Doctor Who: City of Death (Part 3)

“‘Tis dangerous to take a cold, to sleep, to drink; but I tell you, my lord fool, out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.”

William Shakespeare

Aaand…we’re back in Doctor Who-land with Part 3 of City of Death, a Fourth Doctor Adventure co-written by the late and great Douglas Adams (!). My earlier fangirling over Part 2 (I missed Part 1, which makes this all a little confusing, but DOUGLAS ADAMS) is here.

In Part Three: the Doctor travels back to Renaissance Italy to catch up with Leonardo da Vinci and ask him why there appear to be seven Mona Lisas knocking about 70s Paris. Instead, however, he finds that the Evil Alien Count has somehow got there before him and is getting the thumbscrews ready (’cause he’s an Evil Alien Count, obviously). It’s all delightfully melodramatic and cheesy, with the added bonus of Tom Baker being all flippant and eccentric (“I can’t stand being tortured by someone with cold hands”).

It transpires that the Evil Alien Count is the last survivor of the Jagorath, whose spaceship blew up four hundred million years ago, for which tragic incident Evil Alien Count holds himself personally responsible. The explosion shattered his psyche into twelve different parts, each of which have been living in different eras of human history, striving to push human development towards the invention of the time machine so that he, Evil Alien Count, can return to the explosion and prevent it –

Hang on, this all sounds very familiar. All we need now is a pizza-eating detective and an immortal Cambridge professor.

At least, though, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency does not feature Awesome Time Lady Romana, who is truly awesome. She’s confident, knowledgeable and intelligent (being a Time Lady), and she’s perfectly capable of looking after herself; she is, in fact, more interesting and more watchable than many even of the modern companions, who tend to need rescuing from all the sticky situations into which they manage to get themselves by wandering off into unknown territory. And the dynamic between her and the Doctor is completely different, too, and interesting to watch: think River Song and Eleven, except less juvenile. They’re equals, at any rate, and it’s also funny watching all the humans in the episode (particularly the clueless Duggan) listening in to their highfalutin conversations and trying to work out what in all hells is going on. “Can anyone join in on this conversation, or do you need a certificate?”

Add in some particularly Adamsian dialogue (“I used to do divorce investigations. It was nothing like this”) and some hilariously bad special effects and you get something which, despite looking like original series Star Trek, is actually a huge amount of fun to watch. And it’s only half an hour long, so you can watch it in your lunch break.

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