08/08/28 Unrelated linkage
08/08/24 Doctor Who: Black orchid
08/08/23 Unrelated linkage
08/08/16 Doctor Who: Destiny of the Daleks
08/08/10 Unrelated linkage
The Doctor travels back to 1920s England to play cricket. Mayhem ensues.
Doctor Who: Black orchid
This is a two-part serial, first broadcast between 1st - 2nd March 1982. A brief and somewhat spoiler-ish summary of the plot: mistaken for a cricket player known only as 'the doctor', the Doctor visits a manor where a murder mystery awaits him...
'Black orchid' is the kind of story that could have been written by Arthur Conan Doyle, even if it's set in the 1920's rather than in the 1880's. It's also a straight-forward historical story, something Doctor Who (as far as I know) hadn't done since the Hartnell era. Unfortunately, the story has its problems.
One problem is that the story hinges on a string of coincidences. The more farfetched ones (and beware, there are spoilers ahead):
- the Tardis lands at a small country railway station, just when a train is leaving. A cricket player only known as 'the doctor' was due to arrive on that train in order to play a game of cricket at a nearby manor. Since the cricket player is a friend of a friend, neither the driver who is waiting for him at the station or anyone at the manor knows what he looks like. Since the Doctor is wearing a cricket costume he is mistaken for 'the doctor' and he and the companions are taken to the manor. Why 'the doctor' was supposed to be on that particular train is something of a mystery, as the game is already in progress when it reaches the station
- Nyssa is the spitting image of Ann, one of the other guests at the manor. After the cricket there's a fancy dress ball, and Ann just happens to have an exact copy of her costume for Nyssa to wear
- the costume that the Doctor is supposed to be wearing to the ball is the only one that has a full-face mask, since everyone else is wisely wearing either no mask at all or something that allows them to eat, drink and breathe. It's also the only costume that has mittens, another inexplicable addition to a costume that the wearer is supposed to socialise in. After taking a bath, with the costume lying on the bed, the Doctor discovers a secret passageway and accidentally locks himself out of his room. At that exact moment George, the resident murderous madman, wanders into the Doctor's room to find the one costume that will sufficiently hide his hideously deformed face and hands to allow him to go to the ball to do his mischief. He also manages to return the costume without the Doctor noticing its absence
The other problem is that, apart from the cricket, this isn't a good story for the Doctor (beware, more spoilers ahead):
- the Doctor spends much of part one getting lost in corridors and finding new corridors to get lost in, and much of part two being baffled by the plot and everything that happens to him
- when he gets wrongly accused of murder, what we'd want the Doctor to do is to use his wits in order to prove his innocence and find the real killer. Instead, he starts telling everyone he's a time traveller who has just happened to end up at the wrong place at the wrong time, proving his point by showing the policemen who have arrested him the inside of the Tardis. Astonishingly, this actually convinces the police of his innocence
- and although this is a minor problem compared to the previous ones, the clown costume that the Doctor wears to the ball is even uglier than his successor's
Don't I have anything positive to say about this serial? Well, actually I do:
- the story seems to provide a bit of R&R for the regulars: the Doctor gets to play cricket, Tegan and Nyssa get to flirt and dance the Charleston, and Adric gets lots of stuff to eat. Everyone seems relaxed and on their best behaviour, there's no bickering in the Tardis, and Tegan is positively charming
- the dresses that Nyssa / Ann and especially Tegan wear to the ball are nice, and I enjoyed the 1920s music
Flawed, forgettable fluff.
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Douglas Adams making the most of an uninspired Terry Nation plot.
Doctor Who: Destiny of the Daleks
This is a four part serial, first broadcast between 1 - 22 September 1979. A brief and somewhat spoiler-ish summary of the plot: the Tardis lands, and the Doctor and Romana find themselves in another quarry. "Oh look, rocks!" Hey look, Daleks!
Though the on-screen credits list Terry Nation as this serial's writer, much of it was actually written by script editor Douglas Adams. This might be a good thing in theory, but 'Destiny of the Daleks' isn't really a great story.
One problem is that after seeing a number of Terry Nation's Dalek stories, you find that many of them seem to be constructed from one single template. Let's see:
- In part one the Doctor-plus-one land in another quarry. 'Where are we?' 'Let's find out. Oh look, rocks!' Slowly, the Doctor-plus-one discover that there's something wrong, though they're not sure what. The object-that-will-go-missing is introduced, for instance anti-radiation medicine that the companion needs in order to survive the planet's hostile atmosphere or a device that the Doctor needs in order to be able to leave the planet. The Doctor and the companion are separated. The object either goes missing now or in part two. The cliffhanger is the appearance of... the Daleks!
- In part two the object goes missing, if it hasn't already done so in part one. The Doctor finds himself among militaristic strangers with great firepower who are on a mission and who explain part of the plot to him. The companion finds herself a prisoner among powerless strangers and may get to do a bit of slave labour. She, too, has a bit of the plot explained to her. The Daleks have a plan, and though we don't quite know what it is we see it being set into motion. The companion does something that has little or no impact on the plot and ends up in (even more) peril. The Doctor realises he needs to get away from the militaristic strangers in order to stop their mission / stop the Daleks / find his companion / retrieve the missing object.
- In part three the Doctor escapes. We see more of the Daleks. The companion is saved, either by the powerless strangers or by the Doctor, and is reunited with the Doctor. The two of them enlist the powerless strangers' help in order to stop the militaristic strangers' mission / stop the Daleks / retrieve the missing object. They almost succeed, but are either thwarted by the Daleks and / or the militaristic strangers. In the cliffhanger we find ourselves with a situation that seems impossible to resolve.
- In part four the situation is resolved because the Doctor is smarter than everyone else / the militaristic strangers' plan is flawed / the Daleks' plan is flawed / both plans cancel each other out / all of the above. The missing object is either found or dismissed as irrelevant. After some light-hearted banter between Doctor and companion the Tardis leaves.
Actually, part four is quite entertaining and the - minor spoiler ahead - 'logical impasse' plot-line is rather clever, but I suspect we have Adams to thank for those rather than Nation.
Some good things about this serial:
- good sound, good light, good camerawork
- the set and costume design and the model work may not always be successful (personally, I think the Movellans are among the sillier-looking Doctor Who aliens) but the designers obviously try to do something new and interesting
- as indicated earlier, the story is basically Douglas Adams making the most of a fairly uninspired Terry Nation plot
Not good at all:
- Davros is fairly powerless in this story, and reviving him in this way is a waste of an interesting villain
- the Movellans, this story's militaristic strangers, are push-overs who pose no real threat in hand-to-hand combat
A continuity problem:
- the landscape seems to be too fertile to be the war-torn, radiation-ridden wasteland that is the Daleks' home planet Skaro
Not the best Dalek story. Not the best Douglas Adams script. Little to see here, move along.
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Destiny of the Daleks (1979)
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