"Just about to pop-off through time again, Doctor? How very discourteous when I'd gone through all the trouble of fetching the thumbscrews!"
Captain Tancredi
"City of Death"
Doctor Who - City of Death
Title: "City of Death"
Series: Doctor Who
Season: 17
Airdates: September 29th, 1979-October 30th, 1979
Chapters: 5-8
Episodes: Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Setting: Paris, France
Major characters: Fourth Doctor
Romana II
Count Scarlioni
Countess Scarlioni
Minor characters: Fyodor Nikolai Kerensky
Previous: "Destiny of the Daleks"
Next: "The Creature from the Pit"

"City of Death" is a four-part serial in the original Doctor Who television series. The story ran through episodes 5-8 in series 17 and originally aired on BBC1 from September 29th to October 20th, 1979. It was directed by Michael Hayes and written by David Fisher, Douglas Adams and Graham Williams, all credited under the single pseudonym of David Agnew. The story brings the Doctor and Romana to Paris, France in the present day where they discover that a plot to steal the Mona Lisa from the Louvre yields bigger could have ramifications that could effect the entire time stream.

Chapters Edit

Part One Edit

Doctor Who 17x05 002


Millions of years ago, an alien Jagaroth named Scaroth attempts to leave the planet's surface in his space vessel. The ship is malfunctioning and chatter comes over the radio warning him to abort. Scaroth continues to work the ship's engines until it begins to hover above the planet's surface, at which point it explodes, seemingly killing him.

In the present, the Doctor and Romana arrive in Paris, France and take in the sights. They stop at the Eiffel Tower, then take the Metro across town and stop for lunch at a café.

Meanwhile, a scientist named Fyodor Nikolai Kerensky operates out of a hidden laboratory belonging to a nobleman named Count Carlos Scarlioni. Scarlioni observes Kerensky's work, but the nervous scientist complains about his lack of funding for his experiments. Unimpressed with Kerensky's concerns, Scarlioni hands him one million francs, confident that this will be more than enough to allow Kerensky to continue his work.

At the restaurant, the Doctor takes note of a patron who is sketching Romana's likeness. He tries to keep Romana from turning to look at him, knowing that by doing so, she would be disrupting the man's work, but Romana looks anyway and the artist, frustrated that he has lost her pose, crumples up his sketch and throws it on the floor before walking away. Romana reaches over to pick up the paper when both the Doctor and she suddenly experience a time slip - a moment of time that replays itself. They view the entire affair with the artist for a second time before being able to observe the sketch. The picture is that of Romana's head, but the face has been replaced with a cracked clock face. The Doctor muses, "... a crack in time." and grows concerned. He dismisses his reservations however, noting that they are on holiday and has little concern for the time slip.

With art on his mind, the Doctor decides to take Romana to the Louvre. He shows her the Mona Lisa, but Romana has difficulty appreciating the artistry behind the piece. The Doctor is slightly offended by Romana's lack of culture. While there, they experience a second time slip. The Doctor takes note of the people in the room and pretends to faint, falling across the lap of a woman named Countess Scarlioni. Several people rush to attend them, one of which is a man in a trench coat named Duggan. The Doctor rights himself and Romana and he leave.

Later, the two settle down and the Doctor reveals that he deliberately fell into the woman so that he could purloin her bracelet (which he then deftly slipped into Romana's pocket). The bracelet is actually a micromeson scanner - a device capable of scanning and analyzing all of the security equipment installed at the Louvre. Romana observes that the bracelet is too advanced for Earth technology and suspects that it might be alien in origin. The Doctor wonders if the woman intended on stealing the Mona Lisa.

Duggan suddenly appears and points a gun at the Doctor's back. He marches them inside another restaurant where he reveals that he is a detective. He suspects that the two are working for an underworld figure named Scarlioni and pointedly asks them, "What's Scarlioni's angle?" Neither the Doctor nor Romana have any idea what he's talking about. The Doctor asks Romana if she has ever heard of Scarlioni's angle, but she confesses that she has never been very good at geometry. As the two banter back and forth driving Duggan to even greater heights of frustration, a group of thugs enter the establishment and point a gun at the Doctor, demanding him to surrender the bracelet he had stolen. Given little choice but to comply, the Doctor slips the bracelet over one of their gun barrels and the men take their leave. Duggan thinks that the Doctor staged the entire affair.

At Scarlioni's estate, the Countess informs her husband of the bracelet's theft. He is outraged, but she assures him that she has already taken measures to recover it. Her men return with the bracelet and Carlos sends a back-up team to abduct the Doctor, Romana and Duggan.

Afterward, Carlos Scarlioni goes down into a private room beneath the estate. Standing before a mirror, he tears away the latex coating of his human face, revealing the visage of a Jagaroth beneath it.

Part Two Edit

Doctor Who 17x06 002

The true face of Count Carlos Scarlioni.

At the café, the Doctor and Romana speak with Inspector Duggan about the stolen bracelet. The three contemplate the item's worth when two tough-looking men dressed in black approach the table. They are hired hands of the Count who escort them at gunpoint back to Scarlioni's mansion. They are brought into the living room where the Countess waits to greet them. The Doctor acts characteristically aloof, and pretends to stumble about the room. The Countess is unimpressed with his antics. She asks him about the bracelet he liberated from her, but the Doctor dodges the question. The Count enters the room and presents the bracelet safe and sound. He asks the Doctor why he stole it from his wife, but the Doctor again evades the question. Amused by him, Scarlioni has his butler take the three captives and lock them up in the cellar. Once they are out of earshot, he tells the Countess, "You really should be more careful with your trinkets, my dear. After all, we have a Mona Lisa to steal".

In the cellar, Duggan grows irate and doesn't understand why they didn't try to fight their way out. The Doctor calms him down and explains that their capture was all part of their plan. He withdraws his sonic screwdriver and tries to undo the lock on their cell, but it doesn't seem to work. Duggan grabs the incident and begins smacking against the lock, but this too fails. The Doctor does not appreciate Duggan's mis-use of the sonic screwdriver. The Doctor eventually unlocks the door and they proceed into the adjacent laboratory. Taking a cursory glance at Kerensky's equipment, he immediately deduces that it might be responsible for the recent time slips that Romana and he had been experiencing.

Doctor Who 17x06 003

The Doctor observes Kerensky's work.

Kerensky enters the lab and the Doctor, Romana and Duggan all hide. The Doctor secretly observes Kerensky's work and watches him accelerate time by turning an egg into a chicken. He makes his presence known, surprising the nervous scientist. He tells him that his work is interesting, but that he's "got it wrong". He goes on to explain how he had created a different time continuum, but one that is completely incompatible with their own. As proof of the Doctor's words, the chicken's cellular structure continues to accelerate until it becomes nothing more than an aged skeleton. The Doctor makes a small adjustment to the equipment, and reverses the effect. When next he looks into the machine's viewing field however, he sees the face of the Jagaroth. While the Doctor is transfixed, Duggan comes out of hiding and clobbers Kerensky across the back of the head. The Doctor admonishes Duggan, threatening to take severe measures against him, but his anger is interrupted when Romana calls his attention to another part of the cellar. They find that a section of wall has been bricked up, covering a hidden alcove in the room.

Meanwhile upstairs, the Count puts on a demonstration on how they are going to steal the Mona Lisa. He places the bracelet into a prismatic filter, and generates a hologram of the Louvre. He then uses the filter to alter the wavelengths of the museum's laser-grid security system, so that they will be able to safely steal the painting without tripping any alarms.

Back downstairs, the Doctor and Duggan break through the brick wall and reach the inside chamber. They discover a wooden cabinet, which contains numerous copies of the Mona Lisa. Upon a quick inspection, the Doctor determines that these are not fakes, but that each one is the genuine Mona Lisa. The Doctor cannot understand why a man who owns six Mona Lisas would want to steal another one. As they ponder this mystery, the Count enters the room. He doesn't seem particularly concerned that the Doctor has discovered his secret alcove, but he is curious as to why Kerensky is lying unconscious on the floor. Duggan throws his lantern on the ground to distract everyone and then slugs Scarlioni across the jaw, knocking him out. Once again, the Doctor is perplexed by the man's penchant for violence.

They sneak out of the cellar and go upstairs. Duggan sees someone from behind a potted plant pointing a gun in their direction. Picking up a priceless Ming vase, he bashes it across the assailant's head. The Doctor and Romana come around the corner and see that it is the Countess. The Doctor instructs Romana and Duggan to go to the Louvre to try and prevent the theft of another Mona Lisa. He meanwhile, has a date with a "... middle-aged Italian".

The Doctor finds the TARDIS and takes it back in time to the early 1500s. He appears in the work shop of Leonardo da Vinci - the artist responsible for painting the Mona Lisa. He calls out for Leonardo, but the famous artist/inventor does not appear. Instead, a guard enters the room and holds a sword to the Doctor. He asks him who he is, but as always, the Doctor responds with flippancy. The guard warns him that someone named Captain Tancredi will be very upset to see someone sneaking about Leonardo's studio. Just then, Captain Tancredi enters the room. The Doctor is surprised to discover that the captain is actually Count Scarlioni. He is further surprised when Tancredi recognizes him as the Doctor.

Part Three Edit

Doctor Who 17x07 002

The Doctor gets the point.

Romana and Duggan sneak into the Louvre to stop Carlos Scarlioni from stealing "another" Mona Lisa. When they arrive, they find a guard on the floor and the Mona Lisa is missing even though the security system is still intact. Duggan accidentally trips the alarms and they need to make a hasty retreat before guards come swarming into the room. Duggan jumps through a window and Romana follows after him.

Back at Scarlioni's mansion, Kerensky awakens after having been rendered unconscious by Duggan. He stumbles into the secret chamber in the cellar and finds an open closet containing multiple renditions of the Mona Lisa. On the floor beside him is Scarlioni. He is semi-conscious and begins muttering to himself.

The Doctor meanwhile, has traveled back in time to Florence, Italy in the year 1505. He is in the workshop of Leonardo da Vinci. A military man, Captain Tancredi, addresses him and both men are startled to recognize each other. Tancredi is also Carlos Scarlioni. The Doctor asks how he came to be here, when he had just left him in the year 1979. Tancredi/Scarlioni sits down and explains that he is actually the last of an alien race known as the Jagaroth. His people were destroyed more than four-hundred million years ago. He came to Earth during its primeval days in an effort to colonize it, but found it uninhabitable. When he attempted to leave, his ship was disintegrated. His physical being was fractured, sending splinters of himself scattered throughout the time stream, each one existing with a tangential connection to the other. Scarlioni changes the conversation and asks how the Doctor came to be in this time period. The Doctor blithers on and plays ignorant, but Scarlioni determines for himself that the Doctor is connected to the TARDIS, which happens to be tucked away in the back of the room. Scarlioni leaves the Doctor in the room with a guard while he goes off to retrieve his torture instruments. Once their alone, the Doctor distracts the guard by snapping his picture with a Polaroid camera. The flash cube temporarily blinds the man, enabling the Doctor the chance to knock him out. He scribbles down a hastily written message to Leonardo (written backwards), but before he can take his leave, Scarlioni comes back into the room.

Doctor Who 17x07 003

Kerensky finds Scarlioni.

In the present, Kerensky rouses the Count and helps him to his feet. He realizes that in his unconscious state, he was dreaming of his conversation with the Doctor in 1505. Kerensky asks him, "Who are the Jagaroth", to which the Count angrily replies, "You serve the Jagaroth!" He pulls Kerensky back into the lab and shows him a new set of blueprints for what he wants him to build. Kerensky peruses the plans and is horrified. What the Count wants him to build will increase the effect that he has been trying to eliminate in his previous experiments. He declares the project as monstrous and refuses to do it. Moreover, he says that the equipment and energy required to produce such an invention would cost more money than even the Count possesses. At that moment, the butler Hermann enters the cellar bearing the original Mona Lisa. Scarlioni is overcome with excitement. With the seven Mona Lisas now in his possession, he will have more than enough money for Kerensky to complete his work.

Back in 1505, Scarlioni has his guard place a pair of thumb screws over the Doctor's thumbs. The Doctor lets out a whelp, not from pain, but from the fact that the guard has cold hands. Scarlioni continues to ask questions, but before the Doctor can tell him anything useful, he begins feeling waves of dizziness. He stands and stumbles about the room as the word "Scaroth" echoes repeatedly in his mind. This effect is mirrored in the present as the 1979 Scarlioni begins wavering in front of the Countess. In both time periods, he orders the Countess and the guard to leave. The Doctor takes advantage of his adversary's plight and escapes from the thumb screws. He goes to the TARDIS and returns to the year 1979.

Meanwhile, Romana and Duggan return to the café. Romana admonishes Duggan for his violent behavior and his inexhaustible need to break everything. They try to work out Scarlioni's scheme concerning the multiple Mona Lisas. Romana theorizes that the Count may have found a way to go back in time to convince Leonardo da Vinci to paint multiple canvases, knowing how valuable they would one day become so he could sell them later. However, nothing she found in Kerensky's laboratory would allow the Count to travel through time. She leaves a note for the Doctor and the two proceed back to the Count's chateau.

The Doctor goes to the Louvre and learns that the real Mona Lisa has been stolen. He tries to get information from one of the tour guides, but she proves useless. He then goes to the café where an employee hands him Romana's note.

At the chateau, the Count and Countess capture Romana and Duggan. Hermann holds them at gunpoint. The Count tells Romana that the Doctor let it slip that she is an expert in temporal travel. The Count wants Romana to take a look at the equipment herself. If she refuses, he will destroy Paris. Upon seeing the equipment Romana, worried, tells Duggan that the Count can indeed destroy Paris by blasting the capital into an un-stabilized time field. Duggan asks her if she believes in all this time travel nonsense. In response, she asks him whether 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 in position, 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 Edit

Doctor Who 17x08 002

Count Scarlioni tells Romana of his evil scheme.

Count Scarlioni tricks Kerensky into stepping into the energy field of the device he created. Before the scientist can react, Scarlioni throws a switch and Kerensky instantly ages into a skeleton. Content with his gruesome example, Scarlioni turns towards Romana and threatens to execute a similar feat on all of Paris unless she can provide him with the means for stabilizing the time field. Romana reluctantly agrees to help him, and Scarlioni orders Hermann to take Duggan away. He then explains how four-hundred million years ago, he crash-landed on Earth, but the space ship carrying him exploded. The explosion fractured his physical essence into twelve identical, yet distinctive splinters, casting them throughout the time stream. The twelve splinters have been working in tandem with one another to elevate humanity's level of technology so that he can create a successful time machine that will allow him to go back to the beginning and prevent the accident that caused the explosion in the first place. Romana tells him that his device will not work in his present condition, which is why he needs her to build him a field interface stabilizer. Romana smiles and says, "All right, I'll help you."

Meanwhile, the Doctor makes his way back to the chateau. One of Scarlioni's goons takes him by gunpoint and moves him into the living room where the Countess is waiting for him. The Doctor criticizes the Countess for her greed and intimates that there is much more to the Count than even she is aware of. He begins shouting about how the Count is actually a being with one eye and green skin who has been ransacking history in order to find a means of re-establishing the Jagaroth. The Countess chuckles at the absurdity of such an accusation. Hermann comes into the room and says that Scarlioni wishes to see the Doctor. He escorts him out of the room and leads him back down into the cellar. Once the room is clear, the Countess pulls a case down from the book shelves and from it, withdraws several Egyptian scrolls. Unfurling one of the pieces of papyrus, she finds an image of a being who looks exactly the way the Doctor described the Jagaroth.

Doctor Who 17x08 003

The Doctor

In the cellar, the Doctor cheerfully greets the Count, Romana and the imprisoned Duggan. He tells Scarlioni that he had better not be thinking about going back in time, because he intends on stopping him. He warns that going back to the time of Earth's pre-history will have disastrous consequences, but Scarlioni doesn't care. The Count has the Doctor and Romana locked up with Duggan then goes back upstairs.

As he walks into the library, he finds his wife pointing a pistol at him hissing, "What are you?" The Count maintains his aloof demeanor and pours himself a drink. He tells her that his real name is Scaroth and that he is a member of a race of "infinitely old, infinitely superior" beings known as the Jagaroth. As the Countess stares wide-eyed at him, the Count pulls away at the false facial mask he had been wearing and reveals his true visage. He then pushes a button on his ring, which activates a device implanted on the Countess' bracelet. Green energy swirls about the bracelet and the Countess falls shrieking to the floor and dies.

Down in the cellar, the Doctor, Romana and Duggan discuss the Count's plan. Romana reveals that she rigged his device so that he can only back in time for exactly one minute. The Doctor confirms however, that one minute is all he would need to warn his people away from Earth and thus change all of human history. Time now literally being of the essence, they need to make a break for it. They coax Duggan into storming the prison door - a feat he is only too anxious to do. He rams through the door and the three of them race into the lab. Unfortunately, they run into the unmasked Scarlioni/Scaroth, who stands before them holding a pistol. He sets a self destruct sequence on the instrument panel before him, then steps into the field. Scaroth disappears into the time stream just as the panel explodes. Now, nobody can reverse the effect.

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Final flight for the Jagaroth.

The three of them leave the house and race across the Champs-Élysées on their way to the TARDIS. They take the TARDIS back in time four-hundred million years. They appear to have arrived before the Count and they find the Jagaroth ship. The Doctor reveals that it was the radioactivity given off by the exploding ship that served as the catalyst for all life on Earth. Scaroth appears behind them and approaches the ship. The Doctor blocks his path, telling him that he cannot allow him to enter the ship. Scaroth continues to advance forward, but Duggan punches him. Scaroth falls to the ground unconscious. Once his minute is up, he disappears back into the time stream. Though he normally admonishes Duggan for his violent tendencies, the Doctor now congratulates him on making the most "important punch in history". The three get back into the TARDIS and return to the present before the Jagaroth ship explodes.

Scaroth re-appears in the center of his impromptu time machine at his chateau. Hermann sees him, but not recognizing the Count in his true form, grows scared. He throws a vase at him, which strikes the machine causing the entire device to explode, killing Scaroth.

The Doctor, Romana and Duggan are back in modern-day Paris and go to the Eiffel Tower. The Doctor tells Duggan, that he took one of the surviving Mona Lisas back to the Louvre, though as far as Duggan is concerned, all of the duplicate Mona Lisas are fakes. The Doctor and Romana bid Duggan goodbye and walk off.

Cast Edit

Production crew Edit

Notes & Trivia Edit

  • This serial has been made available on the Doctor Who: The City of Death two-disc DVD collection, released on November 8th, 2005.
  • The Mona Lisa was originally painted in 1503. The flashback scenes in this serial take place in 1505.

Related categories Edit

See also Edit


The World of Doctor Who

Doctor Who miscellaneous

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