CRRRaSh! 429 Doctor Who: City of Death

By Roy Mathur, on 2022-02-26, at 23:03:33--23:46:27 GMT, for Captain Roy's Rocket Radio Show, Listen

The State of the Rewatch

My right eye is still bothering me. I have another set of ointments. It may or may not be fungal. Don't they take biopsies anymore? I also got sick from both IBS and hypersecretion for again coming off my PPIs too quickly. To surmise, I have been in a state.

Microphone Change

I'm using the Shure SM58 again. Why? It's a little easier to edit. I'll talk about it in one of the general geek pods.


In pod 426, Doctor Who: Destiny of the Daleks, I said, "the Doctor reads The Origins of the Universe by Oolon Colluphid; a fictional work from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". While the character, of course, is from the HHGTTG, the book isn't. Fictional author Oolon Colluphid is, however, responsible for:

Why the error? Give me a bloody break. It's been years since I last re-read the books!

Good news! We're going off our regular-ish schedule to launch a ginormous load of OldWHo at you to finish off Season 17. Hang onto to something, the TARDIS is going to get bumpy! (Yes, I said that already and now I'm saying it again).

Cast, Crew, and Production Notes

Fourth Doctor: Tom Baker
Companion(s): Romana: Lalla Ward, K9: John Leeson
Director: Michael Hayes
Writer: David Agnew (David Fisher, Douglas Adams, Graham Williams)
Producer: Graham Williams
Location: Additonal filming in Paris
Broadcast: Story 105/serial 2 of season 17, 4 x c. 25 minute episodes, 29 September--20 October 1979, following Destiny of the Daleks covered in pod 426

On this Day in the UK

The Pope (57) visited Ireland for the first time. He made an address near the border of Northern Ireland, saying, "On my knees I beg you to turn away from the paths of violence and return to the ways of peace."

What Happens

In distant past, Scaroth, the pilot of a spaceship holding the last of his fellow Jagaroth species, is attempting to lift off from the primordial Earth's surface. The secondary engines are disabled, so, against his better judgement, the warp thrust is activated. The ship explodes and he is divided across time.

Taking Romana to Paris for a holiday, the Doctor experiences a time slip in a cafe. At the Louvre, the Doctor and Romana have another turn near the Mona Lisa. A woman and some men act suspiciously.

The Doctor and Romana meet Duggan, a hardboiled detective who suspects the Scarlionis of being art thieves. At the Scarlioni mansion, they discover Dr Kerensky's time experiments to be the cause of the time slips, and perfect duplicates of the Mona Lisa.

They split up and Romana and Duggan are taken prisoner by the count. Romana agrees, under duress after watching the murder of Kerensky, to help him with the experiments.

The Doctor visits Leonardo Da Vinci where he is captured and questioned by Captain Tancredi, a doppelganger of Scarlioni. He says that he is one of the splinters of Scaroth. Together, the Sacroths are pushing humanity to a state where the technology is available to send him back in time to stop the accident. He is financing the operation by getting Da Vinci to churn out copies of the Mona Lisa.

Threatening the destruction of Paris if Romana does not finish the work, Scaroth finally uses the time machine.

Believing the explosion was the event that sparked life on Earth, the Doctor, Romana, and Duggan travel back in the TARDIS to stop Scaroth preventing the explosion. Duggan punches Scaroth, but he escapes to the present.

In the ensuing struggle with his bodyguard, who sees his boss's true face for the first time (i.e. green, blobby, tendrillar, and cyclopean), the mansion catches fire and Scaroth dies.

The Doctor and Romana say their goodbyes to Duggan at the Eiffel Tower and leave to enjoy the rest of their holiday.

What I Thought

Remember the Doctor's duck brooches in CRRRaSh! 418 Doctor Who: The Power of Kroll? This time he's wearing a brooch in the form of a palette and oil paint tubes. Romana is dressed as a schoolgirl.

Did you notice Scaroth's favoured green theme that reflected the colour of his hidden face? The Count has a square emerald and gold ring (similar to one my father used to wear) and a predominantly green cravat and dressing gown. At one point, he's even sipping the green fairy (absinthe). Captain Tancredi has a whole green outfit.

Julian Glover is ultra-cool as the Bond-style villain, Scaroth, with great clothes, good taste, henchmen, and a hot wife. The prolific actor actually played Bond villain Aristotle Kristatos in For Your Eyes Only in 1981.

The beautiful and fantastic actress, Catherine Shell, played the Countess. While she already had her sci-fi credibility from Space: 1999, and a huge fandom (including me), I shamefully failed to recognise her without the Maya makeup.

Tom Chadbon is mildly funny as the overly hardboiled detective; smashing, and smashing through, windows, bottles, and doors, as well as repeatedly thumping opponents.

The actor who plays Dr Kerensky has an accent that veers wildly between Italian and Russian. It is truly terrible.

My recollections of this adventure are strong, though not only the story and creature design, but the Tom Baker and Lalla Ward saga that drove the press into a furore. For a while they were like the Kardashians of the UK. The relationship and that schoolgirl outfit led to numerous publicity shots in the tabloids and Baker and Ward enjoyed the attention until it turned. Her glamour and the age gap between her and Tom sent the press into a feeding frenzy. In retrospect though, as I Google images from that story, it looks thoroughly innocent and innocuous, and I wonder how much of the drama was cooked up by my journalist colleagues simply to flog papers. Most, probably.

It's personal significance to me was that those were the years when I was still regularly visiting relatives in Paris, so I knew Paris well. I knew the Eiffel Tower, the Metro system, everything, so it felt good watching my heroes visiting the same places as me.


David Fisher wrote the initial story, called The Gamble with Time, a comedic take on Bulldog Drummond. The budget wouldn't accommodate the jet set locations, so it was rewritten by script editor Douglas Adams. Adams and producer Graham William's pared the script down with only few days on location filming in Paris, using a vastly reduced crew, and a cast consisting of Baker, Ward, Tom Chadbon (the Drummond-type character), and no poor old K9. On the extras video, Julian Glover and Catherine Schell mention missing out on a free trip to Paris.

On one of the making of vids, Tom loses his temper in a take in quite the diva-like manner. I'd heard he could be difficult to work with, but, as I always say, I'm more interested in the fictional lives and stories of the characters than the actors playing them, so this was the first time I saw evidence of this. He's not entirely alone though; I have seen big-headed behaviour from other actors in the main role.

This is purportedly the most viewed Doctor Who story ever. But, as is said on the extras video, it had a captive audience as there was a strike at ITV, so BBC1 was the only prime time channel available to viewers in England.

RIP Captain Uncle

My uncle passed away yesterday after a long illness.

He was a senior officer in Mauritian coast guard. He was the only person in the extended family interested in life on the sea. He left home as a teenager with only a guitar and made his way up the ranks of the merchant marine (error: American; "merchant navy" is correct) and then the military. I remember him as one of the few people who liked chatting to me about matters maritime, e.g. pirates was a favourite subject. He also once took my mother and I on a little trip on his gunboat (error: patrol boat).

His name was Bahadur Geerjanan, but I jokingly used to call him Captain Uncle. RIP Captain Uncle.


For what it's worth and in my and family's own very small way, we would like to wish good fortune to the people of the Ukraine.

I'm also heartened by worldwide anti-war demonstrations. I particularly admire the Russian protesters, out in the streets despite the mass arrests.