Part One

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.

Black OrchidOur 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.

Black OrchidThe 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.

Black OrchidTegan 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.

Black OrchidAnn 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.

Poor Adric.

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.

Black OrchidSue: 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:

Black OrchidSue: 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.


Part Two

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.

Black OrchidGeorge 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: SoBlack Orchid 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.

Black OrchidThe 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.

Black OrchidSue: 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.

Black OrchidSue: 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.


The Score

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.

Black OrchidSue 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.


Coming Soon




  1. Smith  September 23, 2012

    Argh. ๐Ÿ˜€

    I’m a massive fan of Black Orchid, simply for how bloody fun it is. Although I don’t blame Sue for not liking it, I don’t think it deserves a 2 at any rate.

  2. CJJC  September 23, 2012

    Didn’t the concept of the driver “staring at Nyssa’s tits” show up in the Tachyon TV podcast commentary for this delightful adventure? I have not read the whole thing or Sue’s score yet as I just flipped down here to make that comment so I think I’ll take the opportunity to say that contrary to received fan opinion I utterly love Black Orchid, not least for Adric’s complete failure to be interested by girls – some of the chaps I watched it with found this the most relatable thing they had ever seen him do.

    • Neil Perryman  September 23, 2012

      Even I’ve forgotten that. But have you seen him? He’s looking directly at them!

      • Frankymole  September 24, 2012

        I can’t find it in my heart to blame him.

  3. Jazza1971  September 23, 2012

    Glen/Greg has outdone himself with the “Next time” trailer. Superb job!

    Great review, although I disagree with the score. I’ve always rather liked this one. I can’t really defend it, I just like it.

    • BWT  September 24, 2012

      Me too. It’s fluff but it’s cosy, tea-time fluff (I can’t believe I’ve just said that). This is Dr Who does Midsomer Murders – and it’s a jolly good show (now get my slippers and warm the telly up, would you dear?)

    • Alisaunder  September 24, 2012

      Agree. The next time trailer is far far better than Black Orchid, which I never hates as I like period pieces. I suppose its nice to see them doing normal things once in awhile, like simply talking. The brief quiet moments ARE some of the best.. Troughton and Victoria in Tomb for instance. Im not sure Orchid is a 2, its not.. BAD… so much as nothing much happens. And we have seen some very BAD DW with Sue by now.

      • Thomas  September 25, 2012

        I don’t know- the pacing is horrible and the ending is simply awful. Maybe not a two, but on pure objective quality it’s not that much more than that.

        (speaking as a person who rather enjoys it as well)

  4. Rassilon  September 23, 2012

    Blimey I wasn’t expecting you to knock another one out so fast (& NOT in a MW stylee) after The Visitation. Especially as I re-read that one 30 mins ago.

    The image of Sue singing the entire back catalogue through this one brought a smile to my face.

  5. Maera Armorro  September 23, 2012

    The cyber face-slap made me laugh.

    Shame Black Orchid didn’t fare well, I always rather liked this one – though that may purely be nostalgia speaking. I loved the idea of the TARDIS crew chilling out, it really grounded it, it made the scary stuff more scary (when I was 8) by contrast.

  6. steven  September 23, 2012

    Once again youve messed about with an story!! Anyone watching early 80’s would of been able to see very clearly that this was only 2 epsiodes long. As Sue rightly says, she may of enjoyed it more if you’d of let her know this. I feel it really does make a heck of a difference to how you approach a story knowing it’s length.

    Quite why you insist on ‘playing around with episode lengths’ is truly beyond me, further more it is messing up your ‘experiment’ – even more than you already have done so!!

    Please refrain from doing this in future….i take it you are almost in a dither as to the Colin Baker Trial marathon then!! – as youve said yourself ‘its how you get your kicks’ – but personally speaking I really find it rather irritating you wont play fair with Sue so to speak. Still it’s your ‘experiment’ you make and then then break the rules I suppose.

    Just my two cents on the matter..a disappointing run then from Sue, 1, 3, 2 marks..Davidson error not going great is it.

    • Erik  September 23, 2012

      Er… Steven.. How would anyone in the 80’s know that this was a 2 episode story? And how does knowing that beforehand make the story any better? A 48 hour stomach bug is better than infuenza, but it still leaves you feeling like shite.

      • steven  September 23, 2012

        ..the Viking – my dear chap…the Radio Times has been around a long time..heck..even newspapers too ole’ boy I’m CERTAIN would of mentioned, ” A two part Dr Who adventure “. All because we live in an internet age with information at our fingertips…that this type of information was available to the masses.

        • solar penguin  September 23, 2012

          So any Radio Times readers in the 1980s who’d bothered to read the entry for DW that week would’ve known that this was only two episodes long. That’s not quite the same as “anyone in the 1980s”.

          • Frankymole  September 24, 2012

            About 8 million people watched Dr Who, I reckon a quarter of that, at most bought RT, and even less of those actually check the listings beforehand for regularly-scheduled programmes. Even when we bothered getting it (from about season 20) we mostly only checked what films were on, or featured new series. The idea of a Who story starting and finishing in the same week was utterly radical (bar omnibus repeats) – not seen since “Mission to the Unknown”! And that had plenty of complainers that its second episode featured irrelevant non-Dalekky Trojans…

        • Cracked Polystyrene Man  September 23, 2012

          I didn’t live in the UK and when I saw 1980s Doctor Who it was just listed in the TV guide as “Doctor Who”. No mention of story titles, let alone how many episodes they were.

          A one hour train ride into the city to get to the one shop that had Doctor Who Monthly in stock was the only way you’d know what was going on beforehand. I probably managed to lay my hands on two copies a year.

      • steven  September 23, 2012

        ..the Viking..further more – using SUES OWN WORDS to answer your question..
        “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.”

        It’s not rocket science – of course knowing how long something is makes a real time difference to the ‘chore’ of watching something.

        • Nick Mays  September 23, 2012

          Steven…. Chill mate, chill. It’s only a bit of fun!

    • Jazza1971  September 23, 2012

      When I watched “Doctor Who” in the 1980’s I had no idea how long each story would be at the outset.

    • Neil Perryman  September 23, 2012

      “Davidson error”

      You said it, mate.

      • steven  September 23, 2012

        yes..delibrate mistake ‘mate’. Or are you saying your not a fan of Davidson era either then?

        • Jazza1971  September 23, 2012

          I’m quite the fan of Donald Davidson, but I don’t see what he has to do with this blog…

          • Dan  September 23, 2012

            I prefer Thomas Nagel myself…

        • Broton  September 23, 2012


      • Kris Overstreet  September 24, 2012

        To be fair, Peter Davidson had the potential to be a good Doctor.

        The problem was that he was on during a larger, more appropriately named “error”- the JN-T “error.”

    • Simon Harries  September 23, 2012

      Are you quite sane?

      • Glen Allen  September 23, 2012

        You are INSANE Davros

        • Gareth Lee-Thomas  September 25, 2012

          ROTFLMAO at this quote. Love it.

          Also, can’t quite remember tune for All Creatures so my subconscious has replaced this with the theme for Mork and Mindy.

          It’s like trying to remember the music for Octopussy.

          Sorry, large tangent there. 2 is fair. Kinda was awesome.

    • Jason  September 23, 2012

      Once again steven’s got his panties in a twist! Relax, dude. Go start your own blog instead of dictating your rules to Neil and Sue.

      • P.Sanders  September 23, 2012

        Neil you understand that your experiment is invalid because you haven’t got a control-Sue against whom to measure the effects of Who on your survey-Sue? Control-Sue should preferably talk like a cockney urchin and live in the cellar. Therefore your petty and trivial so-called “experiment” (Hah) has no validity and you should give up on. it immediately. Stand in a corner and think about what you’ve done.


        X x x

        • Dave Sanders  September 23, 2012

          “Promises to Susans have no validity. When the experiment is complete, she will be… destroyed.”

          *clenched cricket glove*

          • Frankymole  September 24, 2012

            I’ve never heard it called that before…

          • Wholahoop  September 25, 2012

            You know, there is something euphemistic about the phrase “Clenched cricket glove” maybe because of the concern about where it could end up. Mind you that could require several gallons of linseed oil

        • RichardAKJ  September 23, 2012

          It gets worse. This isn’t a double blind experiment. We clearly need a Shrodingers Neil who has both shown and not shown Dr Who to Sue. Maybe Nicol can help out here.

          How Neil expects the experiment to be published in a peer reviewed journal is beyond me!

          Oh, for the avoidance of doubt. ๐Ÿ™‚

          Looking forward to the book. And loving Sue’s views on Who, many thanks to you both.

        • django  September 23, 2012

          Re: Not having a ‘control’ Sue.

          Perhaps this is something Neil will address during Sylvester McCoy’s era! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • Paul Mc Elvaney  September 23, 2012

        Please God, nobody mention Marco Polo. Crap, too late..

        • Thomas  September 25, 2012

          What’s wrong with Marco Polo?

          • solar penguin  September 25, 2012

            Sue only saw the omnibus version, not the full serial.

    • Maera Armorro  September 23, 2012

      Steven – You do realise it’s intended as entertainment, not as a real scientific experiment, don’t you?

      Also, you do realise you’re making a bit of a twit of yourself, right?

      • Dan  September 23, 2012

        I did know it was two episodes in the 80s – DW Monthly made sure of that, if nothing else – but obviously I don’t care.

        I did enjoy it at the time, but it was preceded by some rubbish. I liked it for the setting and the music. That was pretty much it really!

      • Wholahoop  September 25, 2012

        Personally I would have used a word similar to twit

    • Broton  September 23, 2012

      Ever heard of the word “have”? Often follows the word “would”.

    • Frankymole  September 24, 2012

      “Davidson error” – many a true word…

  7. Dave Owen  September 23, 2012

    We’ve always talked of “historicals”, like “Marco Polo”, and “The Romans”, in contrast to “pseudo-historicals”, like “The Time Warrior” and “The Time Meddler”. The historicals are set in Earth’s past and include actual or legendary figures such as Nero, Napoleon, or Achilles, and the pseudo-historicals only have fictional people and include a science fiction element, like “The Visitation”.
    “Black Orchid” falls into an distinct middle category previously only occupied by “The Tribe of Gum”, “The Aztecs”, “The Smugglers” and “The Highlanders” in which there are no famous dead people, and no aliens either.
    Had the trend of decreasing imagination continued from “Kinda” (future, alien, SF), to “The Visitation” (Earth history, SF), to “Black Orchid”, (Earth, recent history, no SF), the next story would have been set in 1979, and involved Adric and Nyssa teaching at the OU, while the Doctor and Tegan help a failing manufacturing business in the Letchworth area.
    And we’d have loved it.

    • Dave Sanders  September 23, 2012

      ‘…The next story would have been set in 1979, and involved Adric and Nyssa teaching at the OU, while the Doctor and Tegan help a failing manufacturing business in the Letchworth area. And weโ€™d have loved it.’

      We almost got that, it was called Shada.

      • Frankymole  September 24, 2012

        “100,000BC”, “The Aztecs” etc are just as much SF as “Black Orchid”. The Doctor shows the local Plod around the TARDIS console room and they discuss HG Wells. In “100,000BC” we were still getting used to alien time travellers. It’s SF – it’s also black comedy, drama, a children’s show, absurdist play-acting, and surreal soundscape. Genres break down, really. It’s “Doctor Who” – there’s nothing like it. Not even itself…

        • Cracked Polystyrene Man  September 25, 2012

          What makes you certain “100,000BCโ€ is set on Earth?

          • Frankymole  September 25, 2012

            Verity Lambert saying so. Plus the earth animal remains.

        • Thomas  September 25, 2012

          Honestly, I wouldn’t even call the show at large ‘science-fiction’- It breaks too many of the genre trappings to really be classified as that. It’s more fantasy than anything else, just more often in the guise of science-fiction.

          • chris-too-old-too-watch  September 25, 2012

            What makes you think SF stands for science fiction? Could be science fantasy…..

          • Frankymole  September 25, 2012

            The funniest I heard was that SF means “speculative fiction”. As if all fiction isn’t speculative.

            Fantasies still aren’t “pure historicals” though…

  8. P.Sanders  September 23, 2012

    Quite surprised by the final score – I thought from the comments that Sue was quite enjoying this one despite herself. Fair enough though, there’s so little to it and the mystery angle is clumsily handled (“my son who MYSTERIOUSLY DISAPPEARED…”). The purely historical angle to it is a nice idea but as Sue says the time period is really just window dressing. However I do like that it is just a small story with no universe-threatening danger. And as a child I found the killer wearing Peter Davison’s fancy dress costume to be very creepy. But ultimately it’s just fluff.

  9. Simon Harries  September 23, 2012

    This was on air when I was ten – and I remember liking Sir Robert best.

    • Frankymole  September 24, 2012

      True – and Sir Robert is still Ultima Cool. Tegan recognised that and had a great time. A hoot!

  10. Melvin  September 23, 2012

    Earlier this year, I actually did watch “All Creatures Great and Small” from the beginning through the end of the actual material Herriot wrote – conveniently coeval with Carol Drinkwater’s portrayal of Helen – and Sue’s right, it’s such a great watch. “Black Orchid” may not be the best “Doctor Who” had to offer, but Davison’s dominant cricketing performance has really nice echoes in Matt Smith’s footballing in “The Lodger.” Davison’s is actually more impressive since it’s all done in long single takes, with less dependence on editing tricks.

  11. Broadshoulder2  September 23, 2012

    The problem was the beeb was churning this kind of thing out like a factory even at a time. It wasn’t standing out. It was blending in and since we had already just had a gentle historical in the previous story,

    What you needed was something to make this one stand out. This one would have been ideal for 4 and Leela. Even a season 18 Tom sending up the gentry would have worked. But when even terrible trio are sidelined there is no hope.

    And Sue really has the hots for Davo doesn’t she? I wonder why that is why the other four previous Doctors were marked down.

    • Broadshoulder2  September 23, 2012

      I meant season 17 Tom.

  12. Richard Lyth  September 23, 2012

    Shame Sue didn’t like this, I’ve always felt it was a nice change of pace to have a story with no invading aliens, just everyone hanging out and enjoying themselves for once. Obviously nobody else agreed, as there hasn’t been a pure historical story since. The new series comes close though – Vincent And The Doctor would have worked just as well without the alien, as would The Unicorn And The Wasp come to think of it, so hopefully they’ll try it again one of these days.

    • DPC  September 23, 2012

      In concept, what you say isn’t bad.

      In execution, Black Orchid sadly does go by its initials, “BO”. As in “smells like BO”, or “body odor”. ๐Ÿ™

    • Nick Mays  September 23, 2012

      Agreed Richard.

      In fact, I think Vincent and the Doctor would have worked far, far better without a dopey invisible killer chicken, because Van Gogh’s a complex and interesting character in his own right and the story was driven by the Doctor’s obvious love of Van Gigh’s work. As for The Unicorn and the Wasp, well… I’d rather watch Black Orchid, frankly. Peter Davison may sneer at it, but it’s a fun little potboiler, and stands above Four To Doomsday and Timeflight easily.

      And clearly the good Doctor still DOES have “pure” historical adventures – witness ‘The Power of Three’ where Amy accidentally gets married to Henry VIII!

      I just wish the Moff would be brave enough to have a Pure historical story, with no alien threat involved. All it needs is a good writer, an interesting period in history and the balls to actually make the episode and trust the audience to appreciate it !

      • Frankymole  September 24, 2012

        Well we don’t know the invisible chicken was a real threat or an illusion. The Doctor may well have just magicked it up to humour his bezzie mate Vincent. We’re never sure whose POV we’re seeing the story from, and we don’t see Chicken Big until the Doc sees him.

        And we can discuss this freeley as Neil has a book to write instead of covering NuWho ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Rarebit Fiend  September 24, 2012

          I think “The Curse of the Black Spot” would be better as an historical with no alien threat as well. It would then be a fun, swashbuckling adventure for the TARDIS crew with some superstitious pirates who learn that what they feared was a natural phenomena all along.

        • Nick Mays  September 24, 2012

          “And we can discuss this freeley as Neil has a book to write instead of covering NuWho ” ๐Ÿ™‚

          Oooh! Naughty! ๐Ÿ˜‰

          • Neil Perryman  September 24, 2012

            I will be deleting any off-topic comments. It’s a good distraction for me. You have been warned.

  13. Kris Overstreet  September 23, 2012

    In all honesty, two episodes of the Fifth Doctor doing nothing BUT playing cricket would have been better than the rest of the serial. It’s worth watching for the cricket scene… and for NO OTHER REASON WHATEVER.

  14. Al  September 23, 2012

    “A very confused train conductor is probably fighting Daleks as we speak.” Superb.

    Looking forward to the next one as well.

  15. Neowhovian  September 23, 2012

    I just wanted to compliment Glen on that trailer. How’d you get the voices so perfect? ๐Ÿ˜€

  16. Dave Sanders  September 23, 2012

    It’s very easy to take the piss out of isn’t it, for being what we got in 1982 instead of, say, Boom Town – the forgettable episode 11 made on a shoestring. But if you go down that route, then you’d have to dismiss The Lodger for much the same reasons (and some do; to them it feels equally wrong). It may be hard to argue with the low mark, but then you’ve also got to consider what audiences expected from BBC weeknight drama in those halcyon pre-Eastenders days, and this was apparently it…. even though it’s actually a harkback to even earlier, when period-pieces like The Duchess Of Duke Street followed Tom Baker on a Saturday night.

    I was very harsh on Terence Dudley during Four To Doomsday, lambasting him for duff characterisation in a parade of frivolous setpieces that go absolutely nowhere; that’s equally true here and not the last time it’ll happen with him either. But that actually misses the point a bit in this case; it’s less to do with this story being ‘wrong’ as so much else of season 19 being so firmly entrenched in what it considers to be ‘right’, for equally wrong reasons. Sue is quite correct; we should be more used to the TARDIS crew having a good time for a change, and it seems so out of place because they so seldom get to. It’s also a story that, on the surface, is crying out for an android underneath that harlequin costume – if it wasn’t for the opening scenes, you’d swear there was one – but that’s more of an indictment of how many times in this season alone they’ve pulled the same shtick.

    Let me put it this way; can you see Chris Chibnall or Mark Gatiss (just as an example of two writers with long-standing fandom credentials) taking this story, rewriting in for the present day, and keeping the same tone without any overt extra-terrestrial influence? No you can’t. And if you take issue with this story’s apparent condonement of 1920s shame and guilt towards disfigurement and mental illness (and actually that’s flapdoodle), then which would you rather have, George Cranleigh, or Vincent And The Doctor’s invisible chicken? I rest my case.

    • encyclops  September 24, 2012

      Excellent points as always.

      Add me to the list of lunatics who quite enjoyed this, at least as a kid. I had never seen an Agatha Christie mystery back then and I loved the costumes, the change of pace, the pair of Sarah Suttons, the creepiness all round…it’s not the best of the season by any stretch but it’s not the worst. I adore “The Lodger” and I agree that I’d love to see the new series have the balls to do a pure historical for a change. God, I hated that chicken.

      • Frankymole  September 24, 2012

        It’s 50 minutes out of one’s life: hard to begrudge. And it makes Tegan seem less of a harridan: job done.

  17. Antti Bjรถrklund  September 23, 2012


    • Antti Bjรถrklund  September 23, 2012


  18. solar penguin  September 23, 2012

    Chalk me up as another one who likes the change of pace of this story. Shame Sue (and Peter Davison) don’t.

  19. Ryan Hall  September 23, 2012

    I quite liked this as a kid, and its repeat showing in the summer , i think it works better as a story with no Alien threat in it , they cant be invading earth all the time haha.

    thing is with this era though , i enjoyed Doctor who and peter’s doctor i just didnt care for the assistants, and i think that effects the whole balance of the show as you watch it , even more so after loving the previous assistants.

    • Frankymole  September 24, 2012

      I’m still pretty angry about Dodo and Steven replacing Ian ‘n’ Babs ‘n’ Vicki… but I do recognise that I’m weird for doing so.

  20. Sparklepunk  September 23, 2012

    I’m another that loved this episode, I was kind of surprised to find out it was commonly hated. I can see the points though, to me it was just a nice short bit of fun in between the real stuff and I thought it worked well. Mind you I really liked Nissa when I was young and being a young girl I spent a lot of time just thinking that everyone looked really pretty.

    • Frankymole  September 24, 2012

      The 1920s is a very attractive era. I liked how they did it in Unicorn & The Wasp too. Wouldn’t mind if the new series revisited more often! (As to the prettiness of the cast, I have no opinion. Though Sir Robert, as mentioned earlier, is a very likeable cove.)

  21. DPC  September 23, 2012

    Another awesome review, thanks!

    To me, “Black Orchid” suffers from:

    a) too gimmicky (dual role), Doctor making a cricket world record, etc
    b) too much exposition crammed into two 25 minute episodes – there’s no way the story, which needed time to breathe, could have pulled off the trope properly
    c) not the most interesting point in history, especially as upper class greed led to the Great Depression

    Nyssa does rather well for her two roles, and this could have been capitalized on rather better had it been a 4-part story, but so much of the story is “meh”.

    And yet I’d rather watch the two part bore-fest than 10 of Eccleston’s (individual) episodes, all but 3 of Tennant’s, and half of Matt Smith’s…

    • Dan  September 23, 2012

      Yes, I was surprised there was no comment on Sarah Sutton getting a chance to do something. Other comments controversial.

  22. Philippa Sidle  September 23, 2012

    I enjoyed it at the time, because we got to see the TARDIS crew interacting in a more domestic setting, and I got to project a little Adric/Nyssa shippiness on the dancing scene. When I saw it in later years, I thought it was just dull. Not really surprised Sue didn’t enjoy it.

    Genuinely excited for the next update! Not only is it one of the great sacred cows, can’t wait to hear Sue’s reaction to we all know what!

  23. Glen Allen  September 23, 2012

    ” A very confused train conductor is probably fighting Daleks as we speak.”
    I’m afraid to say I spat my drink at the screen reading that bit. It was just the image in my head ๐Ÿ™‚ Where did I put those baby wipes?

    Its one I remember fondly. This story, not the conductor’s adventures with the TARDIS in space. I think its because (and I cant be 100% sure after all this time) it was the first Doctor Who I recorded on VHS. It was 82 and my Dad bought his first VHS recorder. (Blakes 7 series 4 was repeated so I had that too) I was also very surprised to find that the cast hated it (Almost typed “the cat” then which would have been silly)

    • Andrew Bowman  September 23, 2012

      Cats are notoriously vicious when it comes to Doctor Who. Makes the harshest internet looney seem like a pussy ca… well, you get the basic idea ๐Ÿ˜‰

      On to Black Orchid itself, it’s all right, I suppose. Not a great deal actually happens, the script and direction are all over the place, and there are a couple of glaring cock-ups, namely when Nyssa and Anne come out of the house onto the patio; it’s fairly obvious that either Anne or Nyssa are standing on the step in order to remain the same height as the other, and when Charles goes to scale the outer wall, when it cuts to the back of him, I have to be honest, I couldn’t work out what was going on, as Gareth Milne makes a very poor Michael Cochrane. Apart from that though, it’s a pleasant enough way to spend 50 minutes.

  24. Glen Allen  September 23, 2012

    Oh and I love the fact you’ve done a commentary on the commentary.
    You dont want to set a precedent but would love to hear the same for the next 2 parter…or maybe even The 5 Doctors. Normal or Tennant commentary ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Richard Lyth  September 24, 2012

      I think someone should show this to Peter Davison, so we can get his commentary on Sue’s commentary on his commentary. And then get Sue’s commentary on that.

  25. Fuschia Begonia  September 23, 2012

    Oh, for shame! I’m terribly shocked that Davison’s bare-chested antics didn’t net this at least another three or four marks ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I have a massive soft-spot for Black Orchid, but then I’ve always had a soft-spot for Moray Watson and the 1920s. Ropey in places, yes, but still good fun, excellent commentary track and mercifully short.

    I do seem to recall some sort of “You could fit a dozen Big Finish adventures in there” comment in the Tachyon TV commentary…

    • Frankymole  September 24, 2012

      Moray Watson.. .career spanning 7 decades… still going strong…

  26. Paul Mc Elvaney  September 23, 2012

    How could Sue not care enough about those genius next time trailers? They are an absolute joy to behold!

    • Frankymole  September 24, 2012

      Well I hope Sue is just kept away from their spoilerific contents for a week – after that, Glen’s dulcet tones and wicked humour have to be unleashed upon her. It’s the only way! He is The Master of Who anticipation, and the rest of us get the benefit, but it’d be nice if Sue got to hear about what she’d just been through, from before the beyond the duration – within outside behind, as Mr Peewit sang it. Timey-wimey and all that.

  27. John G  September 23, 2012

    As has been commented above, there does seem to be a slight disjunction between Sue’s immediate reactions to the story and her verdict at the end. Mind you, I thought it was a nice touch for Neil to play her the commentary afterwards – if you can get Sue to agree you really ought to do the same for Time-Flight!

    As far as Black Orchid is concerned I have to respectfully disagree with both Sue and the bulk of the regular cast. It is a slight story, but small-scale adventures make for a welcome change of pace, and I think this works well as a breather before the traumatic events of the next story. It is also nice to see this TARDIS crew enjoying themselves for a change, and for the audience’s initial assumption that some alien monster is behind all this to be scotched. It’s just a shame that this didn’t lead to a full-blown revival of โ€œpureโ€ historical stories – I am still waiting for somebody to have the guts to take a chance on them in the new series.

    On a positive note, at least Sue enjoyed seeing Peter in his dressing gown. I thought she would…

    • DPC  September 24, 2012

      I’d have been happier if he opened his gown…

      Now, what’s that phrase Ed McMahon would say when he said a zinger… HEYYYY-OOOH! ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Frankymole  September 24, 2012

      If we’re talking commentaries, and Time-Flight, it is also essential that Sue hears Petey and Colin on “Arc” – it’s blissful. But it would only work after a lot of the Colin era. Troughton and Pertwee have nothing on that ribbing.

  28. John Callaghan  September 23, 2012

    I approve of Black Orchid allowing Doctor Who to get closer to its much-quoted remit of going anywhere and doing anything. It ensures that the show is so much more than just another sci-fi show. This week, Agatha Christie! Next week, an Icelandic epic, why not?!

    We’re really spoiled with WIS at the moment, by the way. Loving it!

  29. Jason Miller  September 23, 2012

    2/10 (or 3/10) is such a low score for a story that’s dull but not outright offensive (the season 19 finale might merit a minus-four, at this rate), but I give Sue’s review a 10/10 for the following insight: “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.” BRILLIANT! I’ll never look at “Black Orchid” the same way again…..

    • Dan  September 24, 2012

      No one has mentioned how utterly nihilistic the story is. Man is disfigured and maimed while studying plant life away from home. Is imprisoned when he gets back for no good reason. Gets annoyed by this, kills two people, and falls to his death following attempted abduction of a woman. Lovely.

      • DPC  September 24, 2012

        He was imprisoned because he no longer looked the posh upper class figure…

        That’s my take on it, though…

        Sadly, being 2 episodes in length makes so many plot points up for grabs… ๐Ÿ™

        • Dan  September 24, 2012

          Ha that’s a pretty weak reason to imprison him. The family should’ve been arrested on the spot! And what will the papers make of it….oh dear. (Seriously, two episodes is no excuse – it’s fifty minutes which is plenty of time for a lot of things.)

        • Dan  September 24, 2012

          I do agree the reason was something like that, actually. The worst plot points are around the character and motivations of George plus his eventual fate. But come to think of it, the family do have a lot of questions to answer.

          • Frankymole  September 24, 2012

            “A lot of questions to answer” = “They’re all a bunch of bar-stewards to whom the Doctor doesn’t give their come-uppance”, sure. I agree. He should’ve done Lady Cranleigh for wrongful imprisonment at the very least, and I bet that get Charles manages to marry the sadly-deluded Ann. Bleuch. I bet the McCoy incarnation comes back and poisons the lot of ’em. So nyerr.

          • John G  September 24, 2012

            Yes, the family don ‘t come out of this very well. However, the Doctor may take the view that they are only acting according to the social mores of the time and with what they think are good intentions, hence he treats them leniently. Perhaps he has a quiet word with them offscreen…

          • Dan  September 24, 2012

            I’d like to think so but I can’t help thinking it might simply be negligent writing. First, the social mores of the time weren’t like that. Unless the family succeeded in covering it up (making it even worse), there would probably be a huge scandal. And second, that way moral relativsm lies, and we have to say human sacrifice was ok for the Aztecs. (If you think it was, just consider the possibility that even one person at the time questioned it – does that makes a difference? If it does, do we even need the questioner? The TARDIS crew all agreed it was wrong of course, even if the Doctor told Barbara she couldn’t change things – not that I want to hang an argument on that.)

          • John G  September 24, 2012

            Just to clarify, what I mean by the social mores of the time is the desire to protect the family’s good name and hush up any “embarrassment” that might tarnish it. Hence George’s initial imprisonment – evidently this family are so concerned for their reputation that not even the subsequent deaths of innocent people can induce them to admit the truth. I like to think the Doctor lets them off because, however misguided they are, it is partly the fault of the society they live in that they have acted as they have. As you say however, it is most likely down to poor writing!

          • tom_harries  September 24, 2012

            Thing is, unfortunately, families locking up an embarrassing relative and pretending he/she didn’t exist did actually go on at the time, although it was usually female relatives who had mental health problems. (I’m sure I’ve read of at least one famous actor who was told his mother had run off and only later found out she had been packed off to the asylum).

            People with disabilities weren’t integrated into society the way they are now; it was genuinely believed isolation was better for them. A much less extreme case would be prince John, youngest son of George V, an epileptic who was given his own cottage and kept out of the public eye

            Also, the rich wouldn’t have worried about a scandal because no-one would have dared report it!

          • Dan  September 24, 2012

            I’m not so sure about that. Some of the papers would have loved a juicy high society scandal. It all depends.

            I know people with mental health problems were treated differently (though I suspect in this case the family caused most of his mental health problems. In fact we’re assuming he had any. At the very least you have got obstructing the course of justice however by Lady Cranleigh, and perhaps accessory to murder. Hiding bodies isn’t really done, even in 1925.

            If the police are too corrupt to do anything about it, it’s the Doctor’s job to show them the error of their ways! Which are grievous. He’s never been one to be impressed by mere money and power.

  30. Augie March  September 24, 2012

    I think Sue may end up enjoying the Davison era more if you play it to her with the DVD commentaries on. A certain story coming up very soon I can only get through in the entirety by having the commentary on.

    Also, the cricket fan / pedant in me noticed one typo. It’s W.G. Grace, not D.W. Grace.

  31. Broton  September 24, 2012

    I must point out the error you have made in referring to world-renouned cricketer W.G. Grace as ‘DW Grace’.
    His full name was in fact William Gilbert Grace, which would mean, by way of logical conclusion, that by substituting his fornames for initials, consequently his correct title ought not to be ‘DW Grace’ , but is in fact W.G. Grace.

    • Neil Perryman  September 24, 2012

      Fixed, thanks. I clearly have DW on the brain.

  32. BWT  September 24, 2012

    If Sue sings one more Sting song I’m calling the Police.


    I’ll get me coat.

  33. DamonD  September 24, 2012

    “Sue: Isnโ€™t it a bit cruel to have a man with no tongue guarded by a man with a really big one? No wonder heโ€™s mad.”

    Loved that!

    Orchid is slight fluff, but harmless. I usually watch it just when I’m due to be watching the next story, I like it as a moment of calm (and the companions actually getting to relax a bit) before the storm.

  34. Wholahoop  September 24, 2012

    My favourite moment is in the 2nd episode when the Doctor resignedly decides to tell all and sundry that he’s a timelord. Well it made me smile.

    The book was much better though apart from really painting Adric as a foodhog.

  35. simon  September 24, 2012

    I must say, I did not like Black Orchid at all when it was first broadcast. It was a bit dull. No monsters and a period drama type story. Nope…it was boring and rubbish then and its boring and rubbish now. Looking back on all of Peter Davidsons first season, there is only one really GOOD story, and thats the next one coming up, for obvious reasons, for the you know whats and what happens. Loved the Glen Allen did he get the voices like that? How was it done and with what software? It was just so authentic! Anyhoo thinking about Peter Davidsons Doctor, there is only two good storys for me next season and in his third the best one is his swansong…Does anyone else get the feeling looking back that his heart was not in it, and it was just a job to him….after all he only stays for three seasons and could not get away quick enough…

    • DPC  September 24, 2012

      That trailer ROCKED!!

      Great voice manipulation to be sure… someone’s an expert with Adobe Audition or some other piece of good software… ๐Ÿ™‚

  36. Damon  September 24, 2012

    “Meanwhile, back at the house, George kills Latoni.

    Sue: I really hope the Russians love their children too.”

    ????? How does that comment even make sense? At that point, the comment should have been, “I guess it’s murder by numbers now, eh?”

    • Dan  September 24, 2012


  37. chris-too-old-too-watch  September 25, 2012

    Does anybody who comments on this actually like Doctor Who? I only ask as there seems to be a “any excuse to nag” attitude at the moment. OK, so the story isn’t perfect, the acting is bad in places, and some of the characters are irritating, but come on chaps. Why doesn’t anyone pick up on the positives. Setting is great, with some good “period” touches, the entire Other Doctor/Master/WG Grace bit is super, and the plot is satisfying and an enjoyable watch.
    It isn’t supposed to be a documentary “How to Hold a House Party” or “History of Cricket” or “What Should I Do With My Hideously Scarred Relatives”

    • Wholahoop  September 25, 2012

      All I can say is if you really want to see pathetically bitchy comments about the programme we purport to love, I suggest you ingratiate yourself with the denizens of rec.arts.drwho, we are still in the nursery compared to them. Decades of Internet connection, that’s what it takes to be really bitchy

  38. Ian Marchant  September 25, 2012

    Isn’t our ability to denigrate the show we love among ourselves whilst bitch slapping any normo’s that do so the very thing that separates us from those weird Trekie types?

    And didn’t Doctor Who monthly do an article on that Davidson bloke once?