Wednesday, 11 June 2008


Doctor Who [classic]
17x08 City of Death Part Four
See here for my thoughts on this story.


Almost Famous (2000)
[#41 in 100 Films in a Year 2008]

Van Helsing (2004)
[2nd watch]
Four years on, with vastly lowered expectations, it's still not very good.


Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks writing as Ian Fleming
Chapter 11
As Bond escapes and recovers from his investigative previous chapter, Scarlett somehow finds him again. She's becoming increasingly suspicious, that girl, and yet somehow Bond accepts everything she has to say, and even takes her along when he returns to investigate the 'Caspian Sea Monster'. Is there a poorly thought-through 'twist' coming with her, or is her story just as ludicrous as it seems?

Doctor Who - Decide Your Destiny: The Corinthian Project by Davey Moore
See here for my thoughts on this book.

The New Traveller's Almanac by Alan Moore
Chapter Four
(from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume 2)
Ploughing on through this, as I feel I ought to read it before embarking on Black Dossier (especially as it contains clues to what will happen in that), a book I've had for a good six months now. I'm looking forward to it (believe it or not).

Doctor Who: City of Death

And so my chronological wander through classic Doctor Who jumps 10 years on from the last story, deep into the era of the longest-running and arguably most-famous Doctor: the fourth, Tom Baker. The story I've chosen is City of Death, well known among Who fans as the highest-rated story ever (aided by an ITV strike, it reached the giddy heights of 17 million viewers). This is the first time I've seen it, however, and I was a bit wary -- the last time I saw such a well-regarded story was The Talons of Weng-Chiang, which I found a bit weak. Luckily, there's a lot more than just ratings success to make City of Death a memorable adventure.

In fact, where to begin? How about the beginning, an atmospheric prehistoric opening with some brilliant set design, models and visual effects work. The story moves quickly on to Paris -- the first time Doctor Who had shot overseas. While most of what we see is the Doctor and Romana running up and down Parisian streets, there's some good location work -- the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre all feature -- and it's truly bizarre to see them riding on the Metro, or indeed existing anywhere outside of the cosy confines of small sets built at Television Centre and shot on video! There are some artful shots too, giving a feeling more like something from the French New Wave than '70s British kids' TV. Dudley Simpson's music underlines this too, with possibly the most genteel race-against-time music I've ever heard (in Part Four, when the Doctor, Romana and Duggan run across Paris to the TARDIS).

But after the production team have had their fun showing off the location it's full steam ahead with a plot that involves a time-altering device and six fake Mona Lisas. It's a very strong storyline, backed up by an endlessly inventive and furiously witty screenplay -- the scripts were co-written by Douglas Adams, and it really shows. The cast are more than up to the task of delivering the marvellous dialogue -- I shouldn't wonder if Tom Baker's faux fool Doctor here wasn't the primary model for David Tennant's current incarnation. There are some more fantastic effects shots too, including an aging chicken, a similar gruesome death, and a surprisingly effective virtual reality bit. The part two cliffhanger is also brilliant -- it's hard to say if it's surprising because I'm so familiar with it from clip shows, etc, but it still seems a neat twist.

There are flaws of course, but they're incredibly minor and really just nitpicking for the sake of it, especially as I haven't even listed all the little bits of brilliance contained within. City of Death (there's one flaw -- a totally meaningless title) is unreserved entertainment from beginning to end. Fantastic.