Doctor Who – Delta and the Bannermen

Doctor Who - Delta and the Bannermen
Doctor Who – Delta and the Bannermen

“Delta and the Bannermen” is an adventure of the twentyfourth season of “Doctor Who” classic series, which aired in 1987. It’s a three parts adventure written by Malcolm Kohll and directed by Chris Clough.

The story

Gavrok led his Bannermen to the almost genocide of the Chimeron but Queen Delta managed to escape with an egg that represents the last hope for her species. After arriving at a spaceport, Delta tries to get confused within a group of tourists who are traveling to the 1959 Earth for an exotic vacation.

The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Melanie Bush (Bonnie Langford) discover they’ve won a prize holiday when they arrive at a spaceport. The spacecraft disguised buses is going to Disneyland but when in orbit it collides with an experimental satellite and ends up in Wales, where other unexpected meetings await the travelers.

Extras

This DVD contains a good amount of extras. There are typical contents such as production subtitles, a gallery of pictures from this adventure, the Radio Times Billings and a promo of the “Doctor Who” DVDs soon to be published.

There are various comments in the adventure episodes alternative audio track by its protagonist Sylvester McCoy, actress Sara Griffiths, director Chris Clough and script editor Andrew Cartmel.

But First This. An interview from that time with the protagonists of this adventure.

Interview Rushes. The unedited version of the interview to the protagonists of this adventure with 10 more minutes of contents.

Wales Today. A brief service from that time about this adventure.

Part One: First Edit. The original version of the first part of this adventure a few minutes longer than the aired one.

Hugh and Us. An interview with actor Hugh Lloyd, who plays the beekeeper Goronwy in this adventure.

Clown Court. A sketch that includes some bloopers with Sylvester McCoy as protagonist.

Stripped for Action: The Seventh Doctor. A documentary of just over 20 minute about the comics with the Seventh Doctor. It’s the only extra produced for this DVD edition.

Trails and Continuities. Various BBC announcements from that time for this adventure.


Script editor Andrew Cartmel wanted to involve new authors in “Doctor Who” and decided to contact some of those who participated with him at the workshops run by BBC Script Unit. Among them was Malcolm Kohll, a South African who had moved to London to get into showbiz. That was how he was commissioned to write the screenplay of what became “Delta and the Bannermen”.

The season included a total of 14 episodes with the consequent need to produce at least one serial with less than the four parts that had long become a standard for “Doctor Who”. The producer John Nathan-Turner considered 6-part serials too long, on the other hand the recent 2-part ones had a limited success, including the one that closed the previous season. Eventually, he decided to produce two 4-part serials and 2 3-part serials.

“Delta and the Bannermen” became the first serial made of 3 25-minute parts since the 1960s after the issue of Mel’s exit was solved, also with the choice of the new Doctor’s companion. Bonnie Langford was unhappy with her character so she decided to leave “Doctor Who” and her last adventure was to be the last of the season and the first for the new companion.

Ray was a candidate to become the new Doctor’s companion, so the importance of her character in the screenplay was approved by producer John Nathan-Turner and script editor Andrew Cartmel. Eventually, however, the two of them decided that Ace would become the new companion, consequently “Delta and the Bannermen” became the third serial broadcast during the season.

Apart from the initial scenes featuring Gavrok’s war against Delta and her species and the arrival of Doctor and Mel, “Delta and the Bannermen” is set in Wales in 1959. The story seeks to leverage a nostalgia effect for that time but I was born far later and I’ve never been interested in that decade, especially for the music of those years widely present in this adventure.

In essence, the beginning of “Delta and the Bannermen” is uninteresting to me but there was a plot to develop that had a remarkable potential. The attempted genocide of the Chimeron by Gavrok and his Bannermen fails when Queen Delta manages to escape. It’s a dramatic story that offers food for thought and allows the Seventh Doctor to show for the first time his dark side. Unfortunately this part of the plot was rather wasted.

The dramatic moments of “Delta and the Bannermen” are typically played over the top and are mixed with other parts with comedy tones that end up giving this story a farcical tone. The innocence that appears to exist in 1959 despite the Cold War contrasts with Delta’s struggle for survival but there seems to be an attempt to create a sort of fairy tale rather than a story with a good mix of drama and comedy.

The plot also includes the presence of two American agents and is linked to the launch of the experimental satellite that collides with the spaceship / bus. Originally there was more space for this part of the plot but it had to be cut for time reasons. In the end, that they could’ve cut it off completely because in my opinion it became virtually useless and the humor tied to it didn’t seem funny at all for me.

In fact, “Delta and the Bannermen” seemed generally not particularly funny but perhaps it’s a problem with the setting that’s boring to me. It’s an attempt to produce something different but I don’t think it was successful and it would take some time to find the right formula for the Seventh Doctor’s adventures.

It also seems that DVD edition’s producers had a bad opinion of “Delta and the Bannermen” too because the extras are almost all archive material. In recent years, it’s become normal to produce a documentary about the production of a classic serial published on DVD and the fact that in this case it wasn’t produced isn’t a good sign. Also for this reason it seems to me a product for the people who want the complete collection of “Doctor Who” DVDs and for those who like this adventure.

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