine Schell)
  • the art critics at the Louvre - guest stars John Cleese and Eleanor Bron