Spoilers are precisely defined here. Rules vary by the story's medium. Info from television stories can't be added here until after the top or bottom of the hour, British time, closest to the end credits roll on BBC One. Therefore, fans in the Americas who are sensitive to spoilers should avoid Tardis on Sundays until they've seen the episode.



City of Death was the second serial of season 17 of Doctor Who. It was first story to be filmed on location outside the UK, being filmed in Paris.

If one follows the suggestion in the short story The Lying Old Witch in the Wardrobe that Destiny of the Daleks featured the Doctor's TARDIS posing as Romana rather than the real Time Lady, it was also the first story to feature Lalla Ward as Romana.

The story marked Julian Glover's second guest appearance on the series, having previously played another character in The Crusade. It also featured a guest appearance by former Space: 1999 star Catherine Schell, as well as cameos by comedic actors John Cleese and Eleanor Bron.

City of Death had the highest average viewing figure of the Tom Baker era, with a rating of 14.5 million. It also has the all-time highest rating for an individual episode with 16.1 million. However, this rating is somewhat misleading, as the story was transmitted at a time when ITV were on strike, and therefore it transmitted without significant opposition.


While taking in the sights of Paris in 1979, the Fourth Doctor and Romana sense that someone is tampering with time. Who is the mysterious Count Scarlioni? Why does he seem to have counterparts scattered through time? And just how many copies of the Mona Lisa did Leonardo da Vinci paint?


Part one[]

Earth, 400 million years BC: the Jagaroth are trying to take off in their spaceship. However, the pilot, Scaroth, tries to take off too soon. The ship explodes, seemingly killing everyone on board...

Paris, 1979: the Fourth Doctor and Romana II are at the top of the Eiffel Tower, admiring the view. The Doctor decides to take his companion to lunch at a particularly fine local restaurant and they take the elevator (after briefly contemplating flying). They take the Paris Metro and cross several streets to get to a place which the Doctor claims do a wonderful bouillabaisse.

At a château with a gargoyle's face on one of its doors, Professor Kerensky complains of lack of funds for the experiments he is conducting for his employer, Count Carlos Scarlioni. The Count gives him one million francs but the Professor insists he will certainly need more to keep the experiments going.

At the restaurant, the Doctor and Romana experience a time distortion while an artist is sketching Romana, but he crumples the paper and throws it to the floor as she moves to observe him. They examine the discarded sketch and see that instead of Romana's face, there is a clock face.... with a crack in it, almost like a crack in time. The Doctor thinks this gravely important. Romana suggests they sit outside, just in case.

Back at the château, Scarlioni is impressed by the Professor's demonstration, though it was heavily flawed. The Count wants progress now and seems obsessed with time. He wants the next test today, but Kerensky doesn't understand the urgency. The Count calls it a matter of time.

The Doctor tells Romana the time distortions must be a result of them moving through time fields so often. He shows her the picture, causing her to sniff that Gallifreyan computers draw a far better likeness. The Doctor is unimpressed with her attitude: he then decides to show her the meaning of art and takes her to the Louvre, one of the galaxy's greatest galleries. He must show her a painting unique in the universe: the Mona Lisa.

The Fourth Doctor and Romana II admire the Mona Lisa.

Romana is not very impressed, but calls it "quite good". The Doctor loudly declares it one of the finest pieces of art in the universe. A guide taking visitors through the gallery asks the Doctor if he can move along.

Romana, having moved off for a few moments, returns and asks what she said. Before the Doctor can answer, there is another time slip back to the guide approaching the Doctor. The Doctor stumbles into her, passes by others and then collapses onto a bench where a lady was reading.

A man in a trenchcoat gets the crowd out of the way and gets the Doctor on to the bench. When the man, Duggan, asks if he is all right, the Doctor tells him he just dented his head on his gun. Romana gets him up and takes him out. The lady on the bench nods to a man in a hat to follow. Duggan has already left to follow the Doctor and Romana.

Duggan follows Romana and the Doctor through Paris. When they arrive at another cafe, Romana tells the Doctor they have been followed. The Doctor knows: "By that idiot with the gun". He tells Romana to look in her pocket. She takes out a bracelet the Doctor removed from the woman in the Louvre. It is a micromeson scanner which someone is using to monitor the alarms in the Louvre around the Mona Lisa. Romana thinks the bracelet is too advanced a piece of technology for a level 5 civilisation. He tells her the bracelet is not the product of an Earth civilisation. She asks if an alien is trying to steal the painting. Duggan turns up, pointing a gun into the Doctor's back.

The Doctor, Duggan and Romana are confronted by two gun-wielding thugs sent by Countess Scarlioni to retrieve the stolen bracelet; they then make their escape. Duggan believes the thugs were the Doctor's, but the Doctor denies this: "I don't know if you noticed, but he [one of the thugs] was pointing a gun at me. If anyone in my employ behaved like that, I'd sack him on the spot!" The Doctor asks if Duggan is English. They ask Duggan who Scarlioni is. Duggan says everyone on Earth's heard of Count Scarlioni. When the Doctor informs him they have only just arrived on Earth, Duggan accepts this but doesn't really think the Doctor is serious. He gives up and is about to leave until the Doctor mentions someone might want to steal the Mona Lisa.

The Count instructs his wife to tell Hermann to bring the three to the château.

At the café, Duggan has told Romana and the Doctor that masterpieces thought lost for centuries are turning up all over the place. He thinks they are extremely convincing fakes but they stand up to every scientific test. Two new thugs point guns at the trio and order them to follow.

Back at the château, the Countess asks Hermann where her husband is. He does not know but says the Professor is resting in his room. The Countess goes to the downstairs door but it is locked; she calls his name. Her husband stands before a mirror and removes his human face, revealing his true form: a one-eyed, green Jagaroth...

Part two[]

"My dear, nobody could be as stupid as he seems."

Two thugs shove the Doctor, Romana and Duggan into the château. Hermann takes them to the lounge and shoves the Doctor in at gunpoint. The Doctor falls but gets up, delighted by “such a wonderful butler: he's so violent.” On his knees, he introduces Romana, Duggan and himself to the Countess. The Doctor crawls to a Louis Quinze chair. Dismissing Hermann, he invites himself to a drink and seats Romana and Duggan, preparing drinks for them too. He tells her he is a thief, Romana his accomplice and Duggan the detective who caught him. When the Countess tells him she was under the impression that Duggan was following her, the Doctor says she is “a beautiful woman, probably” and that Duggan was likely after a dinner date. She asks who sent him. The Countess lets him know that the more he tries to convince her he is a fool, the more she will think otherwise. Romana picks up a Chinese puzzle box. The Countess insists she put it down, as she will never solve it; Romana opens it in seconds and takes out the bracelet. The Count enters and takes the bracelet. He seems curiously happy to meet these strangers, although he insists upon knowing why the Doctor took his wife's bracelet. The Count ends the interview, making the Doctor jump up and talk of lunch with Duggan and Romana. When Duggan picks up a chair in defence, the Doctor asks what is it he thinks he is doing with a priceless Louis Quinze. Because Hermann can shoot Duggan, the Doctor pretends to care more about the chair not being damaged. The Count orders Hermann to show them the cellar they will be locked in.

As he enthusiastically leads the way into the cellar, the Doctor questions Hermann. He learns that the château was built four or five hundred years before. The Doctor catches a glimpse of the equipment before Hermann locks them in a cellar closet and gives them a light which will last two or three hours. Duggan asks the Doctor what he is playing at - they could have escaped at least twice. The Doctor tells him his plan: let them think they have them safe and escape after finding out what they came for. He takes out his sonic screwdriver to open the door to the cell.

Romana calculates the horizontal length of the stairs and figures there must be an unseen area of the room. The Doctor, impressed by Romana's mathematical skill, wants to look at the lab first.

Count Scarlioni with his wife.

The Doctor and Romana examine the equipment. The Doctor explains what is happening to Duggan. Kerensky comes down the stairs and Romana and Duggan hide. The Doctor acts as though he has only just arrived and claims to be fascinated by the Professor's research. Kerensky puts an egg in the middle of his desk and activates the machinery. They watch the egg hatch and the chick inside grow to full size. The Doctor informs the Professor that he has got it all wrong.

Kerensky tells the Doctor that he is the world's foremost authority on temporal physics; the Doctor replies that the world is too small a place to boast about. When Kerensky says he can solve the world's famines, the Doctor observes that the chicken has become a skeleton and died. Kerensky has got the principle wrong — he has created a different space-time continuum, but it is incompatible with their own: he can stretch time backwards and forwards, but cannot break into it. The Doctor reverses the polarity of the machinery and the chicken reforms and becomes an egg again. Kerensky is very impressed but admits that does not answer many questions. The Doctor says that he should ask questions: that is a scientist's job. At this moment, the Doctor sees Scaroth's face in the time field and Duggan knocks out the professor. Romana has found another room behind the wall.

The Count has created a mock-up of part of the Louvre in the lounge for a holographic dress rehearsal to demonstrate his plan to steal the Mona Lisa. He uses a sonic knife to cut through the glass with ease, then uses his device to disrupt the air around the laser beams so he can get to the painting. After the rehearsal ends, the Count switches off a holographic projector, which has created the Louvre scene, and the surroundings change back to the lounge. The Count removes the Countess' bracelet from the projector and returns it to her, saying she must wear it always. When she asks how he did it, he smiles enigmatically and says he comes from a family of geniuses.

A hidden cache of Mona Lisas.

The Doctor chisels on the brick. He tells Romana that the professor thinks he's breeding chickens but Scarlioni is using the equipment to distort time. Duggan tells them there are seven people in his address book that would be willing to pay for the Mona Lisa for their private collection. To get through the last bricks, the Doctor needs some machinery. Duggan obliges by knocking into the wall. Inside, the trio finds a cupboard with a Mona Lisa inside - one that the Doctor claims is the real one. He finds five other "real" Mona Lisas. The Doctor recognises the pigment and the brushwork of Leonardo da Vinci. Duggan explains that if there was a Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre, no one would buy the others: they would each have to think they were buying the stolen one. The Doctor, impressed, says he would not make a very good criminal. The Count appears behind them and tells him, "No, good criminals don't get caught." Duggan knocks out Scarlioni, allowing them to go upstairs and sneak back into the house after knocking out the Countess, who was attempting to ambush them by herself. He asks Romana to look after Duggan as he leaves to meet a middle-aged Italian in the Renaissance.

He arrives at the Denise Rene Art Gallery, where the TARDIS is parked. He goes inside and says hello to K9, and asks how he is. The TARDIS dematerialises.

It materialises in Florence, Italy in the year 1505. The Doctor takes a moment to enjoy the Renaissance sunshine. He calls for Leonardo after whistling with some birds. He tells Leo that everyone loved The Last Supper and most of his other paintings; he asks if Leonardo remembers the Mona Lisa, “that dreadful woman with no eyebrows who wouldn't sit still.” The idea for the helicopter took a long time to catch on, however. A soldier points a long sabre at his face. Leonardo is engaged in important work for Captain Tancredi. The Doctor gasps as if he knows the name. The guard asks the Doctor if he knows the name, which he, of course, does not. The guard makes the Doctor sit. Tancredi will want to question him; the Doctor wants to question Tancredi. Tancredi walks in.

The Doctor asks the Captain what he is doing here. Tancredi's face is that of Scarlioni. He replies, "I think that is exactly the question that I ought to be asking you, Doctor..."

Part three[]

Romana and Duggan, having broken into the Louvre, find a guard on the floor and the alarms outside disabled. Duggan accidentally triggers the alarm and he and Romana are forced to flee. They break out of a window, split up and agree to meet back at the cafe.

Meanwhile, the professor has found the secret room, the other copies of the painting and the unconscious Count. As the Count stirs, he talks in his slumber - the same conversation he is having with the Doctor more than four centuries earlier.

Back in Renaissance Italy, Tancredi wants to know how the Doctor came to be in this time and country. The Doctor rambles off an excuse, claiming he randomly "pops" out of time and space willy-nilly, but Tancredi's not fooled by this. Tancredi explains he is the last of the Jagaroth, and their saviour. The Doctor has heard of the Jagaroth: they destroyed themselves in a war some four hundred million years ago. A few escaped in a dilapidated spacecraft and found Earth in a primeval, lifeless stage of its development. The ship disintegrated on take-off. Scaroth tells of how he was fractured in time, splinters of his being scattered across time and space, all identical, none complete. Scaroth asks what the mysterious blue box is. The Doctor acts as though he has never seen it before. He finds the (original) Mona Lisa and realises the Count's plan to produce more. While Scaroth collects the instruments of torture, the guard is instructed to confiscate the Doctor's tongue if the Doctor talks.

The Fourth Doctor writes "THIS IS A FAKE" on the Mona Lisa canvasses.

The Doctor tries to humour the guard, telling him Tancredi is mad, to no avail; the guard says that when you work for the Borgias, you believe anything. The Doctor distracts and then knocks out his guard. He goes to the canvasses for the extra Mona Lisas, writes "THIS IS A FAKE" in felt tip pen and puts them face down. He also writes a quick note to Leonardo, "Dear Leo, sorry to have missed you. Hope you're well. Sorry about the mess on the panels, just paint over them, there's a good chap. See you earlier, love the Doctor." As he is about to leave, Tancredi returns with the thumbscrews.

Romana painstakingly uses her sonic screwdriver to get into the closed cafe that night. Duggan smashes a window and climbs in. As they discuss the Count's plan, Duggan has an epiphany. How did the Count know where the bricked-up Mona Lisas were and how did he know where to get them? Even Romana is stumped.

The Count shows Kerensky the end product of his labours: what he will make. The professor cannot believe his eyes: the plan will increase the very part of the project that Kerensky was trying to eliminate. It can work both ways. Kerensky thinks it is monstrous, what he is trying to do. He will never, ever do such a thing. Anyway, even the Count cannot afford such equipment. Hermann comes with the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. The Count tells the professor to continue with the work or he will die.

The thumbscrews are on the Doctor's hand and the Doctor winces - the guard's hands are cold. He cannot stand being tortured by someone with cold hands, so he reveals that he is a Time Lord. Tancredi asks about the girl and the Doctor stalls for time. As the guard moves to the thumbscrews, the Doctor asks a question - how he communicates with his other selves across time.

Back in 1979, the Countess gleefully talks to her husband about their recent heist. When she proudly thinks of the money they will get after their monumental theft of the Mona Lisa, the Count brags about the building of the Pyramids, mapping the heavens, inventing the wheel and fire and bringing up a whole race from nothing to save his own: he just wants a single life and to spare the lives of his people. He hears a voice and asks his bemused spouse to leave him. Once she has gone, he communicates briefly with his 1505 self but it proves immensely draining for both. Taking advantage of the distraction, the Doctor dashes into the TARDIS. The guard attempts to tell the Captain but he is dismissed by Tancredi. All the splinters of Scaroth appear and converse; there seem to be twelve of him, including versions living in ancient Egypt, Neanderthal days and classical Rome. The Doctor watches him on the TARDIS scanner as he proclaims that the centuries dividing him will be undone. The TARDIS dematerialises. It is now that Scarlioni realises the truth about the Doctor and his girl...

The Doctor returns to the same museum in Paris, 1979.

In the cafe, Romana leaves a note for the Doctor: she feels their time would be better spent finding the real Mona Lisa. She wonders if Scarlioni has found a way to travel through time. There is but one flaw in this theory: Kerensky's machine cannot function. As she tells a bewildered Duggan, you can have two adjacent time continuums running at different rates by all means, but without a field interface stabiliser, you can't cross from one to the other. Romana suggests they return to the château.

Outside the Louvre, two gendarmes tell the Doctor the news: the Mona Lisa has been stolen. He goes inside and confirms this. He asks the guide if she has seen his friends, who were trying to prevent the theft, but she is unable to help. The guide suggests the Doctor talk to the police, but he tells her he has the future of the human race to think of and leaves.

The Doctor runs into the cafe and asks the bartender about the two people he was in with yesterday, reminding him that they were the people who kept being held up, attacked, breaking things... As the man turns to fetch a note, the Doctor confidently states they wouldn't be mad enough to go back to the château. The bartender gives the Doctor Romana's note, which says that they have gone back to the château.

Romana and Duggan, already caught, are led into in the lounge by Hermann to converse with the Count. The Count tells Romana the Doctor let it slip that she is an expert in temporal travel. The Count wants her to take a look at the equipment herself. If she refuses, he will destroy Paris. Looking at the equipment, Romana tells Duggan that the Count can indeed destroy Paris by blasting the capital into an unstabilised time field. Duggan asks her if she believes in all this time travel nonsense. She asks him if he believes wood comes from trees - time travel is just something she was brought up with. Kerensky wants to know why all the talk of destruction - his work was surely not designed for malevolent reasons! The Count asks Kerensky to go into the middle of the field cones; the field generator needs examination. Once the professor is there, the Count turns on the machine. Romana and Duggan can only watch, helpless, as the Professor falls, and withers and ages, until nothing but a skeleton is left...

Part four[]

The Count says the unstable time field has destroyed the Professor. The whole of Paris is next unless Romana tells him how to stabilise the time field. Although Romana pretends not to care about the welfare of humans or Paris, Scarlioni sees through this and orders Hermann to kill Duggan. When she agrees to help him, Scaroth reveals his plans to her and orders that Duggan is to be locked up. Romana shall build a field interphase stabiliser...

An armed man catches the Doctor in the château. The Doctor asks a maid to get the Count for him. The Doctor finds the Countess waiting for him.

Hermann tells the Count the Doctor has arrived, but he has already guessed this. As the Doctor enters a debate with the Countess about charm, discretion and blindness (specifically, the Countess's willful blindness), he casually mentions that a green, one-eyed chap is ransacking the treasures of the art world to save his species, the Jagoroth. At this moment Hermann arrives and takes the Time Lord to meet his master, leaving the Countess to ponder on the thought. She removes a hidden book cabinet and takes out an ancient Egyptian scroll... only to find a one-eyed, green "god" exactly as the Doctor described!

In the lab, the Doctor asks Romana what she is building. It must be a Gallifreyan egg timer or some such - after all, he would be angry to find his assistant making a time machine. Duggan asks politely if they could get him out of his cell. The Count demands the Doctor help him. Of course, the Time Lord refuses - after all, he is a trained professional. Romana insists all is fine - Scarlioni only wants to go back in time to reunite himself. He goes to say his final goodbyes to his wife, asking his butler to kill the trio any way he likes.

The Countess demands to know her husband's identity.

Entering the lounge, the Count finds his wife aiming a gun at him and demanding what on Earth she married. He smiles, informing her how easy it was to keep surprises from her — a fur coat here, a trinket there... It is now that Scaroth reveals his true visage and thanks to his wife for always wearing that bracelet he gave her. He presses the centre of his signet ring, and a charge of electricity goes through the bracelet and quickly kills the Countess. Scaroth takes the opportunity to tell his dead wife he is sorry she had to die, but it doesn't matter — soon, she would never have existed.

The Doctor blames Romana for giving Scaroth the missing component but Romana reveals her rigging. The Doctor tells her all he needs is one minute. If the Count is not splintered in time, all history will be changed. The two get an idea. They ask Duggan to break down the door.

The trio runs outs and faces a gun-wielding Jagaroth, Scaroth in his real face. The Count is aware of the limitations Romana has put in the device. But he will go back and prevent the ship from exploding and himself from being splintered. As he vanishes in the time field, a blast destroys the time machine, rigged by the Count so the Doctor will not be able to read the settings on the dials. Duggan thinks it's all over and wants a drink. The Doctor tells them they are going on a journey. Romana tells him four hundred million years ago. Duggan, thinking the pair mad, follows them out of the building.

Two art critics discuss the TARDIS.

In the museum where the TARDIS is, a man and woman discuss the function of the sublime colours of the "redundant" TARDIS. Romana and Duggan follow the Doctor past them, the Doctor tossing his scarf over his shoulder to almost hit the man and Romana. The trio goes inside the TARDIS and it dematerialises. The woman considers this "exquisite".

The Doctor is following the time trace made by the Jagaroth to four hundred million years ago. The Doctor, getting out of the TARDIS on barren ground, tells Duggan that they are standing on what will be the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Romana tells the Doctor that Duggan is "out of his depth". The Doctor finds the Jagaroth ship and the amniotic fluid from which all life on Earth will spring in the inert soup of low slurry. Amino acids form and fuse to make cells which develop into animal and vegetable life. Romana points out the Jagaroth's ship's thrust motors are damaged and they will try to take off on warp drive. The explosion which caused Scarlioni to splinter into time also caused the birth of the entire human race. Scaroth is there and calls to his brothers to stop trying to take off. The Doctor tells him he has "thrown the dice once" and "you don't get a second turn". Scaroth threatens to make history change, but Duggan steps forward and punches him — knocking the alien out cold. The Doctor tells Duggan that was "the most important punch in history". The trio watch as the unconscious Scaroth's time expires and he vanishes back to 1979. Duggan points out that the ship is about to take off. The trio rush back into the TARDIS and it dematerialises. The Jagaroth ship takes off and explodes, as it should. A mass of flame and radiation ignites the slurry soup.

Scaroth reappears at the château within the time field. Hermann sees this and before the monster can convince him that he is the Count, shouting "No, Hermann. It's me...!", the butler picks up a pot and throws it at the equipment, triggering an explosion that kills Scaroth and sets the château ablaze.

Duggan says goodbye to the Doctor and Romana.

On the Eiffel Tower, Romana, the Doctor and Duggan talk about the fire. The only Mona Lisa not damaged in the fire is one of the copies, which probably has "THIS IS A FAKE" in felt tip written on its canvas. The Doctor proposes that if a copy of a painting by the original artist is not a fake, then the surviving copy should be considered the real work of art. Furthermore, he tells Duggan if the authorities wanted to examine the painting so closely to determine its value, it would serve them right to be disappointed to find the writing. After all, if you have to X-ray something to see if it is good art, they might as well have computer painting like they have at home. Duggan asks where they are from. The Doctor uses his hands to say, "I suppose the best way to find out where you've come from is to find out where you're going and work backwards." Duggan asks where he is going. "I don't know," he playfully says.

Romana tells him she doesn't know either. The pair walks off toward the lift and the Doctor is laughing. Duggan buys a postcard of the Mona Lisa from a gift shop, and then looks down at the small figures of Romana and the Doctor below the Eiffel Tower. The pair stop and wave, shouting "Bye bye, Duggan", before hurrying off into the distance.


Uncredited cast[]


Uncredited crew[]



The Doctor[]

Foods and beverages[]

  • Romana and Duggan drink red wine after failing to prevent the theft of the Mona Lisa.
  • The Doctor orders glasses of water in the cafe.
  • The Doctor offers to treat Romana to bouillabaisse.
  • Romana buys a cup of coffee for herself and Duggan.



  • The Jagaroth, aside from those on Scaroth's ship, was destroyed in a war four hundred million years ago.




  • Scaroth has a sonic knife, which he uses to remove the glass from in front of the Mona Lisa.
  • The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver, which he notes he last used against the Daleks on Skaro.
  • Romana, not realising the dangers involved or who Scarlioni really is, helps Scarlioni complete his time machine.

Time Lords[]

  • The term "Time Lady" is used for the first time.
  • When wondering how to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower, Romana and the Doctor hesitate between simply taking the lifts or flying. The Doctor, reminding Romana that they must remain inconspicuous, eventually settles for having them use the lift, which greatly disappoints his companion.

Story notes[]

Tom Baker, Lalla Ward, and Tom Chadbon on location at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

  • The story is set in Paris. It was the first Doctor Who serial to feature footage filmed on location in a foreign country.
  • After The Reign of Terror and The Massacre, this was the series' third story to take place primarily in and around Paris.
  • This was the final story of the series to be significantly set in a country on Earth outside of the United Kingdom until The Two Doctors was set in Andalusia, Spain. Planet of Fire would later briefly pay visit to Lanzarote, but it was not significantly set there (only for a few minutes of Part One), nor is Lanzarote considered to be a nation.
  • The title may be a play-on-words, albeit in French, of how Paris is often referred to as – Cité de l'amour (City of Love), while "City of Death" is Cité de la mort, both of which sound similar.
  • Working titles for this story included Curse of the Sephiroth and A Gamble with Time.[1]
  • The script is credited to "David Agnew", a department pseudonym used when members of the production team had to write the script rather than a contracted scriptwriter. The original story was entitled A Gamble with Time and was written by David Fisher. His original concept was mainly set in the year 1928 with the Doctor and Romana, aided by Bulldog Drummond-esque detective "Pug" Farquharson, on the trail of the stolen Mona Lisa, pursuing Scarlioni from Paris to Monte Carlo where his partner, the Baroness Heidi, is using time travel technology to cheat at roulette at the casino to fund Scarlioni's time travel experiments. The Doctor and Romana ultimately discover that Scarlioni is trying to journey back to prehistoric Earth and prevent the time bubble explosion in order to save his fellow Sephiroth, who are dying from an illness he believes is caused by radiation from the accident. However, the Doctor discovers that the culprit is actually the common cold virus, to which the Sephiroth have no immunity. Scarlioni agrees to let the time bubble accident happen, in order to spark the genesis of life on Earth.
  • An additional sub-plot of David Fisher's original script involved the Countess using her bracelet to rig roulette wheels at casinos in Paris and Monte Carlo in order to fund her husband's time experiments. However, Graham Williams felt that this element was putting too much of an emphasis on gambling and was therefore inappropriate for a children's show and ordered that it be removed. However, Fisher was unable to do the rewrites himself, as he was going through a divorce, but gave his blessing for the production team to edit the script however they wanted. Williams and Douglas Adams subsequently rewrote it under the Agnew byline.
  • "David Agnew" had written once before for the series, in The Invasion of Time, where the pseudonym was used to hide the identities of Graham Williams and then script editor Anthony Read.
  • Due to Adams's influence, the script has his distinctive brand of humour and dialogue. Adams reused concepts of this story's plot for Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, most notably that of a crashed spaceship providing the original impulse leading to the formation of life on Earth, and the fact that the ship's pilot survives to see the rise of humanity and then works to procure a time machine for himself and undo the whole series of events, eradicating life on Earth. In the book, however, the pilot was not spliced through time like Scaroth, but rather survives in the form of a disembodied ghost stuck on Earth for the ensuing billions of years; rather than attempt to build a time machine himself, the Dirk Gently counterpart of Scaroth attempts to steal a pre-existing one, namely Professor Chronotis's time machine (borrowed from Adams's other Doctor Who script, Shada, but, of course, not explicitly identified as a TARDIS).
  • Douglas Adams and Michael Hayes make cameo appearances in the story; Adams is seen as a man having a drink in a bar, while Hayes is the shifty-looking man wearing a cloth cap and carrying a metal case who exits the train at Boissière Metro Station after the Doctor and Romana. Hayes additionally provides the voice of the guard who tells the Doctor that the Mona Lisa has been stolen.
  • K9 does not make an actual appearance in this story, but the Doctor does greet him as he enters the TARDIS to go and visit Leonardo da Vinci.
  • In David Lawrence's fan novelisation, it is explained that the Doctor uses an old UNIT pass to get past the police cordon outside the Louvre and to the entrance where he speaks to the gendarmes. This was not derived from any information given in the televised version.
  • Due in part to the ongoing ITV strike, all episodes of this story, along with the previous adventure, Destiny of the Daleks, received very high ratings. This reached a peak with part four, which got 16.1 million viewers, making it the highest rated Doctor Who episode ever. It is also very highly rated on fan polls, often cited as the best Doctor Who serial with which to introduce non-fans to the series. Outside of the strike, The Robots of Death is the highest rated story.
  • This story features guest appearances by Julian Glover, Catherine Schell and David Graham, as well as cameo appearances by Eleanor Bron and John Cleese, who only agreed to appear on the condition that they received no advance publicity or credit in Radio Times. The pair attempted to have their performances credited to pseudonyms, "Helen Swanetsky" and "Kim Bread" respectively, but Radio Times declined.
  • This episode includes a line of dialogue in which the Doctor remarks that the Countess is a beautiful woman "probably", which has been used in fandom to suggest the Doctor's character doesn't, or shouldn't, acknowledge the attractiveness of his female companions, a point often brought up when debating the Doctor's romantic entanglements in the 1996 telefilm and the revived series. As it happens, Douglas Adams' previous Doctor Who script, The Pirate Planet, includes dialogue in which the Doctor directly refers to Romana I as being attractive and having good looks (albeit not in a romantic context), suggesting he was capable of such considerations. Also within this story, he does refer to Romana II as being pretty though she is not present at this time.
  • During the broadcast of this story, Marvel Comics' UK branch launched Doctor Who Weekly, which continues to chronicle the Doctor Who franchise, now as Doctor Who Magazine, more than forty years after it started.
  • Also during the broadcast of this story — on 12 October, between parts two and three — Douglas Adams' novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was first published.
  • This is the second story to feature scenes set in the Louvre. It had previously appeared in its capacity as the royal residence of King Charles IX of France at the time of the St Bartholomew's Day massacre in August 1572 in TV: The Massacre in 1966.
  • The Doctor writes his note to Leonardo da Vinci using backwards letters, then reads the letters in a mirror with them facing the right way; Da Vinci used this method of "mirror writing" in his journals so others could not read his works.
  • Famous art forger Tom Keating would leave clues in his paintings as to their (in-) authenticity. One of these would be to write "This Is A Fake" in white lead paint on the canvas before overpainting, so that x-rays would find the message. He had famously been put on trial and acquitted in 1977, so the Doctor's actions may have been a topical reference at the time of broadcast.
  • Dialogue in the story repeatedly dates the "primeval state" of Earth, during which the organic particles in the primitive ocean coalesce into the first living cells, to 400 million years in the past. This is inaccurate from a real world perspective: as documented on Wikipedia, the latest plausible date for the earliest lifeform on Earth, to the best of scientific knowledge as of 2019, is 3.77 billion years ago.
  • This story appears to take inspiration from a real-life plot to steal the Mona Lisa by Louvre employee Vincenzo Peruggia; while not definitively confirmed, noted forger Yves Chaudron was thought to have played a role in the plot by creating several forgeries of the painting, with the intention of selling each of them off as the genuine article to disparate collectors, similar to Scaroth/Scarlioni's scheme. However, unlike the events of this serial, which take place in contemporary times, the real-life theft and return of the Mona Lisa occurred in 1911, roughly 68 years prior.
  • This was the first time the series filmed overseas. The original plan was to recreate Paris in a studio, but then-unit manager John Nathan-Turner pointed out that it would be much easier and cheaper to actually film in Paris. Douglas Adams wrote the script in the space of a weekend, knowing that to do so meant he could go to Paris and get drunk.
  • Lalla Ward rejected her original costume of a silver catsuit in favour of the schoolgirl outfit, unaware of the sexual connotations. "I thought it would be fun to wear something that little girls probably hated wearing because it might cheer them up... I didn't bank on the fact that I'd also get loads of letters from their fathers saying 'Cor! School uniform!'"
  • The story was originally going to start with a close-up of the Doctor and Romana which would pull back to reveal them standing high atop the Tower. This was abandoned when the special lens rented for the sequence from a Spanish firm could not be made to fit the BBC camera.
  • The artist who sketches Romana in the café was originally a much more prominent figure called Bourget, who is in league with Scarlioni.
  • Prints of the Mona Lisa were once made available at a Tom Baker signing, signed "This is a fake — TOM BAKER".
  • Julian Glover was reluctant to don the Jagaroth mask created for scenes where Scarlioni had shed his human disguise as he felt the mask would impede his performance. As a result, he is doubled by Richard Sheekey in many of these scenes.
  • Tom Chadbon was cast as Duggan on account of his resemblance to Tintin.
  • Duggan was created as a parody of Bulldog Drummond.
  • Tom Baker found filming in Paris to be a very different experience to what he was used to in the UK where crowds would gather to watch the filming and meet the stars. Doctor Who was not shown in France at the time and so the cast and crew were largely ignored.
  • Lalla Ward found this to be the most challenging serial she worked on but was pleased with the final outcome, saying, "We had to film loads of scenes in the rain and cold... there was no glamour in it at all... it was different from the ordinary stories too and I like the finished result".
  • Lalla Ward clashed with costume designer Doreen James over Romana's outfit. Tensions were escalated when Ward blamed James for the disappearance of a pair of red shoes. This would ultimately be the last story that James worked on.
  • At one point, the story was set in Las Vegas.
  • Filming in Paris proved difficult, as the dates coincided with the May Day holiday period, which meant that many of the locations chosen for filming were closed, necessitating considerable improvisation on the part of the cast and crew. The production team arrived to find the Denise René Gallery shut tight. Michael Hayes elected to proceed regardless: rather than have Tom Baker enter the gallery as originally planned, Hayes would simply show the Doctor walking up to the front doors and then cut to the interior, which would be taped in the studio. Unfortunately, during one take Baker actually pushed on the doors forcefully enough to set off the burglar alarm. Cast and crew scarpered, leaving John Nathan-Turner to explain what had happened to the police.
  • Julian Glover was initially unimpressed with the script, but he was impressed by how Tom Baker made it come alive. He was disappointed that he didn't go to Paris.
  • Julian Glover and John Cleese later both starred in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
  • Douglas Adams recounted how he was left behind when the rest of the crew had left for Paris and Ken Grieve, who was to direct Destiny of the Daleks, came to the production office to see Graham Williams. Adams, who described Grieve as a "proto hippie and one of the biggest piss-heads [he'd] met", somehow was persuaded by Grieve to fly to Paris immediately. They met with the production team at the hotel and weren't made very welcome, as they wanted to party and the team didn't. The two proceeded to go a pub crawl, moving on only when the bar they were in closed. When no more bars appeared to be open, Grieve said he knew a bar that was open, but it was in West Berlin. Only the fact that there were no immediate flights to Berlin stopped them. They flew back to London the next morning somewhat worse for wear, Grieve with stitches over his eye. Grieve went off to a research screening of Genesis of the Daleks and Adams went back to the office, simply so he'd be around when someone asked him if he'd had a good evening.
  • Douglas Adams wanted the scene with the TARDIS in the art gallery scene shot differently and was disappointed that it missed the point of the joke that the Doctor parks a blue box somewhere and nobody cares, so an art gallery would be a perfect place.
  • Siân Phillips was offered the role of the Countess.


  • Part one - 12.4 million viewers
  • Part two - 14.1 million viewers
  • Part three - 15.4 million viewers
  • Part four - 16.1 million viewers

Filming locations[]

  • Denise René Gallery, Boulevard St Germain, Paris
  • Place du Petit Pont, Paris
  • Petit Pont, Paris
  • Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
  • Rue Vieille du Temple (No 47), Paris, France (Used as the front door to Count Scarlioni's cheateu)
  • Avenue des Champs Élysées, Paris, France
  • Avenue Kléber, Paris, France
  • Dupleix Métro Station, Paris, France (Station the Doctor and Romana get on at start of story)
  • Boissière Metro Station, Avenue Kléber, Paris (Station the Doctor and Romana get off at start of story)
  • Place de la Concorde, Paris, France
  • Trocadéro Metro Station, Place du Trocadéro, Paris
  • Louvre Museum, Rue de Rivoli, Paris
  • Rue de Rivoli, Paris, France
  • Boulevard de Grenelle, Paris
  • Bray Studios, Slough
  • BBC Television Centre (TC3 & TC6), Shepherd's Bush, London

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • The sketch of Romana is different when it's seen outside the café (on location) from the one seen inside (in the studio).
  • At the end of part one, when the count unmasks himself and the camera directly focuses on his face, Julian Glover's cheek is clearly visible through the Jagaroth mask. Said mask also nearly comes off with the latex one.
  • In part four, Romana wires up a British three-pin plug to connect Scaroth's time equipment to the (French) mains.
  • In part two, when the Doctor, Romana and Duggan are in the cell and they light the lamp, the light comes from behind the Doctor, as opposed from in front of him, as the illumination is coming from a studio light fixture.
  • When Duggan smashes through the brick wall, it's evident that only the fronts of the 'bricks' were painted to look like old stone.
  • Also, when Duggan smashes through the wall, the whole set around him clearly wobbles.
  • An entire microphone boom is clearly visible in the background of one shot during the 1505 sequence in part three, when the Doctor says "No life to brighten it [Earth] up. No life..."
  • When the thugs lead the Doctor and Romana into the Count's home for the first time, at the beginning of part two, Duggan is not seen pushed into the house, in the street. He is led into the room to meet the Countess a few seconds later.


  • In PROSE: Notre Dame du Temps, the Seventh Doctor returns to Paris to pick up the picture of Romana that the artist discarded.
  • AUDIO: Dust Breeding reveals that the Doctor rescued one of the Mona Lisas for his own private collection.
  • The Braxiatel Collection, first mentioned here, appears in PROSE: Theatre of War and was the setting for several stories in the Big Finish Bernice Summerfield series.
  • In PROSE: Anachrophobia there are people who appear very similar to the drawing of Romana.
  • The Doctor mentions meeting William Shakespeare apparently twice (once as a boy and once while writing Hamlet). However, the specific reference to meeting Shakespeare as an adult was at a later point in Shakespeare's life than his meeting with the Tenth Doctor. (TV: The Shakespeare Code)
  • At some point not long after this adventure, the Doctor and Romana return to Paris in the year 2000, prompting Romana to ask if the Randomiser only has a few settings. (COMIC: The Forgotten)
  • In PROSE:The Sands of Time, the Doctor makes an offhand reference to Scaroth being involved in the construction of the Pyramids.
  • The Doctor explains that he "reversed the polarity" of Kerensky's machine. This phrase is usually associated with the Third Doctor but is occasionally uttered by his other incarnations. (The Tenth Doctor mentions in TV: The Lazarus Experiment that it didn't use to take so long to do it and laments he's out of practice.)
  • One copy of the Mona Lisa later comes alive and is revealed to have been painted with paint containing sentient meteor rock. (TV: Mona Lisa's Revenge) This incident is later referenced to the confusion of the Eleventh Doctor, as none of the others had been present for his adventure here with the Mona Lisa. (TV: Death of the Doctor)
  • The Doctor takes tiny bounces back in time due to what he calls "cracks in time". Cracks in Time would later play a major role during his eleventh incarnation. (TV: The Eleventh Hour, et al)
  • When Duggan apparently "fixes" the sonic screwdriver by whacking it against the door, the Doctor jokingly asks him if he'd like to stay on as his scientific advisor. (TV: Spearhead from Space)
  • Romana apparently uses her own sonic screwdriver, when she breaks into the cafe where she's meeting with Duggan, while the Doctor is in 1505 Italy. She would later tell the Doctor that she made the screwdriver herself. (TV: The Horns of Nimon)

DVD and Video releases[]

DVD releases[]

This story was first released on DVD in the UK on 7 November 2005. The two-disc set includes a restored version of the story, as well as the following special features:

  • A continuity announcement for the following serial, The Creature from the Pit, plays after the end credits of part four.
  • Animation: The MK III Jagaroth Battlecruiser. To access this hidden feature, press left at Paris in the Springtime on the bonus disc.
  • Excerpt from a 1985 interview with Douglas Adams. To access this hidden feature, press left at Prehistoric Landscapes on the bonus disc.
  • Outtake from Eye On... Blatchford. To access this hidden feature, press left at Photo Gallery on the bonus disc.
  • Short comic scene between Tom Baker and John Cleese. To access this hidden feature, press left at Doctor Who Annual on the bonus disc.

Editing for the DVD release was completed by the Doctor Who Restoration Team.

Video releases[]

This story was first released in the UK on VHS in July 1991. An Australian release appeared in September of that same year. It was released in the US in May of 1994 with a slightly different cover (see below) than the original UK release. In 1998 it was released yet again in the US as part of the "Gateway Collection" with the cover now featuring a border billing it as "The Best of Tom Baker as Dr. Who." A final repackaged release appeared in the UK in May 2001 featuring a new cover design.

Audio releases[]

  • This story's soundtrack was released on CD by BBC Audio, with linking narration by Lalla Ward, on 6 December 2012.
  • The story was released again on Vinyl by Demon Records, also with the Lalla Ward narration, on 18 April 2018 to coincide with Record Store Day.

Novelisation and its audiobook[]

  • In October 2013, Gareth Roberts confirmed on Twitter that he was currently writing a novelisation of City of Death, with a release date of 14 May 2015. One year later, in October 2014, Roberts announced (again via Twitter) that the book was now instead of being written by James Goss. It was released on 21 May 2015 and in Brazil by Suma de Letras as Cidade da Morte.

External links[]