By the late 1970s, the tone of Doctor Who had changed once more. Under the stewardship of producer Graham Williams and script editor Douglas “Hitchhiker’s Guide” Adams, the show was wittier, less concerned with horror and more with fairytales, fun and fables. Out went the scares and in came the laughs – and for many the best example of this is the Paris-based City of Death (1979).
Fourth, confident in his sixth season as the Doctor.
Holidaying in Paris, the Doctor and Romana uncover a plot that could unwind all life on Earth, involving an alien splintered in time, a hack detective, six fake Mona Lisas and some chickens.
Romana: Where are we going?
The Doctor: Are you talking philosophically or geographically?
The Doctor: Then we're going to lunch.
Aside from being a very funny romp in the mould of much of Adams’ work, City of Death is also a very clever idea. An alien splintered in time, influencing human development to the point where he can travel back in time to before the explosion that destroyed him, and stop it happening. And financing that development with cash from legitimate duplicates of famous artworks? That level of imagination and tinkering with time had been rarely seen in Doctor Who before. The Paris location filming is lovely – complimenting the romantic, film noir feel. And even the celebrity cameo scene and Tom Baker at his most jokey don’t feel too forced.