City of Death

Doctor Who Big Finish City of Death

Dr Who Meets Mr Spaghetti Head is a decent enough story, and you can see why the Mofferator likes it so much but, although it has a lot of fans among Fans I`m not one of them. For me, City of Death could have been so much better if only they`d taken things seriously. I`m no great fan of this period in the show`s history as what others enjoy as wit and charm, irritates me as smugness and a lack of seriousness. A heretical point of view to some but there you go.

Nowadays we would call this sort of stuff getting the Tone all wrong [a bit like the complaints made against Pertwee`s House That Dripped Blood segment] and this edit seeks to minimise that “error”. If you love the story as it is then don`t waste your time downloading this version. If however you`re willing to take another, more serious/less comic look at it then please go ahead.

city of death covers

City of Death by Tea Lady DesignThe original opening of Scaroth`s ship blowing up becomes a pre-credits sequence with the dialogue shunted up to avoid us having to see old Spaghetti Head too early. And did you spot the continuity error with Scaroth`s hands? He`s got spaghetti hands as well as a spaghetti head in his ship`s cockpit but when he takes his human mask off later on for the Countess, he elects to keep his human gloves on for some reason…! After the credits we get a truncated travelogue to establish Paris that gets us to the Louvre and straight into the story in under three minutes!

Familiarity with the original can sometimes interfere with the enjoyment of an alternate Edit as you notice straight away where footage has been inserted or deleted. So don`t go looking for the scene with Romana`s face as a clock as it`s been cut – not because it was a bad scene, on the contrary it was very good and spooky, but because it has zero bearing on the plot, something I remember being really disappointed about when viewing the episode on its original transmission. Big Finish should really do a story explaining what that was all about…

Those cafe scenes were a real pain in the arse to edit. For a start there`s all the to-ing and fro-ing between indoors and outdoors and why doesn`t the Count just collect the Doctor at the same time as the bracelet instead of having to make another trip to the cafe – and how could they be sure they would still be there anyway? It`s called padding and it`s typical of the problems you face editing pre-exisiting material, making this one of the hardest Edits to date.

City Death DWM

There are numerous cuts and trims throughout this “serious” edit which has eliminated most of the silliness – what remains is only there because it was impossible to get rid of. In terms of the tone of the show, removing the bulk of the “humour” means that what`s left isn`t nearly as irritating. All that`s missing from some of these Adams/Williams episodes is a bloody laugh track!

Finally we come to the most contentious aspect of the entire production – Scaroth`s Mask! Well, where do we start with this one… the whole thing is so ridiculously implausible – how can he see out for a start! – that I was determined to come up with a better method of unmasking him than in the TX version. The only feasible “serious” approach was to have a cross fade between the Count`s head and Scaroth`s. Okay, so this means that the Counts head has to grow a little bit larger for no other reason than to make the effect work but that`s still how it should have been done!

Oh, and Cleese and Bron didn`t make it either.

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5 thoughts on “City of Death

  1. I’m psyched to check this one out.
    As much I do love this era – particularly for its lightness – I share your disappointment with the production team’s decision to favor comedy over story nearly every time.

    As much I enjoy the original version of this story, it does feel like so much potential packed between jokes.

    All to say I am quite looking forward to downloading this one later!

    (And it takes a braver man than I to edit John Cleese!)

    1. Glad to know you`re looking forward to it – let me know what you think!

      Sure there`s all sorts of ways you can do Who – Letts & Hinchcliffe are completely different styles of storytelling but they both work. The problem starts with the Sixth Floor admitting Hinch went too far with Deadly Assassin and telling Williams to tone things down when they should have left things alone and moved the show back a bit later in the schedule. Williams’ big mistake was thinking that humour or wit or whatever you want to call it was the right thing to fill up the perceived dramatic shortfall left by the removal of the hallmarks of the previous regime.

      Who isn`t Hitch Hiker – while I love The Unicorn and The Wasp, for example, I wouldn`t want the show to be like that every week. Go for tongue in cheek pastiche by all means, but make that the exception not the norm. Humour & wit should be light relief from the drama, not competing with and, ultimately, undermining it.

      And since these Fan Edits are my own personal take on each story they will obviously reflect the storytelling values that I prefer and seek to eliminate or reduce those elements that I think are stylistically and tonally wrong. Not everyone will agree with those choices but that`s fine. I just want to produce the best version of the story that I can!

  2. This is definitely an excellent edit, although I think its a little unfair to blame Williams for the humour. I seem to recall reading somewhere that the highers up ordered him to add more humour, and he wasn’t all that fond of it. That being said, I do enjoy Douglas Adams’ work. I’m particularly glad you left in the “eyebrows” gag. I find it hilarious because Tom Baker himself seems to have no eyebrows himself. And come to think of it, Matt Smith *barely* has any eyebrows.

    I think the “broken clock face” would be a good way to foreshadow Romana’s possible return in the New Series. Once an episode, we see a broken clock everywhere, and in the finale, Romana returns. Somehow. Maybe.

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