Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Doctor Who - Black Orchid

And now for my old reviews of the latest Doctor Who stories released on DVD from the Doctor Who Ratings Guide.

It's back to normal this time, with Black Orchid:

Nice setting, shame about the plot

After an absence of nearly sixteen years the historicals make a brief reappearance with this story, taking the TARDIS crew to an upper-class country house in 1920s Britain. This is a period made familiar by many period dramas and books and it allows for an interesting little story that tries to merge the series with the genre.

A major plot point is the similarity between Nyssa and Ann but fortunately the entire story does not revolve solely around this element. Instead we get a brief exploration of the way of life for an upper-class family and how the values of the period require certain aspects to be kept firmly locked away. Unfortunately the realisation of the story isn't the best as there is little mystery about who is committing the murders - thus eliminating all the other characters as suspects - whilst the Doctor establishes his credentials with the police not through his actions over the course of the story but rather through showing them the TARDIS as a quick solution to the problem. The result is a plot which is clearly telegraphed and unexciting. However there is more to this story as the setting is developed well and allows for some good character development for some of the regulars.

This story is notable as being the only time in the television series when Davison's Doctor actually gets to play cricket (though he gets more practice in comic strips such as The Tides of Time and has it brought back to him in The Stockbridge Horror) and there is much clear enjoyment. As often happens the Doctor is mistaken for someone else and exploits the situation to his advantage. This story takes place on a more limited scale than many and thus allows for the character to be exposed well in the more down to earth environment of the story. Sarah Sutton has the dual role of Nyssa and Ann Talbot and manages to carry off both of them easily though the story is not long enough to fully develop the latter. Nevertheless it gives Sutton a chance to shine when often there can be competition for space amongst the three companions. Matthew Waterhouse has much less to do in the story and Adric makes little contribution beyond stuffing his face at the ball. The guest cast give reasonable performances but few make any spectacular impact.

The sets for the story work well, though it does feel that the railway station is not 1920s authentic due to the abandoned second platform being all too clear. Otherwise the story is a competent production that compares well to contemporary period dramas. It is unfortunate that the plot is weak and telegraphed but otherwise this brief story is a welcome one-off return for the historical stories. 7/10
Doctor Who - Black Orchid can be purchased from Amazon.co.uk.

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