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4.3 out of 5 stars
Doctor Who - Black Orchid [1981] [DVD]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 29 October 2013
Strange story altogether, and I wonder if Terrence Dudley ever really properly understood Dr Who - beyond the need to get the scripts delivered on time - but then, he produced Survivors for three years, and I'm not sure he always understood that either. It's not just that this isn't sci-fi, I'm not sure it's even Dr Who.

Though it may simply be Dr Who pretending to be something else, and nothing wrong with that, in fact it might be one of the adventures of Lord Peter Wimsey; it's the right period and class, and just so we know how posh the Cranleighs are, one of them's played by Michael Cochrane.

It's not that the story's offensively bad, it's just not terribly good; the Nyssa/Anne thing and the subsequent doubling at the fancy dress party is nice, and then the Dr and the 'baddie' both dressed as Harlequin (and the costume's nicely designed), and the party itself looks fun (even if it was freezing), and the cricket match is great, and I love stories with steam trains in them (even if, in this case it's a sound effect and a smoke machine).

And, like King's Demons (also by Mr Dudley, funnily enough), the first episode's very interesting and mysterious, but the second really fails to supply an exciting solution. When we really need to see the Dr using his intelligence and insight to clear his name, he simply tells Sir Robert he's a Time Lord and proves it by showing him inside the TARDIS - letting a *stranger* in? - the First Doctor would have had fifty fits! Not just that, it is a massive lazy cop-out on a par with the egregiously bad Carnacki the Ghost Finder. This does not live up to Lord Peter Wimsey, nor to Sherlock Holmes either - though the solution - George horribly mutilated by Indians and kept in the attic - is admittedly Holmesian, though without any of the deduction that should attend it.

The denouement is good however; lots of scary stuff on the roof, and a fine fall from Gareth Milne who, as Peter Davison's stunt double really deserved a part of his own.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 20 June 2012
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 2008, it was on a day when I was working on my 1st year project at Uni. I decided to buy the DVD that lunch time so I could watch it at home. I watched it; re-watched it and have now seen the story for the umpteenth time and know all the lines of the character/actors.

I asked Sarah to sign the DVD cover of this (and 'Circular Time') for me when I first met her in London, February 2010. Sarah was glad I liked `Black Orchid'. Two aspects of why Sarah likes this so much are that it's a historical story set in the 1920s and it gives her the chance to play two parts in it.

I certainly enjoyed the murder mystery aspect and Terence Dudley manages to put so much into this two-part story. I loved the cricket match scenes; enjoyed the fancy dress ball scenes and especially loved the character moments between Nyssa, Adric and Tegan when they were enjoying themselves.

Sarah has said although she likes this story, she doesn't think it develops Nyssa's character. I disagree with her on that, as I think `Black Orchid' does develop Nyssa's character as we see her social side which is rarely seen and it's a nice break from having her be the scientist all the time.

Sarah does shine throughout as not only does she play Nyssa, but also the equally lovely Ann Talbot. She is quite girly and emotional, not like Nyssa who's stronger and calmer. But she comes across as bubbly, cheeky and really nice throughout.

Ann is certainly an interesting character, as we get to learn who is she and why she is being chased by this mysterious antagonist who is the murderer. For me it's hard to decide whose better, Nyssa or Ann. I love it when they first met and really enjoyed the `topping' moment between Nyssa and Ann.

Sarah plays both really well and it's nice for Nyssa to have some attention. Although (and Janet Fielding makes this point in the commentary) it would have been nice to know why Nyssa and Ann look so similar rather than stating it through since Nyssa's from Traken and Ann's not.

I like 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, 'Black Orchid' is his least favourite story and the cricket scenes are the only bit he likes about it. Peter gets to wear a fancy dress clown outfit and gets accused for murder. I found it intense as the Doctor tries to prove his innocence.

Janet Fielding is equally good as Tegan. I found Tegan less bossy and friendlier in this adventure. She enjoys watching cricket and attending the fancy dress ball at Cranleigh Hall. I liked it when Tegan (as well as Nyssa and Adric) stood up for the Doctor being accused of murder.

Matthew Waterhouse is okay as Adric. Adric is out of place in the 1920s. I was slightly annoyed that Adric didn't want to dance with Nyssa at the ball. I love the comedy moments when Adric's uncomfortable about dancing and eats 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; 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 in the story which my dad's favourite part of `Black Orchid' since he's a massive fan of nostalgic jazz music from the 1920s, 30s and 40s.

The special features include the `Now and Then - The Locations of Black Orchid' featurette which I enjoyed; some `deleted scenes' which should have been in the actual story; a `restoration' featurette; a `Blue Peter' clip and the `Stripped For Action - The Fifth Doctor' featurette looking into the comic book adventures of the Fifth Doctor (found in 'The Tides of Time' graphic novel).

There is also a commentary with Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and Matthew Waterhouse. I was very disappointed hearing how much Peter, Janet and Matthew loathe this story and Sarah seems the only one who liked it. Sarah didn't get a chance to say much in that commentary (told me she 'couldn't get a word in edgeways').

The rest of special features include an very unimpressive 'info text' commentary option; a `Points of View' item; an exciting `coming soon' trailer for `The Trial of a Time Lord' DVD and a PDF document of the `Radio Times Listings' for `Black Orchid'. There's an 'Easter Egg' to look out for on the DVD too.

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

The next story with the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric is 'The Darkening Eye'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 July 2013
As explained in my two reviews - The Mira Tales and The Visitation - Special Edition, in my opinion Peter Davison is the best of the 1980s Doctor's. Both the Black Orchid and Tom Baker's 1975 'The Sontarian Experiment' is the two best two part Doctor Who adventures. This tiny gem is the best acted historical sci-fi adventure, and a great prequel to the next great epic adventure 'Earthshock'.

I loved this 1982 adventure as it focuses on my favourite 1980s companion Nyssa, played by absolute perfection by Sarah Sutton. It demonstrates that the actress can extend her character into two roles of both Nyssa and her earth bound 1920s twin 'Ann Talbot'. The character I felt really sorry for is the character of 'George Cranleigh' who is terrible scarred and driven into madness by brutal South American tribes. As I explained both Peter Davison's first series and his first two episodes from his second series (Arc of Infinity and Snakedance) where his best as these episodes are captured in my mind.
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on 12 June 2015
It may be brief, but 'Black Orchid' is nevertheless thoroughly engaging from start to finish. The story is full of charming little moments such as the TARDIS landing in the rather evocative setting of a railway station platform.

Aside from the TARDIS crew and the TARDIS itself, the story contains no sci-fi elements, it's the first such story since 1966. It's basically an Agatha Christie style murder mystery set in a stately home, Cranleigh hall.

There is plenty of amusing and clever dialogue and there are some very pleasing character moments. Charles Cranleigh is convinced Adric's home planet of Alzarius is a Baltic state while Sir George thinks Nyssa's home world of Traken is near Esher.

There is an unusual and most refreshing naturalism to scenes where the doctor skillfully plays cricket and later where the regulars enjoy themselves at the fancy dress ball. Not a great deal actually happens in the first episode but the more relaxed pace is good because it allows us to get to know the characters. The guest characters are interesting and believable and all well acted.

The story's biggest triumph however is its gorgeous recreation of the 1920's. The period costumes, sets, cars and music are all first rate and the filming locations are all very well chosen. The fancy dress costumes are also worthy of considerable praise. All in all, it's a superbly executed production.

Peter Davison is, as ever, on fine form and he gives a great performance. Sarah Sutton does well in the dual role of Nyssa and Ann Talbot and Tegan is good fun here as she flirts outrageously with Sir Robert. Meanwhile Adric takes full advantage of the buffet at the ball.

The story's only real flaw is the level of coincidence. Nyssa just happens to bump into her exact double Ann Talbot and the Cranleighs just happen to be expecting somebody else who goes by the name of Doctor who then doesn't show up. All of this is easily forgiven because of how satisfying everything else is.

A very successful change of pace and style, 'Black Orchid' expertly captures the magic of Doctor Who. It's a shame it didn't lead to any further stories in a similar mould.

Sadly, there is no 'making of' documentary. There is however a 'Now and Then' feature which looks at all the locations used for the story.

There are also a handful of deleted scenes and a feature which looks at the restoration techniques used on the footage for the story.

Also included is an old clip from Blue Peter in which the presenters explore 'Berman's and Nathan's' a costumier in London. A short contemporary clip from Points of View mainly consists of letters from people lamenting Doctor Who's move to a weekday slot.

The most substantial extra (16 minutes) is 'Stripped for Action - The Fifth Doctor' which looks at the Davison Doctor's comic strips.
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on 27 September 2014
Although Peter Davidson was not "my" Doctor, I have to say that this was a story that I remembered watching at the time and enjoying. Not as silly as some of the 1980s, low-budget stories, this story has stood the test of time relatively well. There are no alien monsters, no threat to the planet, just a murder mystery to solve.

As a two-part story, it is short and to the point, with minimal padding, which helps it to work well. There is a memorable moment in the first episode that Peter Davidson plays to perfection when he is compared favourable with "the other Doctor" (blank look) "The Master" (look of bewilderment and horror), until we discover that the reference is not to his deadly enemy, but to W.G. Grace - a bit of a stretch, as Grace had retired twenty years earlier, but Davidson dead-pans and plays it beautifully.

A lot of the action is filmed outdoors, which limits the need for the flimsy plastic sets for which Doctor Who became famous. Instead we get the peeling off latex make-up of the villain (??) which, by the end of the second episode, is flapping freely and very obviously in the side-on shots, in the air.

The Doctor is wrongly accused of murder. The TARDIS goes missing and a jolly nervous time is had by all, until it turns out that the local police have recovered the TARDIS thinking that it was theirs. Doctor produces key, invites his accusers inside and takes them for a ride. Collapse of police case! Of course, time travel and flying police boxes are so natural parts of 1920 rural England that no one seems particularly surprised by the experience, not even Tegan and Nyssa, who complain bitterly that the Doctor can't even hit the right planet, but then seem totally unsurprised that he can make a precision hop of a mile or so from the police station to the country house where most of the action takes place!

Of course, there is one small detail that had me baffled: if a mysterious murderer is killing off the domestic staff, how is it that the domestic staff seem unaware of this and totally unconcerned? They don't notice their colleagues vanishing?? I am sure that there is a simple explanation!

The story is great fun and a good countryside romp with the British aristocracy. It's not Agatha Christie, but it is very enjoyable.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Ah! Black Orchid, one of my truly favourite pieces of Doctor Who serialage. It's hard to describe why this small 2 part tale works so well for me, but, suffice to say, it just does. The story is by no means original, epic, consequence driven or even action orientated, but charm, now this is evident in abundance. Peter Davison's first year as the Doctor has always been one of my personal favourites, the quality of the scripts, direction and of course a new Doctor add so much vigour to the show after 7 years with good old Tom. Reinvention is the key here and Black Orchid fits perfectly in the middle of this ideal.

Being a 2 part historical tale set in rural England in 1925, this is a story that reeks of Britishness and tonnes of charm. One must concede that Peter Davison, over perhaps any other Doctor fits in well in this high-class culture. Davison has really grown on me as the Doctor, his innate Human qualities are in sharp contrast to the alien Baker and for me at least, this is a welcome change, especially after 7 years. Here, Peter and Co. {Adric, Nyssa and Tegan} are working beautifully. There's a real sense that after the events of Kinda and The Visitation, the team is kicking back and enjoying life for a bit. Of course, these things never last for the intrepit foursome and suddenly and expectedly, people start to die, but whom could it be???

It would be churlish to even suggest that this is an Agatha Christie who-dun-it, its not. It's purely a character piece and anybody who watches this tale and does not work out who the killer is within the first 26 seconds is in trouble, big trouble. Hospital visit will need to be arranged. But the charm of this is not it's plot, which is near to non-existent, but the performances of the quest cast and most importantly, the regulars. Peter Davison has by now settled into the role and gives a charasmatic performance as the Doctor, Adric is as annoying as ever but he has such a small part to play who cares??? Tegan is slightly less verbose here and comes accross as quite a charmer and at ease in this time period.

Nyssa is the main draw here, JNT wanted to give Sarah Sutton the spotlight at least once this year as he had done with Tegan in "Kinda" and Adric in "Earthshock". Sarah proves herself to be highly capable here playing both Nyssa and Ann with relative aplomb. You always know who's who, but that only adds to the enjoyment I feel. This story features some great guest characters such as Michael Cochrane as Lord Cranleigh and especially Barbara Murray as Lady Cranleigh. The casting is superb with not one person looking ill-at-ease. A word or two must also be said concerning the design of this tale. It's class. Pure class. The location filming is some of the most beautiful ever captured for Doctor Who, the cricket scenes in particular are incredible. The DVD thankfully has cleaned up these film elements and now they look truly breathtaking. Inside, and the BBC lives up to its name with some of the most convincing sets created for the show. The mansion truly looks like a mansion, the stairs are impressive enough but the level of detail is unsurpassed. Truly great work from designer Tony Burrough.

Now then, the BBC DVD release of this classy tale is not to be sniffed at. Although a patent budget release, the extras are plentiful and both episodes come with a commentary and other fiddly bits to keep amusement amused. The Restoration Team have superceded all previous efforts {until the next release} in restoring this tale, as mentioned above, the raw film elements were found to still exist and have been scanned at HD quality to ensure that the best results were possible. This whole tale simply glows with love and dedication. 10/10.

In all, Black Orchid is one of my favourite tales, lightweight it may be but that only adds to its endless charm. I highly recommend this 2 part Davison tale for a Sunday afternoon viewing in mid July.

Many thanks for your time, it's greatly appreciated.

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 13 June 2013
Well as a younger viewer, the classic who stories take a lot more will to get through at least in my opinion. What's fun about Black Orchid however is that it is a short two parter which makes the story easy to get through without becoming boring or slow paced. Although the story isn't appreciated as much as other stories, Black Orchid succeeds in bringing a much more calmer tone to the series and for using a non sci-fi plot which every once in a while is quite nice to see. It's focus on the 1920s is brought to life by the great supporting cast, costumes and wonderful settings. The main cast each have their own roles with The Doctor being framed for murder, Nyssa finding her doppelganger, Tegan finally having some fun rather than moaning about wanting to get to Heathrow and Adric...eating chicken! The bonus features are all enjoyable but the commentary is definitely worth a watch after seeing the episode on it's own as the main cast talk about the experience working on the story and it's genuinely funny and entertaining to listen to. Overall Black Orchid is a calmer and more subtle story to the rest of the season and the decision for it to be placed right between The Vistation and Earthshock was right as both of these stories are quite darker in contrast so I would recommend people to watch this story in the middle of those stories. Black Orchid has aged well and despite its focus more on time than space, it is fun and a great addition to Doctor Who DVD collections. :)
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
a two part doctor who story from 1982, featuring peter davison as the fifth doctor, and his companions tegan played by janet fielding nyssa played by sarah sutton and adric played by matthew waterhouse.

This is a slightly unusual story compared to the norm because it contains no science fiction other than the tardis, and reintroduces a style of story not seen since the 1960's known as historical, in which the tardis lands on earth in the past and the crew get caught up in goings on of the time. often such stories involved actual historical events and figures but this, set in 1920's england, doesn't. It involves the tardis crew visiting a stately home and getting caught up in a murder mystery and the secret of the family who live there.

This could be an agatha christie story. It's nothing special, but it's a pleasant little diversion, well made and well acted. and the restoration team have done a good job on the film and the picture now looks superb.

The extras:

a commentary from peter davison and the actors who played the companions. this group are always very good at commentaries and they're fun to listen to. and you'll find they're not personally too keen on the story.

for an easter egg, go to the special features pages and move a pointer around them [if watching on a pc] and a doctor who logo will light up. click on this to see bbc continuity announcements of the time for the story

There are a few deleted and extended scenes, running for about ten minutes in total. nothing special but worth a look, and nicely framed in the style of a 20's movie

A now and then feature of ten minutes duration looks at the locations where the story was filmed as they were then and as they are now. they all look very nice so this is a decent watch

Stripped for action is a fifteen minute documentary about the comic strips that featured the fifth doctor. It's interesting stuff, showing how they were put together despite behind the scenes tribulations.

There's a nine minute clip from childrens show blue peter made at the time showing two of the presenters visiting a costumers that supplied the costumes for this story. and lots of other programmes. interesting and worth watching

A short clip from bbc points of view of the time - long running show where viewers opinions are aired - shows viewers of the time weren't happy about the time slot the show was given. and that points of view then as now patronises and doesnt address the issue. some things never change.

A fascinating feature, also framed in 20's style, looks at how the film was restored. technical and very interesting

The radio times listings for the story can be accessed on a pc as a pdf file

and there's the usual information text, english subtitles and photo gallery for the story

the coming soon trailer is for the soon to be released 6th doctor story the trial of a time lord. and it makes it look very good. possibly a little better than it actually is. This isn't actually the next release, and a date for it awaits to be confirmed.

decent little story. decent little package for it
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 30 December 2008
This is not a great story for Doctor Who as the good Doctor and his companions seem to have been crow-barred into a period murder mystery with little or no sci-fi relevance.

However, that has been done before in other stories and I suppose this outing would stand up to criticism better if the other difficulties of the early Davison era were not so apparent - the overcrowded TARDIS with too many companions having not enough to do - Adric appears to spend most of this story stuffing his face!

This is only a two parter and it even feels overly long at that. It is a story which relies too much on quaintness and incidental acction to fill the time - such as the Charleston routine - much as I enjoyed watching Janet Fielding doing it.

However! The commentary is interesting enough and at the price, I do not regret having it as part of my complete collection. If you are a fan of Nyssa you should also add it to your collection. Next to Keeper of Traken and Terminus this is her biggest episode.

If you are planning on a Doctor Who evening and do not have the time to fit in two four-parters you, like me, will probably fall back on this one from time to time.
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on 22 August 2013
It's fair to say that when people think 'Doctor Who', they think monsters. It doesn't spoil the story that much to say that this doesn't have any.

Instead, this story has a little fun, as the Doctor plays cricket and goes to a fancy dress party - where he gets involved in a family secret/murder 'mystery'.

So if you like Doctor Who stories that are a bit of fun, then you may well like this. If you don't ... maybe best to skip this one.
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