Doctor and Romana

Every time I see City of Death, I appreciate it a little more, and I now have decided that it is one of my three favorite classic Doctor Who stories. (I say “stories” rather than “episodes” because in the classic Doctor Who series, most stories were four episodes long.) In chronological order, my three favorites are The Pirate Planet, City of Death, and State of Decay. Incidentally, they all have the fourth Doctor and Romana, who is so awesome that I named my awesome kitten after her. Also, it is interesting to note that two of these three are by Douglas Adams. (State of Decay, however, was written by Terrance Dicks) This is further proof that Douglas Adams was one of the awesomest writers of all time. True, the name given in the credits is David Agnew, but this was a pseudonym. The note on the back of the DVD case makes it unclear whether the script was team-written or whether this pseudonym was used by multiple writers at different times, but at any rate, Douglas Adams was at least in part responsible for the awesomeness that is City of Death. In appreciation for this television masterpiece, I hereby share a list of my favorite lines, a few screenshots, a couple random observations and thoughts, and expository plot points as necessary. I wrote this over the course of two days, while watching City of Death in fragments.

  1. I can’t help wondering if the line “Help us! Skaron! You are our only hope!” from the very beginning of the first episode, is a deliberate Star Wars reference. It seems likely, given the fact that this episode is from 1979, two years after the original Star Wars movie was released.
  2. If for no other reason, this is an awesome episode because of the exchange where Romana asks the Doctor, “Where are we going?” and he says, “Are you talking philosophically or geographically?”
  3. This music that plays as the Doctor and Romana are walking through Paris is some of the best Doctor Who music ever. I think I like it just as much as the theme, and that’s saying a lot because I love the theme.
  4. A Portrait of a TimeladyThe sketch that the man in the café draws of Romana is fascinating, or, as Romana says, “extraordinary.” He draws her face as a fractured clock face, which I think is a very artistic idea. That’s how he perceives Romana, but what does it mean? The Doctor thinks of it as an accurate representation of a timelady, but why does a random Earth man see that in Romana? And does it mean anything to the plot besides a foreshadowing that something’s wrong with time?
  5. The Doctor tells Romana that the Louvre is one of the greatest art galleries in the galaxy, and she lists various other art collections that are evidently well renowned. It’s a classic Douglas Adams moments.
  6. It amuses me that the Doctor and Romana discuss the Mona Lisa’s lack of eyebrows. Current Doctor Who fans wonder why Matt Smith doesn’t have eyebrows. If I could make gifs, I would make one of this segment from City of Death, but I would edit a picture of Matt Smith into the frame where the Mona Lisa is. It would be funny. If anyone reading this has the right computer program to make such a gif, feel free to steal this idea, post it on tumblr, and send me a link so I can reblog it.
  7. Another good line, from the mouth of the overworked scientist working for the Count: “I appreciate many things. I appreciate walks in the country; I appreciate sleep, regular meals…”
  8. Funny how it’s okay for the Doctor to steal a bracelet just because he can tell it’s extra-terrestrial, but it is ultimately important to keep the Mona Lisa from being stolen. It just goes to show, if Doctor Who was D&D, The fourth Doctor would be chaotic good.
  9. “Romana, I think something very funny is going on. You know that man who was following us? Well, he’s standing behind me pointing a gun in my back,” says the Doctor. And when the man forces them into the café at gunpoint, the Doctor orders three glasses of water. The fourth Doctor is awesome.
  10. The countessI think that the Countess must have a tumblr account. She tells the Count, “Well then I had the fool of a detective followed.” “Why?” the count asks. She gives him a look and says, “Reasons.”
  11. Another great part: Duggan, the detective who was following the Doctor, asks him, “What’s Scarlioni’s angle?” The Doctor doesn’t know; he has never heard of Count Scarlioni. Neither the Doctor nor Romana know who Scarlioni is or what his angle is, so Romana says, “I never was any good at geometry.”
  12. For no readily apparent reason, Duggan befriends the Doctor and Romana after the bracelet is taken from them and returned to the Count and Countess. The detective explains that the Count is in some way connected to the sales of suspiciously many valuable artifacts, which evidentially are not fakes, but the Count himself is “clean; so clean he stinks.” Another classic Douglas Adams line.
  13. End of the first episode: The Count locks himself in the laboratory while the scientist is resting. He takes off what we now see is only a mask, and lo and behold, he’s a creepy-looking one-eyed space alien! *theme music and credits*
  14. Tom Baker“I say! What a wonderful butler! He’s so violent! Hello!”  the Doctor says upon being pushed into the room where the Countless wants to interrogate him. And then, moments later, he thanks the butler and sends him away, then welcomes Romana and Duggan into the room and offers himself a drink. “You see, I’m a thief,” he explains to the Countess. “This is Romana; she’s my accomplice. And this is Duggan. He’s the detective who was kind enough to catch me. That’s his job. You see, our lines of work dovetail beautifully.” The Countess says that’s very interesting.
  15. “You’re a very beautiful woman, probably,” The Doctor tells the Countess.
  16. I remember one time years ago when my parents were discussing how funny it is the way the fourth Doctor can play stupid when it suits his purposes, and I didn’t know what they meant. But this scene is a perfect example. The Doctor claims that he stole the bracelet because he thought it was pretty. He adds that he would have preferred to have stolen a painting, but he’s tried that before, and all sorts of alarms went off.
  17. “My dear, I don’t think he’s as stupid as he seems,” the Countess tells the Count. “I don’t think anyone could be as stupid as he seems,” the Count replies.
  18. The cell“What’s the point of coming all the way here just to escape immediately?” –The Doctor, from inside a dark prison cell.
  19. I love the way Romana can measure space just by looking at it and therefore realizes that there’s a hidden room next to the prison cell, while The Doctor and Duggan are busy trying to escape.
  20. Now comes the bit where we discover what exactly Kerensky, the professor guy, has been building in the laboratory.  He puts a chicken egg in his machine and grows a chicken out of it in seconds. Then the Doctor sneaks up behind him and says, “Which comes first? The chicken or the egg? What you’re doing is terribly interesting, but you’ve got it all wrong.”
  21. I can’t figure out what that thing on the Doctor’s lapel is.
  22. Oh, dear. The machine thingy has a few technical difficulties. Or, in the words of the Doctor, the scientist guy has “created a new time continuum that is totally incompatible with ours.” That is to say, the chicken’s dead now.
  23. The plot thickens. The Doctor sees the evil alien’s face in the machine thingy and Duggan knocks the professor guy unconscious for no particular reason. (Duggan does that kind of thing a lot.)The Doctor is angry; he tells Duggan that if he ever does that again, he’s going to have to take very, very severe measures. “Like what?” Duggan asks. “I’m going to ask you not to,” the Doctor says very, very severely.
  24. The bad guys (That is, the Count and the Countess) have a sonic knife that can cut through glass, such as the glass protecting the Mona Lisa. And they have a machine that can alter the refractive index of the very air itself, which can move laser beams, such as the ones guarding the Mona Lisa. Just for example. Dearest me, what can they be plotting?
  25. Guess what’s in the hidden room that Romana so cleverly found? It’s a bunch of Mona Lisas! Six, to be exact. “They must be fakes!” Duggan says. But the Doctor checks, and indeed, they are real. Duggan says that there are seven people who would want to buy the Mona Lisa. Clearly, Duggan and Romana deduce, the Count’s plan is to steal the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, and then, when he sells his seven Mona Lisas, each buyer will assume they have the one that was in the Louvre. Clever.
  26. Mona Lisa room“I wouldn’t make a very good criminal, would I?” The Doctor asks Duggan. “No,” the Count agrees, “good criminals don’t get caught.” He catches them.
  27. “Can I ask where you got these?” The Doctor asks. “No,” the Count tells him. “Or how you knew they were here?” The Doctor adds. “No,” the Count says.  “They’ve been bricked up a long time!” The Doctor observes. “Yes,” the Count agrees. “I like concise answers!” the Doctor compliments him. “Good,” the Count says with satisfaction.
  28. “I came down to find Kerensky” the Count continues. “But he doesn’t seem to be able to speak to me. Can you throw any light on that?” The Doctor cannot. “I can!” yells Duggan, and he throws a light. Nicely done, Douglas Adams.
  29. “Duggan, why is it that every time I start to talk to someone, you knock him unconscious?” The Doctor asks in annoyance.
  30. Da Vinci's HomeNow Duggan heads off to the Louvre to stop the robbery, Romana heads off to the Louvre to keep an eye on Duggan, and the Doctor heads off to meet a late Renaissance Italian. Dark music plays as we watch the Doctor sneak through an art exhibit, presumably the Louvre, as he goes to the TARDIS, despite the fact that he and Romana walked to the Louvre, so that’s not where the TARDIS should have been. Dearest me, it’s a plot hole!
  31. As the second episode draws to a close, The Doctor finds an unexpected guest in Da Vinci’s home. ‘Tis the Count! *theme music and credits*
  32. Romana’s only 125! Interesting. I don’t know exactly how Gallifreyan age corresponds to Earth human age, but she’s very young compared to the Doctor.
  33. It’s too late; the Mona Lisa has already been stolen from the Louvre. Meanwhile, Kerensky finds the hidden room with the Mona Lisas and the unconscious Count. And The Doctor is still in Leonardo da Vinci’s home, trying to persuade the Count that he doesn’t know how he time travels. He’s just walking along minding his own business and suddenly he’s in another time and place. Still playing stupid, he is. And the Count reveals that he is Skaron, the last of the Jagaroth, who died 430 million years ago. His ship landed on Earth and blew up. “I was fractured,” he says, “Splinters of my being are scattered in time, all identical, none complete.” Interesting. Does this remind anyone else of The Name of the Doctor, from May 18,2013?
  34. I figured it out; I know what that thing on the Doctor’s lapel is. It’s a pin that looks like three tubes of paint. Cute.
  35. The Doctor and the soldierThis soldier pointing a sword at the Doctor is another classic Douglas Adams character. He says he’s paid to fight and he believes whatever he’s told. He reminds me of a Vogon. I seem to recall that there’s also a similar exchange in The Pirate Planet.
  36. We are given to understand that the reason there are seven genuine copies of the Mona Lisa is that the Jagaroth guy has commissioned Da Vinci to paint seven identical pictures in order to set up his plot in the year 1979. He needs to be extremely wealthy in 1979 so that he can fund Kerensky’s research as he works to build a time machine so that he can go back and stop his ship from exploding. The Doctor cleverly foils his plot by knocking the soldier unconscious, in true Duggan style, and then writing “THIS IS A FAKE” on the blank canvases. He then leaves a note for Da Vinci apologizing and instructing him to just paint over it.
  37. “You never cease to amaze me! That such a giant intellect could live inside such a tiny mind!” –Count Scarlioni (I doubt I’m spelling that correctly)
  38. Why are they talking about how many dollars the Mona Lisa is worth, when this is a British TV show and this episode takes place in Paris?
  39. “If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s being tortured by someone with cold hands.”  And moments later, “What do you mean, time’s running out? It’s only 1505!”
  40. Romana and the countOoh, interesting development. The Count is now taking credit for “causing the pyramids to be built, the heavens to be mapped, invented the wheel, shown the true use of fire, brought up a whole race from nothing, to save his own race.”  There are some interesting grammatical problems in his sentence, but I guess you can’t expect one person to know how to do everything.
  41. Oh dear, something is wrong with the space-time continuum, and a voice is calling Skaron’s name across time and space, and all his selves start to yell, “The centuries that divide me shall be undone!” Meanwhile, the Doctor escapes from 1505 and returns to 1979.
  42. “Here, have some coffee,” Romana tells Duggan.  One of the best lines ever on television.
  43. “I used to do divorce investigations. It was never like this,” Duggan says to Romana.
  44. “You can have two adjacent time continuums running at different rates,” Romana explains. “But without a field interface stabilizer, you can’t cross from one to the other.” Douglas Adams was such a great science fiction writer. I mean, this totally makes sense even though the terminology is just made up.
  45. “Can anyone join in this conversation or do you need a certificate?” –Duggan
  46. The Doctor rushes back to the chateau, where Romana and Duggan have already gone, for no readily apparent reason. The Count now knows who Romana and the Doctor are, and he wants to force Romana at gunpoint to work on his machinery, since Kerensky says he is both unwilling and unable to continue the research. So the Count uses his machinery to zap the unfortunate scientist into old age and death. *theme music and credits*

    Famous last words: "No, not that switch!"

    Famous last words: “No, not that switch!”

  47. When the evil space alien guy tells Romana that his spaceship exploded, she smirks and says, “That was clumsy of you.” This amuses me.
  48. So this space alien was divided into twelve pieces. I feel like this is somehow very clever in a way that has something to do with the twelve hours on a clock face, or maybe something to do with the fact that a timelord has twelve regenerations. Which reminds me of Romana’s clockface in that sketch back in the first episode of this story. There’s some very awesome connection here somewhere, I think.
  49. The Countess has the original copy of Hamlet. She assures the Doctor that it’s genuine. “I know,” The Doctor says, “I recognize the handwriting.” “Shakespeare’s,” The Countess says. “No, mine,” The Doctor corrects her. So now we know.
  50. “I hope you’re not making a time machine; I shall be very angry,” The Doctor tells the Jagaroth guy.
  51. The JagarothFascinating… I’m noticing some similarities to The Phantom of the Opera. A creepy-looking guy who wears a mask is in the cellar and threatens to blow up Paris.
  52. Why is Romana helping him? Why, Romana, why? Don’t you understand that it will tear the space-time continuum apart if he reunites himself? Wait, why will it do that? I just realized that his goal makes perfect sense. Why isn’t the Doctor helping him? Why, Doctor, why? Don’t you understand that he just wants to exist as a single person?
  53. Now the Doctor has told the Countess who her husband is, so she’s pointing a gun at him. Oh, dear, she’s still wearing the bracelet, and he just killed her with it.
  54. Oh, I just remembered why Romana isn’t supposed to be helping him. Jagaroth are evil or something. Romana only knew he was an alien; she didn’t know he was a Jagaroth, and if she’d known that, she wouldn’t have helped him. His plan was to go back in time to stop himself from letting his ship blow up. And there’s a major spoiler that explains why that’s such a bad thing, but it’s not time for that yet.
  55. “You now see me as I really am!” The Jagaroth guy says. “Very pretty,” the Doctor tells him.
  56. John Cleese in City of DeathIt’s John Cleese and the lady from The Beatles’ Help, discussing the TARDIS as a work of art. And when it dematerializes, she says, “Exquisite. Absolutely exquisite.”
  57. The Doctor, Romana, and Duggan go back in time to prehistoric Earth to keep the Jagaroth guy from keeping his spaceship from exploding. And here’s where we get the climax of the story. It turns out that the explosion of the spaceship started all life on Earth. Unless The Doctor stops the Jagaroth from stopping the explosion, the human races ceases to have ever existed. Guess what happens? Duggan punches the Jagaroth and knocks him unconscious. The spaceship explodes. The Jagaroth guy is somehow transported back to his laboratory in his own basement, but his butler throws a vase, causing his machine to blow up. I think he dies, but I’m not sure.
  58. Here’s the good bit: All of the Mona Lisas are in that basement, and six of the seven get burnt up. One survives, but it is one of the ones that says “THIS IS A FAKE” under the paint. This, we are given to understand, is the real Mona Lisa that has been in the Louvre ever since then. The Doctor and Duggan discuss whether or not it’s really real. After all, it was painted by Leonardo da Vinci himself. Everyone lived happily ever after, the end. *theme music and closing credits*

Mona Lisa