on July 14, 2010
As a 10 year-old, Black Orchid seemed to be a reasonable detour for Peter Davison's Doctor; nothing terribly exciting, but a decent mystery romp. Viewing it a couple of decades later, it's easy to see why the cast enjoys skewering it on a highly entertaining commentary track that plays like a solid episode of Mystery Science Theatre: plot holes and silly acting abound. Still, this is entertaining enough for diehard fans; others steer clear.
on December 30, 2008
Let's face it, the resurrection of the series in 2005 and the flood of excellent, well produced stories since then has not been kind to the likes of "Black Orchid". Where once we would have rushed to celebrate this story as a somewhat charming "experimental" historical adventure, we no longer need to defend it so mechanically. Instead it's an ill-conceived,under written, poorly realised cliched pastiche of twenties English country house thrillers which were doing the rounds in TV-land back in the early eighties masquerading - literally - as a Doctor Who story. Or perhaps this is its towering genius, while all the leads shed their regular outfits and identities the show takes on new clothes and by doing so moves beyond the established confines of the series and - metaphorically speaking that is - liberates itself from the tried and true formula that has served it so well and instead frolicks in the turgid wetlands of by-the-numbers TV that - with laughter track applied - would have been a terrible, unbelievable episode of "You Rang M'lord".
The real gems on this DVD release are the extras, the audio commentaries of the series regulars - thankfully - pull no punches at all. The special feaures, especially the "Now and Then" location piece, have been crafted with more care than the show warrants. Unintentionally hilarious is the "restoration" feature which, like a bad dream, replays so often some dire scenes from "Orchid" to demonstrate some technical insights and restoration wizardry that you wished they hadn't bothered.
Buy this because you have to, not because it's any good.
This two part story is certainly not a typical one. It barely qualifies as a historical mystery. Even at that it would be substandard. The extras make the purchase more palatable but, unless you plan on listening to the actors critcize themselves and the story more than once, it is by no means a worthwhile purchase.
on August 6, 2008
Black Orchid isn't a bad piece of Doctor Who, but it's not a shining example of what the show is all about either; if you were to show an episode to someone as an introductory adventure, this would hardly be the one you would choose.
Back in 1982 when this was made, 2-part stories were rare and only a few writers attempted them. Writer Terence Dudley penned not only Black Orchid but The King's Demons the year after, and where Demons was criticized for trying to do too much, Black Orchid takes a very slow pace to get to where it is going, with the Doctor and company arriving in England in the summer of 1925 and going to a charity cricket match, then a fancy dress party, and discovering a murder mystery in the process. Identity is the key element to this one: companion Nyssa is a dead ringer for society debutante Anne Talbot, and the Doctor is immediately mistaken for someone else. And then there is the mystery killer, credited only as "the unknown" in the first episode's closing sequence.
Aside from the presence of the TARDIS - the Doctor's time machine - there isn't much science fiction to this episode, which is an interesting turn for a science fiction series. Such an attempt at a purely historical adventure had not been attempted since The Highlanders, a lost classic from 1966. Highlanders, though, and previous historicals had a major event to work with, be it the Jacobite uprisings, Marco Polo's journey to China, or even the story of the Aztecs before the arrival of Cortez, but Black Orchid is a simple period piece with the usually stunning BBC costumes, and location shooting at some nice country spot.
BBC Video was slammed for their choice to release 2-part adventures on single DVDs rather than pair them with the adjacent 4-parters as was done with the VHS releases (Black Orchid accompanied the previously transmitted story, The Visitation, in that format), but the bonus features included with Black Orchid make it's standalone format and price point a bit easier to take; deleted scenes, a vignette about the fifth Doctor in comic book adventures, technical demonstations of how the original film sequences were restored for the DVD, and the big shining bonus: the commentary. All 4 lead actors (Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and Matthew Waterhouse) are all there in the sound booth without a director or a moderator and they just let fly with some of the most hysterical commentary I have heard on a Doctor Who DVD to date. Unlike the commentary for Resurrection of the Daleks where Davison and Fielding were obviously smacked down between episodes for their vocalized thoughts, here there is nobody to stop them from totally taking shots at their least favourite moments (usually their own work).
If you're a fan you're going to get this anyways, if you're not a fan and you're curious, get something with the Daleks in it because Black Orchid is not typical of Doctor Who at any time in its history; like the lead actors, you'll need to look at it with a sense of humour.
on May 6, 2008
This is one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes of the original series.
Black Orchid is a historial, which in Doctor Who terms means that it takes place in the past but without any aliens or other sci fi elements other than the presence of the Doctor and his companions and the TARDIS. For that reason, the episode looks a bit like a BBC period piece, although shorter.
The Doctor, played by Peter Davison, and his 3 companions arrive at the Cranley estate on the day of a charity party and cricket game. The Doctor is mistaken for a substitute cricket player that a friend of the owner had promised to send to the party. His companion Nyssa is discovered to be the double of Ann, who is engaged to one of the Cranleys. A murder and mistaken identity insue, and a family secret is revealed.
This one is short, but it is well worth your time.