City of Death


Previous Next




City of Death

Serial Code


First Transmitted

29 September 1979

Final Ratings






previous arrow
next arrow


Regular Cast

Tom Baker (Doctor Who), Lalla Ward (Romana)

Guest Cast

Julian Glover (Count), Catherine Schell (Countess), Tom Chadbon (Duggan), David Graham (Kerensky), Kevin Flood (Hermann), Pamela Stirling (Louvre Guide) [1, 3], Peter Halliday (Soldier) [2-3], Eleanor Bron, John Cleese (Art Gallery Visitors) [4]


Written by David Agnew
Directed by Michael Hayes
Produced by Graham Williams


The Doctor and Romana are enjoying a well-earned break in Paris, relaxing in the gentle delights of the art galleries, the waterfront cafes, the Eiffel Tower… and the unexpected jumps in time that no one else seems to notice… Rare treasures and once-lost masterpieces are suddenly in auction houses all over the world, the only link to them all being the mysterious Count Scarlioni.

But what project is he secretly financing in the basement of his Paris chateau? The time-travellers meet up with Duggan, a private detective investigating the activities of the Count and his accomplices. Can Scarlioni be planning the most audacious and daring of all art thefts? Or are his ambitions much grander? Big enough to threaten the existence of the entire human race…?..


  • The story is set in Paris, and was the first Doctor Who serial to feature footage filmed on location in a foreign country.
    After The Reign of Terror and The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve, this was the series’ third story to take place primarily in and around Paris.
  • Romana gives her age as a hundred and twenty-five, however, she gave it as one hundred and forty when she first met The Doctor.
  • The title is possibly a play-on-words of Cit&eacute, de l’amour (City of Love, as Paris is often known), and Cit&eacute, de la mort (City of Death), the pronunciation of which is very similar.
  • Working titles for this story included Curse of the Sephiroth and A Gamble with Time.
  • The script is credits to “David Agnew”, a department pseudonym used when members of the production team had to write the script rather than a contracted scriptwriter. In this case, the original scriptwriter for A Gamble with Time, David Fisher, was undergoing a divorce and was unable to complete the serial. As a result, Graham Williams and Douglas Adams rewrote it under the Agnew by-line.
  • The story originally involved the Countess using Scarlioni’s bracelet to rig the roulette wheels at casinos in Paris and Monte Carlo in order to fund her husband’s time experiments. However, Graham Williams ordered that this subplot be removed, to avoid children getting any wrong ideas of gambling.
    “David Agnew” had written once before for the series, in The Invasion of Time, where the pseudonym was used to hide the identities of Graham Williams and then-script or Anthony Read.
  • Due to Adams’s influence, the script has his distinctive brand of humour and dialogue. Adams reused part of the story’s plot for Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (see also Shada).
  • Adams appears in an uncredited cameo as a man having a drink in a bar.
  • K9 does not make an actual appearance in this story, but The Doctor does greet him as he enters the TARDIS to go and visit Leonardo da Vinci.
  • Due to the ongoing I strike, all episodes of this serial, along with the previous Destiny of the Daleks, received very high ratings. This reached a peak with Episode 4, which got 16.1million viewers, making it the highest rated Doctor Who episode ever. It is also very highly rated on fan polls, often cited as the best Doctor Who serial with which to introduce non-fans to the series.
  • Features guest appearances by Julian Glover, Catherine Schell, and David Graham, and cameo appearances by Eleanor Bron and John Cleese. Bron and Cleese both attempted to have their performances credits to pseudonyms, but the Radio Times declined.
  • Order the DVD
  • media clip

    error: Content is protected
    Skip to content