Thursday 21 June 2012

576 Black Orchid Part One

EPISODE: Black Orchid Part One
TRANSMITTED: Monday 01 March 1982
WRITER: Terence Dudley
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 9.9 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Black Orchid

In a country house a male nurse is murdered by an unseen assailant. The Tardis arrives at Cranleigh Halt railway station where the Doctor, in a case of mistaken identity, is invited to take part in a Cricket Match and then, following a decent performance, back to Cranleigh Manor for a fancy dress ball where it is discovered that Lord Charles Cranleigh's fiancée Anne is the exact double of Nyssa. Lord Cranleigh's mother shows the Doctor the Black Orchid, a flower brought back from the Amazon by her now deceased elder son George, a famous botanist. A figure, tied up in attic slips his bonds and escapes. The Doctor is given a Harlequin outfit while Nyssa & Anne wear identical costumes. The Doctor discovers a secret passage in his room and explores it, but while he is gone his costume is stolen. Lady Cranleigh is called away during the ball by an Amazonian, Latoni, who tells her his friend has escaped. A man dressed as the Harlequin arrives at the ball and dances with one of Anne/Nyssa. The Doctor finds a secluded attic room, and then a dead body in the house. The Harlequin dances Anne into the house where he assaults her, and then strangles a servant. Anne faints and the Harlequin moves in to strangle her.....

This isn't a bad episode at all.... now we look at it knowing what the unseen figure is but at the time when I first saw this I was wondering what sort of alien being the Cranleighs had in their attic! But oh dear, we're back with doubles again. We've done this a few times recently: We had a double of the Doctor in Meglos and a projection of Adric disguising he'd been kidnapped in Castrovalva. Now we get an exact double of Nyssa and someone doing dastardly deeds while wearing a costume the Doctor was scheduled to be wearing. Doubles appears to be a favourite of the current production team: we'll see it again in various forms in Arc of Infinity, Mawdryn Undead, Kings Demons & Resurrection of the Daleks plus it had at one point been planned as a plot element for The Five Doctors as well. Perhaps a slight amount of overuse?

The cricketing aspect of this episode ties in with the Doctor's costume but does throw up a problem. In Four to Doomsday the Doctor claims to have taken 5 wickets for New South Wales with his Chinamen. The Chinaman is a left handed slow bowler's delivery, here he is bowling with his right arm and, or so he claims, fast. Peter Davison genuinely dismissed one of the batsmen in this sequence and is obviously very pleased with the feat. He is confused at one point with the other cricketing doctor, W.G.Grace, who had been dead for some years by the time this story takes place in the 1920s.

The Railway station used in this episode was filmed at Quainton Road near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire which as well as bring part of BR was at one point also a far flung outpost of the Metropolitan line. it's popular with Television programs due to it's proximity to London and having steam locomotives on site (I've seen it in Midsomer Murders) but the steam footage here is actually taken from another BBC program, God's Wonderful Railway. The Police Station, seen in the second episode, is filmed nearby. The Cranleigh Manor exteriors were shot at Buckhurst House, which is located in Buckhurst Park, the major location for Castrovalva. Withyham Cricket Club, where the match was played, is also part of the same estate.

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