On 26th December 2019, 627 pieces of Classic Doctor Who content were made available to Britbox subscribers. Every Sunday in 2020, our Doctor Who expert, Tony Cross, looks back at some of the classic stories. Here is the Fifth Doctor adventure Black Orchid ...
I'm not quite sure what to make of that. A two-parter, a historical and no galactic threat to fight against. Just the Doctor getting involved in a story of domestic secrets in a posh house in the 1920s.
It's charming but as inconsequential as a gentle summer's breeze.
There's fun for all the regulars: Janet Fielding gets to dress up and Charleston, Matthew Waterhouse gets to eat and Peter Davison gets to pretend to play cricket. Most importantly Sarah Sutton gets to play two parts: Nyssa and her double Ann Talbot, which is nice. Sutton does it nicely, although it isn't that great a stretch really. I wish when we met coincidental doubles like this someone would go to the effort of asking for a different accent. Nyssa is from Traken, Ann is posh English. So despite being separated by billions of miles they not only look like each other but sound identical. But I'm picking at that thread again and should beware lest I pull the whole jumper apart.
I'm aware that would spoil the conceit of the two of them getting dressed up in the same fancy dress outfits and poor old George Cranleigh getting confused at the end but at least with Troughton, they went down the different accent route in The Enemy of the World.
But whilst I'm battling the bees in my bonnet can I just ask when the TARDIS became an open house for and all sundry to pop in and take a spin. It happened with Richard Mace in The Visitation and in this story Sir Robert Muir and Sargeant Markham get a spin. I wouldn't mind so much but they seem to take it all for granted. And let's not mention Constable Cumming's reaction, which is little more than mild surprise.
In all honesty, this is a nice little break. The villain of the piece isn't evil, he's broken and sometimes you can't mend people. His death seems unnecessary really and a little forced. As if he must be punished or the children of England may start strangling their servants. Gareth Milne as George Hadleigh does a limited but effective job.
I do like the Doctor and team staying for the funeral though. It is an unusual touch. Even if Tegan's excitement about getting to keep the fancy dress costumes seems a tad out of place.
As do most of the guest stars who don't get asked to do too much exotic stuff: Moray Watson as Sir Robert Muir and Michael Cochrane as Lord Cranleigh do their aristocratic thang and Barbara Murray gets to be devious and posh, although the more I think of it the more the way she gets away with her involvement in things without punishment is an irritant.
I like Peter Davison in this. His delivery of the line "Brazil...where the nuts come from" is perfectly delivered.
So Black Orchid is OK. It isn't a story I have strong feelings about one way or another.