I select ‘Play All’ on the DVD. It’s how I get my kicks these days.
The story begins with a murder.
Sue: Blimey, this one isn’t messing around, is it? Straight in with a death; no pissing about. The editing isn’t very good, though. The gurgling noise doesn’t match the victim’s lips. Not a good start.
Meanwhile, Sarah Sutton is fast asleep.
Sue: Eh? Is Nyssa dreaming this? Are we on the TARDIS? What the hell is going on? Is this another trippy one?
The Doctor doesn’t understand why the TARDIS has chosen to land on familiar ground.
The Doctor: What’s the matter, old girl? Why this compulsion for planet Earth?
Sue: Aliens are probably trying to invade it again. Earth never gets a break.
The TARDIS has landed on a railway platform in 1925.
Sue: Are they are going to re-enact scenes from The Railway Children? That would kill an afternoon.
Our heroes are met by a chauffeur. He can’t take his eyes off Nyssa.
Sue: Is he staring at Nyssa’s tits? Did they do that sort of thing in the 1920s? Is that a clue? Is it block transfer thingy again?
The Doctor is mistaken for a cricket player. We can’t think why. Sadly, Sue isn’t a fan of cricket.
Sue: I can take it or leave it. I certainly wouldn’t pay to watch it. It’s too slow for me. A bit like this.
The Doctor and his gang are driven to a cricket green and Charles Cranleigh greets the Time Lord as a friend of a friend. Charles is bowled over by Nyssa – she is the spitting double of his fiance, Ann.
Sue: Look at that smirk. I bet I know what he’s thinking about right now, and it definitely isn’t cricket.
Sue appears to be enjoying Black Orchid.
Sue: A period drama with a nice location. That’s two on the trot. I’ll try not to get my hopes up.
The Doctor throws himself into the cricket match.
Sue: This is almost as long as a real game of cricket. Actually, Peter Davison is pretty good at this. I’m impressed.
When the Doctor bowls out a batsman, Sue gasps.
Sue: ****ing hell! He’s really good. He’s wasted on Doctor Who.
After the game, our heroes retire to Cranleigh Hall for some refreshments.
Sue: It’s Doctor Who meets Downton Abbey. I can live with that. We should have saved this for Sunday. This has Sunday afternoon written all over it.
We meet a South American named Latoni but Sue mishears Lady Cranleigh’s introduction and she thinks his name is Tony, which makes me laugh.
Sue: It’s Sting’s mate from the rainforest.
The Doctor mistakes WG Grace for the Master (“Don’t worry, we’ve all done it”), but it’s the image of Adric sipping cocktails in a bath that still haunts us.
Tegan is drawn to a black orchid in a display case.
Sue: I bet it’s an alien plant and it wants to take over the world. The title pretty much gives it away.
Thankfully, Tegan is a bit of an expert.
Tegan: Of course. I thought I recognised the name. George Cranleigh the botanist, the explorer.
Sue: She must have read that in an in-flight magazine.
Latoni enters a rooms upstairs. He sees an empty bed.
Sue: (Singing) Every breath you take, every move you make…
The Doctor is given a fancy dress costume to wear.
Sue: It could be worse, it could be Colin Baker’s costume. And it isn’t a million miles away from what you’re wearing now. So man up and put it on.
Ann and Nyssa decide to dress in identical costumes, just so they can mess with our heads.
Sue: Ooh, Peter Davison in a dressing gown. That’s nice.
Nyssa wants to dance with Adric.
Sue: Come on, Adric, just mince in time with the music.
Sue: I love the way he’s still wearing his maths badge over his page-boy costume. He’s so proud of it. And Nyssa is sending mixed signals again.
Me: You think so? I think Adric only has eyes for the mixed salad.
Sue: He’s a terrible dancer. For a boy who likes to count, he’s got no rhythm.
Unlike Adric, the party is in full swing.
Sue: It’s nice to see them relaxing for a change. We don’t see them letting their hair down enough. It’s a nice change.
Lady Cranleigh confers with Latoni.
Sue: (singing) Don’t stand, don’t stand so, don’t stand so close to me…
We don’t see the tropical storm that passes over Cranleigh Hall.
Sue: This always happens to us whenever we try to throw a party. It always pisses it down. The only difference is we tend to go back inside the house when it rains. This lot must be masochists.
Tegan and Sir Robert enjoy a quick bop together under the slate grey skies.
Sue: I’d rather see Tegan dancing than whinging. She’s so much nicer when she’s smiling.
Sue is disappointed when she realises the Doctor hasn’t taken his trousers off, but this is offset by some nice wood panelling and a lovely chair. And then she places her cards on the table:
Sue: I’m not a big fan of this genre. It’s all a bit too upper-class for me to really give a shit. I want more deaths.
Right on cue, the episode concludes with a man dressed as a harlequin attacking Ann. A footman intervenes.
Me: I love the way he saves the mustard first.
The footman is strangled to death.
Sue: It’s always the ****ing servants, isn’t it?
Sue is still shaking her head when the credits roll.
Sue: What a strange episode. I’m looking forward to finding out which alien is behind it, though.
The harlequin strangles the footman again.
Sue: Either this guy is an alien or he has really bad COPD.
The Doctor shows Lady Cranleigh the dead body he has found in one of her cupboards.
Sue: **** me, the body is still there. I would have put good money on it vanishing. That’s clever.
George Cranleigh shows his true face.
Sue: He’s a creepy Frank Spencer. “Hmmm, Betty, I burnt my face off when I was making the dinner. Hmmm, sorry.”
Despite the deteriorating weather, the party soldiers bravely on.
Sue: Poor sods. They are freezing to death out there. Nyssa – or Ann – I can’t keep up – will catch pneumonia in that skimpy dress.
Adric is enjoying a cold collation.
Sue: That reminds me, I could murder some beetroot.
Meanwhile, the Doctor is accused of murder.
Sue: It’s quite clever, this. I thought the mistaken identity would be caused by Nyssa and her double, not the Doctor and somebody else. It’s very clever misdirection.
The Doctor and his friends are in big trouble.
Sue: This is what happens when you gatecrash a buffet. Let this be a lesson to you all.
The Doctor leads his inquisitors to the cupboard with the corpse, but it has disappeared!
Sue: Oh, they got there in the end. How disappointing.
Charles telephones Smutty Thomas to see if this Doctor chap is all that he’s cracked up to be.
Sue: So the Doctor wasn’t Pervy Stephens after all!
Tegan: I don’t know what this is all about, but I do know that the Doctor is no imposter.
Sue: Yes he is! He been pretending to be Dirty Bernard or whatever his name is. Keep up, Tegan!
The Doctor and his companions are driven to the local police station. Sue sings the theme music to All Creatures Great and Small.
Sue: Why can’t we watch All Creatures from the beginning? I’d look forward to that every night.
They arrive at the train station but the TARDIS has disappeared!
Sue: Anyone could have taken it. A very confused train conductor is probably fighting Daleks as we speak.
The mystery of the missing TARDIS (“The Doctor is in deep shit now”) lasts all of two minutes.
Sue: Why bring it up in the first place?!
The TARDIS is safe and sound and the Doctor invites the police and Sir Robert to take a look inside.
Tegan: You are in for a surprise.
Sue: And a possible heart attack.
The Doctor gives them a quick tour of his transdimensional time machine.
Sue: This is the first time the Doctor has done something sensible. But now that he’s done it, I can see why he doesn’t usually do this. Because it’s mental.
The Doctor offers to take everyone back to Cranleigh Hall in his TARDIS.
Sue: Is Adric going to fly it? He’s the only one capable of landing it on a sixpence. God, just imagine if the Doctor gets it wrong and he ends up with six companions!
Meanwhile, back at the house, George kills Latoni.
Sue: I really hope the Russians love their children too.
George sets fire to his bedroom door.
Sue: That’s a great stunt. Doctor Who is obsessed with fire at the moment.
George escapes from his room but he abducts Nyssa by mistake.
Sue: It’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame meets Agatha Christie meets Downton Abbey meets Doctor Who meets The Antiques Roadshow meets…
Me: It’s okay, you can stop now.
Up on the roof, George is manhandling Nyssa.
Sue: Here comes the cliffhanger.
Down on the ground, Lady Cranleigh has turned into an exposition machine.
Sue: Isn’t it a bit cruel to have a man with no tongue guarded by a man with a really big one? No wonder he’s mad.
George moves closer to the edge.
Sue: I want to feel sorry for him but he’s a serial killer, so it’s difficult. I’m not very happy with the implication that a deformity turns you into a deranged psychopath, either. It doesn’t feel right; I don’t like it.
The Doctor tells George that he has the wrong girl.
Sue: Yeah, that’s right, confuse the crazy guy. That’ll work.
George falls from the building and Sue praises the stunt work once again.
Sue: Where the hell do they go from here? Does the orchid bring George back from the dead?
Me: Black Orchid is only two episodes, love.
Sue: Really? But that’s excellent! Why didn’t you tell me?
Me: I thought it would be a nice surprise.
Sue: You idiot. I might have enjoyed it a bit more if I knew it was only two parts. The thought of four parts was beginning to depress me.
The Doctor and his friends stay for George’s funeral.
Sue: Anything for a free buffet.
Sue: Another really bad one. Once again, it had good sets, good costumes and a nice location but the story was utter rubbish. It wasn’t Doctor Who.
Me: That was the programme’s first straight historical since 1966.
Sue: Define “straight”.
Me: No aliens in it.
Sue: Aside from two of the lead characters, you mean?
Me: Three, actually, but I take your point.
Sue: It was boring.
Me: I thought you liked the historicals?
Sue: Only if they deal with an interesting period in history. At least we learnt something about the Romans and the Aztecs and Marco Polo.
Me: Please don’t mention the M-word.
Sue: But this was just an excuse to do an Agatha Christie murder mystery, and they are ten a penny. So why bother?
Sue: At least it was short.
Me: We could always watch it again.
Sue: Sure, why not? We’ve only got Doctor Who, The X-Factor, The Thick of It and Match of the Day to watch tonight, so yeah, let’s watch Black Orchid again. It sounds like a topping idea.
Me: I’m serious.
Sue: You’re mad.
Me: Hear me out. We haven’t listened to a commentary track for an entire story before. And the commentary track on this DVD is brilliant. Trust me.
Sue puts up mild resistance, but when she hears Peter Davison declaring Black Orchid to be crap, which takes him all of 30 seconds, she relents.
Sue: See! It’s not just me. Even Peter Davison hates it.
Hardly anyone has a good word to say about it.
Sue: It’s so refreshing to hear a commentary track where people aren’t slapping each other on the back saying how wonderful it was. Peter Davison is very bitchy.
Matthew Waterhouse, on the other hand, is out of his tiny mind.
Sue: I can’t believe he’s complaining about eggy performances. What a nerve! Is he watching himself? That’s priceless.
Peter Davison is very proud of cricketing skills. Incredibly, no one mentions Matthew’s ball handling.
Sue: I’ll tell you something – they have better chemistry together on this commentary than they do in the actual programme. I detect some animosity towards Matthew, though. Peter isn’t very happy with him. He probably thinks he’s cramping his style.
Davison is relentless when it comes to running Black Orchid down.
Sue: Peter Davison hit the nail on the head when he said the BBC were making this type of drama anyway – and much better – so what was the point? Even Matthew Waterhouse agrees that it isn’t Doctor Who, and he’s clearly insane.
The cast can’t think of anything nice to say.
Sue: Listening to this makes me question it even more. I mean, why did the TARDIS take them there in the first place? Was it taking the piss? Did it think, I know, let’s get Nyssa killed in a domestic dispute? What was that all about?
With the commentators’ vitriol still ringing in her ears, Sue sums up:
Sue: I enjoyed that. And I don’t feel bad about giving it a low score, now. In fact, I would like to change it:
Sue: Peter’s right, it’s rubbish.