Mark Watches Classic ‘Doctor Who’: The City of Death

In the classic Doctor Who serial, “The City of Death,” the Doctor and his companion experience bizarre fluctuations in time. They suspect someone is trying to steal the Mona Lisa through time travel, but when they discover six identical versions of the original painting, things only getÒ€¦well, weirder. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.

Before I delve into any specifics, I wanted to say how great it was that I was essentially plopped down into the 17th season of this show, with little-to-no knowledge of this incarnation of the characters, and it was still unmistakably Doctor Who. I realize that perhaps a Douglas Adams-helmed episode is probably going to be a bit funnier than most other episodes of the time, but I loved how much the Doctor’s sense of humor is still present over 31 years ago. Jesus, this episode aired 31 YEARS AGO.

I like lists. You all know that. This was a long serial–four episodes, each 25 minutes each–so I’m going to treat it like I do movie reviews. HELLO, BULLETED LIST. YOU ARE MY ORGANIZATIONAL FRIEND.

  • Yes, this serial is dated. You can tell. From the quality, to some of the acting, and most definitely from the special effects. Actually, some of the special effects are hilariously bad and only seemed to add to my enjoyment of it all.
  • Ok, so the Doctor’s companion, Romana, is a Time Lord herself, if I understand it correctly. Yes? There was a totally different dynamic between the Doctor and her than what I was used to with Rose, especially since Romana always seemed to know what was going on. Well, and she could calculate distance in seconds and help build parts of time machines. That too.
  • TOM BAKER’S SCARF. Holy god, I didn’t know they made scarves that long. I KEPT WORRYING HE WAS GOING TO TRIP OVER IT. And then when he touched the primordial ooze and wiped it on his scarf, I got mad because YOU CAN’T EVEN WASH IT THAT FAR BACK IN THE PAST.
  • Until perhaps the third part, this serial felt pretty convoluted, though it seemed intentional. In fact, I couldn’t even figure out how some of these people were connected at all until the third episode. Part of that might have been the slower pacing behind all of this.
  • THE WAVE!!!!!!
  • I didn’t read the summary for this episode, so the reveal of the six Mona Lisas, with none of them being fake, was a pretty awesome scene.
  • “Should we take the lift of fly.” “Let’s not be ostentatious.” “All right, let’s fly, then.”
  • “Where are we going?” “Are we talking philosophically or geographically?”
  • Duggan is the very best punching machine ever. I loved the ongoing joke of him punching anything that moves and then SAVING ALL HUMANITY BY PUNCHING AN ALIEN UNCONSCIOUS. It’s ridiculous, sure, BUT SO IS THE IDEA THAT AN ALIEN SHIP CAUSES THE SPARK OF ENERGY TO START CREATION. So you don’t get to pick and choose. It’s all awesome.
  • That being said, the Scaroth costume head is pretty terrible. Not scary and completely unconvincing. Same with the laser in his finger.
  • I love Tom Baker as the Doctor after only this serial. He’s goofy enough to make it work, but he also has this way of making his face seem so entirely genuine.
  • I was surprised how dense the science and physics of time travel was in this serial. I’ll credit that to Douglas Adams working on the script, but the concepts of paradoxes and limitations of time being incompatible with our world were embedded throughout “The City of Death.” I thought that the multiple Mona Lisas were the real key to the story, but they’re sort of secondary to the real story of the Jagaroth race and being splintered in time. As I’ve said before, I love alternate histories, or when writers try explain the unexplained through fiction. The idea that an alien assisted in human growth in order to build a time machine so it could repair itself is pretty fantastic.
  • Romana’s outfit in this serial is kind of amazing. It just needs to be said.
  • All in all, I enjoyed this serial a lot. But, truth be told, I mostly cannot wait to start watching the Tenth Doctor. TOMORROW!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
This entry was posted in Classic Who, Doctor Who and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

313 Responses to Mark Watches Classic ‘Doctor Who’: The City of Death

  1. FlameRaven says:

    Yes, Romana is a Time Lord (Time Lady?) I don't know much else about her beyond that, as I haven't seen any of Old Who myself.

    Tom Baker's scarf is a thing of legend. I think the ones people make online end up somewhere around 15 feet long. It is a crazy scarf.

    I may have to check this one out myself, if only to see Romana. I'm kinda curious about Time Lords since the new series so actively avoids them with the whole 'Last of the Time Lords' thing the Doctor has going on.

    • Matthew says:

      Season 16, the previous season, was a long arc called "The Key to Time". The Doctor was given the job of trying to find the six segments of it, so that a powerful being called The White Guardian could rebalance the universe with it. Romana was assigned to help him with that and ended up staying. She's younger than the Doctor and cleverer, but less experienced with the whole random adventures in the TARDIS side of things. Season 16 is actually a pretty good jumping on point, since you get introduced to the companion at the beginning and the whole series has a loose arc.

      The stories are The Ribos Operation, The Pirate Planet, The Stones of Blood, The Androids of Tara, The Power of Kroll and The Armageddon Factor. None of them have reputations as absolute classics, but I think there's something to be said for not doing a big lump of the supposedly best stories first, you can keep your expectations in check and experience the ups and downs of exploring the old series.

      You'd probably get a sense of Romana's Time-Lordyness better by watching from her first episode, I think. Although City of Death is arguably the best story she appears in.

      For an overview of Time Lords who are not the Doctor in the classic series, here's a list of stories, in chronological order, based on what's available on DVD.

      The Time Meddler
      The War Games
      The Claws of Axos
      The Sea Devils
      The Time Monster
      The Three Doctors
      Frontier in Space
      Genesis of the Daleks
      The Brain of Morbius
      The Deadly Assassin
      The Invasion of Time
      The Key to Time (as above)*
      Destiny of the Daleks, City of Death, The Creature from the Pit, The Horns of Nimon*
      The Leisure Hive, Meglos, Full Circle, State of Decay, Warriors' Gate, The Keeper of Traken, Logopolis*
      Arc of Infinity
      The King's Demons
      The Five Doctors
      Planet of Fire
      The Mark of the Rani
      The Two Doctors
      The Trial of a Time Lord
      Time and the Rani
      Remembrance of the Daleks

      *mainly because Romana appears in these.

      That actually isn't too bad a whistle stop tour through all the Doctors (especially if you skip a few Romana stories) although be warned that the Time Lords get a bit dull in their later appearances, which is part of the reason they were killed off.

      For the condensed version, with the most Time Lord mythology and hints of what would become the Time War, it'd be:

      The War Games
      The Three Doctors
      Genesis of the Daleks
      The Brain of Morbius
      The Deadly Assassin
      The Invasion of Time
      Arc of Infinity
      The Five Doctors
      The Trial of a Time Lord
      Remembrance of the Daleks

      In both versions the viewing order matters a bit, since the continuity tends to build on previous stories (albeit in a ramshackle Doctor Who kind of way).

      Oh and for the scarf in loads of fannish detail:

    • Mitch says:

      Officially, all Time Lords are Time Lords, including the female ones. Romana refers to herself as a Time Lord most of the time (that is to say, I don't remember her ever calling herself a Time Lady, but I might have missed something), but the Doctor and other people occasionally call her a Time Lady. Which makes sense, I guess, in an English grammar sort of way, but not so much when it comes to the name of a species/race.

      • liliaeth says:

        It's actually not that weird. Think about it, the species of man, made up of men and women.

        (which kinda always made me happy that the dutch word for human is mens, separating the species from the gender)

        • Openattheclose says:

          Yes, I think of it exactly like that.

          Random bit of trivia: City of Death was apparently the first time she was referred to as a Time Lady.

          • niamheryoumind says:

            She does refer to Time Tots (as in children) in at least one of the audios, it might just be a bit of a joke rather than any serious term. πŸ™‚

    • niamheryoumind says:

      As far as I understand it, all Time Lords are Gallifreyan but not all Galifreyans are Time Lords. It's a non-gender specific title and Romana (II especially) is awesome, right up there with the Doctor in my opinion. πŸ™‚

      I've made one of those scarves (the patterns are everywhere online). It took the entire run of ten seasons of SG:1 on DVD to do it. πŸ˜€

      • Matthew says:

        That's a fan theory, it hasn't been explicitly stated in the series that it's the case. However, there are characters who seem to fit the idea that they're Gallifreyan and not Time Lords, such as Susan, Drax and Andred.

        If the series hadn't been cancelled the plan was apparently to send Ace off to Gallifrey to train to become a Time Lord, which would have cemented the idea somewhat. I'm not sure exactly how that would have worked. There are probably spin-off media that deal with it, but I didn't follow those as they came out and so am rather overwhelmed by their numbers.

        • RJM says:

          I suspect it's an educational degree, actually. Like, if you flunk out of the Prydonian Academy you never get to become a Time Lord.

    • nyssaoftraken74 says:

      Re: the scarf. The story goes that when Tom Baker was cast as the Doctor, costume designer James Acheson picked up a load of wool and asked a knitter called Begonia Pope (brilliant name!) to knit a scarf for Tom. They didn't intend for her to use *all* of the wool but she did and that was that. It was actually shortened (!) a bit before Tom wore it. Mind you, City of Death is several scarves later.

    • AndreaHarper says:

      My scarf ended up being about 20 feet long, long enough to cross the lobby at a hotel, anyway. And then it stretched.

  2. Kaci says:

    Tom Baker and his scarf are amazing. When I told my mom I was watching Doctor Who, she said, "Oh, I used to watch that. He had a big scarf." That, apparently, is all she remembers of old school!Who, and I haven't been able to convince her to watch the new seasons with me. But still, for something to stick in my mother's head for thirty years, you know that scarf is Damn Epic. <3

  3. azurefalls says:

    How easily did you adjust to Tom Baker as the Doctor? (Also something I look forward to hearing about in your Tennant review tomorrow.) I'm wondering if you went through the typical stages of denial-acceptance-LOVE with each Doctor, which most fans seem to go through.
    I've been trying to watch classic!Who chronologically, and with each Doctor, I've found myself missing the previous actor, disliking the new guy for all of two minutes, then accepting him as the Doctor, then almost instantly falling in love with him all over again XD


  4. Starsea28 says:

    Yes, Romana is a Time Lord and just as clever as the Doctor. This is actually her second regeneration. Romana II and the Fourth Doctor are the perfect pair, running rings around other people and each other, flirting, playing with time and space. All wrapped up with Douglas Adams's customary brilliance and ingenuity. For a certain generation, Tom Baker is THE Doctor and nobody else will ever beat him.

    • kaleidoscoptics says:

      Slightly OT, but it still amuses me that the major Time Lords have different ways of noting which regeneration they are. The Doctor has First, Second, etc; Romana gets I and II suffixes.

      • Starsea28 says:

        Hee, true. But Romana is, you know, a name whereas the Doctor is just a title. Doctor I/Doctor II/Doctor III would make him sound like a robot. Although recent fandom has taken to calling his incarnations just by their number.

        • MowerOfLorn says:

          And don't forget how we name the Master's incarnations; by actor. Except Crispy!Master, since it just gets confusing with him. XD

          • Starsea28 says:

            I always think of him as RubbishTip!Master because that is honestly what he looks like to me! *lol*

          • niamheryoumind says:

            Wasn't that because he turns up out of order at some point in the story? That 'later' actors were 'younger' versions of The Master? I might be mis-remembering it though.

            • Matthew says:

              No you've misremembered. There's a pretty clear chronology that tells us the Master lives his lives in the order we see them. You see the Ainley Master's origin, for example.

              There have to have been unseen regenerations before, and possibly after, the Delgado one, but they remain a mystery.

    • monkeybutter says:

      I looked up Lalla Ward after I watched and I was not surprised to see that she and Tom Baker were married. They're amazing on screen together!

      • Starsea28 says:

        Yep, it's pretty darn obvious. Should take the opportunity to say congrats to Tennant on his engagement! And Georgia, too, of course. (The screams of rabid Ten fen were heard around the world.)

        • Am I the only one amused by the fact that Tennant managed to become the Doctor just when the numbering would form part of his name? Tennant.

          • Starsea28 says:

            I think that's just the universe's way of telling us he was destined to be the Doctor. And yes, I know it's his stage name, but the fact he CHOSE it just makes it even more appropriate! πŸ˜‰

            • Megan says:

              Did y'all read the cute little story in the DVD booklet that he wrote about him as the Doctor going back and telling his 7 year old self that he was going to be the Doctor? It is very cute.

          • Openattheclose says:

            Don't forget the nickname he has involving a certain Ten inch part of his anatomy lol. Seriously, I've always thought it was awesome that he was the Tenth Doctor.

            • *blinks* I'm as new as Mark to Who-dom, so I have never heard any nicknames for him. And now I'm suddenly curious. And simultaneously afraid.

              • Openattheclose says:

                Haha! I didn't mean to scare you, but apparently that is what Billie Piper called him.

                • I've been on the internet in various fandom too long to not be somewhat afraid of permanent brain-scarrage when nicknames related to anatomy come up. XD This one doesn't sound too bad though. *whew*

                  • Matthew says:

                    In her wild off-the-rails celebrity days, Pop Bitch's scurrilous nickname for Billie was chazbaps.

                    Google will tell you more and it could well have no basis in fact. As for David, googling his appearance in "What the Butler Saw" may help you make an educated guess.

        • _thirty2flavors says:

          I think it's so cute, though I am not quite sure why since… you know… I don't know either of them personally. But just think! If they have a kid, he/she will win Doctor Who bingo forever.

          • MowerOfLorn says:

            All I can say, that possible kid would pretty much be destined to have at least a cameo on the show. It would be in the blood!

          • Matthew says:

            She already has a son. Here's a lovely video Q&A with Georgia and him:

            The bit where he names his favourite Doctors is hilarious.

            • Matthew says:

              That link is a SPOILER by the way, since they're talking about stuff up to series four (and there are brief clips).

              Should have said that originally, but don't have my brain on today.

            • Megan says:

              That’s who you’re talking about? Ooooooohhh. That is a bit weird. Was that who he was with in the last couple Tennent Diaries?

              Sigh. Is ok. He sang 500 Miles with the Proclaimers so I still love him. πŸ˜‰

              • _thirty2flavors says:

                LOL I dunno how long they've been dating but I would assume they met when she was on the show and would've started dating around then? It's been a couple years anyway.

                • Megan says:

                  Actually, I don't think it was Georgia because I didn't recognize the person. Some random girl was following him around. I suppose that happens to him a lot.

            • _thirty2flavors says:

              Omg that was adorable!

        • Kathy says:

          Also, Georgia once mentioned in an interview that she went to school with Colin Baker's daughter so when she was small she thought that being the Doctor was a job that people parents just had like being a baker or a lawyer or whatever, which I find really adorable.

        • _thirty2flavors says:

          I think mentioning her role in the show is sort of spoilery…?

          • Shiyiya says:

            Crap, you're right. Deleted because apparently I can't edit anymore. Thanks for pointing that out.

        • Openattheclose says:

          Oh that's great, and I think it's adorable that she is in the Doctor Who family already.

    • Fusionman says:

      And for the new generation either Tennant or Smith will always be THE Doctor.

  5. lunylucy says:

    lol okay the special effects were TOO DISTRACTINGLY BAD, I'M SORRY. Especially the head mask.. Oh god. First of all it reminded me of an overgrown Dalek, but also every time it was meant to be scary I was just laughing. I think anyone's reaction to seeing that would be to walk up and take it off or punch the person in question because they obviously can't see or breathe xD

    Anyway, anyway, other than that I enjoyed it too although it didn't really make me want to go and watch more old Who (this was my first). Especially since the episode summary said this is considered one of the greatest Doctor Who episodes, so it's like it's only downhill from there πŸ˜›


    Also I'd seen that Tom Baker gif many times so when he did that in the show I squealed in delight :3

    p.s. cracks in time. I liked that drawing of Romana :3

    • kaleidoscoptics says:

      I thought it WAS a weird Dalek at first since I misheard "Scaroth" as "Skaro."

    • Matthew says:

      It's not really downhill from there. Although City of Death is really good of it's type, there are other styles of story as well, some of which are equally brilliant. Also, even when things don't come together quite as well there are always things to enjoy.

      Of everything from Jon Pertwee to the Sylester McCoy, which is around 100 stories, I'd say the only ones I found a chore to watch were: Underworld, Attack of the Cybermen, Time and the Rani and Silver Nemesis. And all of those have people that like them. A 4% turkey rating doesn't seem too bad to me.

      Although I have to say the special effects are never that great – sometimes they do still manage to be scary, though.

      • lunylucy says:

        Well, I might watch some more of old Who along with Mark again, I guess πŸ™‚ It's charming in its own way, that's for sure.

  6. karate0kat says:


    I've never seen any Tom Baker and even I know about his scarf. It is legen-I hope you're not lactose intolerant-dary

  7. Openattheclose says:

    This is the first time I actually get to experience some new material with Mark. This is the first episode I've ever seen of Classic Who and I loved it. I now understand why people love Four and Romana so much. I made a bit of a list too while watching:

    1)The retro theme is awesome.
    2) The alien looks like a carpet.
    3)Is this Doctor Who's first time on location or something? They are sure showing a lot of Paris. Not that I'm complaining because it's PARIS. Note: I looked it up and it was the first episode filmed in a foreign country. You could kind of tell
    4) That lady on the train totally looks at the camera and smiles. Cute.
    5)Computer pictures? Does that mean the Doctor doesn't like gifs? I am sad.
    6) Reversed the polarity!!!!
    7)Is Duggen going to drink right from that broken bottle?
    8) The whole set moved when he knocked that brick wall out
    9)OMG random John Cleese is random!
    "Well he's standing behind me poking a gun into my back." made me laugh out loud.
    "Just behave like a civilized guest." Haha I love this Doctor
    "It's working. Would you like to stay on as my scientific advisor?"
    "I hate being tortured by a man with cold hands."
    "I don't believe he's as stupid as he seems."
    "My dear, nobody could be as stupid as he seems."

    Julian Glover has been in Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Doctor Who, and Harry Potter (voice of Aragog). That's a pretty mighty sci-fi repertoire there.

    And I love Romana's outfit too!

    • ThreeBooks says:

      Duggen is most certainly going to drink straight from the broken bottle. And if there is any glass, it will just go into his fists.

    • Matthew says:

      There's a great site that tells the story of the production of all the serials, you can read about City of Death here:

    • monkeybutter says:

      2) 70s carpet, even. They're so fashionable!

    • kelseyintherain says:

      I love this list, but I feel like I have to comment on the "computer pictures". When this episode was made, digital art wasn't really a thing like it is now, and anybody that suggested you could make "true" art from a computer would likely be accused of blasphemy. These days, yes, you can make beautiful digital artwork. Were this episode written today, the Doctor would probably express a preference for traditional art, but he wouldn't accuse "computer pictures" of not being real art. Especially when you consider that he's traveled through time and space and there's probably futuristic galleries full of digital artwork regarded as masterpieces with great cultural importance.

      • MowerOfLorn says:

        I just assumed he meant 'computer pictures' in the sense of a picture generated by a computer with no human/time-lord/other-sentient race in put; like a Paint program which draws itself.

        Of course, I forgot what time this serial was written in, so yes, you might be right. But I'll take my option that the Doctor would have no problem with Photoshop, etc.

      • Openattheclose says:

        Yeah, I was mostly joking, but I think the Doctor would be amazed at what you can generate with a computer now. Of course, being a time-traveler, he should have already known that!

    • RJM says:

      3) Hahahah yes, they show a LOT of Paris by way of justifying the money spent to send them there. I believe they do the same thing with Seville in The Two Doctors. (The Two Doctors is mostly cheesy fanservice with an anvillicious moral, but I like it anyway because one of the two Doctors is Two.)

    • Matthew says:

      The awesomeness of the retro theme is down to the amazing Delia Derbyshire and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. It was assembled on magnetic tape, by hand in pre-synthesizer days and stayed pretty much the same until 1980. The Radiophonic Workshop also did all the sound effects for the show. Some, like the TARDIS noise and the background noise in the Dalek ship are the same as in 1963/64.

      Here's a playlist a put together on stuff about Delia and the Workshop:

      It orginally started with "Masters of Sound" which is a great DVD extra in the "In the Beginning" box set (the first three stories), but that's been taken down. I've replaced it with a compilation video that includes some of "Masters of Sound".

      • Matthew says:

        Actually I moved the compilation video down the list. "Master of Sound" is great if you get a chance to see it.

    • nyssaoftraken74 says:

      3) Is this Doctor Who's first time on location or something?

      First time on location outside the UK, yes it was.

  8. Spugsy says:

    The special effects were hilarious! For me the very obvious alien hand/glove right at the start really set the tone for the whole thing.

  9. monkeybutter says:

    Oh man, the only thing I remember from watching Doctor Who on PBS as a kid is Tom Baker's scarf. I didn't know anything about regeneration and whatnot when I watched a New Who, and I was so upset that Eccleston didn't have one. I got over quickly because he's awesome, but still. THE SCARF.

    City of Death was kitschy and 70s and it has John Cleese. What more can you ask for? I also enjoyed the commentary about art at the end. While I think art can have monetary value, it can't be the most important part of the piece. If it is, it's worthless. Appreciation of art shouldn't just be speculation on how much a work will be worth when you sell it.

    Now I'm making myself mad thinking about the Cheneys and their Picassos that they don't display because, gasp, they're nudes, and won't somebody think of the children? Thanks Doctor Who!

  10. Albion says:

    "You're a beautiful woman, probably."

    LOL! I love Old Who but the pacing was something I had to get used to, lots of corridor running in the old days.

  11. Openattheclose says:

    Does anyone want to take a trip to the Louvre now and X Ray the Mona Lisa?

  12. Thennary Nak says:

    I love Romana, she's one of my favorite companions. And all her outfits are amazing.

    A little bit of trivia, Tom Baker and Lalla Ward (Romana) actually were briefly married a little after the 18th season of the show. This episode is commonly cited as being able to see their romance on the screen with them running around holding hands during the episode.

  13. who cares says:

    Ah Tom Baker at the height of his game. Of course it helps that the script plays into all his strong points.

    Was this a Doctor Who episode or an extended commercial for the Paris tourist board? Then again this always seems to happen the few times classic who went abroad. The final episode of Arc of Infinity is just one giant chase across Amsterdam for no other reason but to show it off.

    Tom Baker and Lala Ward who plays Romana got married a while after this rumour has it they fell in love during the filming of this story. It didn't last.

    • Hokuto says:

      Oh gosh I love Arc of Infinity, I spent a lot of it yelling at Omega not to touch things with his antimatter hands. HILARIOUS.

      Loved Tegan's haircut in it, too. So cute.

  14. lunylucy says:

    The concept of the Doctor running around on his adventures with another Time Lord was really weird for me too.. Makes you understand his angst about the Time War that much more in the New Series.

    • _thirty2flavors says:

      When I first watched New Who I had zero idea about Classic Who other than a vague awareness that it had existed, so I thought the Time War was a plot device that had always been there (in retrospect, lol @ me). But yeah so when I learned that he had once travelled with another Time Lord and everything I was very much like :O :O REALLY??? and I have been curious about Romana since.

  15. Araniapriime says:

    That gif of Four waving demonstrates one reason I don't like him — he's just too frakkin' creepy. If I saw him walking towards me I'd cross the street.

  16. Pingback: Tweets that mention Mark Watches Classic Γ’β‚¬ΛœDoctor WhoÒ€ℒ: The City of Death | Mark Watches --

  17. vermillioncity says:

    And then when he touched the primordial ooze and wiped it on his scarf, I got mad because YOU CAN’T EVEN WASH IT THAT FAR BACK IN THE PAST.


  18. swimmingtrunks says:

    This was my second venture into the 4th Doctor era, and I enjoyed it immensely. (The first, Pyramids of Mars) Something is definitely endearing about the oh-so-awful special effects! And yes yes yes to Duggan punching EVERYTHING. From what I hear, Four's quirkiness was really just the innate weirdness of Tom Baker, but I could be wrong. Either way, I can see why Four is such an iconic Doctor, and such a fan favorite! The scene where he's playing the fool is amazing (lol when he stops Duggan from breaking an antique chair over a baddie)!

    In some freak coincidence, the day you venture into Classic Who is the same day BBC launches a channel on Youtube with classic episodes and clips and extras! I think this link has the potential to be of great assistance to you and to us for your forays into the classic series!

  19. Tilja says:

    To you question, yes, Romana is a Time Lady. That's supposedly the denomination for female people of their race. That scarf is legendary! Apparently he's the most cited Doctor in America, scarf and all, perhaps because he's the longest serving one.

    I'll repeat it again, get the Doctor Who Confidential for 2005 season 1 and watch them now. It has a lot of good info provided by 4 previous Doctors and all (Tom Baker, Peter Davidson, Colin Baker, Sylvester MacCoy) regarding all things from their own time as The Doctor. It lets you get into the workings of it all.

    One last thing: John Cleese. Classy.

  20. Hypatia_ says:

    That scarf may be the most iconic component of any Doctor outfit ever. It works for him because Four is a complete raving loon, even when compared to several of his other wackier incarnations. This is an achievement.

    Jumping from Nine to Four is one of the weirdest things you could do. I have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that Four is the SAME GUY AS NINE.

    • GoddessMER says:

      I think Eleven would be an easier jump to Four, rather than Nine. πŸ™‚ They're both have the same kind of silly crazy.

    • rys says:

      I love how the difference in characterisation (and outfit!) can be explained by the things he goes through. Nine makes perfect sense as a post-war Doctor. I'm not sure how Five is the outcome of Four though, heh.

      • Hypatia_ says:

        I'm also not sure how we ended up with Eleven. Actually, I kind of have a theory, but it' spoilery. ARGH.

      • Albion says:

        lol I think Five is the perfect outcome after Four. He needed a breathier after being so eccentric (though Five has his moments. No matter the incarnation the Doctor is mad :P)

  21. karate0kat says:


    James Van Der Beek is apparently a very good sport about being the butt of many an internet gif. So he is helping.

    James Van Der Memes

    Includes crying gif- 10th anniversary edition

    <img src=""&gt;

    Stock up!

  22. Mauve_Avenger says:

    I think I was about five minutes or so into this before I paused the video and did a search to make sure that the scarf was as long as I thought it was (yes!):
    <img src=""&gt;
    Then during the same image search I found this:
    <img src=""&gt;
    Which is from this:
    <img src=""&gt;
    So I looked up Doctor Who references in the Simpsons, and apparently Matt Groening is a big fan. He's put several references to Doctor Who in the show, mostly through the Comic Book Guy, though apparently the Fourth Doctor appears in a few different episodes. There's even a claim that these shelves (from the store Miscellaneous, Etc., in the Springfield Mall) were created with the TARDIS console in mind, though I don't know if it's true:
    <img src=""&gt;
    So, yes…this revelation plus grasshopper cheesecake bars equals wonderful day.

  23. thecheapshot says:

    ^^^ not spoilery

  24. Fusionman says:

    Well this one was harder to find trivia for. Let me go with the important things.

    A. Seems that Romana is also lying about her age. She says she’s 125 when earlier she said she’s nearly 140.
    B. This was the first Doctor Who serial to feature footage filmed on location in a foreign country.
    C. The plot originally had the Countess using the bracelet to cheat at gambling to fund the time experiments. This was removed because the BBC thought it would encourage gambling.
    D. Due to a ITV strike this got amazing views with Part 4 getting 16.1 million views.
    E. The fans say this is an episode that is great to introduce the series to non-fans.

    Anything I missed?

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:


      F. Fusionman is awesome.

      • Fusionman says:

        Oh Mark! Thanks!! To tell the truth though every fact has been found thanks to either Tvtropes or the TARDIS wiki. I just try to make certain facts funny. YOU WILL HAVE ALL THE KNOWLEDGE SOMEDAY.

    • Matthew says:

      I've just remembered a really obscure one. In the spin-off books and audios they expand the brief mention of "The Braxiatel Collection" into an entire Time Lord character:

      That's probably a bit spoilery for various books and audios that I'm ignorant of, the whole idea just amuses me, though.

      • RJM says:

        Oh, BRAX. Truly he is a magnificent bastard. And the fact that his purported relationship to the Doctor (as probably noted in that spoilery wikipedia article) has been Word of God confirmed makes me happy.

  25. Cassandra says:

    Tomorrow is my 21st, and Ten is my Doctor, so I as far as I am concerned, you starting his episodes tomorrow is basically a birthday present to me. πŸ™‚

  26. MichelleZB says:

    This was my first classic Who ever. I watched it all because of you, Mark. And for that I thank you, because I LOVED IT.

    Hilarious Douglas Adams dialogue! I also really enjoyed having a Time Lady companion. MOAR TIME LADIEZ PLZ.

  27. Randomcheeses says:

    Hurray for Tom Baker and his crazy-eyes!

  28. cheshire7 says:

    Dr #4 was my first Doctor and is still my favorite. And-YES! I started watching just to see if he would trip over THAT SCARF! With all the running down corridors, etc., it had to happen eventually. The second things I noticed were his brilliant blue eyes and million watt grin. Other of his episodes that you would like, Mark, include, Pyramid of Mars, Robots of Death, The Talons of Weng-Chiang (Tom as a Sherlock character), the Stones of Blood (Romana #1), The Invasion of Time, and The Deadly Assassin (the only ep where no companion is with the Dr). Cheesy effects, of course. But strong story lines and good acting from the Doctor/companions. After watching samples from the previous Drs, you'll be more able to appreciate the multiple Dr specials. The Three Doctors, The Five Doctors, and The Two Doctors.
    Lots of good stuff to watch. Enjoy!

    • Hypatia_ says:

      We need a multiple Doctor story in the new series, y/y??

      • swimmingtrunks says:

        Well, there was that one thing where [omitted for spoilers, but I am hoping this is vague and yet memory-jogging enough and THINKING IT HARD AT YOU], but I'm going to choose the third option, YES OH PLEASE YES.

        • Hypatia_ says:

          I KNOW EXACTLY THE THING TO WHICH YOU REFER and although it was at least 17 kinds of awesome it was NOT SUFFICIENT.

          I love how incredibly vague we get to avoid spoilers and yet we manage to understand what the other person is talking about. It's like we're all connected by some sort of overriding geek consciousness.

  29. Imogen1984 says:

    Lalla Ward! Tom Baker! Douglas Adams! DaVinci! Truly they tried to put everything I loved in the same episode here. Did you know Lalla Ward is now married to Richard Dawkins? She absolutely rocks. I love that you love the scarf. I have to agree that the pacing of old DW is difficult to adjust to after the bangbangbang of the new series, but it's worth it.

  30. fantasylover12001 says:

    I must have Tom Baker's scarf. Nothing much to contribute to this other then this.

  31. kaybee42 says:

    This episode/serial was hilarious πŸ™‚
    Love Romana so much with all my heart!

  32. Penquin47 says:

    This was freakin' weird, coming from watching only new Who. It was shorter episodes, a Time Lady instead of Rose, and very 70s pacing and special effects. Eventually I had to remind myself what it was like to go back and watch original Star Trek after having watched a ton of Next Generation, DS9, and Voyager. After that I was able to go with it and really get into it. I love Tom Baker as the Doctor.

    How in the world did Romana keep that hat on? Loved the scarf, it ruled so hard. The Countess smoking threw me – but notice only the "bad" guys smoke, even then. (The Countess was more pampered/bored housewife than actual bad.) What weirded me out even more were the million guns that were all over the place!

  33. Rhino Neil says:

    The 4 * 25 min story structure is the most common, although you get plenty at 6 * 25 min and there are less than a dozen or so stories at under 4 episodes. This is a great story, but there are many others just as good, but very different in tone, even just within the Tom Baker era. Really enjoying the revriews so far.

  34. Penquin47 says:

    So, what's next? Obviously series 2 of nu!Who, but when will the voting for the next classic serial go up? Will it be open like last time, or will you have a top 3 or top 5 or something of others suggested from the previous thread?

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      I'll put it up in a few hours! I'd like to do open voting and not restrict it. People may have changed their minds the second time around and I don't want it to be too terribly structured. πŸ™‚

  35. echinodermata says:

    So I prefer this version of the theme music over the new series' version. Although it helps if you're not watching the credits in my opinion, as it looks super dated.

    And reversing the polarity! That's probably the only time technobabble that I know doesn't make any sense still remains endearing to me.

    But the best part of the serial is the art critique of the TARDIS. I love how the people just don't seem to care a couple of people ran into a tiny box that shouldn't fit them, and then it disappeared.

  36. sophpoph says:

    I have to find a way to get my hands on some Classic Who. Wish I could have watched this, it sounds awesome! So excited for you to start Ten tomorrow πŸ˜€

  37. Hotaru-hime says:

    Tom Baker's face is awesome. His scarf is more awesome.
    He has the longest tenure as the Doctor- a full seven years. Bless him, he'd carry around photos to autograph for young kids.

  38. rys says:

    The lolarious special effects are part of the charm of Doctor Who — terrible monsters and effects, and yet somehow it sucks you in anyway.

    This episode is pretty fun and has some amazing lines, but mostly when I watch it I see a lot of HAY GUYS WE'RE IN FRANCE LOOK FRANCE LOOK WHERE WE ARE ON LOCATION YAY.

    I am so ready for the Tenth Doctor reviews!

  39. MowerOfLorn says:

    Ha- that was a brilliant serial! Really loved it. (All through it was just thinking; OMG! Two time-lords, Douglas Adams and John Cleese all in the same place. Geek-love!)

    I'll admit, there was a bit of a pacing shock from the old to new series; I see what people mean about the running-about-in-corridors thing. Also, a lot of random shots of Paris, which I assume is to take advantage of the setting. I also find the music a bit different. Its brilliant, it is, but more tinny to the Nu-Who, which has more orchestral themes.

    The comedy in this is what sold me. Tom Baker is of course excellent, and with Douglas Adams' great dialogue, it was a real treat.

    • MichelleZB says:

      I was warned that the pacing was slow; everyone always says that about Classic Who. So I was pleasantly surprised to feel like the plot just sped along! I was watching it at 3 AM, though, so maybe my judgement was off?

  40. Maya says:

    If you liked City of Death, you should read Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (if you haven’t already) since it’s this episode combined with another (“Shada” I think). Also, it’s Douglas Adams.

    • RJM says:

      Yup. Shada never finished filming because of strikes, so Douglas Adams adapted it into his book and they pillaged the opening scenes for The Five Doctors. (And then much later they made an audio play version with the Eighth Doctor and Romana II.)

  41. nextboy says:

    John Cleese! What a bonus!

  42. rys says:

    ALSO Tom Baker is one person who could've played an amazing Dumbledore. He seems to be exactly that eccentric and warm-hearted in real life.

    • MichelleZB says:

      YES. Why did they not do this? He has a great voice, too!

      • rys says:

        I think I would have passed out at the sheer awesome of that casting. He would just have needed a beard as long as the scarf. πŸ˜€

        Especially as I don't think Michael Gambon actually got Dumbledore as a character. I heard he didn't read the books at all, which might explain it.

    • swimmingtrunks says:

      OMG yes. It would not be OOC for Dumbledore to be passing out jelly babies. I can see it now.

  43. sabra_n says:

    Aw, poor Old Skool Who. Its effects were actually pretty ingenious for its time period and (non)budget. But I have to admit, "City of Death" was the first Old Skool serial I watched and I giggled like a loon at the in the opening sequence. But I got interested in the story pretty quickly, and Tom Baker is just awesome ("I say, what a wonderful butler. He's so violent!"), so pretty soon the effects were a secondary concern.

    I consider Four's ability to run around in that scarf without tripping to be one of his Time Lord superpowers. And I always get a good giggle out of the fact that despite her superior intelligence, Romana's dress sense is every bit as…special as the Doctor's. Also, those two are adorablecakes together.

    Mark, how did you like the older mix of the theme song?

  44. PeterRabid says:

    Romana is so very awesome. This was the first serial with her in it that I watched, and I instantly fell in love. The chemistry Tom Baker and Lalla Ward have is fantastic. Whenever I think of Lalla Ward I always remember her outfit in this episode because I kept wanting to go up to her and put her hat on straight. HOW DID THAT THING STAY ON?!?!?!

    Also, in the fine print of this Doctor Who fanfiction site ( at the very bottom of every page it says "Despite occasional claims otherwise, The Blessed St Lalla Ward is not officially recognised by the Catholic Church. Yet." I do dearly love this fandom.

    "My dear, I don't think he's as stupid as he seems."
    "My dear, nobody could could be as stupid as he seems."
    ^^^ First thing to come to mind when I think of this episode. πŸ™‚

  45. IsabelArcher2 says:

    Wow. I love old-school special effects that are terrible and, thus, become hilarious. My favorite one was when the scientist was killed with the not-quite-ready-time-machine(?). I'm not sure if he was supposed to be contorting or doing the monster mash. It was the most amazing thing ever. And when the Countess was inexplicably killed with the green-light powers of her bracelet. MOAR PLEASE!?! I absolutely needed to watch this while recovering from wisdom tooth removal. Apparently, my body rejects Vicodin and will throw up everything in my stomach for six hours if ingested. All knowledge is worth learning, but some things are better left unexperienced.

  46. Imogen1984 says:

    Oh, I forgot to mention – I MET Tom Baker in full Doctor Who get up in a shopping centre in Australia in the middle of summer. He is even more awesome in person. Of course I was only five but it remains one of my most cherished memories.

  47. Nikki says:

    I love that scarf so much! <3

    The Doctor's humor in this serial was perfect.

  48. lyvanna says:

    Yay, old Who *hugs tight*

    Are we going to vote on the next Old Who to watch or are you still deciding from the old voting post? I keep remembering old episode I thought were good!

  49. Matthew says:

    Regarding the TARDIS as art, in 2001, Mark Wallinger, who later won the Turner Prize, created an installation called "Time and relative dimensions in space" in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. It consisted of two replica TARDISes. The first was on the lawn outside, so you'd see it as you approached the museum, and the second was inside, to give you the idea that the TARDIS had followed you into the museum. There's a quicktime virtual tour here:

    The same year he represented Britain at the Venice Biennial and, under the same title, included a beautiful mirrored TARDIS. Here it is as part of an a exhibition he curated in the Hayward Gallery in 2009, with the artist:

    <img src=""&gt;

    I know that scene is a joke, but I do think there is some of the transcendent quality of art about the design of the police box and its existence as a time machine that's bigger on the inside that the outside, especially since almost all the original police boxes have disappeared.

  50. nyssaoftraken74 says:

    Not related to City of Death, but about Christmas Invasion. I believe it's going to be a live blog? Do we have a time when this is going to happen, or do I just have to press F5 every 5mins for the next few hours?

  51. MichelleZB says:

    I realise that this is the first time Mark has seen any Doctor reverse the polarity! I don't think he knows about that particular trope.

  52. Emmy says:

    Campy fun! Terrible special effects!
    God bless this show <3

  53. hassibah says:

    I'm a total n00b too, I thought this episode was really really slow, and despite being an 80s baby I grew up watching reruns of 70s and 60s tv, so it's not just you. Yes I was looking forward to bad plastic costumes and death threats in robot voices, I was a little disappointed there.

    Right after this I checked out Robots of Death though and I liked that one a LOT better, I don't think I saw anyone reccing it in the the post way back either.

  54. Pingback: Doctor Who City

  55. Graham says:

    Mark! The idea of all of humanity’s history being used as a means of getting a part for a ship (or time machine in this case) is the whole plot to Sirens of Titian by Vonnegut. Check it out, I’ve been enjoying these reviews.

  56. asics tigers says:

    Great post but a couple of extra images could make it enhanced

  57. When I open your RSS feed it just gives me a web page of strange characters, is a challenge on my stop?

  58. Exceptional article my pal. Th is is exactly what I’ve been looking for for rather a time now?-

  59. Pingback: property & casualty insurance license texas

  60. Pingback: Best Diet Plan

  61. Pingback: Credit Card Consolidation Loans

  62. Pingback: Best Proxy

  63. Pingback: Acne No More

  64. Pingback:

  65. Pingback:

  66. Pingback: click here

  67. Pingback: Self Storage Units

  68. Pingback: great reviews

  69. Pingback:

  70. Pingback: Consumer Proposal Ontario

  71. Pingback: Lanyards

  72. Pingback: Marriage Problems Help

  73. Pingback:

  74. Pingback: עבירות מס

  75. Pingback: Sexchat

  76. Pingback: maxi matic ha 3433a meat grinder

  77. Pingback: Dreambox

  78. Pingback: kgb deals leeds

  79. Pingback: קידום אתרים בגוגל

  80. Pingback: Villa Ile Maurice

  81. Pingback: adwords

  82. Pingback:

  83. Pingback: 2nd Hand Lawn Mowers For Sale

  84. Pingback: solar landscape lights

  85. Pingback:

  86. Pingback: Ile Maurice Location

  87. Pingback: Mauritius Villas

  88. Pingback: Mauritius Accommodation

  89. Pingback: Special Diet

  90. Pingback: Location Vacances Ile Maurice

  91. Pingback: herbal blends

  92. Pingback: hitachi cordless drill

  93. Pingback: Budweiser Pool Table Lights

  94. Pingback: panel saw blade

  95. Pingback: Send Anonymous Email

  96. Pingback: bosch 4100

  97. Pingback: how can I save my marriage

  98. Pingback: Immobilienmakler Tipps

  99. Pingback: Rug Cleaning Los Angeles

  100. Pingback: Dewalt d55151

Comments are closed.