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 get…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!