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5.0 out of 5 stars Great adventures from 1666 and 1925 Britain, Feb. 9 2004
By 
Daniel J. Hamlow (Narita, Japan) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Two historical adventures, one quasi-, the other a period adventure set in 1920's Britain. The first, The Visitation, has the Doctor and his companions landing in the England of 1666, where they are mistaken for plague carriers and nearly killed if not for the intervention of Richard Mace, an itinerant thespian who has been taking refuge in a barn. Mace saw a comet as the sign of things to come. However, according to the Doctor, Earth isn't due for a comet for a couple years. And the discovery of higher technology pinpoints to aliens on Earth, and thus to the manor where the barn's owner lives. However, the manor is under control of the Terileptils, (inspired by the words territorial reptiles), whose leader becomes interested in the Doctor as he sees the Time Lord foil his servants, villagers controlled by a crude form of mental control.
At first, Richard Mace is skeptical at the Doctor's explanations for the strange occurrences, but he comes to trust the unconventional Time Lord. The representation of manners and customs of 17th century England is accurately shown in Mace, who tells the Time Lord that one should be humble and respectful of the gentry, particularly the owners of the barn the Doctor wants information on. The Doctor ripostes with "I've met kings, emperors, megalomaniacs in my time." And Mace's shock at Nyssa and the Doctor's breaking into the barn owner's house is again 17th century protocol. But Michael Robbins' plummy robust voice as well as his likeable character nearly makes him steal the show as Mace.
One reason why Tegan's among my least favourite companions is her bad temper. When the Doctor misses her own time by a good three centuries, she yells "Call yourself a Time Lord? A broken clock keeps better time than you! At least it's accurate twice a day which is more than you ever are!" Later, he gets his own back when in response to how she's feeling, Tegan says "Groggy, sore, and bad-tempered." He says, "Good. Almost your old self."
The Terileptils justify their plans of conquest thus: "It's survival. Just as these primitive kill lesser species to protect themselves, so I kill them." They also like war and say "War is honorable...even on this planet it is considered so." The Doctor counters with "Yet by your own admission, these people are still primitive. What's your excuse?" eliciting an angry growl from the Terileptil. Designing the Terileptil marked the first use of animatronics in the series, used in making the mouth, lips and gills move.

The Visitation's always been a favourite of mine due to the way the story gradually unfolds. One of Nyssa's more heroic moments come in during her task to convert the TARDIS's sonic booster coupled with a frequency accelerator to destroy the android. And the story ends with an event Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary. Look at the year: 1666. What happened in London then? (Rating: 5).
Black Orchid has the Doctor being mistaken for a doctor at nearby Guy's Hospital and expected at the manor of the Cranleighs for a cricket match, giving a "perfectly ripping performance." Hey, the Doctor isn't wearing that cricketing outfit for nothing, and the montage that shows him batting, pitching no-hitters, and cries of "Howzat?" is a triumph. However, who is the unknown man in beige trousers and brown shoes and guttural hiss who strangles a man at the beginning and who later infiltrates the Doctor's room?
A further surprise is that Nyssa is an identical twin of Ann Talbot, fiancee to Lord Cranleigh. Sarah Sutton plays both Nyssa and Ann, and the latter's clever idea of having identical purple butterfly costumes at the masked charity. However, the Cranleighs have a dark secret which blows open and sunders the festive atmosphere when Doctor is accused of murder by Ann.
One observation of the aristocracy arises when the Cranleighs try to figure out where Nyssa's from. They think Worcestershire, and the identification of class to region, when they say Nyssa's lack of knowledge of Esher shows good taste is telling of the snobbery they exhibit. The implied trust given to the aristocracy by the police is shown as the Doctor is disbelieved and Ann believed in her accusation.
One flaw is how the British police of 1925 know of police boxes when none existed back then.
Despite being a two-parter, Black Orchid works better than expected. Adric and Nyssa's lack of understanding Earth culture is accompanied by Tegan feeling right at home, and in a good mood for once, even doing the Charleston at the ball. (Rating: 4) Overall rating, 4.5, rounded to 5.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Two excellent examples from 1980's Doctor Who, Jan. 11 2001
By 
"The Visitation" A first rate adventure for the TARDIS crew finds the Doctor (portrayed with excellence by Peter Davison)discovering an alien presence at a sensitive time in English history. Will our favorite Time Lord, along with his compantions and an open-minded actor/highwayman, be able to stop this menace? Collector's Note: This story features the last use of the Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver until the 1996 TV Movie! "Black Orchid" The Doctor remains in England, only travelling to the 1920's. While the Doctor enjoys a game of cricket, there are strange goings-on at Cranleigh House. A murder mystery ensues and the Doctor is the prime suspect!
Both of these episodes show the range of the Doctor Who series. While both utilize historical background, they have radically different approaches. One includes sci-fi elements, while another is a period costume drama. Neither suffers from these limitations and are suitable for the whole family.
The acting in the Doctor Who series is typically very good. The producers had to hire talented actors in order to detract from the occasionally rough special effects. Peter Davison brought an enthusiam and joy to the role of the Doctor that had been missing for a few years. Sarah Sutton is an excellent addition to the cast, playing a young scientist who is the last survivor of her world. She shows great range in "Black Orchid" where she takes on a second role. Janet Fielding offers her role of Tegan with great gusto, demonstrating a strength that is missing from many women's roles in family drama of the 80's. Matthew Waterhouse as the much-maligned Adric shows improvement, though he is certainly not adding much to the procedings. Watch for his amusing turn at the buffet in "Black Orchid."
These were two of my favorites growing up. I am glad to call them part of my home video collection. - CCH
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5.0 out of 5 stars Two excellent examples from 1980's Doctor Who, Jan. 11 2001
By 
"The Visitation" A first rate adventure for the TARDIS crew finds the Doctor (portrayed with excellence by Peter Davison)discovering an alien presence at a sensitive time in English history. Will our favorite Time Lord, along with his compantions and an open-minded actor/highwayman, be able to stop this menace? Collector's Note: This story features the last use of the Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver until the 1996 TV Movie! "Black Orchid" The Doctor remains in England, only travelling to the 1920's. While the Doctor enjoys a game of cricket, there are strange goings-on at Cranleigh House. A murder mystery ensues and the Doctor is the prime suspect!
Both of these episodes show the range of the Doctor Who series. While both utilize historical background, they have radically different approaches. One includes sci-fi elements, while another is a period costume drama. Neither suffers from these limitations and are suitable for the whole family.
The acting in the Doctor Who series is typically very good. The producers had to hire talented actors in order to detract from the occasionally rough special effects. Peter Davison brought an enthusiam and joy to the role of the Doctor that had been missing for a few years. Sarah Sutton is an excellent addition to the cast, playing a young scientist who is the last survivor of her world. She shows great range in "Black Orchid" where she takes on a second role. Janet Fielding offers her role of Tegan with great gusto, demonstrating a strength that is missing from many women's roles in family drama of the 80's. Matthew Waterhouse as the much-maligned Adric shows improvement, though he is certainly not adding much to the procedings. Watch for his amusing turn at the buffet in "Black Orchid."
These were two of my favorites growing up. I am glad to call them part of my home video collection. - CCH
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Different Doctor Who, Nov. 23 2002
By A Customer
"Black Orchid" is a different kind of Doctor Who story: no malevolent alien influence, no reversing the polarity of the neutron flow, no sonic screwdriver to save the day... With the distinct feel of a British murder mystery, "Black Orchid" offers a brief (only two parts) and refreshing change of pace. As if seeing Tegan and Nyssa do the Charleston and watching Adric pig out at a buffet table isn't entertaining enough, we're treated to the Doctor tramping about, lost and befuddled, in his bathrobe. That alone is worth the purchase price.
With "The Visitation", we're back to the old "stranded alien creatures take over the earth" plot, reminiscent of Tom Baker's "Terror of the Zygons", and "the *real* cause behind that famous historical happening" twist, which we've seen umpteen times before. Still, an agreeable episode to be enjoyed for what it is.
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