The Doctor and Romana visit Paris, where they stumble upon
a dangerous experiment with time and a plot to steal the Mona
opinion is deeply divided as to whether Graham Williams' three
years as producer of Doctor Who were wonderful or dire.
Certainly this era offered some woefully cheap-looking and
embarrassingly-acted atrocities, but this Season 17 story
is definitely at the opposite end of the spectrum.
principal Paris location, together with a cutaway to Renaissance
Florence, and a plot that revolves around artistic matters,
all suit Baker's Bohemian Doctor down to the ground. The undergraduate
humour of Douglas (Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy)
Adams, who co-wrote the script with Williams under the pseudonym
of David Agnew, allows Baker's eccentricities to shine through
with knowing self-mockery without ever becoming cringe-worthy.
Memorable lines include, "What a wonderful butler - he's so
violent!" This story, more than any other, also demonstrates
the chemistry that existed between Baker and Lalla Ward (playing
Romana), both on and off the screen.
the Doctor is Count Scarlioni, portrayed in a stylish turn
by Julian Glover, who turns in a far more memorable performance
than he did as the Bond villain, Kristatos in For Your
Eyes Only. He, too, gets his fair share of classic lines;
when his wife (Space 1999's Catherine Schell) speculates
that the Doctor might not be as stupid as he seems, Scarlioni
replies, "My dear, nobody could be as stupid as he
intrinsic humour of the piece, which also includes a hilarious
cameo by John Cleese and Eleanor Bron as a couple of art critics,
lifts what could easily have become a leaden and over-complicated
tale of time paradoxes. Instead, the technobabble is merely
paid lip service without being taken too seriously. The thrills
aren't just of the light-hearted variety, either; this four-parter
also boasts top-notch cliffhangers.
I get too carried away with superlatives, however, let's not
overlook the story's weaker aspects. Given that the Mona Lisa
is pivotal to the plot, it's a shame that the props department
couldn't have supplied a more convincing mock-up of the famous
painting. And while the series' first-ever location shoot
to be conducted outside of the UK provides some beautiful
images, director Michael Hayes is too self-indulgent in his
use of these exterior scenes, spending far too long showing
Baker and Ward running around Paris instead of progressing
the plot. Also, the story fails to answer the question of
why the artist who sketches Romana in the café depicts her
with a broken clock for a face.
the most part, however, watching this adventure is a truly
leisurely experience, rather like taking a long, relaxing
soak in the bath. This previously released but long-since
deleted title makes a very welcome return to video.