Delta and the Bannermen

Written by:
Malcolm Kohl
Directed by: Chris Clough
Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Year: 1987
Video Availability: Try

This starts out okayish, with the planet in the sky showing how Who's effects had improved by the McCoy era. Even the spacecraft take-off isn't bad. However, it's never explained why the male Chimerons are green and ugly, but the female is a bit of totty. Or why she's a plank of wood come to that.

Suddenly you have a scene with Bonnie Langford and Ken Dodd together in Doctor Who. Is it a nightmare? Dodd, like Richard Briers in the preceding story, has acted in Shakespeare. Also like Briers, when it came to Who he just acted like an arse. Slyvester isn't so bad, though he's obviously going for hard sell on that stupid brolly. Oh God, Bonnie Langford has started singing Rock Around The Clock. What had we done to deserve this punishment?

The American characters are fun send-ups ("Wales... in England") but, if memory serves, they fulfil no plot function whatsoever. Burton is also a fun Welsh stereotype, though McCoy's working class sensibilities mean this isn't a Queen's English Doctor patronising the home counties as it would be for Pertwee.

The Doctor's awkwardness talking about relationships is a nice touch, though the music by Keff McCulloch is a bit rank as per usual and Sylvester's sneezing is straight out of Scooby Doo.

As a stand alone campy story then this is passable. The purple Navarinos are just silly, and the spaceship coaches are too daffy to fit with the "real" Who. It's amusing, but lacking in key areas of drama. Slyvester's rolling his Rs all over the place, but I can't find anything offensive in this good-natured (if slightly inane) episode. However, despite enjoying it, I still have to give it a below-average score.
* *

Delta gets a baby painted green with an obvious hood on it, while a beekeeper does a "pupae" speech as would-be ironic juxtaposition. A lot of the story is character-based dialogue, which is a nice change from functional Nation hackerey. Yet the dialogue is silly and indulgent, and often does little to advance the plot.

Talking of dialogue, then Sylvester's best line is: "Actually, I think I may have gone a little too far." His worst is the corny: "A poignant reminder that violence always rebounds on itself." The scene with the Bannermen waggling tongues is a bit daft, and the spaceship landing is pretty crap. I once read a cruel quote from someone of Who's old school (a past producer? Sidney Newman, maybe? Oh, it could have been Nigel Kneale actually...) that the three-part stories were "about three episodes too long". In many ways that fits for Delta, a sketchy, thinly plotted tale with jokes in search of a storyline. But it's fun and enjoyable. There are silly performances but not bad performances per se. It's cheap, but not that cheap. And the lines are hammy in a jokey way, but not galling.

Yeah, it's not clever or witty enough to be the great comedy it desperately wants to be, but you know what's coming... it's pretty poor, but nowhere near as bad as Battlefield.
* *

Slyvester's obviously not really driving that motorbike on the close-ups, while the Bannermen look like paintball enthusiasts. (When he is driving it, you can see his glasses on long shot). I think probably the worst thing about this story, apart from the crushing lack of depth, is that a grotty holiday camp in 50s Wales has to be the worst location on Earth.

The Doctor's plan to get Gavrok stung by bees is a little harsh. This is a pretty poor episode to be honest, but compare this self-contained story with the continuity dirge of the previous year's Trial. In execution it might be inferior, but fundamentally it's the way forward.

Oh, and, as I remembered, the two Americans didn't have any plot relevance at all...
* *

A lightly enjoyable spoof of pulp SF conventions that lacks the intellect to be a true comedy classic. Obviously below average for the series, but taken on its own terms it's an entertaining enough caper story. Still one of the ten weakest stories of all time, mind...
* *