- You may wish to consult
Black Orchidfor other, similarly-named pages.
Black Orchid was the fifth serial of season 19 of Doctor Who. It was the shortest story of the season at just two episodes. For the first time since Season 4's The Highlanders, the only science-fiction elements in this story were the TARDIS and its occupants.
Black Orchid was notable for being the highest-rated story of the Davison era. (REF: The Fifth Doctor Handbook) It also gave Sarah Sutton a chance to play two different characters, Nyssa and Ann, and Davison the opportunity to actually play cricket — thereby justifying his costume.
According to the DVD commentary, none of the regular cast truly enjoyed the script — though Sutton admitted to "disliking it less" than Davison, Janet Fielding and Matthew Waterhouse. Collectively, they believed it to be comprised of Edwardian era stereotypes and no mystery or dramatic tension whatsoever.
- 1 Synopsis
- 2 Plot
- 3 Cast
- 4 Crew
- 5 References
- 6 Story notes
- 7 Continuity
- 8 Home video and audio releases
- 9 External links
The TARDIS arrives on Earth in 1925 where, due to a case of mistaken identity, the Fifth Doctor ends up playing in a local cricket match. The travellers accept an invitation to a masked fancy dress ball, but events take on a more sinister tone as murders are perpetrated at the country home of their host, Lord Charles Cranleigh.
In the corridor of a stately home, a servant called Digby is strangled to death by a horribly scarred and disfigured man. The murderer is subsequently overpowered and left tied up on a bed by Latoni, a South American Indian with a lip disk. Elsewhere in the house, a young woman named Ann Talbot sleeps soundly, unaware of what has happened...
The TARDIS lands in 1925 at Cranleigh Halt, a small railway station in rural England. Tegan wonders where they are and the Fifth Doctor explains their location, saying he always wanted to drive a train when he was a boy. They walk out front to find a chauffeur named Tanner, who says he has been waiting for the Doctor, much to his surprise, telling him he's expected for a cricket match. Though the invitation is unexpected, the Doctor is keen to play; soon he, Adric, Nyssa and Tegan have arrived at Cranleigh Hall, home of the Cranleigh family. The Doctor is immediately put into the game and does superbly — bringing the team back from defeat to a win and delighting Lord Charles Cranleigh, who invites the travellers to a fancy dress party that evening as thanks for a splendid performance.
After the match, the cricketers and spectators retreat to Cranleigh Hall for introductions. The Doctor is asked what his name is, but Charles explains the Doctor wishes to remain incognito. In an opulent sitting room that contains a display case housing a magnificent black orchid, Lady Cranleigh laments the loss of her botanist son, George, who was killed on an expedition to find the rare bloom. When told that the party would be a costume party, Adric, Nyssa, and Tegan say that they do not have costumes to wear; Lady Cranleigh is confused as she believed they were already wearing costumes. While everyone asks for a drink, Lady Cranleigh wonders about Nyssa's origins, thinking she may be from a rich and prestigious family she knows, but Nyssa repeatedly asserts she is not from around there. Much to everyone's surprise, Charles walks in with his fiancée, Ann Talbot, who is almost an exact double of Nyssa, aside from a mole Ann has on one shoulder. The travellers set off to their rooms to prepare for the ball.
Charles provides the Doctor with a costume for the party: a harlequin suit with a full mask. The Doctor removes his frock coat and tries on the mask to see how he will look before putting the costume on his bed and heading to the bath to freshen up. Someone uses a secret passage to enter the Doctor's room and hides nearby while the Doctor emerges from the bathroom wearing a robe, wondering what caused the noise. He finds the secret passage and ends up locked out of his room, stuck in a secret passage. At the same time, the unknown person takes the Doctor's costume.
Upstairs, Nyssa, Tegan, and Ann Talbot prepare for the party. Nyssa is confused on what to wear when Ann has a copy of her costume brought in for Nyssa to prank the guests as to which one of them is which. As Nyssa is not from Earth, she is unsure on how to dance at the party, so Tegan decides to demonstrate the Charleston — a dance popular in 1925 — for her friend's benefit.
In the meantime, the Doctor finds his way out of the corridor and into a hidden area of the mansion. He finds closets of old clothes and books and a body in a cupboard.
Elsewhere, the Doctor's companions are enjoying the party. Nyssa is enjoying having people guess whether she is Ann or not, and Tegan is loving the dancing, while Adric is far more interested in enjoying the food. They begin to wonder where the Doctor is. The person who stole the harlequin costume walks out of the mansion, taking Ann in a dance, during which he leads her inside and she tries to excuse herself. However, the figure grabs Ann's wrists and she shouts to James, a servant, for help. James attempts to comes to Ann's aid, but the figure grabs him around the neck and throws him violently to the floor. Ann faints, while the figure turns and closes in on her; his white-gloved hands reaching for her neck...
The Doctor finds Lady Cranleigh and her servant Latoni in one of the secret passages, and shows them the body. He agrees to not tell the guests to avoid causing panic and returns to his room. The Doctor's impostor carefully returns the costume. The Doctor arrives back at his room and dresses in the costume set out for him, unaware it has just been worn by a killer.
Lady Cranleigh and Latoni come to a locked door in the secret passages; on the other side of the door, Ann wakes and panics at the unfamiliar surroundings, while a mysterious figure hides under her bed. Ann runs out of the room and into the arms of Lady Cranleigh. Latoni enters the room and ties up the figure, a horribly disfigured man with dead, drooping skin on his face and no tongue.
James's body has been discovered, and the servants alert Charles and Sir Robert Muir, the Chief Constable. As the Doctor descends the stairs, Ann identifies him as her assailant. The Doctor defends himself, saying he has just put the costume on and had been lost in the secret passages of the house. However, Ann is adamant that the Doctor attacked her and killed James. The Doctor asks if "he" wore the mask while attacking. Ann confirms this and the Doctor tells her that someone may have worn an identical costume to his. However, Ann points out she was in charge of giving out the fancy dress costumes, and there was only one harlequin outfit. The Doctor then decides to save himself from persecution by explaining he had just put the costume on and that somebody else might have used it, asking Lady Cranleigh to help him establish his alibi.
Lady Cranleigh refuses to corroborate his presence in the secret corridors or the existence of the other body. Charles receives a telephone call from his friend "Smutty" Thomas, who apologises that the doctor who was supposed to play in the cricket match missed the train. Having been exposed as an impostor, the Doctor tells them that he is a time-travelling alien and he was mistaken for the other doctor. The family naturally do not believe him and send him away with the police along with Nyssa, Tegan, and Adric, believing them to be accessories to his "crime". Sir Robert tells Charles to conclude the party early, saying he should inform the guests there has been an accident and ask them to leave.
The police stop at the railway station after the Doctor declares evidence to prove his story is there, but the TARDIS is missing from the platform and they have no choice but to go to the police station. There, a policeman declares they have found a police box which no key can open. The Doctor says this time he can prove his story and opens the TARDIS with his key, telling everyone to get inside. Sir Robert Muir is amazed by the TARDIS and apologises to the Doctor for his wild accusations, but there is still the matter of the murders. The Doctor tells him that the true murderer may strike again and go after Ann. Sir Robert decides to head back to Cranleigh Hall, but the Doctor tells him he can get him there more quickly than a car and activates the TARDIS.
Back at the house, the disfigured man has broken free of his restraints. He violently attacks Latoni who, in his last moments of consciousness (it is unclear whether Latoni dies or not), manages to slip the key into a crack in the floor. Unable to unlock the door, the man piles paper beneath it and sets fire to this in order to escape. The TARDIS lands right outside the mansion as Ann runs out to Sir Robert. Upstairs, the unknown man breaks through his door and goes downstairs where Charles is assuring Lady Cranleigh that he will look after Ann.
As Charles approaches, telling him everything will be all right, the disfigured man backs away into the Doctor and the others who just entered. In a panic, the man grabs Nyssa and takes her with him upstairs, into the burning area. Lady Cranleigh tells Sir Robert that the scarred figure is her son George, not killed during the course of his search for the black orchid, but disfigured by a tribe that held the bloom sacred and themselves its guardians. After George's maiming, Latoni's tribe rescued him; they looked after him and brought him home, where his family preferred that he stay out of sight and pretend to be dead. Chafing under the restrictions, George only wanted to speak to Ann, his former fiancée — which was why he was stalking her.
However, the Doctor points out that George has taken Nyssa and not Ann, possibly due to his bad eyesight, and she will be in danger when he realises his mistake.
The Doctor attempts to get to George through the house while Charles climbs up the side. They confront George on the roof. The Doctor calms George down by explaining that it is not Ann he is holding; Ann is below in the garden. George realises this, and releases Nyssa. Charles thanks George, and attempts to embrace his lost brother, but a frightened George recoils from Charles and overbalances — falling over the edge of the roof to his death.
After attending George's funeral, Charles, Ann and Lady Cranleigh say goodbye to the Doctor and his companions outside the TARDIS. Tegan has a large box containing their fancy dress costumes, which they have been given as parting gifts; while the Doctor receives a further gift from Lady Cranleigh: a leather-bound copy of George's book Black Orchid, which the Time Lord says he will treasure.
- The Doctor - Peter Davison
- Adric - Matthew Waterhouse
- Tegan - Janet Fielding
- Nyssa/Ann Talbot - Sarah Sutton
- Lady Cranleigh - Barbara Murray
- Sir Robert Muir - Moray Watson
- Lord Charles Cranleigh - Michael Cochrane
- Brewster - Brian Hawksley
- Tanner - Timothy Block
- Latoni - Ahmed Khalil
- The Unknown/George Cranleigh - Gareth Milne
- Sergeant Markham - Ivor Salter
- Constable Cummings - Andrew Tourell
- Digby - David Wilde
- James - Derek Hunt
- Police Driver - James Muir (all DWM 298)
- Double for Nyssa and Ann - Vanessa Paine
- Assistant Floor Manager - Val McCrimmon
- Costumes - Rosalind Ebbutt
- Designer - Tony Burrough
- Film Cameraman - Peter Chapman
- Film Editor - Mike Houghton
- Film Sound - Ron Blight
- Incidental Music - Roger Limb
- Make-Up - Lisa Westcott
- Producer - John Nathan-Turner
- Production Assistant - Juley Harding
- Production Associate - Angela Smith
- Production Manager - Jim Capper
- Script Editor - Eric Saward
- Senior Cameraman - Alec Wheal
- Special Sounds - Dick Mills
- Studio Lighting - Fred Wright
- Studio Sound - Alan Machin
- Technical Manager - Alan Jeffrey
- Theme Arrangement - Peter Howell
- Title Music - Ron Grainer
- Title Sequence - Sid Sutton
- Video Effects - Dave Chapman
- Videotape Editor - Rod Waldron
- Vision Mixer - Carol Johnson
- Visual Effects Designer - Tony Auger
- Lady Cranleigh gives the Doctor a parting gift, Black Orchid by George Cranleigh.
- The Doctor finds A Textbook of Botany for Students.
- The Doctor's story about being a time traveller is compared to something written by H. G. Wells; Sir Robert Muir says he has heard of Wells: "He writes fiction."
- The Doctor claims he always wanted to drive a steam train as a boy.
- Tegan learnt the Charleston for a play when she was in school.
- The song the Doctor is singing as he gets ready for his bath is "I Want to Be Happy" from the musical No No Nanette which is fairly apt as that production had its debut the year this story was set — 1925.
- Charles Cranleigh says his team was "taking a terrible thrashing" and that he had "made a duck".
Foods and beverages
- The working title for this story was The Beast.
- To preserve the mystery of his character's identity, Gareth Milne was credited as "The Unknown" for part one and in Radio Times; and as "George Cranleigh" for part two.
- This is the first two-part serial of the 1980s and the first since Season 12's The Sontaran Experiment in 1975.
- Although Sarah Sutton was credited as "Nyssa/Ann" on-screen for both episodes, she was billed only as "Nyssa" in Radio Times.
- Outdoor conditions deteriorated during filming, so the actors were required to perform through wind and rain. (DCOM: Black Orchid)
- Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Matthew Waterhouse did not look upon this story favourably, considering the script weak. (DCOM: Black Orchid)
- Ahmed Khalil (Latoni) had to have his voice dubbed in for certain scenes due to his lip disk. (DCOM: Black Orchid)
- While other stories have featured incidental indications that the Doctor likes cricket, (TV: The Ribos Operation, Castrovalva, Four to Doomsday, Human Nature) this is the only televised story to depict the Doctor playing in an actual match. (Peter Davison, a keen cricketer, actually did play cricket in the Doctor's cricket match, and did quite well — he bowled out his opponent.) The Fifth Doctor's particular love of the game would be later developed in other media. It has, for instance, been significantly featured in a number of audio stories (AUDIO: Phantasmagoria, Roof of the World, Autumn) and in a comic. (COMIC: The Forgotten)
- Peter Davison claimed that Terence Dudley told him he had written the script for a murder mystery series, found it in a bottom drawer and just turned it into a Doctor Who story.
- According to Eric Saward, this was John Nathan-Turner's favourite story. Sarah Sutton named it as a favourite.
- Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding were delighted to take part in the dance sequences. Matthew Waterhouse was less enthusiastic, and suggested that Adric should be more interested in the food so that he would not have to participate in the choreography. Gary Downie claimed that Waterhouse had two left feet.
- Robin Bailey, Geoffrey Bayldon, John Carson, William Lucas, Nigel Stock and Peter Vaughn were considered for Sir Robert Muir.
- Jean Anderson, Renee Asherson, Honor Blackman, Claire Bloom, Faith Brook, Kathleen Byron, Phyllis Calvert, Joan Greenwood, Rachel Kempson, Virginia McKenna, Muriel Pavlow, Maria Redmond, Beryl Reid, Barbara Shelley, Dinah Sheridan, Joan Sims and Elizabeth Spriggs were considered for Lady Cranleigh.
- John Nathan-Turner intended for a long time to direct this story himself, but late in the day Ron Jones was hired.
- The scene where George Cranleigh plummets off the roof went awry, with stuntman Gareth Milne missing his cushioned target and striking the ground with his legs — the sound of which is clearly audible in the finished programme. Fortunately, he wasn't seriously hurt.
- Two scenes in Ann's bedroom, in which she is covertly watched by George, had to be abandoned to an industrial dispute.
- Sarah Sutton found playing two roles tiring due to constant costume changes. Ron Jones recalled that finding someone with her build was amazingly problematic. Her double, Vanessa Paine, wasn't the same height.
- Part one - 9.9 million viewers
- Part two - 10.1 million viewers
- Black Orchid is the first historical Doctor Who story since The Highlanders. (Although the story takes place in an earlier era, it is not explicitly a history-based adventure, unlike The Highlanders — i.e. it is not set around an historical event and features no historical characters. However, it is correctly the first non-science fictional serial — disregarding the TARDIS and the presence of the Doctor and two non-Earthling individuals — since the earlier story and, to date, the last.)
- Buckinghamshire Railway Centre, Quainton, Buckinghamshire
- Buckhurst House, Withyham, East Sussex
- Bewdley (Steam Railway), Worcestershire
- Quainton Road, Quainton, Buckinghamshire
- Withyham Cricket Club, Withyham, East Sussex
- BBC Television Centre (Studio 3), Shepherd's Bush, London
- In the rooftop shots, it's clear that the film was horizontally flipped, because of the odd angle of the smoke's ascent.
- George miraculously loses his seemingly permanent hunchback stance while dressed as the harlequin.
- Because of the aforementioned weather problems, the patio where the dance is held goes from bone-dry to wet from one shot to the next.
- Nyssa references their recent part in the Great Fire of London on 2 September 1666. (TV: The Visitation)
- The Seventh Doctor's companion Ace visited the Cranleighs' party and briefly met Adric, who flirted with her, while she was searching for one of the segments of the Key to Time. However, Ace was not receptive to his advances and threatened to give him a permanent limp if he continued. Furthermore, she saw either Nyssa or Ann — she was unsure as to which — but did not approach her. (COMIC: Time & Time Again)
- Ann Talbot reappears in PROSE: The Sands of Time.
- Lord Cranleigh mentions "the Master", whom he also calls "the other doctor". This briefly confuses the Doctor, thinking it a reference to the Master.
- The Doctor gets trapped in the hallway and moans about how he always lets his curiosity get the best of him. (TV: The Daleks, The Web Planet, The Time Meddler, The Mind of Evil, The Leisure Hive)
- Like the Fifth Doctor on this occasion, the Eleventh Doctor would later play a sport, namely football, and display a high level of skill. (TV: The Lodger)
- The TARDIS previously materialised on a train station platform in the 1920s, namely in Kent in November 1920 during the Doctor's second incarnation. (AUDIO: The Mouthless Dead) It would later do so again in Calcutta, British India on 31 December 1926. (AUDIO: The Emerald Tiger)
- This story occurs before PROSE: In the TARDIS: Christmas Day.
- The Sixth Doctor would later describe Black Orchid as "a Boy's Own adventure about an aristocrat who yomped through the Brazilian rainforests, depriving the natives of their orchids". (AUDIO: Year of the Pig)
Home video and audio releases
Black Orchid was released on DVD in April 2008. It was originally scheduled for May but changed at the last moment, and The Invasion of Time was moved to May.
- Audio commentary by Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa) and Matthew Waterhouse (Adric)
- Deleted Scenes
- Now and Then - Featurette on locations used in the story
- Stripped for Action - The Fifth Doctor - A look at the Fifth Doctor's comic strip adventures
- Blue Peter - A visit to the theatrical costumiers responsible for period costumes used in Black Orchid
- Points of View - Barry Took airs disgruntled viewers' letters about the rescheduling of Doctor Who
- Black Orchid: Film Restoration - Before and after examples of techniques used during the restoration of the location film elements of this story
- Easter Egg - Go to the second part of the special features menu, go down to Points of View and click left, a green Doctor Who logo should appear, click it to see some BBC Idents and Announcement for this story
- Photo Gallery - Includes unreleased incidental music by Roger Limb.
- DVD-ROM feature - Radio Times billings
- Editing for the DVD release was completed by the Doctor Who Restoration Team.
- Audio commentary by Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa) and Matthew Waterhouse (Adric)
- Info Text
- Extended Version - Part One with deleted sequences re-integrated.
- Making-of Documentary - Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding, Matthew Waterhouse, Michael Cochrane (Cranleigh), Eric Saward and Rosalind Ebbutt (Costume Designer) discuss the making of Black Orchid. Hosted by Mark Strickson.
- Behind the Sofa
- Deleted Scenes
- Blue Peter - A visit to the theatrical costumiers responsible for period costumes used in Black Orchid.
- Points of View - Barry Took airs disgruntled viewers' letters about the rescheduling of Doctor Who.
- BBC1 Continuity Announcements
- Now and Then - Featurette on locations used in the story.
- DVD Film Restoration - Short featurette from the 2008 DVD. This Blu-ray supersedes the DVD, however, with a brand new HD film transfer.
- HD Photo Gallery
- PDF Written Archive
This story was released as Doctor Who: The Visitation / Black Orchid with The Visitation as part of a two tape set.
- PAL - BBC Video BBCV5349
- Black Orchid at the BBC's official site
- Black Orchid at RadioTimes
- Black Orchid at BroaDWcast
- Black Orchid at Shannon Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel)
- Black Orchid at The Locations Guide