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Doctor Who: Black Orchid (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Black Orchid originally aired in 1982.

Why would I attack you? Have you done me any harm?

No!

No, then I’ve no reason to harm you. And besides…

Besides what?

Well, it wouldn’t be cricket.

– the Doctor, Ann Talbot and Muir

Black Orchid is pretty damn frustrating. There’s a lot of interest here, but sadly it’s mostly from a technical point of view. This is the first two-part adventure since The Sontaran Experiment. It’s also the first historical story told with no science-fiction elements excluding the TARDIS crew since The Highlanders. It’s also the penultimate adventure starring this version of the TARDIS crew, and the last Fifth Doctor serial before his world is turned upside down in Earthshock. So there’s a lot that should be interesting here.

Unfortunately, the writing is at best generic and at worst actively crap. Black Orchid feels exactly like the sort of thing that the BBC was doing without countless television shows other than Doctor Who, so Black Orchid needs to be able to do it to a reasonable standard. Instead, it feels like a murder mystery written by somebody writing with an Agatha Christie adaptation on in the background. It’s frustrating, because there’s a lot of potential here, but the end result is just disappointing.

Clowning around...

Clowning around…

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