Monday, October 28, 2013

Doctor Who turn 50 part 4: City of Death

Having realised I've got about a month to get through the rest of the Doctors, I'm going to start posting twice a week. Hopefully that'll be enough. Or maybe with a week to go I'll be posting once a day.

Anyway, City of Death.

This was probably the one I was least looking forward too. Having watched Genesis of the Daleks earlier this year, Tom Baker had a stigma attached to him. Did I really want to put myself through four more episodes of that?

Well as it turns out, City of Death is an insanely cool time travel story. A spin on the 'guiding humanity' trope done brilliantly, especially considering the desired end result. The scientist genuinely thinking he was helping the world and just being completely bamboozled by what was really going on. Romana helping them because she gets the version of the story without the actual explanation of just what it will mean. Julian Glover as the bad guy. All really good.

However, there are a couple of odd moments. Such as Countess - a secondary villain who doesn't understand half the plot - laughing at the Doctor's explanation and as soon as he's out the room she flips. Duggan, a temporary companion for the story, is played a bit too much for comedic effect, but overall a nice touch that really helps the story, and his final moment is fantastic (if obvious). In fact the comedic tone is what makes this serial odd, it works in some places, in others it just goes way too far.

Tom Baker might be slightly to blame for that. First of all, he's no Troughton (may favourite Doctor may have changed), but he's not as bad as I'd pegged him. If I was going purely on War Games and Daemons, he might beat Troughton and Pertwee, but with Three Doctors giving them both a boost, and also Genesis of the Daleks, he's easily fourth. Mix the modern in and he's bottom of the pile so far. Not that he's bad, I just prefer the rest of them. He has this unbelievable habit of walking into imminent danger and just talking, acting like he's the centre of attention and everything will be okay if he keeps talking. Now I know the Doctor's ability to talk is one of his greatest super powers, but Baker takes it to extremes here. I don't understand how someone doesn't just shoot him when he's being annoying.

I realise one of the upcoming lot might easily snag that unfortunate title off him though.

Romana is a companion that always intrigued me. A Time Lady companion sounds like an awesome idea, but I'm not so sure about the execution. I'm just not sure she fulfils the companion role enough. She has too good grasp of the whole Time Travel thing. I think a good companion should maybe be someone who is more than capable of looking after themselves in an every day setting, but is a little lost on the time side of things. That's not a great explanation, but either way Romana seems the opposite to that. That said, when Glover manipulates her into helping, it works brilliantly.

On the production side, this is apparently the first time Doctor Who was shot on location in a foreign county, and it shows. Not just nice establishing shots unfortunately. I'm convinced huge swathes of the script must have read "then we'll walk around Paris for five minutes because we can" and the cinematographer really went to town with some ridiculous angles. It breaks up any tension the previous scenes had built up.

Yet none of this really detracts from what is a fantastic time travel story. Despite the Doctor on show, this might be my second favourite serial I've watched.
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