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Exquisite, simply exquisite!
on January 8, 2003
The Doctor and Romana are on holiday in Paris, 1979, which among the vintage of years, is "more of a table wine. Lacks true distinction." They become involved in the doings of Count Scarlioni, a filthy rich art collector who has recently attracted attention by selling heretofore presumed lost masterpieces. He also seems to be selling genuine looking fakes, such as a Gainsborough and a Guttenberg Bible. Also investigating is Duggan, a dim British detective in beige trenchcoat who mainly likes thumping people.
Time suddenly jumps a groove for a few seconds, and it is the temporally sensitive Time Lords who notice and realize that something funny is going on. It happens for the second time in the Louvre and while the Doctor is looking at the Mona Lisa. He snatches an unusual bracelet from a pretty woman. Question: what is an Earth woman doing wearing a micromeson scanner, which could be used for detecting the Louvre's alarm system?
The Count is involved in conducting some time experiments with the help of the meek Russian scientist Theodor Nikolai Kerensky. For a sample of what he's working on, check the scene involving the egg and chicken.
This was the first of three foreign on-location stories, the other two being the Netherlands (Arc Of Infinity) and Spain (The Two Doctors). The story moves quickly in order to flesh out the Parisian scenery, but it's the snappy and witty dialogue that really uplifts this story. Example:
Romana: Shall we take the lift or fly?
Doctor: Let's not be ostentatious.
Romana: Let's fly then.
Doctor: That would look silly. We'll take the lift.
At least one Who book points out that Duggan sees the Doctor and Romana on the ground so quickly in the end, that from the time they left him, they must have flown from the tower.
More witty dialogue:
Romana: Where are we going?
Doctor: Philosophically or geographically?
Doctor: Philosophically, we're going to lunch.
And the first thing Romana says when the Doctor introduces her to the Mona Lisa is "how come she doesn't have any eyebrows?" Later, the woman who posed for the Mona Lisa is also described by the Doctor as "that dreadful woman with no eyebrows who wouldn't sit still."
The Countess (on the Doctor): I don't think he's as stupid as he seems.
The Count: Nobody can be as stupid as he seems.
Then there's John Cleese and Eleanor Bron's cameos in Episode 4, where they think the TARDIS is an objet d'art whose afunctionalism belies the fact that the art lies in the fact that it is here. When it vanishes, Bron says. "Exquisite, simply exquisite." Which this story is.
Other things: the cliffhangers to Episode 1 and 2 are superb. And well-known guest stars are Julian Glover (the Count) who played Richard Coeur de Lion in the Who story The Crusaders and was General Veers in The Empire Strikes Back. Catherine Schell (Countess) has two famous siblings: Maximilian and Maria Schell.
This story got the highest viewing figures for any Who story: 16.3 million viewers for episode 4 and an average of 14.5 million viewers overall! Episode 3 (15.4 million) broke the record set by Episode 4 of the previous story, Destiny of the Daleks (14.4 million) Finally, Douglas Adams wrote this story under the pseudonym David Agnew. Scaroth's ultimate goal was replicated in his novel, Dirk Gently And The Holistic Detective Agency.
If not the best Doctor Who story, probably the best and wittiest Tom Baker story.