Doctor Who #580: Black Orchid Part 2

"I've no reason to harm you. And besides--" "Besides what?" "Well, it wouldn't be cricket."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Mar.2 1982.

IN THIS ONE... The disfigured George Cranleigh is on a killing spree, the Doctor is falsely accused, and it all ends on a rooftop.

REVIEW: Though Black Orchid has a setting perfect for an Agatha Christie murder mystery, the story really isn't one. It's more of a slasher flick, with the disfigured George on a rampage to get at his precious Ann, perhaps sensing or knowing his brother Charles is about to swoop in and make her his sister-in-law. The Doctor does some keen deducing at the end to explain how he knew everything all along, but since he couldn't tell his harlequin costume had just been worn, we're not about to mistake him for Poirot. And to the Cranleighs, there's really no mystery, since they immediately know whodunit, Lady C doing her best to cover for her traumatized son by pointing the finger at the Doctor (with the help of a convenient mistaken identity plot device and Ann's distraught accusations). What was good about Black Orchid wasn't the plot, but the comedy of manners element. Here, the plot takes over, as it must, do it's all a bit ordinary.

Still, I don't think we've seen quite so many stunts since the HAVOC days, with people running through fire, climbing manor walls and falling from great heights all in the space of 20 minutes. The Doctor gets to show some bravery, but Charles too, facing his brother on the rooftop to save Nyssa. His hug is accidentally deadly, but then, he's just putting Georgie out of his misery. The companions are rather less active, either looking on or playing hostage. Sarah Sutton's other role isn't much better, as Ann is so wet as to be stridently melodramatic. At least the episode opens on the end of the party where they get the chance to smile, relax and raise their sympathy scores with the audience.

Oh yes, I almost forgot, this is an episode in which the Doctor reveals to Earth police that he's a time traveler, and even shows them around the TARDIS. It might be strange that, barring the odd colorful exclamation, they take it all in their stride, but then this is a story in which the characters exhibit an incredible comical unflappability. That's part of the charm. Nobody needs to be an accessory to murder in the end, not even Mama Cranleigh who was hiding bodies a few minutes earlier. Here's your fancy dress costumes to remember us by. Goodbye now!

VERSIONS: The harlequin juggling balls on the cover of the Target novelization is a complete non sequitur. Longer than most books in the range even though the televised story is shorter, the author expands on every situation scene.

- Part 1's charm isn't completely gone, but the straightforward plot takes over and doesn't take us very far.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium - While Black Orchid is a charming change of pace, its short running time makes it little more than a passing dream. It has little substance.


Zundian said...

It seems an odd coincidence this is the second story this series to climax with a fire.

Siskoid said...

It's the original Bad Wolf!

That and execution cliffhangers and the Master and sidelining Nyssa and cricket balls and destroying Tom Baker's legacy (the scarf, the sonic, Adric...)

d said...

It wasn't until Black Orchid the I realized the Doctor was wearing a Cricketing uniform and not just some collection of clothes. Stupid North Americans!

Siskoid said...

We ARE pretty dumb about such things.


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