‘Black Orchid’ (TV)

Black Orchid DVD UK cover 


Please feel free to comment on my review.

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 sequel to ‘Black Orchid’ called ‘The Mirror of Memory’, which provides a possible explaination for 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 mono 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 (now included on Disc 8 of the Season 22 Blu-ray box set of ‘Doctor Who’). 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 mono 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 black-orchid-audio


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’ called ‘The Mirror of Memory’. I enjoyed researching both the TV story and the novelization/audiobook when I wrote ‘The Mirror of Memory’.

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


Originally posted on November 24th 2016.

I’d like to share a few thoughts on an interesting theory made about Nyssa and Ann Talbot in ‘Black Orchid’ by the Watcher in the latest issue of ‘Doctor Who Magazine’. In the ‘WOTCHA!’ feature in the back of issue #506 of ‘DWM’, it’s been theorised Nyssa and Ann swapped places at the story’s conclusion.

‘Black Orchid’ is my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ story from the Peter Davison era of the show. Reading this article about Nyssa and Ann in ‘Black Orchid’ has been enjoyable and very enlightening. I don’t agree with the theory in the article, but it’s given me food for thought on this intriguing speculation.

It’s been suggested that Nyssa and Ann swapped places by having Ann continue travelling in the TARDIS with the Doctor, Tegan and Adric and Nyssa staying at Cranleigh Hall in the 1920s. This was interesting idea, considering the two are physically identical, but it isn’t a theory I readily agree with.

For one thing, the writer of this article neglects to make reference to the Big Finish audios and the ‘Doctor Who’ books featuring Nyssa in the series. Also Nyssa is a calmer individual compared to Ann, since (and not meaning to be unkind) Ann was quite squeamish and emotional during ‘Black Orchid’.

I suppose the theory would work if it was all in a parallel universe. That would make sense if you discard all of the Big Finish audios and ‘Doctor Who’ books that have been added onto Nyssa’s timeline over the years. The writer of the article makes some interesting points to prove this theory.

I love ‘Black Orchid’ to bits and love the characters featured in the story, especially with Nyssa and Ann’s double identity put into context. But I’m afraid I can’t buy the theory that Nyssa and Ann swapped places during the end of the story. I’m sure that Nyssa wouldn’t consider such an exchange.

I’ve written my own personal fan-fiction stories in ‘The Fifth Doctor by Tim Bradley’ series and the idea that Nyssa was Ann all along with the Fifth Doctor and Billy doesn’t work for me. I’ve also written my sequel to ‘Black Orchid’ where Billy meets Ann Talbot. I hope to upload that tale soon to my blog.


Originally posted on December 16th 2022.

It’s Day 16 of ‘Bradley’s Basement’s Advent Calendar 2022.

Let’s see the Fifth Doctor play a game of cricket in ‘Black Orchid’, shall we?

Firstly, since ‘Black Orchid’ is my absolute favourite ‘Doctor Who’ story from the TV series, it’s nice to review a few clips from the story on YouTube for my blog’s advent calendar this year. 🙂 The cricket scenes in ‘Black Orchid’ are arguably Peter Davison’s favourite scenes, as he’s not a fan of this story.

I think it’s more to do with the harlequin costume he had to wear in the story, but Peter Davison’s Doctor’s cricket scenes are some of the best he does in ‘Doctor Who’. It’s ironic that the only ‘Doctor Who’ story on TV where he gets to play cricket isn’t one of Peter Davison’s favourites in the series. 😦

The Fifth Doctor has had more ‘Doctor Who’ stories in other mediums where he gets to play cricket, including ‘Circular Time: Autumn’ on audio, ‘The Tides of Time’ in the comics and ‘Goth Opera’ in the books. I’ve also had the Fifth Doctor play cricket in some of my ‘Fifth Doctor’ stories on my blog. 🙂

It was funny to see Peter Davison’s Doctor managing to hit every ball when batting for Lord Cranleigh’s team. And yes, it was amusing to see Peter’s Doctor managing to bowl the first of the opposing team out with no camera trickery required. Peter loves to tell that story now and again. 😀

Much to Janet Fielding’s annoyance in the behind-the-scenes extras on DVD and Blu-ray. 😀 I enjoyed it when Sarah Sutton as Nyssa was mistaken for Ann by Lord Cranleigh, his mother Lady Cranleigh and Sir Robert Muir. It was also amusing to see Nyssa and Adric being confused by the game of cricket. 🙂


Originally posted on December 17th 2022.

It’s Day 17 of ‘Bradley’s Basement’s Advent Calendar 2022.

Do things turn out well at the fancy dress ball at Cranleigh Hall in ‘Black Orchid’?

The fancy dress ball scenes are some of my favourites in the ‘Black Orchid’ story. This is especially when Nyssa, Tegan and Adric get to enjoy themselves as characters compared to facing danger all the time when travelling in the TARDIS. It’s also nice to see Ann Talbot being a cheerful soul at the party. 🙂

I admit, the story does limit the Fifth Doctor somewhat in terms of developing his character when he’s exploring the secret passages of the annexe where George Cranleigh is being kept hidden. The Target novelization/audiobook by Terence Dudley does it better in handling the Fifth Doctor’s journey.

This is especially when he’s unravelling the mystery of Cranleigh Hall and why Lady Cranleigh is protecting her elder son from the outside world. It’s weird when the mysterious Harlequin dancing with Ann Talbot takes her inside the house and she doesn’t question why he’s doing it in the story. 😐

In the novelization/audiobook, it’s better, as it seems the Harlequin is taking Ann Talbot into the house by force and she’s struggling to escape. I like Ann as a character in ‘Black Orchid’. She does come across as squeamish, but again, the novelization/audiobook does handle her character better.

I’ve written my own sequel to ‘Black Orchid’ called ‘The Mirror of Memory’, which is part of the ‘Zorbius’ series. In that, I’ve been able to explore more of ‘Black Orchid’ in terms of its worlds and characters, including Ann and Charles Cranleigh, from both the TV story and the novelization/audiobook.


Originally posted on December 18th 2022.

It’s Day 18 of ‘Bradley’s Basement’s Advent Calendar 2022.

Will the Fifth Doctor save Nyssa from George Cranleigh in ‘Black Orchid’?

This is quite a dramatic climax to what has mostly been a quaint pure historical ‘Doctor Who’ adventure set in the 1920s. For most of ‘Part Two’, the Doctor has been accused of murder. Here, the murderer is revealed, as it turns out to be George Cranleigh, who appears as a pretty horrific sight.

It’s tense when Nyssa got captured and was taken to the rooftop, because George thinks she’s Ann. I would have thought Nyssa’s hairstyle compared to Ann’s would have given the game away, but as Lady Cranleigh explains to Sir Robert Muir, ‘his mind was affected’ when the Indians tortured him. 😐

I like how Peter Davison’s Doctor, in his Harlequin outfit, goes to the rooftop inside the house to get to Nyssa and George, whilst Charles Cranleigh crawls up the walls of Cranleigh Hall like Spider-Man to get to them. Even Sarah Sutton compared Charles Cranleigh to Spidey in the DVD and Blu-ray extras.

There is a moment in the Target novelization/audiobook where George slips the shoulder strap off Nyssa’s dress for a bit to see whether she has a mole or not to confirm that she’s not Ann. I think it would have been effective to have shown that moment, as I don’t think it was that clearly realised. 😐

As much as ‘Black Orchid’ is my absolute favourite ‘Doctor Who’ story, it does end rather tragically with George Cranleigh ending up losing his balance and plummeting to the ground to his death. I’m glad stuntman Gareth Milne, who played George Cranleigh, survived the fall, as he missed the boxes to ease it.

The previous story

For the Fifth Doctor was

For Tegan was

For Nyssa was

For Adric was

The next story

For the Fifth Doctor is

  • ‘Time & Time Again’ (Comic)

For Tegan is

  • ‘In the TARDIS: Christmas Day’ (ST)

For Nyssa is

  • ‘In the TARDIS: Christmas Day’ (ST)

For Adric is

  • ‘Time & Time Again’ (Comic)
Return to The Fifth Doctor’s Timeline
Return to Tegan’s Timeline
Return to Nyssa’s Timeline
Return to Adric’s Timeline
Return to The Doctors’ Timelines Index
Return to The Companions’ Timelines Index
Return to Doctor Who Timelines
Return to The Nyssa Challenge
Return to Doctor Who
Return to Sci-Fi

22 thoughts on “‘Black Orchid’ (TV)

  1. Timelord 007

    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 2 people

  2. Tim Bradley Post author

    ‘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. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. darrowby85

    Just coming here from the discussion of ‘Black Orchid’ on https://bradleybasement.wordpress.com/drama/all-creatures-great-and-small/horse-sense-tv/

    I do like ‘Black Orchid’ a lot (the TV serial, rather the novelisation which I haven’t read/listened to yet) but it does make sense to think of it as a cut-down version of a 4-parter, because there are indeed so many elements in the TV serial that could have been explored in more detail. In a sense, though, it doesn’t matter, because part of the job of a story like this is not to provide you with all the answers but to get you thinking and keeping on thinking after it’s over. One of my favourite Fifth Doctor serials, Castrovalva, is like this – far from perfect with several plot holes and a long bit before the middle where nothing much happens, but so full of ambitious, thought-provoking ideas and such a beautiful romantic, fairytale feel that I am slightly obsessed by it.

    It does seem a shame that most of the cast didn’t enjoy this one. I’m glad Sarah Sutton did, at least. Perhaps, for the others, being outside in the cold weather and rain in relatively thin costumes put them off. I do like the costumes – the Marie-Antoinette one that Lady Cranleigh wears is gorgeous, and I like Tegan’s dress, the twin butterflies and Adric’s pirate one. I even like the Doctor’s Pierrot costume that everyone else seems to hate – I just think he looks really sweet in it (I suspect both the Doctor “please don’t call me sweet” and Peter D. himself would be less than pleased if they knew I’d said this so please don’t tell them!) and I thought it was great that they included pockets in it for him to put his hands in! I also like the way that the two companions who are characterised as having a negative attitude in some serials, Tegan and Adric, here come across as pleasant people who are enjoying themselves. And it was nice for the Doctor to have a chance to enjoy himself playing cricket for once rather than having to do battle with the monster of the week!

    The story itself I find quite intriguing. I’m not sure whether it’s intended as a murder mystery, a pastiche of the murder-mystery genre, or whether there’s some deeper symbolism going on, for example with the costumes. I wonder is there some significance of having the Doctor as the sad clown Pierrot (which is the French diminutive for Peter) or any of the other characters as their costume personalities?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Vicky.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on ‘Black Orchid’. Very pleased you enjoyed my review and that you like this story a lot as well as me.

      I highly recommend checking out the novelization/audiobook by Terrence Dudley as that is lovely to listen to with Michael Cochrane narrating on all 4 CDs.

      I suppose from reading/listening to Terrence Dudley’s novelization/audiobook of the story, ‘Black Orchid’ could have been a 4-parter instead of a 2-parter. I’ve seen the TV story for the umpteenth time and have been able to identify many of the weaknesses in it. It would’ve been nice if ‘Black Orchid’ was made as a 4-parter instead of a 2-parter, but I still rate the TV version highly; giving it a 10/10 and still love Sarah Sutton’s performance as Nyssa and Ann in it of course.

      I agree ‘Castrovalva’ is a pretty ambitious and thought-provoking story much like ‘Black Orchid’ with a lot going on it. Another reason why I like both TV version and novelization/audiobook of ‘Black Orchid’ is because there’s a lot going on concerning the plot and characters. I’ve reviewed ‘Castrovalva’ on my blog as well by the way.

      Yeah it is a shame ‘Black Orchid’ isn’t well-liked by Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Matthew Waterhouse when they did the DVD commentary. I’m pleased Sarah Sutton likes it still. I would like to do an interview on ‘Black Orchid’ with Sarah someday when I get a chance.

      I liked the fancy dress costumes worned by the TARDIS regulars in this story, especially Nyssa and Ann as butterflies. I didn’t mind Peter’s costume as the Pierrot and it was a nice change to see him in a different costume compared to what he normally wears in ‘Doctor Who’. That and his dressing gown. Don’t worry. I won’t tell Peter you found him/the Doctor ‘sweet’ in the Pierrot costume next time I see him. 😀

      Yeah it was great to see Nyssa, Tegan and Adric being friendlier and pleasant compared to previous ‘Doctor Who’ stories. We get to see their social side in this one, which I’m saddened the main cast don’t see when watching this story these days. I would like to have seen that more often in ‘Doctor Who’ rather than have the companions arguing with the Doctor which tended to happen a lot.

      And yes it was great to see Peter’s Doctor get to play cricket in ‘Doctor Who’ in this story (a story which he hates himself unfortunately). The cricket stuff is the only thing Peter likes about ‘Black Orchid’. I wish there was more cricket stuff for Peter’s Doctor in the TV series. I’m glad they’ve done it more in the Big Finish audios, books and comics. I’ve had the Fifth Doctor play cricket himself in my stories.

      I did read a review by somebody else that ‘Black Orchid’ is like one of those Dorothy L. Sayers murder mysteries rather than an Agatha Christie one set in the 1920s. As I’m currently watching ‘Lord Peter Wimsey’ on DVD with Iain Carmichael, I can sort of see it being the case with ‘Black Orchid’. I don’t think ‘Black Orchid’ is a typical murder mystery on ‘how it was done’ but more of ‘why it was done’ with the supporting characters involved in the plot.

      That’s interesting about Pierrot being the French diminutive for Peter. I didn’t know that.

      Incidentally the recent ‘Lord Peter Wimsey’ serial I watched had Iain Carmichael in a Harlequinn outfit, but not similar to the one Peter wore in ‘Black Orchid’. Maybe there is a deeper symbolism going on especially with the characters. I’m not sure. It’s all open to interpretation.

      Thanks for your comments, Vicky. Very pleased you enjoyed my ‘Black Orchid’ review.

      Tim. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Timelord 007

    Fantastic review Tim, so blu ray has extended part 1 but not part 2 but contains deleted scenes from part 2? I don’t get the reasoning here, i agree have both episodes extended I’m confused by there logic there.

    This for me only two parter the show got right (excluding Season 22) the cast is brilliant, you have a Agatha Christie type set up which turns into a Greek tragedy & the Doctor showing off his cricket skills plus two performances from Sarah Sutton.

    When i did that painting for you i had the Target audiobook on in the background for inspiration I’m so happy you liked it & included it in your gallery it means a lot as i don’t paint as much nowadays.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Simon.

      Very pleased you enjoyed my updated Blu-ray review on ‘Black Orchid’.

      Yeah it is strange to have ‘Part One’ extended but not ‘Part Two’ on Blu-ray. In a way, I’m pleased that half of my dream has come true with all of the deleted scenes being included to make an extended version of ‘Part One’. But I like I stated before, it would be better to have both episodes extended or have the complete adventure extended into a single story programme. Glad you concur with my confusion over this sense of logic by the Blu-ray producers. 🙂

      I love ‘Black Orchid’ whenever I see it, especially as it gave me inspiration to go to conventions to Sarah, Peter and the others as well as write my own ‘Doctor Who’ stories with ‘The Railway of Time’ and ‘The Space Hotel’ having influences from that story in particular. I love it when Sarah Sutton plays two characters in this story and that Peter’s Doctor gets to show off his cricket skills in this.

      Oh you had the Target audiobook in the background when you did the painting for me. That’s good! I love that Target novelization/audiobook read by Michael Cochrane, especially as it provides more depth to the story. I’m pleased you’re happy that I’ve included your painting in the photo gallery above and that it means a lot to you.

      Many thanks for your comments, Simon.

      Tim. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Williams Fan 92

    Nice review Tim.

    I am hoping to finally watch this story when I purchase the Collection Season 19 in standard Blu-Ray packaging. Your review as well as you calling it your favourite DW story certainly makes me want to. Once I’ve watched it and know what it’s all about, I might consider writing a Big Finish style script for a sequel featuring the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Michael. As well as cricket, I could incorporate some motor-racing that Michael takes interest in. I shall also give ‘Mirror of Memory’ a proper read.

    I of course made a reference to ‘Black Orchid’ in ‘The Pebbles of Hockburg’ in relation to Nyssa calling Adric a pig when he was eating at the ball. That was of course the end of the story where Nyssa called herself a hypocrite since she, the Doctor and Tegan were stuffing their faces. I don’t blame them, especially Nyssa and Tegan since that hadn’t eaten much that day. Although for Tegan it was probably wasn’t worth it considering that she ended up with a stomach ache. Poor Tegan! Oh well, we’ve all been there. I’m surprised Nyssa and the Doctor didn’t feel the same.

    P.s. 1, I received ‘The Peterloo Massacre’ in the post this week so I shall listen to part 1 tomorrow.

    P.s. 2, I see you’ve done the Welcome page up a bit. I don’t like it. 😆 Only joking!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi WF92,

      Glad you enjoyed my review on ‘Black Orchid’. I watched it recently after having my first vaccine this month and still love the story to this day. I hope you’ll enjoy the story in the new standard Blu-ray box set. I’m glad they’re re-releasing the classic ‘Doctor Who’ seasons like Seasons 10, 12, 18 and 19 on standard Blu-ray. The Target audiobook read by Michael Cochrane is very good too. Those sound very interesting ideas for a sequel to ‘Black Orchid’. I hope you enjoy writing it when you come to it. Hope you enjoy my ‘Black Orchid’ sequel ‘The Mirror of Memory’ too. 🙂

      I hope you’ll enjoy ‘The Peterloo Massacre’. It is an excellent historical adventure and I know how much Sarah Sutton loves that story when we talk about it at conventions. Yes, I decided to get rid of the galleries featured on the Welcome page and have single photos posted. Glad you like my redecoration of the Welcome page, Mr. Troughton. 😀

      Many thanks,

      Tim. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Williams Fan 92

    Great review Tim.

    I decided to watch part 1 of this story on Saturday evening after the ‘Bedford Who Charity Con’ and part 2 the following morning. I’ll save my thoughts on Bedford for your report on it which I assume will be soon.

    Was ‘Black Orchid’ as good as I expected it to be. The answer is… yes! 😀

    ‘Black Orchid’ is now my second favourite Doctor Who’ story of all time behind ‘The Enemy of the World’. That might change someday. I enjoyed the cricket scenes in part 1 as well as the ball scenes. It was incredibly tense when the Doctor was accused of murder considering the penalty for it. The companions were great as well. Nyssa had a good time when she and Ann Talbot wore the same costumes at the ball, but not so much towards the end. Tegan was definitely much friendlier in this story compared to previous ones even though I like her more than you do regardless. The scenes where Adric was stuffing his face were funny especially when Nyssa and Tegan called him out on it. If I was there, I’d probably have stuffed my face as well. 😀

    I liked Ann Talbot to a degree although she did whine a bit (even more so than Tegan) even though she was attacked. I also found her to be rather gullible. Lady Cranleigh was quite despicable although I’m still unsure wether to class her as a villain or not. Michael Cochrane put on a ripping performance as Charles Cranleigh. My favourite guest character however was Moray Watson as Sir Robert Muir. He got on well with Tegan during the ball and was quite open-minded as proven when the Doctor showed him the Tardis.

    I do have many other thoughts on this story, but I’d like to save them for a ‘Strange Love’ discussion if we ever do one. I eventually hope to hear the Target audiobook read by Michael Cochrane. I will also give ‘Mirror of Memory’ a read once I’ve read ‘The Greek Horror’ and I’ll give some more thought about my sequel to ‘Black Orchid’ as mentioned in my comment from earlier this year.

    Take care, WF92. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi WF92,

      Glad you enjoyed my review. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on ‘Black Orchid’. I’ll be sharing my convention report on the ‘Bedford Who Charity Con’ tomorrow.

      Very pleased you enjoyed ‘Black Orchid’ and that it’s one of your favourite stories. I enjoyed watching this story recently in its extended form before going away to Bedford. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the characters including the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan, Adric, Ann, Lord Cranleigh, Lady Cranleigh and Sir Robert Muir.

      Hope you enjoy the Target audiobook read by Michael Cochrane. Hope you enjoy ‘The Mirror of Memory’ when you get to read it.

      Many thanks for your comments.

      Tim 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  7. scifimike70

    Strange that Peter Davison disliked this story, knowing from a documentary interview that he quite surprisingly and thrillingly bowled out at the cricket match for the first time in his life during the making of the scene.

    A reason why Nyssa and Ann were identical would have indeed been a good story idea. As for how brutally traumatic the Whoniverse can shockingly be for some characters like George Cranleigh, it’s easy to agree on why Black Orchid particularly stands out in Davison’s era. It dared to be a serious departure from most other Dr. Who adventures in obvious respects. But especially brave considering the children Whovians in the audience.

    Thank you, Tim, for your review.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi scifimike,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on ‘Black Orchid’, my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ story. Glad you enjoyed my review on it. Yeah, it’s a shame Peter Davison doesn’t like ‘Black Orchid’, especially considering it’s the only one of his TV tenue where he gets to play cricket. I’ve been able to write a sequel to ‘Black Orchid’ called ‘The Mirror of Memory’ in the ‘Zorbius’ series, which touches upon a possibilty for why Nyssa and Ann look identical – https://bradleybasement.wordpress.com/sci-fi/doctor-who/zorbius/the-mirror-of-memory-z/

      I always enjoy revisiting ‘Black Orchid’ whether on DVD, Blu-ray or Britbox. The flaws are noticable the more times I watch it, but I can excuse some of those flaws, especially after checking out the Target novelization/audiobook by Terence Dudley, read by Michael Cochrane, which I’ve enjoyed immensely.

      Many thanks for your comments.

      Tim 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Tim Bradley Post author

        Hi scifimike,

        I agree. As well as ‘Black Orchid’, I’ve enjoyed ‘double trouble’ stories like ‘The Enemy of the World’ and ‘The Androids of Tara’.

        Many thanks,

        Tim 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. scifimike70

        You’re welcome. The fact that The Enemy Of The World could make serious headway for a decade where most ‘double trouble’ episodes, for shows like Gilligan’s Island and I Dream Of Jeannie, were mainly comedic can say a lot.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Tim Bradley Post author

        Hi scifimike,

        The comedic ‘double trouble’ films/TV episodes I’ve seen include the Laurel & Hardy films like ‘Our Relations’, ‘Brats’ and ‘Twice Two’ as well as the ‘Dad’s Army’ Christmas Special ‘My Brother and I’. I don’t mind whether the ‘double trouble’ episodes are serious or comedic, as long as they’re enjoyable. The ‘Star Trek: DS9’ episode called ‘Crossover’ which features two Kira Nerys’ is pretty tense and enjoyable at the same time.

        Many thanks,

        Tim 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. zack613

    Thank you for your thoughtful review. Black Orchid is my favorite story of the 5th Doctor’s Era. I LOVE pure historicals. I realize I am probably in the minority on this, but, I really really do!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Zack,

      Very pleased you enjoyed my review on ‘Black Orchid’. I’m glad this is your favoritie story from the Fifth Doctor era. It’s my favourite too. I’m pleased you like the pure historical stories. I’m thinking of doing a Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Billy story about the suffragettes someday. When and how I’m going to tell that story is yet to be determined. It’ll probably be on the lines of a ‘Peterloo Massacre’-type of pure historical story, which I know is an audio story Sarah Sutton loves.

      Many thanks,

      Tim 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Tim Bradley Post author

        Hi Zack,

        I’ll have to find some time to put the story together as well as do research on the suffragette movement. I studied the suffragettes in GCSE History in the 2000s and I’ve seen the 2015 ‘Suffragette’ movie with Carey Mulligan to know what they were about.

        Many thanks,

        Tim 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

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