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"You're a beautiful woman...probably."—The Doctor, failing to respond to the Countess as planned
The Doctor and Romana II find themselves in Paris, investigating a fracture in time, when they find themselves face to face with not one but six copies of the Mona Lisa. All of which appear to be authentic. Oh, and the original's still hanging in the Louvre. Hmmm...
The six Mona Lisas (Monas Lisa? Monae Lisae?) are all the property of one Count Scarlioni, who (as if all the Monas weren't enough) has a scanner for alien life, cleverly disguised as a bracelet on his wife's wrist. Now the Doctor's interest is thoroughly piqued.
Turns out that Count Scarlioni is--surprise!--actually an alien: Scaroth, last of the warlike Jagaroth. He's been kicking around on Earth since his spaceship crashed some four hundred million years ago. All six paintings are original Mona Lisas, all painted by Leonardo da Vinci in the sixteenth century. Scarlioni intends to steal the one in the Louvre and then carefully sell each of the Monae to a different private collection. The proceeds will fund Scarlioni's time travel to prevent the crash from ever occuring.
The Doctor doesn't especially mind... until he discovers that the crash of Scarlioni's spaceship was the "spark" that kicked off the development of life on Earth. Now they must work out how to defeat a being who's had four hundred million years to plan his escape.
As if all that weren't enough, John Cleese and Eleanor Bron have cameos.
- Accidental Art: John Cleese has a cameo in which he mistakes the TARDIS for a work of art.
- Affably Evil: The Countess Scarlioni. Count Scarlioni projects this, but it's just a facade.
- Ancient Astronauts: Scaroth.
- Battle Butler: Hermann. "What a wonderful butler, he's so violent!"
- Captain Obvious: Duggan: "THAT is a spaceship!"
- Catholic School Girls Rule: Romana wearing a very St Trinian's style uniform. Lalla Ward, judging by interviews and the production notes, came up with the idea and had no concept it was a fetish.
- Chekhov's Skill: Mainly mocked and taken the piss out of, but also played straight. Duggan's tendency to randomly punch people comes round useful as he knocks Scarlioni out one last time, landing the most important punch in history.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: More like Cold Handed Torture - Tancredi orders the Doctor tortured using thumbscrews, however the Doctor relents before the torturer can even begin because the guy has cold hands.
- Cool Guns: Everyone from Duggan to Hermann and the Count's Mooks use Walther P38 handguns. The Countess also has a nifty little pearl-handled revolver.
- Deadpan Snarker: Romana's running commentary on Duggan's tendency to punch people and smash stuff.
Duggan: You can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs.
Romana: If you made an omelette, I'd expect to find a pile of broken crockery, a cooker in flames, and an unconscious chef.
- Emerging From the Shadows: Captain Tancredi's entrance.
- Exposure Of Immortality: The Doctor comes across several copies of the Mona Lisa which all genuine. He travels back in time to Leonardo da Vinci's workshop and encounters the Count Tancredi, whom he's already met in contemporary Paris as Count Scarloni, and who looks exactly the same. Scarloni is revealed to be a 400 million-year-old alien.
- Faux Affably Evil: Count Scarlioni, with his exquisite manners, his refined taste, his debonair wit, his plan to undo 400 million years of history and wipe out the human race...
- For Science!: What Kerensky thinks is the reason for his research.
- Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: the Countess and her cigarette holder.
- Hilarious in Hindsight:
- Insult Backfire: Scarlioni takes being called "inhuman" as a compliment.
- Just Between You and Me: Averted early on, but played straight in the later parts, when Scaroth tells Romana what the hell he's up to to convince her.
- Large Ham: Kerensky.
- Latex Perfection: Scarlioni
- Mad Scientist: Averted somewhat with Kerensky, as he doesn't realize what he's doing is destructive. Otherwise, he fits this trope beautifully.
- Man of Wealth and Taste / Badass in a Nice Suit: For '70s clothes, Scarlioni's suit is seriously badass.
- Mistaken for Exhibit: The John Cleese cameo.
- Nerves of Steel: Romana's reaction at seeing Scaroth horrifically murder his scientist to illustrate his threats to force her to cooperate? Smile and agree, while working out how to subtly sabotage his scheme as best she can. While having just faced up against the Daleks shows she's a quick learner in such dangerous situations, the trope just below has more of The Doctor's reaction...
- Nice Hat: Romana's.
- Nice Job Fixing Up Scaroth's Time Machine, Romana
- Obfuscating Stupidity: The Doctor, but the Scarlionis see right through it.
Countess Scarlioni: I don't think he's as stupid as he seems.
Count Scarlioni: My dear, no one could be as stupid as he seems.
- Omnicidal Maniac: Scaroth knows full well the consequences of his plan of trying to avert his ship from exploding, as in it would avert all indigenous life on Earth from ever existing, and he couldn't care less.
- Padding: There's a few too many shots of the Doctor and Romana running around Paris; excused partly by the BBC wanting to get their money's worth out of the location shooting, and partly for Scenery Porn.
- Punch Clock Villain: Captain Tancredi's soldier. "I'm paid to fight," he insists casually. He isn't particularly menacing and bears the Doctor no ill will despite being prepared to torture him on Tancredi's orders.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: The real Mona Lisa is a good deal smaller than people assume, certainly smaller than it's portrayed here. Ah well, at least they didn't roll it up...
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Probably inspired by an unconfirmed theory that the theft of the Mona Lisa in 1911 resulted in the conspirators selling six copies to American collectors, each convinced they had the real one.
- Reverse the Polarity
- Scenery Porn: Ahhh, Paris...
- Shut Up, Kirk:
Doctor: Count, do you realise what would happen if you try to go back to a time before history began?
Scarlioni: Yes, yes I do. And I don't care one jot.
- Stable Time Loop: Life on earth would never have begun had the Doctor, Romana, and Duggan not been present back then to stop Scaroth.
- Stealth Pun: In French, "City of Death" is "Cité de la Mort", which sounds almost exactly like "Cité de l'Amour" (City of Love, a nickname for Paris). Oooh la la!
- Super Senses: The Doctor can identify Leonardo's brush-work ("It's as characteristic as a signature") and pigments with little more than a glance.
- Surprisingly Happy Ending: In the end, almost all the copies of the Mona Lisa were destroyed, except for one that the Doctor wrote on the canvas in felt tip marker, "THIS IS A FAKE." Unlike Duggin, that doesn't bother the Doctor in the least since a copy of a painting by the original artist is not a fake and anyone who want would want to bother x-raying the painting to find his writing to determine its monetary value doesn't appreciate the real value of art anyway.
- Swiss Cheese Security: The Louvre is surprisingly easy to get into after hours.
- True Art Is Incomprehensible: Spoofed when some art enthusiasts mistake the TARDIS for a piece of modern art, and aren't even slightly thrown when it vanishes right before their eyes.
Female Art Critic: ... Exquisite. [Male Art Critic nods sagely]
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Those people in the café seem extremely unconcerned with the multiple armed holdups that occur during the serial.
- Wicked Cultured: Scarlioni.
- The X of Y
- You Have Failed Me: Sort of. Two Mooks actually succeed on a mission but apparently they didn't do good enough so Scarlioni casually orders them to get killed offscreen and replaces them.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Bye-bye, Kerensky...
- You Look Familiar: Scarlioni is also Richard the Lionheart.