Thursday 1 July 2010

City of Death

The Fourth Doctor and the Second Romana enjoy the atmosphere of Paris.

I re-watched this story the other day and I can't help thinking it may be the best Doctor Who story ever. There is very little you can fault in this story, and brilliant acting, a witty and inspired script and a straightforward plot combine to create an stunningly pristine story.

The thing that most strikes one with this story is Tom and Lalla. They are so natural together. Holding hands and skipping giddily around Paris. Leaving aside Tom and Lalla's offscreen relationship, this is the closest the Doctor has come to a convincing romance in the classic series. It is so beautiful and heart-warming to see the Doctor and Romana taking such a sweet pleasure in each other's company.

The title of the story seems to have been chosen for the sake of irony. It seems like a cliched title from a Hinchliffe story. Yet instead of horror and darkness, we are treated to a story that is light-hearted and fun. This story reminds us that Doctor Who does not have to be full-on gothic horror or about grim violence in the far future. The light-hearted tone is supported by one of the best musical score's in the history of the show.

While the story may justifiably be described as comic, it is played absolutely straight without any attempt at send-up or parody. Guest performances from Julian Glover, Catherine Schell and Tom Chadborn. All three take their roles seriously and make us really believe in the characters. The cameo appearance of John Cleese and Eleanour Bron is not really necessary, but is a fun touch.

Scaroth is a brilliant villain. He is so suave and cool. The fact that he needs to put effort into his fun-raising by selling artwork makes him stand out from every other Doctor Who villain. Even as a rubber monster, he works very well.

The countess is an interesting character. She comes across as desperate to please her husband, who sees as just a dazzlingly romantic criminal mastermind. Obviously, with it being a childrens' show the story does not go into some of the more delicate aspects of their marriage. The adult viewer cannot help wondering what is, or perhaps what is not going on in their bedroom!

I love the sassiness of the second Romana. Seeing her work with Duggan brings out her haughtiness too; she is almost cruel in her teasing of Duggan. Romana's costumes are always a treat, this school girl outfit is one of her best. It is not in the slightest bit sexy or cheeky, but rather provides a clever contrast with the Fourth Doctor's Bohemian undergraduate look. I like the fact that the pair coordinate their outfit's by wearing colourful lapel badges; the Doctor's badge a paint pallet and Romana's appears to be some sweets.

The real tragedy is that the extraordinary quality of this story is absent from all of the other stories of season 17.

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