Friday 19 November 2010

Black Orchid

The Fifth Doctor, Adric and Nyssa attend a masked ball in Edwardian England The Doctor gets nicked and comes along quietly.

This is the only story after the black and white era to feature no science fiction elements other than the TARDIS. It is sometimes described as an 'historical' story, but it is more of a domestic drama; lacking the grand melodrama of the black and white historicals. The production team must be given a lot of credit for the courage to do something very different from the usual staples of coloured Doctor Who.

The biggest problem with this story is that not very much happens. Like a number of two-episode stories, there is barely anything of any real interest. One can imagine all kinds of sexual subtexts about the creepy relationships between the non-regular characters, but these are not really hinted at. These subtexts remain in the imagination of the viewer. We don't see enough of these characters to generate any real interest in them. One naturally wonders what the point of this story really is. It seems to be a sort of filler, with the added interest of proving that the Fifth Doctor really can play cricket, which is not a terribly interesting thing to learn. The plot is full of holes, even leaving aside the odd and unoriginal coincidence of Nyssa and Ann being indentical.

Remarkably this story has quite a hight reputation, even among fans who are not inclined to celebrate the Davison years. I suspect a good deal of this is the sentimentality of a return to the historical genre and a nostalgia for Edwardian England. Of course, on the plus side, it has the optimum production values of glorious BBC costume drama.

Peter Davison puts in a performance as the Doctor that is characteristically lacking in charisma. The way he gives himself up to the police and shows them the inside of the TARDIS seems to jar enormously with what we have seen of other Doctors.

Black Orchid gives a lot of attention to Nyssa, which is unfortunate because she is a such a bland and uninteresting character. Tegan gets some nice moments in this story, though her surprising knowlege of Edwardian botanists is out of character. Adric does very little in this story.

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