Doctor Who: City Of Rebirth

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Christopher Morley looks back at a momentous time in the history of Who...


September 26, 2003 saw the news many had been waiting for with bated breath finally confirmed - Doctor Who was returning! But the BBC were reportedly considering asking Tom Baker to return to the TARDIS well before Christopher Eccleston was cast as the Ninth Doctor, as confirmed by Russell T Davies when speaking to the Radio Times...
"I remember, actually, someone in the room said, 'Why don't we bring Tom Baker back?' and we all said, 'Yes!' I was sitting there, going with anything, 'Yeah, that'd be great!'"
And he has previously told of his admiration for the Baker years, with a particular fondness for The Ark In Space. Then there's City Of Death, of which Davies said,
"I was 16 at the time and I loved it. To film in Paris would have seemed quite glamorous but this story could be set in Skegness and it would still be fantastic. It’s so witty and clever."

The Fourth Doctor's trip to Paris would later take on a certain resonance when Davies was pitching for what would become Series One. Julie Gardner of BBC Wales had never really taken much of an interest in the classic era of the show, and so Russell T put her right with a list of his favourite episodes. Among them was City Of Death, and she would later tell a panel audience at the 2009 Comic-Con that,
"I didn’t really watch the show, but when I was fortunate enough to take over, Russell gave me a homework list. It was Russell’s favourite episodes. City of Death, for me, the Tom Baker story, I just loved it, and from the moment of watching that story, I thought there was so much we could do with it. It’s so fun, it’s so mad."
Where City Of Death might have served as a useful template for Davies' tenure on Doctor Who in terms of the sort of story he wanted to tell, composer Murray Gold borrowed elements of the Fourth Doctor's own theme in coming up with his for the Ninth.
"One day, the parts turned up on a CD. I used the electronic 'scream' at the start, the famous swooping top line, the organ harmony underneath, the bass line, and the 'time tunnel whoosh' at the very end."
All of which can be heard in the arrangement which heralded Tom Baker's d├ębut in Robot.



And while Eccleston was keen to distance himself from any of the eccentricity displayed by Baker -
"He travels in time and space, he's got two hearts, he's a Time Lord— that's eccentric enough to be getting on with."
Later with hindsight he told the Telegraph,
"Yeah, he was probably the most difficult of all the Doctors, the way I played him. Surprise, surprise."
Getting back to matters of plot, of course, where City Of Death made inventive use of Paris's Louvre gallery, Rose - Episode One of Series One - uses the London Eye.

DOCTOR: Anti-plastic.
ROSE: Anti-plastic.
DOCTOR: Anti-plastic. But first I've got to find it. How can you hide something that big in a city this small?
ROSE: Hold on. Hide what?
DOCTOR: The transmitter. The Consciousness is controlling every single piece of plastic, so it needs a transmitter to boost the signal.
ROSE: What's it look like?
DOCTOR: Like a transmitter. Round and massive, slap bang in the middle of London.
DOCTOR: A huge circular metal structure like a dish, like a wheel. Radial. Close to where we're standing. Must be completely invisible. What? What?
Shades also of an earlier exchange with Countess Scarlioni in the Doctor's first encounter with Jackie Tyler!
JACKIE: I'm in my dressing gown.
DOCTOR: Yes, you are.
JACKIE: There's a strange man in my bedroom.
DOCTOR: Yes, there is.
JACKIE: Well, anything could happen.
DOCTOR: No.


Remember ''you're a beautiful woman, probably''?
DOCTOR: Romana, sit down over there. Duggan. Now, Duggan, you sit there. Do sit down if you want to, Count. Oh, all right. Now, isn't this nice?
COUNTESS: The only reason you were brought here was to explain exactly why you stole my bracelet.
DOCTOR: Ah, well, it's my job, you see. I'm a thief. And this is Romana, she's my accomplice. And this is Duggan. He's the detective who's been kind enough to catch me. That's his job. You see, our two lines of work dovetail beautifully.
COUNTESS: Very interesting.
DOCTOR: Yes.
COUNTESS: I was rather under the impression that Mister Duggan was following me.
DOCTOR: Ah. Well, you're a beautiful woman, probably, and Duggan was trying to summon up the courage to ask you out to dinner, weren't you, Duggan?
COUNTESS: Who sent you?

And it seems that in a roundabout manner, his choice to work with Davies on Doctor Who turned Chris into a fan of the Fourth Doctor, perhaps won around by Russell T's enthusiasm.
"I just wanted to work with Russell T Davies. It's a fantastic series and I am proud to be a part of it.

You have to deliver a lot of pseudo-scientific jargon and give it some charisma and wit. I watched Tom Baker do it and thought he was brilliant."
So in a sense these last 10+ years are all thanks to good old Tom, "the Doctor. The definite article, you might say."



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