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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
Delta and the Bannerman


Starring: Sylvester McCoy
RRP: £19.56
Certificate: PG
Available 22 June 2009

It’s a general truism that when the Doctor promises a companion a holiday something usually goes wrong. This time the Doctor has promised Mel that he will take her to Disneyland, having won the prize at a Galactic Tollport. As they embark on a ship, disguised as a fifties bus, the Chimeron Queen slips unobtrusively aboard. She is running from the Bannermen, the creatures that have destroyed her world and are now hunting for her. On the way down, the bus is hit by an American satellite, depositing the Doctor, Mel and the Chimeron Queen onto a fifties Welsh holiday camp. But the Bannermen are close behind...

Delta and the Bannermen is a three part, Seventh Doctor, story and was originally broadcast between 2 and 16 November 1987. The show was written by Malcolm Kohll and directed by Chris Clough. The show was notable for having Ken Dodd play the Galactic Toll Keeper.

Oh Dear, well where to begin? I have always felt that the last two Doctors were, for the most part, ill served by the show. Although both had some good stories, the overall impression was of a show which was losing its budget and way. Bannermen is a whimsical romp, which is very much a Who meets Hi-de-Hi!, and predates the gradual transformation of McCoy’s Doctor into something stranger and more alien. It’s a premise which will either intrigue or repel.

The show perfectly captures the look and feel of a fifties holiday camp and goes a long way to explaining the expression on the faces in photographs of that decade - if this was entertainment I would have stayed at home. The light hearted nature of the show is further enhanced with the inclusion of some popular comedians including Ken Dodd, Hugh Lloyd and Stubby Kaye. The show also plays to McCoy's own comedic talents.

I said that it would intrigue or repel so I have to be honest and say that I didn’t like it, though there are many who do. For me, the lack of a strong script meant that the show was little more than a longish chase scene. Mel (Bonnie Langford) never really worked well as a companion, still not as bad as Adric, and the very eighties synth soundtrack by Dominic Glynn quickly grates on your nerves.

On the plus side the show is well acted with the cast including Don Henderson (Gavrok), Sara Griffiths (Ray), who would have made a good companion. Being a well constructed period piece, the show has hardly aged, looking as good today as it did when it was originally transmitted. The show is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio with a clear mono soundtrack.

Once again the show comes with a good set of extras, the first of which is a full length commentary with Sylvester McCoy, Sara Griffiths, Chris Clough and script editor Andrew Cartmel, here all of those involved obviously had a ball making the show. Next up is But First This (6 min, 03 sec) with Andy Peters, which has an interview with Sylvester McCoy talking about his like for the series. Bonnie Langford and Ken Dodd talk about working on the show. It is followed by Wales Today (2 min, 17 sec), which is a small news report from BBC Wales, which includes Sylvester McCoy and the late John Nathan-Turner.

The longest extra on the disc is Episode One - First Edit (30 min, 30 sec), which runs a full six minutes longer than the transmitted version. This version is also missing any incidental music and finished special effects. An interesting addition, though I’m not sure that the longer cut goes any way to saving the show. Another interesting extra is Interview Rushes (16 min, 13 sec) which is a collection of the unedited interview footage which would eventually be edited down for the But First This item.

Hugh and Us (7 min, 05 sec) with the late Hugh Lloyd, who passed away last year, talking about his career as an actor and his experience of appearing in the show; and Clown Court (5 min, 42 sec) is a comedy skit with McCoy and Noel Edmonds, who plays a judge, putting McCoy on trial for impersonating a Time Lord, using outtakes from Bannermen as the evidence.

The second longest extra is Stripped for Action (21 min, 34) which continues the in-depth look at the creation of the Doctor Who comic strip. These are always well worth watching and remain informatively entertaining. This mini documentary has contributions by Scott Gray; Simon Furman; Paul Cornell and Andrew Cartmel. The disc rounds up with the usual Trails and Continuity (3 min, 19 sec), a photo gallery, a Coming Soon (1 min, 37 sec) for the excellent The War Games, and the usual suspects the Radio Times Listings, Subtitles and Subtitled Production Notes.

So, overall, a nice, light-hearted period show, with good performances, but a weak script.


Charles Packer

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