Doctor Who
City of Death

UK 1979, 4x 25 mins
Director: Michael Hayes

We are delighted to welcome actor Julian Glover, who will be joining us for a Q&A and will be doing a signing after the screening.

David Fisher had impressed producer Graham Williams with his two scripts for series 16, The Stones of Blood and The Androids of Tara, and Williams was keen to have him back on board as preparation got under way for the next series. Encouraged by outgoing script editor Anthony Read, Fisher submitted two proposals – one would become The Creature from the Pit and the other, like Tara, would be a literary parody. Where Tara had spoofed The Prisoner of Zenda, his new idea, titled A Gamble with Time, would send up the two-fisted action-adventure stories involving Sapper’s adventurer Bulldog Drummond. Initially, the idea pitted The Doctor and Romana against a villain rigging the casinos of Las Vegas to fund his time travel experiments, though the location was quickly switched to 1920s Monte Carlo which felt more in keeping with Sapper’s stories.

With the story now set closer to home, Williams began wondering if it might be possible to justify location shooting – Doctor Who had never been filmed outside the UK before – and tasked unit production manager John Nathan-Turner to look into the possibility. But while he was working the figures, Williams was dealing with the fact that Fisher’s scripts had not only arrived late but weren’t what he was looking for at all. He was particularly concerned that the story spent more time focused on gambling than he’d anticipated, something that didn’t sit well with the programme’s target family audience – the script contained a scene in which The Doctor cheats at the roulette table which was a particular no-no. Something needed doing with the scripts and quickly.

In the meantime, Nathan-Turner had worked out that filming in Paris would make far more economic sense, and to save even more money that the story should now be set in the modern day instead of the 1920s. Fisher met with Williams and the new script editor, Douglas Adams, to talk about rewrites but discussions broke down as Fisher was going through a divorce at the time and was unable to devote as much time to the work as was needed. Over the course of a weekend, Williams and Adams knuckled down and revamped the scripts, turning the Bulldog Drummond character Pug Farquharson into a British police inspector, Duggan, moving the action to late 1970s Paris, removing entirely the gambling element, and retitling it Curse of Sephiroth. The idea of an alien, a Jagaroth being scattered across time and its attempts to fund research into a time machine was retained but now the alien, Count Scarlioni, would be using art forgery to raise the money instead.

The bulk of the work had been done by Adams which, as with The Invasion of Time two years earlier, raised potential problems with the Writers’ Guild – they would have been unhappy with the producer and script editor writing scripts and thus putting a writer out of work. To avoid complications, Williams and Adams opted to sign the scripts David Agnew, a BBC in-house pseudonym.

Production began with Tom Baker, Lalla Ward, Tom Chadbon and two extras joining a small crew in Paris on Monday 30 April. Cast and crew spent four days shooting the location scenes on 16mm film at various Parisian locations and were in good hands – director Michael Hayes had already filmed in the city for episodes of the BBC’s Maigret (1960-1963). But one unforeseen problem required some quick thinking from Hayes – Tuesday 1 May was a bank holiday in France and the celebrations had been extended back to the weekend, meaning that most of their chosen locations were either closed or sparsely attended. Hayes used tight framing to hide that fact that no-one was around, and fleeing the scene when Baker was a bit heavy-handed with one locked door and set off a burglar alarm. Scenes were shot at the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre and on the Left Bank among other locations before cast and crew returned to London.

Model filming took place at Bray Studios, the former stamping ground of Hammer Films, between the 8th and 10th of May, Ian Scoones leading a team working on the Jagaroth ship in prehistoric times, the TARDIS arriving in the same location and the scene of the egg hatching and the chicken rapidly aging seen in part two. Elsewhere, the cast, which now included Catherine Schell, Tom Chadbon and Julian Glover, making his second appearance in Doctor Who following his turn as Richard the Lionheart in The Crusade (1965), had gathered for rehearsals. Glover was cast as Scarlioni but was initially reluctant to wear the rubber mask created by John Friedlander to represent the alien in its true form, and extra Richard Sheekey was called in to appear in the scenes where the mask was required. In the end, Glover relented and wore the mask for a couple of hours for certain scenes: ‘The mask was very awkward,’ Glover later recalled to Peter Linford of Doctor Who Magazine. ‘Because I couldn’t really see and the words were put on afterwards, [Scarlioni] began to walk in this rather stilted and obvious manner. Very gauche. But we thought it made sense for him to be gauche because his head was very gauche.’

Studio recording commenced on Monday 21 May in TC3 at the BBC’s Television Centre. Adams quickly wrote a new scene for part four when he learned that two of his old colleagues from his Cambridge Footlights days were in the building and willing to shoot a brief cameo. John Cleese was working in another studio on the Basil the Rat (1979) episode of Fawlty Towers, delayed from March by industrial action, while Eleanor Bron was recording a comedy series with John Fortune.

The second and final recording block saw cast and crew moving over to TC6 between the 3rd and 5th of June, the final scenes being those recreating the interior of the Louvre and the destruction of the laboratory set.

The BBC’s publicity department made great play of the Paris location shooting and in September 1979, ahead of the broadcast of Part One on the 29th, started sending out photographs of Baker and Ward in costume at various tourist spots around the city. The BBC already had the playing field all to itself as ITV had been off the air since August due to extended industrial action – the result was record-breaking viewing figures for City of Death, which peaked at 16.1 million for the final episode, though the Joint Industry Committee for Television Audience Research (JICTAR) later gave the actual highest figure as 19.6 million for both parts three and four.
Kevin Lyons,

Directed by: Michael Hayes
©: BBC
Producer: Graham Williams
Production Unit Manager: John Nathan-Turner
Assistant Floor Manager: Carol Scott
Technical Manager: John Dean
Production Assistant: Rosemary Crowson
Director’s Assistant: Jane Wellesley
Script Editor: Douglas Adams
[Written] By: David Agnew [real names: Douglas Adams, Graham Williams]
Senior Cameraman: Alec Wheal
Studio Lighting: Mike Jefferies
Vision Mixer: Nigel Finnis
Visual Effects Designer: Ian Scoones
Electronic Effects: Dave Jervis
Film Editor: John Gregory
Videotape Editor: Rod Waldron
Designer: Richard McManan-Smith
Costume Designer: Doreen James
Make-up Artist: Jean Steward
Title Music by: Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop *
Title Music Arranged by: Delia Derbyshire *
Incidental Music by: Dudley Simpson
Film Recordist: Graham Bedwell
Special Sound: Dick Mills
Studio Sound: Anthony Philpott

Tom Baker (Doctor Who)
Lalla Ward (Romana)
Julian Glover (Count Scarliono/Captain Tancredi – Scaroth)
Catherine Schell (Countess Scarlioni)
Tom Chadbon (Duggan)
David Graham (Professor Kerensky)
Kevin Flood (Hermann)
Pamela Stirling (Louvre guide)
Peter Halliday (soldier)
Eleanor Bron, John Cleese (art gallery visitors)
Mike Finbar, Pat Gorman, Peter Kodak, Anthony Powell (thugs) *
Lewis Pirella, Harold Shields, Colin Thomas, Elaine Williams (customers in café) *
Bruce Callender, Maureen Mason (Louvre guards) *
Richard Sheekey (double for Scaroth) *
Tom Chadbon, Peter Halliday (Jagaroth voices) *
Walter Henry (café patron) *
James Charlton (artist) *
Christian Foucat, Robert Jouhier (gendarmes outside Louvre) *
Jane Bough (maid) *
Iris Everson, Juliette James, Leon Maybank, Terry Sartain (customers in art gallery) *
David Glen, Alfred Moore, James Muir, Mike Mungarvan (plain clothes detectives in Louvre) *
Michael Brydon, Karen Cooper, David Glen, Philip Grant, David Harris, Kevin Hudson, Michael Josephs, Mike Mungarvan, Jenny Persiva, Maggie Pilleau, Helen Raye, Shane Ricco, Lee Richards, Graham Smith, Kevin Sullivan, Frances Tanner, Geoffrey Whitestone, Sue Winkler, Cathy Winter (tourists in Louvre) *

UK 1979
4 x 25 mins


Courtesy of BBC Studios

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Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
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