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Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Doctor Who: Delta And The Bannermen (1987)

The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Mel (Bonnie Langford) think they're heading to Disneyland in the 1950s, but end up in South Wales, at a grim holiday camp, with a bunch of alien tourists and a fleeing princess.

The Chimeron princess, Delta (Belinda Mayne) is on the run from the infamously wicked Bannermen, headed up by Gavrok (Don Henderson).

A couple of bumbling CIA agents are thrown into the mix for no good reason, but beyond that Delta And The Bannermen is an insubstantial, chase story; heavy with an overpowering musical score and feeble attempts at silly humour.

Rather prophetically, the story also features several elements that still grate with me in the new Who, such as alien races obsession with Earth and its history, stunt casting (in this case, a small - and harmless - cameo from Ken Dodd) and soap opera sub-plots about character's personal lives.

On the other hand, there's an interesting throwaway line or two about bees that I wonder might have laid the groundwork for one of the through lines in the most recent year of new Doctor Who stories.

Even at three episodes, the plot of Delta And The Bannermen is seriously stretched to breaking point, and probably could have been dispensed with in two.

It's a fairly decent story with a strong central performance from McCoy, as his Doctor's sinister side starts to show through, and even Langford - when not screaming - is bearable.

However, the performances of some of the supporting cast (e.g. the totally wooden Belinda Mayne) leaves a lot to be desired and the plot doesn't so much have holes as by-passes.

For instance, the cavalier interaction between the Earthlings and aliens is very far fetched; everyone just accepts Delta, The Doctor and The Bannermen are aliens, with alien technology, and accepts it as an everyday occurrence.

The sub-plot about Ray (Sara Griffiths), who could have been the "Ace" character that The Doctor needed in his life, and her sweetheart Billy (David Kinder) descends into farce when she doesn't seem that bothered that he has transformed himself into a Chimeron and run-off with Delta. At least Ray got his vintage bike!

But the most annoying thing about Delta And The Bannermen is the music. I love 50s rock'n'roll as much as the next man, but the score for these three episodes is simply too prominent, and often in totally the wrong place or wrong tone. I certainly could have done without the repeated "comedy"/Benny Hill-style ditty for the numerous motorbiking scenes.

And just who are The Bannermen anyway? Every alien - and Mel - is afraid of their name, but no one actually explains who they are...

6 comments:

  1. You know, the final year or two of McCoy's stint as the Doctor I remember as being relatively dark.

    I know that a lot of people didn't like his take on Who, but I think when he was allowed to let the Doctor's dark side out - at least, much more than any previous actor had - he was actually kind of intimidating.

    ReplyDelete
  2. In some of the later stories, McCoy's Doctor showed a very sinister side - my favourite being probably Wolves Of Fenric. e

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wait a minute, I thought it was "Delta and the Bannerman", not "Bannermen". (just a little nerd humor for fans of the old Target line of novelizations)

    I'm glad they went with Ace instead of Ray. Sophie is a much better choice.

    The Irredeemable Shag
    http://onceuponageek.com
    http://firestormfan.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. You sure know your stuff, Shag! I'm in awe as the "Bannerman" boo-boo was only on the spine of the Target novelization. That's true geek cred there!

    And yes, Ace was a far better character than Ray - but either were preferable to Mel :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks. I consider myself a pretty big fan of the Doctor Who novels and audios. I've been a fan for over 25 years. I've read hundreds (yes, I said hundreds) of Doctor Who novels - Target, Virgin, BBC. My fondest memories from the novels come from the Virgin years. Those were so good and so fresh at the time. Loved those novels!

    I also own about 150 of the Big Finish audio dramas. I get the monthly release, the new Eighth Doctor & Lucie adventures, the Companion Chronicles, and a few of the other spin-offs (Davros, Cyberman, UNIT, etc).

    It's a sickness. I know.

    The Irredeemable Shag
    http://onceuponageek.com
    http://firestormfan.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. That's pretty hardcore ;-) I've always been a fan of Doctor Who, had some Target books, videos, magazines etc and a geeky knowledge and awareness of the show, but have only really got seriously into it with the relaunch by RTD.

    ReplyDelete

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