Black Orchid part 1

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    Craig @craig

    A two parter, so it’s much the same length as a modern episode, and isn’t this a cracker. Thanks @jimthefish

    It’s jolly hockey sticks time, or cricket bats, and everyone is terribly, terribly, frightfully, frightfully posh. Top ho!

    The Doctor gets to play cricket and he’s a much better player than Smutty. Don’t you know Smutty? Jolly good bloke.

    The Doctor, Nyssa, Adric and Tegan arrive in 1925, England. And it’s a country house mystery, familiar to those who’ve seen ‘The Unicorn and the Wasp’ where Donna meets Agatha Christie. There’s somebody dangerous lurking in the secret passages in the house. Nyssa causes a stir as she has a doppelganger. And just to confuse matters they both decide to dress alike. It can only lead to trouble…

    After what we’ve just done to London

    The previous story “The Visitation” ended with them playing a part in starting The Great Fire of London.

    And we learn that the Doctor wanted to be a train driver when he was a boy. Ah….

    It’s great fun with lots of witty one-liners and moments.

    wolfweed @wolfweed

    @craig / @phaseshift
    A new home-pic if you like…

    Craig @craig

    @wolfweed Brilliant as always. Many thanks.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    In keeping with the tone of this story @wolfweed, I proclaim your picture to be both spiffing and topper. 🙂

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    Hooray for Peter Davison. Hooray for Black Orchid. Although, if you listen to the cast commentary on the DVD, you’ll note there isn’t a lot of love for this one. It’s a bit like Pertwee and Manning with Day of the Daleks.

    It’s a bemusing start – an attack on someone, followed by a pervy approach to a sleeping woman who looks a bit familiar.

    Oh, we’re in the packed TARDIS. Good job it is so much bigger on the inside. Shall I introduce the crew?

    Adric – Boy mathematical genius and all purpose plot device. As companions go, responsible for the most gnashed teeth in Who history. Until Mel came along. All his family are dead, presumably in a bid to avoid him.
    Nyssa – Aloof aristocratic Scientist from the Planet Traken (destroyed). To add insult to injury she has to spend time with Adric.
    Tegan – Australian and self confessed “Mouth on legs”. An air hostess who is usually desperate to get back to Heathrow.

    I think the reason I like this so much is that, at two episodes, it has no room to manoeuvre for the conventional tricks of this season. You’ll note the complete absence of moaning, whinging and general arguments between the crew. This is very unusual. In a conventional four parter the trick was to devote half the first episode to it.

    The dialogue on the train station has always amused me. Of course the Doctor would have loved to have been a train driver. Especially if it was a pointless exercise. This good natured badinage and Davisons relaxed delivery and wry smiles is actually pretty good. Hats off the Terrance Dudley, the writer, who was better known as the Producer of stuff like Doomwatch and Survivors.

    Curious, the Doctor is expected. The Doctor has to be baffled here, ’cause lets face it, this was a period where he had no idea where he was going. How could anybody else? He’s enticed into the car with the strange man (setting a bad example to youngsters everywhere) by the promise of putting his Cricket outfit to the test.

    Again I find myself being entertained by the Cricket scene, which must be a first for me (being entertained by Cricket, I mean). As Devastating Davison demonstrates his first eleven skills, the aliens look confused – as you would. Tegan being Australian of course means that she understands cricket. Again, lots of fun with the support cast who look like they’ve just stepped out of the Joan Hickson Miss Marple adaptations. Lots of fruity dialogue interspersed with “good shows”, etc.

    Back to the big house and a party invite. Our attention is drawn to the Flower – no hanging about here – we only have two eps so let’s get cracking on the plot. It’s a Black Orchid which a famous Botanist returned from South America. Hmmmm Native American with the extended lip, flowers, botanist. I think I see a pattern.

    Ohhh Nyssa has a double! Well, she wasn’t the first in the TARDIS. I’m convinced they commissioned this to cheer Sarah Sutton up after she found out they couldn’t be arsed to write her into Kinda. Nyssa had a headache when all that was going on (a headache was feasible – I did mention all the whinging didn’t I). I think Ann Talbot is a demonstration that Sarah can act. A lot of people complained she was wooden, but I think she was told to play Nyssa in a certain way. I think it’s a similar problem to Carole Ann Ford who was told to play Susan as aloof, cold, alien, etc.

    Oh, the clown costume – I forget that. Couldn’t the Doctor have kept that for his successor. It’s a lot more tasteful than the clown costume he was issued with. 😉

    Ah, the cunning mole on the shoulder trick – that’s going to come in useful in “identifying the right one” at some point, surely?

    I really like Janet Fielding as Tegan in this one. More carefree, up for some fun. She’s a “great hoot”. It really is a shame they couldn’t inject some more fun for her on occasion. Adric just stands around porking away at the buffet, and generally being a party pooper. So what else is new?

    As the Doctor gets lost in the house, discovering books on Botany (strokes chin) and the odd corpse in a cupboard, his costume is dancing with Ann. Or is it Nyssa? So who is in the Clown getup?

    Oh, Clowns are evil. Another servant bites the dust, as does Nyssa/Ann in a totally unconvincing faint.

    Cue the Music!!

    You know, for an episode in which nothing earth shattering happens and the cast joke and goof about, that went by in a flash and was enormously entertaining.

    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave


    Like all BG Who, it really needs to be appreciated in context. And the (television) context were shows like Lord Peter Wimsey with Ian Carmichael and Upstairs, Downstairs with David Langton that just preceded this, Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime with Francesca Annis that was contemporaneous with this, and Miss Marple with Joan Hickson and Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett, that just followed this by a year or two. It was just at the time that British culture (and British television culture) started to embrace “heritage”.

    And it is a totally enjoyable example of all of those shows. And it has such wonderful character actors, including the gorgeous Barbara Murray (Lady Cranleigh) who was in The Power Game (what a brilliant show–and portrait of Harold Wilson’s Britain–that was) and the ever-excellent Moray Watson from Rumpole of the Bailey.

    Loved the Doctor trying to explain to Lyssa and Adric what steam trains are–and his comment: “As a boy, I always wanted to drive one”. So, there were steam trains on Gallifrey!

    And did anyone notice that during the fancy dress ball there was someone wearing a costume that looked exactly like Michael Gough in The Celestial Toymaker. Wonderful stuff. Cannot wait until next week.

    The Krynoid Man @thekrynoidman

    I’ve never seen this one before and I actually really enjoyed it. I really wasn’t expecting much, so I was pleasantly surprised. So far, even though it’s about the same length as a Nu-Who episode, it seems to be better paced. Nyssa seems to be an important part of the story, what with her double and that and Tegan isn’t irritating, in fact I don’t think she moaned once throughout the entire episode. Adric is still bloody useless though.

    Oh by the way, did anyone else have 30 second adverts pop up every 5 minutes when they watched it?

    Anonymous @

    I’ve always loved Black Orchid and really enjoyed watching it again.

    I think if there’s been one thread through the stories we’ve watched this time around it’s that they’re stories quintessential to each Doctor. I couldn’t imagine anyone other than Baker in City of Death. Similarly, I’m not sure any other Doc but the Third would have made Day of the Daleks quite the same. And this is the story positively made for Davison’s Doctor. I couldn’t imagine any of the other Doctors throwing himself into society and cricket matches and fancy dress balls with such enthusiasm. Maybe Smith’s Doc but  he would still have been more awkward about it. And the getting lost in the secret passages is pure Five. Boyish mpetuosity followed by feckless self-reproach.

    It’s all very jolly hockey sticks but it’s done terrifically well and everyone played it brilliantly — even the three TARDIS irritants. (It really does irk to this day that Davison’s great turn as the Doctor was essentially sabotaged by his having to preside over a TARDIS full of squabbling gits.)

    So, yes, nothing much really happens in this episode but it happens wonderfully.

    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave


    Yes, I got adverts every 5 minutes as well. This was the first time with these videos. Very strange (and slightly annoying).

    ScaryB @scaryb

    Thanks everyone for comments, inc @blenkinsopthebrave for the context. Re steam trains on Gallifrey – possibly, or they may have been included in educational/historical videos about Earth. Now we know why he has such a fondness for Earth and humans.


    It’s a Black Orchid which a famous Botanist returned from South America. Hmmmm Native American with the extended lip, flowers, botanist. I think I see a pattern

    And who is/was the body in the cupboard you mention also?


    Re the adverts – you get them with Daily Motion – you need to keep the cursor poised on the play/pause button – hit it as soon as the advert kicks in and you can skip the ad.

    And good point from @jimthefish, although I suspect that’s why these stories have floated to the top of the selection process

    ScaryB @scaryb

    And Peter Davison channelling Arthur Dent in dressing gown (with very high belt!)

    Anonymous @

    @thekrynoidman @blenkinsopthebrave @scaryb and everyone else.

    Installing AdBlock Plus will get rid of those pesky ads. Here’s the link for the Internet Explorer version. It is also available for other browsers for those who don’t use IE.

    Arkleseizure @arkleseizure

    I’ve always loved stories with really low stakes. This is a superb example: the Doctor gets to play cricket, Nyssa and Tegan get to dress up and dance, and Adric gets to stuff his face. There’s something amiss, but not very much. Have you ever read the Tintin book The Castafiore Emerald, which Herge deliberately crafted as a book about nothing? It’s superb, my favourite Tintin. Black Orchid is Doctor Who’s Castafiore Emerald.

    The cast weren’t fond of it, probably because it’s not the sort of thing they signed on to do. Anthony Ainley, on the other hand, was apparently gutted not to be in it due to his love of all things cricket-related. I have visions of the Master trying to destroy the Doctor by bowling beamers at him. That would have been awesome!

    Timemaestro @timemaestro

    As an American who is unfamiliar with cricket, I found all the cricket stuff completely fascinating. I have absolutely no idea what the rules of the game are or how score is kept, but it all seemed like great fun. The atmosphere of the episode was in itself enough to hold my interest.

    The fact that this is a small-scale story with no discernible galactic repercussions is pretty unique in the history of Who. In fact, I cannot think of another story in which it would matter so little if the Doctor and companion(s) never showed up. Perhaps someone else can think of one?

    Don’t mistake me, I don’t mean that as a criticism. The story was a most enjoyable romp and a great opportunity for Nyssa, one of my favorite companions, to shine. Any excuse for the BBC to do period drama is fine by me, since they were, and are, so very good at it.

    Is it only the 5th Doctor who seems so eager to prove he is who he says he is by offering to give guided tours of the TARDIS? I don’t recall any the earlier incarnations of the Doctor doing that with a stranger. I have always found it to be a little strange when that happens several times in the Davison era.

    janetteB @janetteb

    A very enjoyable story. I have watched this before but so long ago I recall very little about it. Nice to see Barbara Murray again too.

    I too like the inconsequential stories where entire universes are not at stake. This obviously inspired Unicorn and the Wasp. The English country house is a classic story setting and provides an excellent claustrophobic back drop to the “base under seige” action. Though the script is rather predictable it is a lot of fun but…

    Watching this reminds me of why I have seen so few Davison stories. It isn’t Davison’s fault. I was never able to appreciate his portrayal of the Doctor because of the three annoying companions. I don’t know why he didn’t just space them. Also watching this after watching Partners in Crime I was struck by just how different companions are portrayed in AG Who. The BG actor’s struggled, I think, to give depth to their characters that was not provided by the scripts.





    janetteB @janetteb

    I forgot to mention for those interested in costume history that Barbara Murray’s 18th Century costume was made for this story which is surprising given the usual Dr Who budget. It was reused in AG Who, in Girl in the Fireplace, worn by Sophie Myles. You can read more about it here.



    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    Bit of a weird one. It really is like the writer was happily off on an Agatha Christie pastiche and then got a phone call from Eric Saward saying ‘err… did doing Four to Doomsday put you off Doctor Who?’

    I blame Adric, myself. 😉

    The cricket scene is later reprised in The Lodger, except with football. And we see in Human Nature that the Tenth still remembers how to bowl.

    I think they have steam trains on Gallifrey, but probably steam turbine with the steam produced by nuclear fusion. 😉

    We’ve also seen Michael Cochrane in Ghost Light.

    wolfweed @wolfweed

    The Doctor = Much better than smutty…     ‘Have you an Uncle Percy?’ (snigger!)

    The Doctor is imagining all sorts of things when the ‘The Master’ is mentioned, followed by ‘…The Other Doctor…’

    This is the one time that this Doctor’s costume fits in with his environment. It’s soon exchanged for a fetching paisley dressing gown though.

    No screwdrivers for the children. Their judgement is impaired as it is…

    Hopefully , ‘Dancing’, is not a euphemism in this story. Adric’s not up to it, Tegan likes an older bloke, the look-a-likes’ ‘who is who’ thing has a whiff of wife swapping about it (as Robert Muir says: ‘It’s a little naughty, really.’).

    All in all, a positively ripping episode!





    Arbutus @arbutus

    Oh, this is so much fun. I’m very fond of these country house stories. I seem to remember that this story isn’t rated all that highly, but I quite enjoy it. I love the music in the ball scene! And Tegan’s dress!! And the Doctor lost in a stone tunnel in his silk dressing gown!!!

    While I agree that this lot of companions were on the whole not a success, I must admit to a fondness for Nyssa. She was very straightforward, likeable, and intelligent. Although she never seems to twig the need to fit in: “Where are you from?” “The Empire of Traken.” And I noticed in the opening scenes, the Doctor gives Tegan the fisheye even when she is being positive about checking out the place they have landed. Odd. But then his huge happy smile when he realizes that he will be playing cricket!

    Idea: Maybe the reason that the Doctor chose to be called “the Doctor” is simply because it is such a usefully common title! “Are you the Doctor?” “Why, yes. Yes, I am.”  🙂

    I loved the little line about Adric being Alzarian, and how hard it was to keep track of those “funny Baltic bits”. It reminded me of how my stepfather used to refer to someone as being from “one of the Stans”.

    @jimthefish   Very well stated, some episodes are more “generically doctorish” than others, and this one is definitely very “Fifth Doctor”. I also liked @arkleseizure’s comparison to the Castafiore Emerald!

    My only moment of irritation with this came in the final scene. I must say, I’m not the toughest girl going, but if I were being attacked and someone came to my rescue, I would help out a bit with some kicks or maybe a piece of furniture. I certainly wouldn’t just stand there, watch my rescuer being strangled, and then collapse. Nuff said.

    Whisht @whisht


    prompted by @janetteb I’ll post my thoughts – well what I can remember as I lost my notes while I watched back a few weeks ago.

    However, I believe I have an idiosyncratic dislike of this serial, so in no way do I think I’m being ‘fair’, but… thankfully this isn’t the only serial!

    Now, I really dislike the sound of cricket in TV dramas – the smatter of clapping, the sound of that leather on willow, the “I say” and “Good show” from the ‘crowd’.
    Detest is a strong word… but I’m considering it. Not sure if its an aural thing, or a class thing I’ve picked up. I’ve seen amateur cricket in a park and have absolutely no problem with it – its the sound of it on TV; lets blame the foley artists!

    I also dislike ‘murder mysteries’ in posh country houses (class thing again?). So the beginning of Black Orchid wasn’t set up to be in any sort of sweet spot for me!

    Of course, we then have absolutely nothing effing happening! I don’t mind nothing haooening if we’re deepening our understanding of character or whatever, but we’re not – we’re padding out a thin story with an overly leisurely and indulgent scene of cricket and then other scenes of lost in the corridor, dancing etc.
    For me there’s no real sense of jeopardy (even if people are seemingly being knocked off). The ‘monster’ is an annoyingly wheezing man (another bloody annoying sound!) that I just didn’t think would be that dangerous.

    Other than that, we have a cold day on set, actors hanging about, dialogue which doesn’t further plot or character “I can dance the Charlestown” – well whoop-de-doo) and overall I was glad it ended.

    I’m made of strong stuff so I also watched episode 2. I am so glad this didn’t drag out for even more episodes. It could’ve easily been a single episode.

    Yet the Black Orchid itself could have been explored in the story, we could have been misdirected thinking it was the Indian who was the killer, or perhaps one of the gentlemen but no.

    Its around this time that I started to stop watching Doctor Who as a kid (I have no memory of this episode and no memory of Turlough or even Adric much). It must’ve just clashed with something else… but I would’ve been 11 which would surely be a key age for watching!

    But I’m even more glad that I didn’t let watching BO here put me off watching the next Davison serial as its really good!


    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip


    Of course, we then have absolutely nothing effing happening!

    Agreed. I think I let rip a bit more in the discussion of Episode 2, because by Episode 2 you can make a reasonable assumption that you haven’t put anyone off. But this story is full of scenes where nothing happens, and it didn’t need to be.

    If you look at another self-indulgent scene, the football scene in The Lodger, you can see how they moved it from being merely a display of Matt Smith’s footballing skills to an essential part of the plot. It’s part of the Doctor’s general weirdness (he doesn’t know which game football is, which is in turn part of the ‘trying to forget’ arc), it’s part of the episode subplot – The Doctor effortlessly outclasses Craig in all areas of his life – and they include a bit of the episode mainplot with the post-match scene.

    But the cricket scene in Black Orchid is just a cricket scene. The only purpose it serves is to give the Doctor entry to the house – it’s a very long version of the psychic paper. It could have been integrated into the main plot – a row between Charles and his mother, perhaps, over whether they ought to discuss a mysterious something with the Doctor? Anne applauding the Doctor and Charles looking jealous? George escaping to try and watch the cricket? Anything?

    The fancy dress party is a complete rip off of a Lord Peter Wimsey story – except D.L. Sayers includes a better twist to the ‘only one costume’ red herring. Again, it adds very little beyond ‘background’. Anne expecting Charles to recognise her? Being jealous that he doesn’t? Anne hinting that she was always a bit scared of the other brother? Anne being the one to chide Adric? George in costume spending a bit longer at the main party? Hiding the fact that it isn’t the Doctor in the costume, until we get a shot in the last few seconds of the episode? So we’re going, omg, has the Doctor just strangled the servant?

    Again, anything beyond ‘I can dance the Charleston’. 🙄

    janetteB @janetteb

    Thanks for elaborating @whisht. I enjoyed the story but I can see the validity of your and @bluesqueakpip‘s criticisms.

    I had stopped watching Dr Who by the Davison tenure. I think most likely because it coincided with leaving home but I also lost interest. Davison felt a little too “lightweight” as an actor for the role. IT isn’t a reflection on his acting ability but what he did or did not bring to the role. AT the time I simply thought he was too young but Matt Smith has now shown that age is not an issue.



    Whisht @whisht

    Thanks @janetteb – to be honest I still feel like I just went off on one a bit and that’s unfair of me. @bluesqueakpip is far better at critiquing!
    Also, I should have put this on the BO part2 comments – apologies to anyone if I put a spoiler in my rant!

    Anonymous @

    This story is a mixed bag for me.

    The good:

    Fast pace, except maybe the cricket match.
    Double the Nyssa… who wouldn’t like that?? :smile:.
    There are some laugh-out-loud funny moments especially when the Doctor tries to explain his innocence but just makes himself sound even crazier with everything he says – err, it’s quite simple really… I’m an alien, time traveler like in HG Wells, and the Indian did it.
    Also the terrible fainting cliff hanger; I know it should be counted as a bad thing, but bad silent movie scenes make me laugh the same way – I haven’t seen many of these but I imagine they would make me laugh the same way – but they are charming instead of annoying, and since this story is set in the silent movie era it just seems fitt’n to put this as a good thing.

    The bad:

    It is so inconsequential. From what I’ve read, the main complaint most people have with this Tardis Crew is over-crowding. I don’t think that is the real problem though. To me it seems like the producers are just making up the character development on the fly. They have no plan and the characters’ story arcs make no narrative sense. At the beginning of this story we find out that Tegan has changed her mind about going home now, for no apparent reason at all.

    In the previous story, The Visitation, the Doctor is starting to show how the companions are getting on his last nerves (mostly Adric and Tegan, while Nyssa is like the good child that doesn’t get as much attention). So the TARDIS taking the Doctor to a 1925 cricket match makes narrative sense for the season, because the Doctor had a really great time playing cricket and he seemed to forget about all his problems for a while. Even Tegan and Adric had fun which was good for their characters and made them more likable. And 2 x Nyssa’s is one of the best good things in Black Orchid, but it could have been used to make this story matter.

    The way this story ends, with everyone leaving happy doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Hey!?! What about the lady locking her disfigured son up until he goes crazy and starts killing people!!

    But I imagine she is politically connected enough to make embarrassing incidents like that go away and that explains why the police never mention the time travelers too.

    But here is what I think should have happened. If one of the Nyssa’s would have fallen off the roof and died with George it would have been a great ending for this story. Granted it would be devastating to loose Nyssa this way, but the audience could be left wondering which Nyssa died (maybe it was Ann, and Nyssa took her place on earth).

    Nyssa was the companion Doc 5 liked, but now she is gone and he’s stuck with Adric and Tegan. Then the growing resentment the Doctor had for his two remaining companions would’ve reached his limits. Of course the Doctor blames himself for what happened, but he knows Adric and Tegan share a lot of the blame for making him need a vacation (not to mention the rich lady who is really responsible). At the same time, Adric and Tegan would be feeling guilty about what happened to Nyssa (well…? Tegan would be sad, but I’m not sure what Adric would be thinking).

    Don’t blame me for the “family drama” idea – JNT started it (at least that’s what I think he was trying for with this Tardis Crew).

    Instead of showing the TARDIS to complete strangers as a cheap get out of jail card (literally!), the gang of companions could overpower the copper and take his car. Then maybe the Doctor would have to give driving lessons to one of his teenage companions, while they get chased by the other police car back to the house. That would have fit the dysfunctional family feeling of this Tardis Crew. It’s cliché for “family dramas” but I like that better than nothing happening. Another idea would have Doc 5 drive while making some references to missing his Bessy.

    I liked Black Orchid for being entertaining, but I really think it would have been better if it affected the characters’ development more.

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