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The Visitation & Black Orchid

Video review by Stuart Brown

1666, the great plague, a strange light in the sky, an android - these factors all combine to create a personal favourite of mine. This story has few flaws and the plot logically develops.

Michael Robbins, who played Richard Mace, the out-of-work actor, was well characterised and epitomised the part of the reluctant rogue. His acting shone above the others - especially the dull and stereotypical villagers. The Terileptils reminded me of tropical fish and the android with its colourful design showed the Terileptils' love of things of beauty.

One thing that puzzled me was why the android bothered dressing up as Death, when surely the villagers' fear of a 'metal man' would be just as great. To me it seemed pointless but the Terileptil believed it created just the right amount of confusion.

There is a little bit too much of the running around and being captured/escaping syndrome. Tegan has a few sarcastic remarks for the Doctor even if she did play the 'helpless slave/prisoner' for some time - something Janet Fielding would detest.

The end ties up nicely with the good effects of the Terileptils' faces melting. The realisation that the Doctor created the fire of London was quite clever but was to be expected. Overall, a high grade pseudo-historical which works very well.

Black Orchid was the first pure historical since The Highlanders and one that I particularly enjoyed - no alien menace to fight in this story! I was amused by Adric and Nyssa's confusion over the game of cricket. The Doctor seemed to be enjoying himself, although he seemed a little bit too good at playing cricket.

Janet Fielding's acting seemed rather flat at first but soon picked up, and otherwise all the regulars were at their best. All Adric seemed to do was eat! The other characters seemed to be a bit over the top with regard to their accents.

The whole story had an element of mystery running through it. At times I had no idea what was going to happen next. The effect of the deformed face was effective and very surreal.

Like most two-parters, Black Orchid seemed to flow all too quickly and I feel there may have been enough material for three episodes. The time setting is brilliant, as it has a character all of its own. Black Orchid is often underrated, and definitely benefits from being on the same tape as The Visitation. Not the best of the Davison era but definitely not the worst.

This item appeared in TSV 42 (January 1995).

Index nodes: The Visitation, Black Orchid