- 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 parts. For the first time since The Highlanders, the only science-fiction elements in this story were the TARDIS and its occupants.
It 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, 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, Fielding and Waterhouse. Collectively, they believed it to be comprised of Edwardian era stereotypes and no mystery or dramatic tension whatsoever.
The TARDIS arrives on Earth in 1925 where, due to a case of mistaken identity, the 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.
Part one Edit
The TARDIS lands in 1925 at Cranleigh Halt, a small railway station in rural England. Tegan wonders where they are and the Doctor explains their location, saying he wished to drive a train as 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, 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 family she knows, but Nyssa repeatedly asserts she is not from around there. Much to everyone' surprise, Charles walks in with his fiancée, Ann Talbot, who is almost an exact double of Nyssa. 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 bath 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 unsure on how to dance at the party, Tegan decides to demonstrate the Charleston, a dance popular in 1925, for her alien friend.
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 if she is Ann or not, Tegan is loving the dancing, and Adric is 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.
After dancing, he leads her inside and she tries to excuse herself. However, he takes her indoors and attacks her. Ann shouts to James, a servant, for help; James attacks the figure but is strangled. Ann faints while the figure turns and closes in on her.
Part two Edit
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.
The second body has been discovered, and the servants alert Charles and Sir Robert Muir. 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 did attack her and kill 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 that 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 be in the cricket team missed the train. Having been exposed as an impostor, the Doctor tells them that he is a time travelling alien and that he was mistaken for the other doctor. They do not believe him and send him away with the police along with Nyssa, Tegan, and Adric, believing them to be accessories to his "murder."
They stop at the railway station after the Doctor declares evidence is there, but the TARDIS is missing 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 that this time he can prove his story and opens the TARDIS with his key, telling everyone to get inside. Lord Cranleigh 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. Lord Cranleigh decides to head home, but the Doctor tells him he can get him there more quickly than a car and activates the TARDIS.
Back at the house, the unknown man has broken free of his restraints. He violently attacks Latoni and sets fire to his door 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 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 fire. 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 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, he only wanted to speak to Ann, his former fiancée — which was why he was stalking her.
However, the Doctor points out that he has taken Nyssa and not Ann, possibly due to his bad eyesight, and that she is in danger when he realises his mistake.
The Doctor attempts to get to him through the house while Charles climbs up the side. They confront George on the roof. The Doctor calms George down by explaining that Nyssa is the person he is holding and that Ann is below in the garden. George realises that the woman he is holding is not Ann, and releases her. Charles thanks him, and attempts to embrace his lost brother, but George recoils and overbalances, falling from the roof to his death.
After attending George's funeral, the TARDIS crew depart but are first given parting gifts of their fancy dress costumes and a copy of George's book, Black Orchid, by Ann and Lady Cranleigh.
- 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
Uncredited cast Edit
- 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.
The Doctor Edit
- 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 Edit
Story notes Edit
- 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.
- Although Sarah Sutton was credited as "Nyssa/Ann" on-screen, she was billed only as "Nyssa" in Radio Times.
- This is the first story since The Highlanders not to feature any science fiction elements, apart from the use of the TARDIS, in the story. Of all the purely historical serials, this is set in the closest time from its airdate (as of 2018).
- 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 at parts 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)
- 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 characters from history. 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.)
Filming locations Edit
- 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
Production errors Edit
- In the rooftop shots, you can clearly see that the film was horizontally flipped because of the odd angle of the smoke's ascent.
- Peter Davison and Gareth Milne (George Cranleigh) are of substantially different heights, yet the same costume fits both of them perfectly. On this point, the director could be said to be at fault for casting an actor to play George who could not plausibly wear Davison's clothes. This is a production choice, not a production error.
- 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 Edit
DVD releases Edit
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
- 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.
Video releases Edit
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