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Doctor Who: Black Orchid by Terrance Dudley (DVD TV story review).

The TARDIS is still on Earth when it materialises in 1925 on the platform of a railway station. The Doctor (actor Peter Davison), Nyssa (actress Sarah Sutton), Tegan (actress Janet Fielding) and Adric (actor Matthew Waterhouse) briefly explore. However, the Doctor is mistaken for a famous cricket player and they are driven to a cricket match where the Doctor shows himself to be an all-round and wins the match for Lord Cranleigh’s team. They are then invited to Cranleigh Hall for a fancy dress ball and Nyssa discovers that Cranleigh’s girl-friend, Ann, is her lookalike.

For the ball, Nyssa and Ann dress alike and masked. The Doctor preparing for a bath, hears a noise and although he misses who it was, discovers a secret corridor, explores and finds himself locked in. He gets out further into the house and discovers a dead body in one of the cupboards. Eventually he bumps into Lady Cranleigh (actress Barbara Murray) who asks him to be quiet about the murder until after the ball.

Meanwhile, the Doctor’s masked costume has been borrowed and either Nyssa or Ann has a dance with him from the garden into the hall itself and tries to abduct her. The butler tries to rescue her but is killed for her trouble.

For the rest, you’ll have to watch the story because there are far too many spoilers. There are a lot of famous actors in this story, all good at doing period pieces. The biggest revelation is Sarah Sutton in dual roles showing how well she can act. Janet Fielding also appears to be enjoying herself having a change of clothes. In many respects, the main plot of the story is a basic murder melodrama and would probably have been too long had they extended beyond two episodes. It is problematic that the police officers took the reveal of what the TARDIS as perfectly normal but that can be taken by the shortness of the tale.

I would have thought the cast would have liked this story as they all got to wear different costumes but from the audio commentary with Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and Matthew Waterhouse, only Sarah Sutton liked it as she had two roles. The other consensus was the lack of a Science Fiction element and them all forgetting that this kind of story was quite common in the early years. When you watch the fancy dress ball, keep an eye on the weather conditions as it varies from windy to wet over the couple days it was recorded. Oh and Davison can’t tell the difference between Ann and Nyssa while watching.

Not too surprisingly, there aren’t many extras. ‘Now And Then’ shows off the various locations. The Buckhurst Estate was also used in ‘Castrovalva’. Still not sure why the ‘Deleted Scenes’ were because they looked a lot like the ones used. The ‘Points Of View’ aspect was important for reminding people of the viewing day, Saturday to Tuesday, and time, tea-time to 7:15pm, shift and I agree with the sentiments. What isn’t mentioned is that it was also against ITV’s ‘Coronation Street’ and with no repeat viewing, video recorder or even tapes for those who could afford them, you needed a second TV to watch them, which is how I saw them at the time.

The real gold though comes with ‘Blue Peter’s visit to Berman’s costumers. Although ‘Doctor Who’ only gets a brief mention, its seeing the other costumes and seeing if you can identify some of the things shown but weren’t. I’m pretty certain the mermaid tail was the one from the 1948 film ‘Miranda’.

The second was ‘Stripped For Action – The Fifth Doctor’ is not about Peter Davison taking his togs off but his regeneration in ‘Doctor Who Monthly’ and 6 stories in 25 issues. All written by Steve Parkhouse and a variety of artists. I can understand Dave Gibbons comments about it hard to get a decent depiction of Davison who didn’t have much in the way of distinguished features.

‘Black Orchid’ is an oddity in the ‘Doctor Who’ run, especially for only being two episodes long and being untypical. I think these days, we’d have taken it more in its stride until the giant wasps arrived.

GF Willmetts

January 2018

(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC. 1 DVD 49 minutes 2 * 24 minute episodes with extras. Price: £ 5.00 (UK) if you know where to look. ASIN: BBCDVD2432)

cast: Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and Matthew Waterhouse


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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