Friday, 22 June 2012

577 Black Orchid Part Two

EPISODE: Black Orchid Part Two
TRANSMITTED: Tuesday 02 March 1982
WRITER: Terence Dudley
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 10.1 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Black Orchid

The Doctor finds Lady Cranleigh & Latoni and shows them the body he's found. They take him back to his room where he changes into his returned costume. Anne meanwhile has been put to bed by a hideously disfigured man. When she awakens she finds Lady Cranleigh and Latoni rebinds the disfigured man. The Doctor comes to the party in costume where he is identified as the assailant by Anne and arrested by Sir Robert Muir, the chief constable of the county, a guest at the ball. Lady Cranleigh refuses to give the Doctor an alibi. The Doctor tells Muir of a second dead body, but when he is taken to the cupboard it is empty and the Doctor is taken away with his companions. The Doctor asks to be taken to the railway station but when they get there the Tardis is gone. They are taken to the police station where the Tardis sits in the yard and the Doctor unlocks it admitting the Police Man. The disfigured man escapes again, setting a fire. The police receive a call that another body has been found and the Doctor takes them to the manor in the Tardis. The figure confronts Lord and Lady Cranleigh, but when the Doctor & his friends enter he mistakes Nyssa for Anne and seizes her. Lady Cranleigh admits the man is her elder son George. Charles confronts his brother on the roof of the burning manor, and the Doctor talks him into releasing Nyssa, proving she is not Anne. George falls to his death from the roof. The Doctor stays for the funeral, and Lady Cranleigh presents him with a copy of George's book, The Black Orchid.

That's a novel for Doctor Who. Yes it's the first story since the Highlanders in 1966 not to feature any alien life form, and no science fiction element except the Tardis. But it could be the first Doctor Who story not to feature science fiction or historical events..... I suppose the Smugglers is it's nearest anticendant in Doctor Who: while not featuring actual historical events or figures it does feature a story set in a specific era. What it's most like is an Agatha Christie novel, in particular Hercule Poirot. You could see Poirot getting off the train, with Hastings being drafted into the cricket match and the fiance being Miss Lemon's double. I doubt you'd get away with the story as it is now, you could see some science fiction horror being inserted into it, perhaps having George slowly mutating as a result of contact with some alien artifact. The only problem with that is that perhaps that's a bit too reminiscent of Seeds of Doom. But it works as a story, it's something a bit different and it proves that the two part story is a viable format. And the fifty ish minutes that this story takes up are the equivalent length of one modern episode of Doctor Who.

This is the first two part story since the Sontaran experiment in 1975, which in turn was the only two parter outside the Hartnell era (1964's Edge of Destruction and 1965's The Rescue). Two parters are the solution in the fifth Doctor's era to the problem of having a season length that doesn't divide by 4, the preferred length of a story. But wait! Didn't John Nathan-Turner secure extra funding at the start of season 18, Tom Baker's last, to make a 28 episode season instead of the traditional 26 episode one? What happened to the extra money? I think we can safely say that 2 episodes worth of money went making K-9 & Company this year. Next year is only 22 episodes but would have been 26 if Warhead had been made (yup there's some strike action coming: see Enlightenment, King's Demons & Resurrection of the Daleks for details). The remaining two episodes worth were spent on The Five Doctors with the rest of the episode being paid for as a joint production with the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

Several of the cast here are known to us, or will be shortly. Probably the most famous face in this serial is Moray Watson as Chief Constable Sir Robert Muir. just look at that CV! Doctor Who and his Star Cops appearances are mere footnotes. Don't take IMDB's claim that he's the father of Emma Watson at face value: the famous one is a different person altogether! Playing Lord Charles Cranleigh is Michael Cochrane. He'll be back as Redvers Fenn-Cooper in Ghost Light, but before then we'll see his younger bother Martin Cochrane as Chellak in the The Caves of Androzani. And his wife's more famous sister as well...... Playing George Cranleigh (credited as The Unknown in the first episode & the Radio Times to disguise his true identity: there's more of this next episode!)is stuntman Gareth Milne who will be back doubling for Peter Davison in Warriors on the Cheap sorry I mean of the Deep. He'll work with Peter Davison again on Campion, which has a similar period setting. Ivor Salter plays Sergeant Markham: he was previously the Morok Commander in The Space Museum and Odysseus in The Myth Makers.

Black Orchid was repeated on 31st August & 1st September 1983, the third story from this season to get a repeat that summer. As to what happened to the 1982 repeat season..... well see the end of the next story. It was released as a novel by the story's author in Spetember 1986 (HB) and February 87 (PB), the last Peter Davison story to be released by Target Books leaving Resurrection of the Daleks un-novelised. It was released on video in July 1994 in a double pack with the preceding story, the Visitation, and on DVD on April 14th 2008.

One is a tinsy bit excited about tomorrow and the three days following....

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