Black Orchid: Doctor Who: Season 19
Black Orchid SYNOPSIS:
Landing in 1925, the Doctor is mistaken for a cricketer with the nickname of "doctor" for the local cricket team captained by Lord Cranleigh. Winning the game for them, The Doctor and his companions are invited back to stay at Cranleigh hall Nyssa meeting her physical double Ann Talbot who is engaged to Lord Cranleigh.
In another part of the house a bound and gagged figure frees itself and knocks out his keeper an Amazonian Indian. The escaped figure enters the main part of the house through a secret panel and steals the Doctor's Harlequin costume. While investigating the secret panel the Doctor gets locked into the secret part of the house.
The Harlequin drags Ann Talbot away from her guests despite her and Nyssa wearing the same costume. He kills the butler and kidnaps her leaving the harlequin costume in the Doctor's room. When the Doctor emerges costumed later he is accused as the murderer.
Lady Cranleigh has been keeping her eldest son George, the discoverer of the Black Orchid, locked up in the disused wing of the Manor house after he returned mentally and physically scarred from his last expedition. They manage to get Ann back but George goes on a rampage while the Doctor tries to prove his innocence to the constabulary.
Return to top of page
Black Orchid SERIAL DETAILS:
Return to top of page
Black Orchid CAST & CREW
Peter Davison (Fifth Doctor)
Matthew Waterhouse (Adric)
Sarah Sutton (Nyssa)
Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka)
Michael Cochrane — Lord Cranleigh
Sarah Sutton - Ann Talbot
Barbara Murray — Lady Cranleigh
Gareth Milne — The Unknown/George Cranleigh
Moray Watson — Sir Robert Muir
Ivor Salter — Sergeant Markham
Andrew Tourell — Constable Cummings
Ahmed Khalil — Latoni
Brian Hawksley — Brewster
Timothy Block — Tanner
Production Staff for Serial 6A:
Writer - Terence Dudley
Director - Ron Jones
Script editor - Eric Saward
Producer - John Nathan-Turner
Return to top of page
Black Orchid REVIEWS
Now onto someone who actually likes 80's Who. Black Orchid was a breath of fresh air back in '82.
The first historical story in 15 years and the first two parter in 7 years think they should've tried to keep up the purely historical story without any sci-fi elements for every season as they would've had to work harder to make them more interesting and the Master would've turned up less frequently. Black orchid is a good distraction. The Tardis crew seem to blend right into 1920's Earth especially when they conveniently land on a train platform and a Chauffeur has a car waiting to pick up 'the doctor'. Then we see Davison's prowess as the cricket Dr, he can bat, catch and bowl like any of the greats - ok take out the camera angles and editing and some of them are pretty easily set up by the production crew to make him look good but it's a nice diversion.
So the 'ol case of mistaken identity and the the Doc's impressive cricketing win for Lord Cranleigh endears them to the local gentry who welcome them as their guests plus Sarah Sutton finally gets a bit more to do playing both Nyssa and Lord Cranleigh's fiancee` who happens to be her exact physical double, so you can see where the story is going. Especially when it turns out there's a gurgling maniac constantly tied up in the attic of the gent's mansion who manages to get free and befuddle everyone, incriminate the Dr and molest Nyssa. Still it looks like the whole cast and crew have immense fun in this one and their enjoyability shows off well especially for Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton in the party scenes, not so for Waterhouse who looks miserable and has probably just been told he's going to bite the bullet in 4 episodes time.
The silent scenes showing the Indian with the lip and the unseen and mostly masked George Cranleigh are spooky and his scarred makeup when finally revealed was very effective and realistic, looks pretty nasty. As with all who-done-it's or rather whose-doing-it mysteries after you know the end result what's the point of watching it again. Thus 'ol George meets his end, Hunchback Of Notre` Dame style falling from a roof and the crew depart happily after the doctor has convinced everyone in the local area he's time traveller not a murderer by showing them all round the Tardis.
Must be the first incarnation to try and get out of trouble by just telling the truth and showing all the locals inside the Tardis. A good interlude this one, as this is what it set out to be and nothing more. Especially as the Beeb again pulls out their specialty in doing period pieces yet again. For Black Orchid, mines a topping 8.5/10.
"Okay, we have a Doctor who is interested in cricket....QUICK!!! SOMEONE WRITE A SCRIPT ABOUT IT!!!" That's how Black Orchid came about
There is a consensus around the fandom traps that Black Orchid is a harmless little Doctor Who story. I'd go with that cos its "harmless" insomuch that it does NOTHING WHATSOEVER. Its suppose to be a showcase for the Fifth Doctor and be all about HIM and what he does.
Lets take the Doctor's fetish for cricket. He says himself on the way out to the pitch that he's a fast bowler. Then you see him actually bowl and.........yeah. That's real fast Doc. Even I could bowl faster than that and I throw like a freakin' girl. Then there is his whole problem solving abilities and intelligence quota. Sure, this Doctor is really put through the hoops considering he can't find his way out of a bloody corridor! How long was he in there? Half? Three quarters of the episode? Then there is his (apparently) alien-ess quality about being the Doctor. Could you imagine any other Doctor letting half the bloody police force into the Tardis and then happily giving them a joy ride round the country in it? Speaking of which, how do the coppers know what a police box is anyway? Check your dates boys, they weren't invented at the time this story was set.
Then there is Nyssa who spends most of the story yapping with her double who just happens to be four inches taller than her. By the way, what was the point of that plot device? Tegan flirts with some git who is old enough to be her father (whereas in the previous story we had someone who acted just like Eric Heyes, now we have someone who bloody LOOKS like him! Dopplegangers all round, I say!) And Adric will be dead in a few episodes time so the less said the better. Other than he dies.
The whole Whodunnit plot is a little lame too considering we all know who the murderer is from the outset; he's the dude in the brown brogues, tan pants and breathing problem. So that rules out.........everyone really. Except for the dude in the brown brogues, tan pants and breathing problem.
Probably the best scene in Black Orchid for me is the final scene. George Cranleigh goes I'm-A-Teapot off the rooftop of Cranleigh Manor and ends up pear-shaped on the ground below so its funeral fun all round. Cut to after wards and we're back at the Tardis and everyone is in their funeral finest. Well, not everyone cos the Doctor and co are still dressed up in their regular attire so I'm guessing that's how they went to the funeral in the first place. And if that isn't insensitive enough, during the dramatic and awkward pause after Lady Cranleigh says "Thanks for stopping by", good ol' Tegan blurts out the series most tactless line ever.......
"THANKS FOR THE COSTUMES!!!"
You go, girl. 5/10
You know, Black ORchid shouldn't work. It's the first 2 parter since "The two parter experiment" 8 years ago, where the experiment found that 2 parts isn't really long enough to develop a story with a decent threat. And on top of that it's the first story that we've seen where there's no science fiction in it at all (apart from the TARDIS). But somehow Black Orchid works!
Although I do have a bit of a gripe - and that's with the cricket thing. It's not that I didn't like it - the bringing together of two of my favourite things (cricket and who) is awesome... but you have to do it right. They almost did - but for two things. Twice when sixes are hit (one by the Doctor, and one where the Doctor arrives in that cool car), the umpire signals wide. And the other one is Terence Dudley's fault for not doing his homework. As hinted in the review for Four to Doomsday, the Doctor says he bowls a mean chinaman... which is a left arm, wrist spinning googly. But now he bowls "fast"... and it is right arm... same writer... do your homework Mr Dudley or you'll end up being assigned to writing a shitty spin off with K9...
OK, enough of being picky... cos other than this we get a nice little character piece, with a tacked on murder mystery. While some could view it like this little review I found on the net :-
"So why make this program? So Peter Davison could show off his cricket skills? So Sarah Sutton could play a duel role? So Janet Fielding could show off her figure while dancing the Charleston? So Adric could stuff is face? So we can understand that it-is-not-nice-to-lock-away-your-deranged-and-deformed-eldest-son-so-his-fiancé-can-marry-his-brother?"
I just think Black Orhid's a nice break, which also gives us some little insights into each of the characters... it would be a good introduction episode to the era (which could be why they chose to play this first up in the 4:30am early 90s run, and then jump straight to Black Orchid again after finishing Invasion of Time - or maybe it was just cos they had a whole heap of repeat rights they wanted to run out!). You get the Doctor (yes he plays cricket), but you get the quintessential Doctor line "why do I do this... why didn't I just leave after the cricket game" - which tells you a hell of a lot about the Doctor's curiosity... cos he does it every week! You get Adric - this is probably my favourite Adric episode, cos it sums up his awkwardness... he can't dance with Nyssa and he'd rather eat shit loads... man, that was me to a tee! Tegan and Nyssa also begin to let their hair down - especially Tegan and her carry on with Sir Robert (Sir Robert Muir... Robert Muir was a nutcase who played for St Kilda around the same time.
And then, in the last minute of the first part, we finally get to the story - which makes a lot more sense watching the version on UK TV, as they haven't edited out the strangling of the Butler! I always wondered what the hell had happened - all we used to get was a dodgy big cut when they dance into the hallway, and then a weird moment taken from "Greatest Show in the Galaxy"! The rest of the story is a nice little who dunnit... I mean we know it's "the guy with the Indian", but we learn a bit more about him, and how he got his deformity, and why he's doing what he's doing. It's a little tragic, and it's not really Who, but it still works as a bit of a change. black Orchid score:
Return to top of page