Black Orchid

It’s taken me a stupidly long time to watch this tiny two-parter, thanks to an inconveniently-timed birthday party. In fact, for the first time ever, I watched this serial at a slower pace than the original broadcast. It was a little odd to have two historical-set stories in a row, but this is the first pure historical for absolutely ages, and as such it feels truly unique; the show hasn’t done this since it was a completely different show.

“Odd” is most definitely the byword, and it stands out in many ways beyond the size and the setting. It’s like a strange dream, or an extended charity skit. There’s a series of implausible coincidences that the Doctor doesn’t seem too bothered about; he just wants to piss about playing cricket and going to a fancy dress party.

For example, at no stage does anyone offer an explanation as to why one of the natives has the exact same face as a regular character, which is something that often bothers me with doppelganger stories. It’s good that there was more for Sarah Sutton to do, but crucially there wasn’t much more for Nyssa to do, or indeed either of the other two.

But hey, this was largely an opportunity for the characters to have a bit of a fun, and I enjoyed the detail that Adric had chosen to wear his special maths badge as part of his fancy dress outfit. The whimsy of the first part gave way to a more pacey and sinister second half, and this was much more my cup of tea. It didn’t really work as a whodunnit, considering it’s pretty likely to be the hugely disfigured bloke that the woman who’s a proven liar keeps locked up, but it still managed to be tense and exciting.

Davison was great, as per what can now be described as “usual”, both in the pissing about stages and when The Doctor was exasperatedly trying to prove his innocence. There have been so many predicaments in the past where an obvious solution would be to just show people the TARDIS as proof of The Doctor’s claims, so it was nice to actually see it used for once.

There was a tiiiiny bit of casual racism in the second part, which, whilst appropriate to the setting and totally unintentional on the part of the production, seemed out of place for something made in the early 80s. Perhaps that was another attempt to hark back to the 60s era. A minor blip in an otherwise fun and unusual little sojourn into silliness, before the serious business of bringing back a classic enemy and killing off a companion. I’m looking forward to this.

RATING: 8

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