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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful story set in the 1920s - with the Doctor, two Nyssas, Tegan and Adric, 20 Jun 2012
This review is from: Doctor Who - Black Orchid [1981] [DVD] (DVD)
I love 'Black Orchid'. Straight to the point. I just love it. It's my absolute favourite Doctor Who story from the Peter Davison era. And I'm so pleased that this is lovely Sarah Sutton's (who plays both Nyssa and Ann Talbot in this) favourite story as well.

When I first bought this story on DVD in April 2008, it was on the day I was working on my first year project at University. I was tired and stressed out working on it that I decided to buy that DVD that lunch time during the day. I had an hour or so to spare before going back to lectures so I decided to watch Part One of that story during my lunch break back home. After watching the first episode, I enjoyed it so much that I couldn't wait to watch the second episode. But I decided to do my afternoon lectures first and come back home later to watch the second episode. When I finished watching Black Orchid, I decided to watch it again after enjoying it so much. Now I've seen it for the umpteenth time and know all the lines of the character/actors.

I asked Sarah to sign this story for me when I first met her back in February 2010 in London. Sarah was glad to hear that I liked `Black Orchid'. She signed that as well as 'Circular Time' (my favourite audio) for me on that same day. Two aspects of why Sarah likes this story is because it is a historical set in the 1920s and that it allows her the chance to play two parts in it.

I certainly enjoyed the murder mystery aspect of the story and it's quite surprising how Terence Dudley (the writer) managed to put so much into a two-part story, which is unique. I loved the cricket match scenes in the first episode (the only bit about `Black Orchid' that Peter Davison really likes) and enjoyed the fancy dress ball dancing scenes out on the patio. I especially loved the character moments between Nyssa, Adric and Tegan when they're enjoying themselves at the ball. I love the comedy moments when Adric's uncomfortable about dancing and instead rather eats at the buffet and Nyssa calls him a `pig'. Funny stuff.

Sarah has said although she liked this story, she doesn't think it develops Nyssa's character since it's merely her playing two parts for the whole of the story. I'd be inclined to disagree with her on that point, because I do think `Black Orchid' does develop her character since we see a side of Nyssa where she enjoys herself and is a sociable person during the story. This is quite a break from having her being the scientist for other stories.

On saying that however, Sarah really does shine throughout as not only does she play Nyssa, but also the equally lovely Ann Talbot. She is quite girly and emotional in this story I'm afraid, not like Nyssa who's much stronger and calmer than her, but she comes across as being 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 happens to be the murderer (I won't reveal any spoilers). For me it's hard to decide who's better, Nyssa or Ann. I certainly didn't know who it was that got attacked or who was going to be attacked in the cliff-hanger for Part One. Though I should have suspected it was Ann since she seems so squeamish when being attacked, and Sarah plays it very well. Sarah puts across the aristocratic nature very strongly and equally in her performance in Ann as well as with Nyssa. I really enjoyed the `topping' moment between Nyssa and Ann, and I especially loved those moments where they first meet at Cranleigh Hall and get to know each other.

Sarah plays both parts very differently and very well and it's really nice for Nyssa to have a story where she's given more attention, although (and I think Janet Fielding makes this valid point as well in the commentary), it would have been nice to have learned why Nyssa and Ann look so similar and an explanation on that would have been interesting despite just stating it throughout, considering Nyssa's from Traken and Ann's not. Perhaps there is a story out there already if anyone wishes to comment.

I like both Nyssa and Ann wearing their fancy dress outfits at the ball, since they both look so gorgeous, even though it is a skimpy outfit anyway. And certainly Sarah gets to show off her dancing skills since she went to ballet school as a little girl before going into acting.

I was very disappointed from hearing the audio commentary how much Peter Davison, as well as his other companions Janet Fielding (Tegan) and Matthew Waterhouse (Adric) gave negative views on Black Orchid and that Sarah seems the only one who's positive about it. I don't think Sarah got a chance to say much in that commentary (told me she couldn't get a word in edgeways). Despite the fact that Peter doesn't like this story (or as Sarah says `hates it'), it certainly is unlike any Doctor Who story I've ever seen before. Peter stated the reasons why he didn't like this story was because it doesn't contain any sci-fi elements and it seemed silly to set the story in a country mansion. I think that's one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much since it's a pure historical and it's nice to have a break from all the space-yarns I've seen in Doctor Who, which at the time were getting a bit boring for me.

The rest of special features on offer include the `Now and Then - The Locations of Black Orchid' feature which I enjoyed immensely. I loved hearing the nostalgic 1920s music in the background of the feature as well as hearing it during the story (the 20s music is my dad's favourite part of `Black Orchid' since he's a massive fan of nostalgic music). In terms of the locations of `Black Orchid', I found them very interesting and pleasant to watch, as they don't seem to change much since the original broadcast in 1982. Seeing them almost made me want to go there, especially since it was sunny when they were being shot. I felt sorry for the actors who had to film during wet weather on the patio for the fancy dress ball (Janet certainly wasn't happy). I also loved the railway station. I always feel a sense of nostalgic when visiting a railway station, and I always try to do that when going on holiday whether in England or in Scotland.

There are also some `deleted scenes' from Black Orchid, focusing heavily on the fancy dress ball. I would have loved these scenes to be reincorporated into the story, or better still, have the whole story set in a special edition version with no breaks or pauses so it makes up as one whole story, like they did with `The Five Doctors', `Enlightenment', `Planet of Fire', `Battlefield' and `The Curse of Fenric' (my dad would like that as well apparently).

There is a `restoration' feature as well on this story. I was very impressed with the grading. The Restoration Team have made this story look so fresh and new, it's hard to believe it looked so grainy back in 1982 on its original broadcast. I also enjoyed the `Blue Peter' clip which looked at how the costumes were made for Black Orchid and how the presenters went to the actual place where they did the costumes and actually put some of them on, including the military uniforms and the dresses.

A special feature of great interest is the `Stripped For Action - The Fifth Doctor' featurette. This covers the comic book adventures during the Fifth Doctor years from 1982 to 1984, which can be found in 'The Tides of Time' graphic novel which I've already read. This includes contributions from Dave Gibbons (artist), Alan McKenzie (DWM (Doctor Who Magazine) editor of the time) and former DWM editors as well as contributors to the Big Finish world Gary Russell and Alan Barnes. Each talk about the comic strip adventures of the Fifth Doctor, including `The Tides of Time', `Stars Fell on Stockbridge', `The Stockbridge Horror' and `Lunar Lagoon'. I only became interested in the comics when `The Stockbridge Trilogy' came out in 2009 from Big Finish with Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton. I read the comics a while later, and it was nice to have this DVD extra as a helper's guide into what the Fifth Doctor comic strips were all about.

There's also a `Points of View' programme about Doctor Who's time slot on Monday and Tuesday's during the time and an exciting Coming Soon trailer for `The Trial of a Time Lord' DVD. The info text wasn't impressive I'm afraid to say, since very little information was given about the story like all the other Doctor Who DVD info text options.

I would love to say more about `Black Orchid', but I think this is a good time to stop. All I can say I enjoy `Black Orchid' every minute and I can't seem to stop watching it again and again. You may find it short, but it's certainly a relaxing, enjoyable experience. It certainly has made a huge impact on my life with meeting Sarah Sutton and seeing her at conventions. It's definitely a shining story for Sarah and Nyssa, and it's one of my absolute favourite stories as well as for Sarah.

The next DVD to follow this with the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric is 'Earthshock'.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Dec 2013 08:23:02 GMT
timelord007 says:
I must say on first viewing when i was 7 i wasn't to impressed with this story at all but since watching it as a in my 20's on video i found merit to the story & it's a great little adventure.

Great review of this dvd Tim again you write from the heart in your reviews.

&,we as fan's get 2 Sarah Suttons.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Dec 2013 14:16:27 GMT
Last edited by the author on 16 Dec 2013 14:18:50 GMT
Tim Bradley says:
Yes I still enjoy watching this little Who story to this day! It's so unlike any other Doctor Who with no sci-fi or aliens which is why I enjoyed it so much. It must been so unusual at the time on first viewing when it was shown on telly back in 1982.

I've written my own sequel to 'Black Orchid' as part of my own 50th anniversary series called 'The Mirror of Memory'. It's a story that provides my own interpretation of how Nyssa and Ann came to be so alike since it was never explained in the TV story.

I've told Sarah about this story as well as many stories I've written for my own personal pleasure, and she was keenly interested and delighted me telling her about the stories I've written for her as Nyssa in mind.

Glad you enjoyed my review. This is a personal story that I've held close to my heart. Tim.
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