>Years ago, a genre magazine published a list of the top ten sci-fi and fantasy TV episodes of all-time. The list included entries from Star Trek, The Twilight Zone and other big names in the universe of genre television. Coming in at number seven was Doctor Who and the Douglas Adams penned story, “City of Death.”
All I could do was groan to myself.
The thing is that while I enjoy “City of Death” it’s not necessarily the story I’d choose to represent the epitome of Doctor Who. A lot of times, I think fans get so caught up in the fact that it’s written by Adams and has a lot of great one-liners, that they overlook that just having great one liners and a witty script doesn’t a good story make. The other thing I feel makes the story’s value more inflated in the minds of fans is that it comes in the midst of season 17, a season that has a polarizing effect on the fandom. Some love it, some don’t like it. Overall the stories aren’t much to write home about, so when you drop something that’s above average like “City of Death” in there, it seems a lot better than it really is. Take this story and drop it into the Hinchcliffe era and it’s be a middle of the pack story for the season.
I’m also fascinated by fans who say that “City of Death” is a really good place to introduce fans to the classic series. I guess it’s the combination of Adams, filming in Paris and Tom Baker that makes them think this. But the problem is if your new initiate ends up loving “City of Death” then you’re stuck. Why? Because they’re nothing else in the Doctor Who canon quite like it. It’s a unique little gem in there but it’s not going to give a new fan a real taste of what this show is really like or about.
It’s not a bad story. But it’s not a great one either. I don’t understand the lavish accolades heaped upon the story over the years. I’ve tried to see it (I’ve been trying for 20 plus years now) and I guess it just isn’t ever going to be a classic for me.