This 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. That gurgling noise doesn’t match the victim’s lips.
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 Earth again.
Sue: Aliens are probably trying to invade it. Earth never gets a break.
They’ve arrived on a railway platform in 1925.
Sue: Are they are going to re-enact scenes from The Railway Children? That would kill an afternoon, I suppose.
Our heroes are greeted by a chauffeur who seems to be expecting them.
Sue: Is he staring at Nyssa’s tits? Did they do that sort of thing in the 1920s? Is that a clue? Is this block transfer thingywhatsist again?
The Doctor is mistaken for a cricket player. We can’t think why. Sadly, Sue isn’t a fan of the game.
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 story.
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 also bowled over by Nyssa, mainly because she’s the double of his fiancée, Ann.
Sue: Look at that cheeky smirk. I bet I know what he’s thinking right now, and it definitely isn’t cricket.
Sue seems to be enjoying Black Orchid so far.
Sue: It’s 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. 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, our heroes retire to Cranleigh Hall for some light refreshments.
Sue: This is basically Doctor Who meets Downton Abbey, and I can live with that. We should have saved this for a Sunday. This has Sunday afternoon written all over it.
We meet a South American named Latoni, which Sue mishears as Tony.
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 will haunt us forever. Tegan, on the other hand, is drawn to an orchid in a display case.
Sue: I bet it’s an alien plant who wants to take over the world. The title pretty much gives it away.
Thankfully, Tegan is a bit of an expert when it comes to orchids (what are the chances?) and she knows George Cranleigh was a famous botanist and explorer.
Sue: She must have read that in an in-flight magazine.
Latoni enters a rooms upstairs and notices an empty bed.
Sue: (Singing) Every breath you take, every move you make…
Meanwhile the Doctor is given fancy dress 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: (Dreamily) 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 wears his gold badge over his pageboy 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 hasn’t got any rhythm.
Unlike Adric, the party is in full swing.
Sue: It’s nice to watch them relax for a change. We don’t see them letting their hair down enough.
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 which passes over Cranleigh Hall.
Sue: This always happens to us when we throw a party. It always pisses 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 under the slate grey skies.
Sue: She’s so much nicer when she smiles.
Sue is devastated when she realises the Doctor hasn’t taken his trousers off, but this is immediately offset by some nice wood panelling and a nice chair.
Sue: I’m just not a big fan of this genre. It’s all a bit too upper-class for me to give a shit. I want more deaths.
Right on cue, the episode concludes with a man dressed as a harlequin attacking Ann. Luckily, 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.
The Doctor shows Lady Cranleigh a dead body he found in one of her cupboards.
Sue: **** me, the body is still there. I would have put money on it vanishing. So that’s clever.
George Cranleigh finally shows us 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-goers are bravely soldiering on.
Sue: Poor sods. They are freezing to death out there. Nyssa – or Ann, I can’t keep up – will probably catch pneumonia in that skimpy dress.
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 clever misdirection.
The Doctor and his friends are in big trouble.
Sue: This is what happens when you decide to gatecrash a buffet. Let this be a lesson to you all.
The Doctor leads his inquisitors to the cupboard containing the corpse, but it’s disappeared!
Sue: Oh, they got there in the end. How disappointing.
Charles telephones Smutty Thomas to see if this Doctor chap is all he’s cracked up to be.
Sue: So the Doctor wasn’t Pervy Stephens after all!
Tegan is adamant the Doctor is no imposter.
Sue: Yes he is! He been pretending to be Dirty Bernard, or whatever his name is. Oh do keep up, Tegan!
The Doctor and his companions are driven to the local police station as Sue sings the theme music to All Creatures Great and Small.
Sue: Why can’t we watch All Creatures from the beginning? I’d actually 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 lasts all of two minutes.
Sue: So why bring it up in the first place!?
The Doctor invites Sir Robert to take a look inside his vehicle. Tegan warns him he’s in for a surprise.
Sue: And a possible heart attack.
The Doctor offers to take everyone back to Cranleigh Hall in his time machine.
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!
Back at the house, George kills Latoni.
Me: 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 completely obsessed with fire at the moment.
George escapes from his room and 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: Okay, you can stop now.
George manhandles Nyssa on the roof.
Sue: Here comes the cliffhanger…
Meanwhile, down on the ground, Lady Cranleigh transforms into a human 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 roof’s edge.
Sue: I want to feel sorry for him, but he’s a serial killer, so it’s quite difficult. And I’m not very happy with the implication that a deformity automatically turns you into a deranged psychopath, either. It doesn’t feel right to me. I don’t like it.
The Doctor tells George 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: So where the hell do they go from here? Does the orchid bring George back from the dead or something?
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 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 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 when they deal with an interesting period in history. At least we learnt something about the Romans and the Aztecs and Marco Polo. 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 do Black Orchid again. That 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 some resistance, but as soon as she hears Peter Davison call Black Orchid “crap” (which takes him all of 30 seconds), she gives in and enjoys the ride.
Sue: See! It’s not just me. Even Peter Davison hates it.
To be fair, hardly anyone has a good word to say about Black Orchid.
Sue: It’s refreshing to hear a commentary where everyone isn’t slapping each other on the back every five seconds. 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, nobody mentions Matthew’s ball-handling.
Sue: I’ll tell you something, though, they have better chemistry on this commentary than they did in the actual programme. Although I do detect some animosity towards Matthew. Peter isn’t very happy with him. He probably thinks he’s cramping his style.
Davison is fairly 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, so what was the point? Even Matthew Waterhouse agrees it isn’t Doctor Who, and he’s clearly insane.
In fact, the cast can’t think of anything nice to say.
Sue: Listening to this makes me question things 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”? I mean, 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 want to change it.
Sue: Peter’s right, it’s rubbish.