Doctor Who #514: City of Death Part 3

"You know what I don't understand?" "I expect so."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Oct.13 1979.

IN THIS ONE... Scaroth's plan revealed! The Doctor tortured in the Renaissance! Romana forced to watch Karensky die!

REVIEW: So Scaroth is a being splintered across time, each of his selves concurrently in contact with the others, responsible for advancing humanity's culture and science to achieve his ends. It's a FANTASTIC idea, a great twist on both the series' frequent von Danikenism and the time traveling villain. And it's presented cleverly, with an unconscious Scarlioni mouthing the scene happening in Leonardo's house to make us understand what's really going on. And if that element isn't complicated enough, the episode also makes clear not only how Scarlioni can have six banked Mona Lisas, but how the Doctor will cleverly screw with that plan with the help of a sharpie and a reverse message that pays tribute to Leonardo's real-life "code". I also love how the Mona Lisas are painted on wood, which is exactly how it should be. It's all those scenes with a hobby knife cutting the Joconde out of its frame in movies that get it wrong.

In 1505, Scaroth's "wonderfully violent" henchman is a coarse old soldier whose mantra - that he's only paid to fight - has served him well under the Borgias. He's much funnier than his modern-day analog, quite frankly. The Doctor has a lot of fun with him (though he's certainly not paid to smile), distracting him, giving him an odd (Venusian) punch, and ultimately escaping his "cold hand" and thumbscrews with a quick lick while all the attention is on the swooning Scaroth. And I've decided why I love Julian Glover's villainous performance so much - Scaroth is just so matter-of-fact in his brutality. Nothing really matters to him except collapsing time so all his separate parts can be brought back together.

Part 3 deserves much love for everything I've discussed up until now, but it IS the most flawed of the four. Romana and Duggan do have some fun comedic moments as the latter can't help bu smash doors to places already accessible, and bottles where, surely, a bottle opener can be found, but they don't really do very much. They're not badly used, just under-used, and the same goes for the Countess, who nearly disappears from the narrative. Actually problematic: More running through the streets of Paris, which is pretty boring by now. Karensky's death scene is pretty embarrassing as well, an odd and grotesque mime show that somehow reminds me of Jerry Lewis' Nutty Professor. Look, I know we're in France, but that doesn't make it any more watchable.

THEORIES: Is King Richard, also played by Julian Glover back in The Crusade, another splinter of Scaroth then? Nah.

REWATCHABILITY: High (but the lowest High of all of City of Death's Highs) - The Doctor's bits are great, but the rest doesn't quite measure up. Still, my complaints are minor.



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