‘Black Orchid’ (TV)

Black Orchid DVD UK cover


Please feel free to comment on my review.

Beautiful story set in the 1920s with the Doctor; two Nyssas; Tegan and Adric

I love ‘Black Orchid’! Straight to the point! I just love it!

This is my absolute favourite ‘Doctor Who’ story from the Peter Davison era. I’m so pleased that this is lovely Sarah Sutton’s favourite story too. Sarah plays both Nyssa and Ann Talbot in this adventure.

When I first bought the DVD in April, 2008, it was on a day when I was working on my first year project at Cardiff University. I was tired and stressed out from working on that project that I decided to purchase the DVD that lunch time during the day so I could watch it at home which I’m glad I did.

black orchid1

I had an hour to spare before going back to my lectures. I saw ‘Part One’ during my lunch break and couldn’t wait to see ‘Part Two’ after my lectures. I later saw ‘Part Two’ and soon re-watched the story. I’ve now seen the story for the umpteenth time and know all the lines of the character/actors.

I’ve had the DVD cover of ‘Black Orchid’ signed by Sarah Sutton (as well as the CD cover of ‘Circular Time’) when I first met her at the ‘Fifth Element’ event in Chiswick, London, February 2010. Sarah was pleased I liked ‘Black Orchid’. She likes this story since it’s a historical adventure set in the 1920s and she gets to play two characters in it.

I certainly enjoyed the murder mystery aspect and it’s quite surprising how writer Terence Dudley managed to put so much into this two-part story as that is unique. I loved watching the cricket match scenes that are featured in ‘Part One’ and I enjoyed the fancy dress ball scenes in the story.

I especially loved the character moments between Nyssa; Adric and Tegan when they were enjoying themselves at the ball. This story shows sides of Nyssa; Adric and Tegan that gets rarely seen on TV.

Sarah has said although she likes this story, she doesn’t think it develops Nyssa’s character since it’s merely here playing two parts in the whole story. I’m inclined to disagree with her on that point, as I think ‘Black Orchid’ does develop Nyssa’s character since we see her social side which is rarely seen.

It’s a nice break to see Nyssa enjoying herself as the fancy dress ball and being a sociable person. It’s a change from having her be the scientist as she tends to be usually for most of the stories she’s in.

Sarah however gets to shine in this story. Not only does she play Nyssa but also the equally lovely Ann Talbot. Ann is quite girly and emotional as a character, not like Nyssa who’s stronger and calmer than her. But Ann comes across as being bubbly, cheeky and really nice throughout when seeing her.

Ann is a very interesting character, as we get to learn who she is and why she is being chased by this mysterious antagonist who is the murderer. For me it’s hard to decide who is better, Nyssa or Ann. I certainly didn’t who it was that got attacked or going to be attacked in the cliff-hanger for ‘Part One’.

Sarah delivers the aristocratic nature very well in her performance of both Nyssa and Ann. I loved the moment when the two girls first met and I really enjoyed the ‘topping’ moment Nyssa and Ann had between them when they were getting ready to go to the ball and wearing the same dresses.

Sarah plays both Nyssa and Ann well, making them similar and different to each other. It’s also nice for Nyssa to have some attention in this story. Although (and Janet Fielding makes this point in the commentary), it would have been nice to found out why Nyssa and Ann looked so similar in this story.

It’s just started throughout that Nyssa and Ann are similar to each other, without any explanation. It’s odd, considering Nyssa’s from Traken and Ann isn’t. Perhaps there is a story out there already if anyone wishes to comment. I’ve written my own story explaining why Nyssa and Ann are so similar.

I liked both Nyssa and Ann in their fancy dress outfits at the ball. Both are wearing matching blue butterfly dresses (blue’s my favourite colour). They both look so gorgeous, even though they are skimpy outfits. Sarah gets to show off her dancing skills since she went to ballet school as a little girl.

Peter Davison as the Doctor gets to play cricket. Of all the stories of his era, ‘Black Orchid’ is his least favourite. The cricket scenes are the only thing he likes about this story. Peter gets to wear a fancy dress outfit and is accused for murder. It was intense when the Doctor tries to prove he’s innocent.

Janet Fielding is equally good as Tegan. I found Tegan less bossy and friendlier compared to other stories. She enjoys seeing the cricket match and attends the fancy dress ball at Cranleigh Hall. I liked it when Tegan (as well as Nyssa and Adric) stood up for the Doctor when he is accused of murder.

Matthew Waterhouse is okay as Adric. He’s out of place in the 1920s and I was slightly annoyed that Adric didn’t want to dance with Nyssa at the ball. I love the comedy moments Adric has when he’s uncomfortable about dancing and is eating at the buffet with Nyssa calling him a ‘pig’. Funny stuff!


The guest cast are ‘quite topping’ to coin a phrase. There’s Michael Cochrane as Lord Charles Cranleigh, who I’ve met at a convention in April 2013; Moray Watson as Sir Robert Muir, the chief constable of Cranleigh and Barbara Murray as Lady Madge Cranleigh, Charles Cranleigh’s mother.

I loved hearing the nostalgic 1920s music featured in this story and it’s my Dad’s favourite part of ‘Black Orchid’ too. My Dad is a massive fan of the nostalgic jazz music from the 1920s, 30s and 40s.


The DVD special features are as follows. There’s the ‘Now and Then – The Locations of Black Orchid’ featurette which I enjoyed watching immensely. There are some ‘deleted scenes’ that should have been included in the story as they’re great. There’s also a ‘restoration’ featurette on ‘Black Orchid’.

There’s a ‘Blue Peter’ clip that looks into how the costumes featured were made for ‘Black Orchid’. There’s also the ‘Stripped For Action – The Fifth Doctor’ documentary. This is interesting as it looks into the comic book adventures of the Fifth Doctor and can be found in ‘The Tides of Time’ graphic novel.

There is a commentary with Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and Matthew Waterhouse. I was very disappointed from hearing the commentary how much Peter, Janet and Matthew loathe this story and gave it negative reviews. Sarah seems to be the only person who liked ‘Black Orchid’.

I don’t think Sarah got a chance to say much in that commentary (told me she ‘couldn’t get a word in edgeways’). Despite the fact that Peter Davison doesn’t like this story (or as Sarah says ‘hates it’), it certainly is unlike any ‘Doctor Who’ story I’ve ever seen before since it hasn’t any sci-fi elements in it.

There is also an ‘info text’ commentary option to watch, which I found very unimpressive. There is a ‘Points of View’ item and an exciting ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ with Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and Bonnie Langford. There’s also a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF of ‘Black Orchid’. There’s also an ‘Easter Egg’ to look out for on this DVD.


I enjoy ‘Black Orchid’ every minute and I can’t seem to stop watching it again and again. It’s a nice, relaxing, enjoyable adventure and it has made a huge impact on my life with meeting Sarah Sutton at conventions. It’s a shining story for Sarah as Nyssa and Ann and is one I’ve held close to my heart.

Check out the ‘Black Orchid’ Painting by Timelord007

‘Black Orchid’ rating – 10/10

Doctor_Who_Black_Orchid black-orchid-audio


Please feel free to comment on my review.

More ‘Black Orchid’ To Enjoy

This review is on the novelization and the audiobook of ‘Black Orchid’ and is for lovely Sarah Sutton.

As I mentioned in the DVD review, I love ‘Black Orchid’ so much. It’s my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ story. I found this audiobook in the shops whilst on holiday in Scotland 2008. I soon had the book for my birthday in 2010. It has been an enjoyable experience reading and listening to this novelization/audiobook.

‘Doctor Who – Black Orchid’ by Terrance Dudley was published in 1986. It’s a detailed and informative book and was divided into 9 chapters with a prologue and an epilogue. The audiobook covers 4 audio CDs, making the story feel more of a four-part adventure compared to a two-parter.

The audiobook is read by Michael Cochrane, who played Lord Cranleigh. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Michael at the ‘celebrate 50 – The Peter Davison Years’ event in Chiswick, London, April 2013. It was a delight to meet him and chat with him about ‘Black Orchid’ as well as his appearances in ‘Keeping Up Appearances’ and ‘Monarch of the Glen’.

I’ve had both the novel and the CD cover of the audiobook signed by the lovely Sarah Sutton (who I’ve met lots of times). I could feel Sarah’s presence as Nyssa and Ann throughout this novelization/audiobook. I’ve also had the CD cover for the audiobook signed by Michael Cochrane.

‘Black Orchid’ was part of a series of Target novelizations published in the 60s, 70s and 80s on the original ‘Doctor Who’ TV stories. BBC Audio have now taken the Target novelizations and turned them into audiobooks that are now read by an actors/actress who appeared in the original TV story.

The book flourishes full of detail and information. I had not realised that there was more to this story than meets the eye in the book compared to the TV story. It was nice to listen to the characters featured in ‘Black Orchid’ and discover from their perspective how they witnessed events in the story.

The characters like the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan, Adric and Ann Talbot are far more interesting in the novel/audiobook. This is different compared to how they were portrayed in the original TV story.

Michael Cochrane’s narration of ‘Black Orchid’ is clear and engaging to listen to and he’s a delightful narrator. Michael breathes life into the characters and setting of 1925. It was relaxing listening to this story as he has fond memories working on this story with Barbara Murray and Moray Watson.

I believe Terence Dudley would have liked this story to be four-episodes instead of two for TV. As the audiobook is 4 CDs and Dudley had put so much detail into the novel, it seems to be the case. Dudley adds more detail to this little murder mystery, including the cricket match and the fancy dress ball.

Dudley has done his research delving back into history and covers information about cricket, orchids, dancing, cocktails, law enforcements, and everything from the 1920s. He also makes references about recent scientific discoveries when the Doctor tries to prove his innocence to Sir Robert Muir.

I enjoyed the banter shared between Nyssa, Tegan and Adric. Tegan trying to explain cricket to her friends was funny to read and listen to. Nyssa and Tegan clearly don’t get what Tegan’s on about and it adds to the comedy. I would like to have seen that in TV story between Sarah, Janet and Matthew.

I enjoyed the fancy dress ball scenes in the book as well as in the TV story. I liked the scene between Nyssa and Lord Cranleigh when he tells her about the dancers dressed as the Walrus and the Carpenter from ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’ which Sarah did a production of, didn’t you know?!

Dudley also rewrote scenes considered to be weak from the TV story. The scenes with Ann and ‘the creature’ in the annex work better in the book compared to the TV story. Ann shows sympathy for ‘the creature when he’s crying, and there’s tension as Lady Cranleigh and the Indian try to break in.

Ann being dragged forcefully into the mansion by the Pierot was written better in the book as they danced casually in the TV version. It also seemed tenser and dramatic in the novel compared to the TV story when Ann struggles to escape from the Pierot and the footman James comes to rescue her.

The ‘creature’ is given more sympathy in the book and the Indian is a more interesting character and manages to survive compared to being killed in the TV story. The scenes where Sir Robert Muir interrogates the Doctor after Ann accuses him for murder are re-worked and extended in the novel.

Ann proves to be a far more interesting character compared to how she was in the TV story as she was more a screamer. Her grief over the loss of her former fiancé George Cranleigh is touched upon and the scenes where she’s finally told about the secret of Cranleigh Hall are moving and dramatic.

Tegan seems to be given more background about her character in terms of her childhood when she played cricket as a girl and the connection to her Australian roots. The scene between her and the Doctor was lovely when they talk about his cricketing prowess and a certain young Donald Bradman.

I also liked the moments when Nyssa admits to Tegan that she doesn’t seem to like the 1920s at first and being at Cranleigh Hall. She seems to be afraid and finds the place spooky. Eventually Nyssa gets to enjoy herself during the story when she dances and bosses Adric around at the fancy dress ball.

Adric’s loneliness is also touched upon during the fancy dress ball scenes. However he does get to dance the Charleston at the ball which didn’t happen compared to the TV story. There’s more of Adric eating in the book and it is funny when he seems to be curious than greedy when eating food.

Lady Cranleigh’s also an interesting character as she’s torn from protecting her son in the annex to saying nothing in defence of the Doctor when he’s accused of murder. It’s a more dramatic interpretation of her character, as she’s so determined to keep the secret of Cranleigh Hall within.

I enjoyed the incidental music and the sound design featured in this audiobook. It helped me as a listener to relax. Although I would have liked to hear the real Charleston and proper jazz music as they used random music that wasn’t the Charleston at all and was unfamiliar to be used for effect.

I imagine if this story was made as a four-part adventure, the cast would have enjoyed it better since the regulars except Sarah don’t like this very much according to the DVD commentary for ‘Black Orchid’. I would have rewritten this story the way Dudley reworked it in the novel and in a new light.

But I enjoy the TV version as much as I enjoyed listening/reading to the novelisation/audiobook. Having two avenues for this story is great and I’ve written my own sequel to ‘Black Orchid’. I enjoyed researching both the TV story and the novelization/audiobook when I wrote my sequel to this story.

The ‘Doctor Who – Black Orchid’ novelization/audiobook is wonderful! The audiobook is brilliantly read by Michael Cochrane and listening to this on a sunny day in the car can’t go wrong. For ‘Black Orchid’ and Nyssa fans, this is the one for you and there’s more than meets the eye to this story.

‘Doctor Who – Black Orchid’ rating – 10/10

The previous story

For the Fifth Doctor was

  • ‘Night Flight to Nowhere’ (Annual)

For Tegan was

  • ‘Night Flight to Nowhere’ (Annual)

For Nyssa was

  • ‘Night Flight to Nowhere’ (Annual)

For Adric was

  • ‘Night Flight to Nowhere’ (Annual)
The next story

For the Fifth Doctor is

For Tegan is

For Nyssa is

For Adric is

Return to The Fifth Doctor’s Timeline
Return to Tegan’s Timeline
Return to Nyssa’s Timeline
Return to Adric’s Timeline

2 thoughts on “‘Black Orchid’ (TV)

  1. I loved reading this review which is a love letter to this excellent story, you captured the characters & the actors performances brilliantly in your review & i loved how you explained the differences with the transmitted episodes compared to the Target audiobook it gives a clear insight & helpful guide for those fans who didn’t know about these Target adaptations.

    Outstanding review & summary my friend, loved the photos too which adds a personal touch.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ‘Black Orchid’ is my absolute favourite ‘Doctor Who’ story from the Peter Davison era.

    I’m pleased you enjoyed this review of mine on that story. Yes, love letter does sum up my review for this story. Glad you enjoyed how I describe the characters; actors’ performances and how I compared the scenes from the TV episodes to the Target novel/audiobook for this story. I’m glad you find my helpful a helpful guide to those unfamiliar with ‘Black Orchid’ and the Targent novel/audiobook of this story.

    I’m glad you like my photos with Sarah Sutton and Michael Cochrane. Both of them were a joy to see. ‘Black Orchid’ was the first thing I had signed by Sarah ever when meeting her at a convention.

    Thanks Timelord Simon. Glad you enjoyed my review on ‘Black Orchid’, both the TV story and the Target novel/audiobook.

    Tim. 🙂


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