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The 1920s with Nyssa and Ann
Here we are on what is my personal favourite story of ‘Doctor Who’ in Season 19. I love ‘Black Orchid’! Straight to the point! I just love it! I’ve seen this story for the umpteenth time and never tire of it! I’m so glad I saw it again for the Blu-ray box set release, especially with its new special features!
‘Black Orchid’ is my absolute favourite story from the Peter Davison era of ‘Doctor Who’! It’s also one of Sarah Sutton’s favourites too. I’m so pleased that it’s one Sarah’s favourites, especially as she plays two characters in the TV tale. This includes Nyssa of Traken and her identical twin, Ann Talbot.
When I originally purchased the ‘Black Orchid’ DVD in April 2008, it was on a day when I was working on my first year project at Cardiff University. At that stage, I was getting so tired and stressed out by working on that first year project. Thus I decided to purchase the ‘Black Orchid’ DVD that lunchtime.
I wanted to watch ‘Black Orchid’ at home during that day, to which I’m glad I was able to do so. I had an hour or so to spare before I went back to my lectures that afternoon. I saw ‘Part One’ during my lunch break and couldn’t wait to see ‘Part Two’ after my lectures. I saw ‘Part Two’ for that afternoon.
I greatly loved the story and so did my parents. We had to re-watch the story again on DVD that day. Like I’ve said, I’ve seen the story for the umpteenth time and know all the lines of the characters that have appeared in it. I’ve even done fan-fiction stories based on the style and wit of ‘Black Orchid’! 😀
‘Black Orchid’ is a two-part story by Terence Dudley, who previously contributed ‘Four To Doomsday’ in Season 19. The story has the TARDIS materialising on the platform of a British railway station. ‘Black Orchid’ provided inspiration for me to pen my first ‘Fifth Doctor’ story, ‘The Railway of Time’!
The railway station for ‘Black Orchid’ happens to be Cranleigh Halt as the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric have arrived somewhere in sunny England during 1925. They meet Lord Cranleigh; his mother Lady Cranleigh; the police constable called Sir Robert Muir and Lord Cranleigh’s fiancée, Ann Talbot.
Ann Talbot happens to be the identical twin of Nyssa of Traken. The TARDIS team soon gets invited to a game of cricket as well as a fancy dress ball at Cranleigh Hall. But the happy good times at Cranleigh Hall soon go awry as a murder mystery takes place and the Doctor gets accused of murder.
I’ve had the DVD cover of ‘Black Orchid’ signed by Sarah Sutton at the ‘Fifth Element’ convention in Chiswick; London, February 2010. It was the first time I met Sarah at that convention. It’s an experience I will never forget! Sarah was really pleased that I like ‘Black Orchid’ when I told her I did.
Sarah has also signed photos of herself as Nyssa in ‘Black Orchid’ for me at various conventions over the years. These include one at the ‘Acceptable In The 80s’ convention in Chiswick; London, October 2011 and one at the ‘Stars of Time Film and Comic Con 2016 @ The Tropicana’ in Weston-super-Mare, August 2016. I’ve chatted to Sarah about ‘Black Orchid’ in an interview I did with her at the ‘Bournemouth Film and Comic Con’ in August 2015. You can watch this in the YouTube video above.
Seeing Sarah for the first time at the ‘Fifth Element’ convention was exciting as well as nerve-wrecking. She signed both my ‘Black Orchid’ DVD cover and ‘Circular Time’ CD cover at the event. It was so superb to hear how much Sarah liked ‘Black Orchid’ as a story both at that and future events.
Sarah told me that the reasons why she liked ‘Black Orchid’ as a story was because it was an historical adventure set in the 1920s and that she got to play two characters in it. This is a story that definitely allows Sarah to shine in terms of being an actress playing her two characters in the story. 🙂
I certainly enjoyed the murder mystery aspects of the story. It’s quite surprising how Terence Dudley managed to put so much into this two-part story, making it so unique. I loved watching the cricket match scenes featured in ‘Part One’ of the tale and I enjoyed the fancy dress ball scenes in the story.
For the Blu-ray edition of ‘Black Orchid’, there is an extended version of ‘Part One’. This features the deleted scenes that were included on the DVD special features of ‘Black Orchid’. These include the car drive from Cranleigh Halt to the cricket pitch and some more fancy dress ball scenes in the story.
I’m so glad that those deleted scenes have been included in an extended version of ‘Part One’ which I enjoyed greatly on the Blu-ray. But there were a few more deleted scenes from ‘Part Two’ of the story. I wonder why there wasn’t an extended version for ‘Part Two’ included on the Blu-ray as well.
I know there are more deleted scenes for ‘Part One’ than for ‘Part Two’. But surely the producers for the Season 19 Blu-ray box set should’ve milked it by putting all the deleted scenes into the two episodes. Or even better; have a feature-length version of the story with all the deleted scenes in it.
I really love the character moments featured in this tale between Nyssa, Tegan and Adric. This is when they’re enjoying themselves at the fancy dress ball. The story does demonstrate the sides of Nyssa, Tegan and Adric’s characters that we rarely get to see on TV where they do enjoy themselves.
Having chatted to Sarah at conventions and heard her talk on panels, she’s said at one point that though she likes ‘Black Orchid’, she doesn’t think that it develops Nyssa’s character. This is despite the fact that Sarah is playing two characters in the production where they are identical to each other.
I’m inclined to disagree with Sarah on that point, since I do think ‘Black Orchid’ does develop Nyssa’s character. We get to see Nyssa’s social side which is rarely seen in the TV series. Most of the time, Nyssa is fixing things and being scientific, which can lead her to be overlooked and underdeveloped.
It was a nice to have a break from that and to see Nyssa enjoying herself at the fancy dress ball. She’s not just a logical scientist and she can have a sense of fun which is sometimes difficult for her to express. Her ladylike status allows Nyssa to enjoy those hospitalities being offered by the Cranleighs.
During one of my interviews with Sarah, she has said to me that she considered giving a really bad performance in ‘Black Orchid’. I was shocked to hear that since I didn’t think she gave a bad performance. But having re-watched ‘Black Orchid’ for the Blu-ray, Sarah has had a change of heart.
Sarah gets to shine in this story by not only playing Nyssa, but also the equally lovely Ann Talbot. Ann is quite girly and emotional as a character in this. She’s not like Nyssa who’s stronger and calmer than her. Ann comes across as bubbly, cheeky and really nice throughout in this aristocratic manner.
Ann is an interesting character as we get to learn who she is and why she is being chased by this mysterious ‘unknown’ who is the murderer. When I saw the story for the first time, I wasn’t sure whether it was Nyssa or Ann who got attacked by the mysterious ‘unknown’ at the end of ‘Part One’!
Sarah delivers the aristocratic nature well in her performances for both Nyssa and Ann here. I loved the moment where the two girls first meet each other and I enjoyed that ‘topping’ scene between Nyssa, Ann and Janet where they are getting ready to go to the ball and deciding on dresses to wear!
I like how Sarah plays Nyssa and Ann in making them similar and different to each other. It’s also nice for Nyssa to have some attention in this story. Mind you (and Janet Fielding makes this point too in the DVD commentary), it would’ve been nice to find out why Nyssa and Ann looked so similar here.
It’s just stated throughout that Nyssa and Ann are similar to each other without an explanation. It’s odd considering Nyssa is from Traken and Ann is from Earth. I’ve written my own fan-fiction story that is a sequel to ‘Black Orchid’ explaining why Nyssa and Ann are so similar in terms of appearance.
I liked Nyssa and Ann in their fancy dress outfits at the fancy dress ball. Both wear matching blue butterfly dresses. Blue is my favourite colour! 😀 They both look 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 is good in this adventure. Unfortunately, out of all the stories of his era, ‘Black Orchid’ is Peter’s least favourite. I was disappointed when I heard the DVD commentary as Peter, Janet and Matthew did not seem to like the story and Sarah seemed the only one who liked it.
Sarah told me that she ‘couldn’t get a word in edgeways’ when she did the DVD commentary for ‘Black Orchid’ with Peter, Janet and Matthew. Despite Peter Davison saying he doesn’t like the story (‘hates it’ as Sarah puts it), ‘Black Orchid’ is certainly unlike any other ‘Doctor Who’ story ever seen before.
The story doesn’t contain many sci-fi elements in it apart from the TARDIS of course. This is one of the reasons why Sarah likes ‘Black Orchid’ as a story since it was something she could understand in being not of a sci-fi mind. I personally love ‘Black Orchid’ as I did enjoy the characters and the story.
The Doctor gets to play cricket in this story and the cricket scenes are the only thing that Peter likes about ‘Black Orchid’. Peter gets to wear a fancy dress outfit in this too, which he didn’t like behind-the-scenes. It was tense when the Doctor got accused of murder and he tries to prove his innocence.
Janet Fielding is equally good as Tegan in this adventure. I found Tegan friendlier and less bossy compared to other stories in the TV series. She certainly enjoyed seeing the cricket match and attending the fancy dress ball at Cranleigh Hall. She also seemed to get on well with Sir Robert Muir.
I also liked it when Tegan as well as Nyssa and Adric stood up for the Doctor when he was being accused of murder. I know that Janet Fielding complained about the weather, especially as it was bad during the filming of the story. But I do feel Janet gave her all in her performance as Tegan here.
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 loved the comedy moments that Adric had when he was uncomfortable about dancing with Nyssa and wanting to eat at the buffet table at the ball.
Nyssa calling Adric a ‘pig’ was very funny to listen, especially when he had a big pile of food on his plate. Adric retorts “Well I didn’t have any breakfast!” I wish more comedic stuff was given to Adric in the series as it could’ve developed his character especially in coming of age. Sadly it was not to be.
The guest cast are ‘quite topping’ to coin a phrase. There’s Michael Cochrane as Lord Charles Cranleigh. I’ve met Michael Cochrane at the ‘celebrate 50 – The Peter Davison Years’ convention in Chiswick; London, April 2013. He was a great chap to meet and I enjoyed him as Lord Cranleigh here.
There’s Moray Watson as Sir Robert Muir, the chief constable in Cranleigh. I’ve also seen him in a 1980s BBC production of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen. Sir Robert Muir is a friend of the Cranleigh family. He’s impressed with the Doctor’s cricketing skills before he takes him into custody.
And there’s Barbara Murray as Lady Madge Cranleigh, Charles Cranleigh’s mother. Lady Cranleigh seems a hospitable host at first before it’s revealed she’s hiding a secret. It’s a secret connected to her lost son, George Cranleigh. Will she let the Doctor take the blame for a crime he did not commit?
I enjoyed hearing the nostalgic 1920s music featured throughout this story. It’s my Dad’s favourite part of ‘Black Orchid’ as well. My Dad is a massive fan of the nostalgic jazz music from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. The original Charleston music and dancing was a joy to watch when I watched this.
The location work and the recreation of the 1920s by director Ron Jones was wonderful to see. It’s astonishing that this was his directorial debut in ‘Doctor Who’. I enjoyed the filming locations of the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre; Buckhurst House and the Withyham Cricket Club featured in this.
The original DVD special features were as follows. There was the ‘Now and Then’ featurette focusing on the filming locations of ‘Black Orchid’; deleted scenes from the story; the film restoration featurette on ‘Black Orchid’; a ‘Blue Peter’ item and the ‘Stripped For Action – The Fifth Doctor’ documentary that looks into the comic book adventures of the Fifth Doctor era. There was a stereo sound audio mix option for the story; a DVD audio commentary with Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and Matthew Waterhouse; an info-text commentary option to enjoy; a ‘Points of View’ item; a photo gallery of the story and a ‘coming soon’ DVD trailer for ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ with Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and Bonnie Langford. There was also a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF of the story and an Easter Egg that contained BBC continuity announcements of ‘Black Orchid’.
On Disc 5 of the ‘Doctor Who – The Collection – Season 19’ Blu-ray, the ‘Now and Then’ featurette; the deleted scenes; the film restoration featurette; the ‘Blue Peter’ item; the stereo sound audio mix option for the story; the DVD audio commentary; the ‘Points of View’ item and the ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF can be found on there. The info-text commentary option; the photo gallery and the BBC continuity announcements for ‘Black Orchid’ have been updated for 2018 on the Blu-ray.
The new special features on Blu-ray include the making-of documentary, ‘Double Trouble’, with cast and crew interviews. There’s also the ‘Behind The Sofa’ feature on ‘Black Orchid’ with Peter Davison (The Fifth Doctor); Sarah Sutton (Nyssa); Janet Fielding (Tegan) and Matthew Waterhouse (Adric) as well as Mark Strickson (Turlough) and Sophie Aldred (Ace). There’s also an audio archive interview with designer Tony Burrough. There’s also the extended version of ‘Part One’ of the story to enjoy.
On the PDF front, as well as the ‘Radio Times Listings’ of the story, there are also production documents and scripts for the story. You need a special Blu-ray computer drive for that. Sadly the ‘Stripped For Action – The Fifth Doctor’ documentary isn’t included on the ‘Black Orchid’ disc for the Season 19 Blu-ray.
I love ‘Black Orchid’ every minute and I can’t seem to stop watching it again and again. It’s a nice, relaxing, enjoyable adventure that you need to watch all in one go on a quiet afternoon. Now that the story’s been re-released on Blu-ray, you can enjoy more with an extended version of ‘Part One’!
‘Black Orchid’ as well as ‘Circular Time’ have made a huge impact on my life with meeting Sarah Sutton at ‘Doctor Who’ conventions. It’s a story that shines for Sarah as both Nyssa and Ann and is one that I’ve held close to my heart. It’s possibly one of the reasons why I love Season 19 very much.
Because of my love for Nyssa and ‘Black Orchid’, I’ve had a painting based on the two done for me by Timelord007. 😀 I couldn’t have asked for a nicer gift since he knows I love ‘Black Orchid’ so much. You can find the painting in the photo gallery above.
‘Black Orchid’ rating – 10/10
‘DOCTOR WHO – BLACK ORCHID’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
More ‘Black Orchid’ To Enjoy
This review is for the lovely Sarah Sutton who plays Nyssa and Ann in ‘Black Orchid’!
As I’ve stated in my DVD/Blu-ray review, I love ‘Black Orchid’ so much! It’s my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ story! I found the audiobook of the Target novelization in the shops whilst on holiday in Scotland, August 2008. I soon had the book for my birthday in May 2010. It’s been an enjoyable experience reading and listening to this novelization/audiobook!
‘Doctor Who – Black Orchid’ by Terence Dudley was published in 1986. It’s a detailed and informative book and was divided into 9 chapters with a prologue at the beginning and an epilogue at the end. The audiobook covers 4 audio CDs, making the story feel more of a four-part adventure compared to being a two-parter on TV.
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 to 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 novelization and the CD cover of the audiobook signed by the lovely Sarah Sutton, who I’ve met lots of times at conventions. I could feel Sarah’s presence as Nyssa and Ann throughout this Target novelization/audiobook. I’ve also had the CD cover of the audiobook signed by Michael Cochrane himself.
‘Black Orchid’ was part of the series of Target novelizations published in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s based on the original ‘Doctor Who’ TV stories. BBC Audio took the Target novelizations and turned them into audiobooks for people to enjoy. It’s special to have them read by actors/actresses who appeared in the original TV stories.
The ‘Black Orchid’ novelization flourishes with detail and information. I had not realised that there was more to the story than meets the eye in the novelization compared to the TV story. It was nice to hear the characters featured in ‘Black Orchid’ through the audiobook and discover from their perspective how they witnessed events in the story.
The characters like the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan, Adric and Ann Talbot are far more interesting in the novelization/audiobook compared to the original TV story. Because of my love for the ‘Black Orchid’ TV story, I felt pretty able to be engaged the audiobook on the novelization for the first time.
Michael Cochrane’s narration of ‘Black Orchid’ is clear and engaging to listen to and he’s a delightful narrator throughout. Michael breathes life into the characters and the setting of 1925. It was very relaxing to hear this story, especially as Michael has fond memories working on this story with the cast and crew.
I’m pretty certain that Terence Dudley would have liked ‘Black Orchid’ to be four episodes instead of two episodes for TV. As the audiobook is 4 CDs and Dudley had implemented so much detail into the novelization, it seems the case. Dudley adds more detail to the little murder mystery, the cricket match and the fancy dress ball.
Dudley has done his research with delving back into history and he 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 to listen to in the audiobook. Nyssa and Adric clearly don’t get what Tegan is on about and it adds to the comedy. I would’ve liked to have seen those scenes in the TV story between Sarah, Janet and Matthew.
I enjoyed the fancy dress ball scenes in the novelization as well as in the TV story. I liked the scene between Nyssa and Lord Cranleigh when he tells her about the dancers dressed up as the Walrus and the Carpenter from ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’. Sarah did a production of ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’ didn’t you know?! 😀
Dudley also rewrote scenes that were considered to be weak in the TV version. The scenes between Ann and ‘the creature’ in the annex work better in the novelization compared to the TV story. Ann shows sympathy for ‘the creature’ when he’s crying and there is tension when 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 since they were dancing casually in the TV version. It also seemed tenser and dramatic in the novelization compared to the TV story where Ann struggled to escape from the Pierot and the footman James came in to rescue her.
The ‘creature’ is given more sympathy in the novelization and the Indian is a more interesting character compared to the TV story. He also 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 book.
Ann proves to be a far more interesting character compared to how she was in the TV version since she was more a screamer. Her grief over the loss of her former fiancée, George Cranleigh, is touched upon and the scenes where she’s finally told about the secret of Cranleigh Hall were moving and dramatic to read/listen to.
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 Tegan and the Doctor where they talk about his cricketing prowess and a certain young Donald Bradman was lovely in the book.
I also liked the moments where 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 during the TV version of the story. There’s more Adric eating in the book and it was funny when he seemed to be curious rather than greedy in terms of eating food.
Lady Cranleigh is also interesting as a character since she’s torn from protecting her son in the annex and saying nothing to defend the Doctor when he’s accused of murder. It’s a more dramatic interpretation of her character, since she’s so determined to keep the secret of Cranleigh Hall within.
I enjoyed the incidental music and the sound design featured in the ‘Black Orchid’ audiobook. It helped me as a listener to relax. Although I would’ve liked to have heard the real Charleston and proper jazz music since they used random music that wasn’t the Charleston at all and it 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 Sutton, didn’t like it very much according to the DVD commentary of ‘Black Orchid’. I would have rewritten this story the way Dudley reworked it in the novelization and in a new light.
But I do enjoy the TV version as much as I enjoy reading and listening the Target novelisation/audiobook of ‘Black Orchid’. 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 ‘Black Orchid’.
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
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