The most-watched episode of Doctor Who ever, which had over 16 million viewers when first shown in 1979 is coming to the big screen in December.

The reason that City of Death is the most-watched episode isn’t because it was co-written by Douglas Adams, or that it stars Julian Glover, nor that it was filmed in Paris — but simply that ITV was on strike at the time, and with the Saturday evening alternative being a choice a community activity show on BBC2 or Doctor Who on BBC1, it’s not a surprise that Doctor Who won.

The story, City of Death was set in 1970s Paris and is one of those legendary Doctor Who stories, that was at the time panned by critics and Doctor Who fans for its comedy aspect, and has since become a firm favourite.

It was reputedly a very difficult story to film, being done in Paris and seemingly no one checked for French bank holidays meaning they arrived when a lot of filming locations were closed for the holiday. Tom Baker was also surprised to be left alone when in the UK he was more used to being followed around by fans. John Cleese also agreed to a cameo in the show along with Eleanor Bron, as he was filming in the BBC on the same day as they would shoot an indoor scene they needed an extra actor for.

(c) BBC

The story was not well received at the time, especially amongst the Doctor Who fans, who are never shy at expressing their opinion about the show, criticising the light-hearted tone of the story. More recently that’s become its main appeal, along with a fairly decent plot.

Tickets to see the show on the big screen will go on sale on the BFI website at 11:30am on Thursday 4th November.

Note – it’s not possible to link directly to the correct page on the BFI website, so click here, then use the calendar to get to Sunday 5th December, then select the Doctor Who episode.


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