Delta and the Bannermen
|Dates||Nov. 2, 1987 -
Nov. 16, 1987
With Sylvester McCoy, Bonnie Langford.
Written by Malcolm Kohll. Script-edited by Andrew Cartmel.
Directed by Chris Clough. Produced by John Nathan-Turner.
|Synopsis: The queen of a dying race is pursued to 1950's Earth by an army of cutthroats.|
A Review by Robert Smith? 2/3/97
Ah, one of my favourites! This story has come in for a lot of flack, being supposedly indicative of the "Season 24 silliness", but is actually rather wonderful. There's lots of cool music and the Doctor gets to dance, there's some fairly amusing humour (although it depends on your point of view, I suspect) coutersy of Hawk and Weismuller. And Ray is a superb pseudo-companion (while I love Ace, I would also have loved Sara Griffiths as the companion!).
The plotting is actually quite devious, hidden as it is behind a veneer of running around (possible Andrew Cartmel's influence starting to show itself?). The Doctor and Gavrok are continually outplotting each other (which is why there are so many apparent dead-ends in the action), raising the stakes higher and higher until eventually one of them succumbs (Gavrok, in case you didn't know!).
The Doctor's "outraged" speech to Gavrok near the end of episode two (along with nice touches as Gavrok's quite disgusting chewing on raw meat) is one of the series highlights.
Not too terrible-- but it's embarrassing by Tom May 23/2/98
Well, in comparison with The Androids of Tara, this is pathetic; otherwise, it's still below par but has it's moments. I'd say that it is probably the best Season 24 has to offer- which isn't saying a lot, I hasten to add!
It's hard to make out exactly what JNT and company were aiming for in that oh-so-grim year of 1987. This story is at times serious, emotional (scenes with Ray in episode one: "Love has never been known for it's rationality"), grotesque (Gavrok, the poorly-named villain, chewing disgusting flesh), farcical (the baby and, inevitably, Ken Dodd), and ludicrous (the pseudo-Yankee cops and the thing about the bees).
What this tale has, in its defence, is the aforementioned scenes of emotion, predating the next two, finer seasons, a fine Doctor/Gavrok confrontation and Sara Griffiths as the tomboy Ray. She is wonderful indeed, in comparison with Mel, and is better here than Sophie Aldred was in Dragonfire. More plus points are that there is little of the trademark JNT continiuity references, and the sense that it seems a fresher programme than most of the previous year.
Onto the Doctor himself. McCoy's good here, but not as good as in the next two years. You can see his portrayal of the Doctor is developing, but it's not fully rounded yet. He has moments that sit comfortably with the Season 26 portrayal, the same in Dragonfire, but he is still too manic (take a look at Time and the Rani), despite all of this, the Doctor is likeable, and appears to be aloof from the ridiculous scenes surrounding him. It's only when he confronts Gavrok that you start to see the power of this "Time's Champion."
There are overriding aspects of sheer ineptness which make you cringe, however. Ken Dodd is utterly superfluous. Gavrok is difficult to take seriously, as he's too serious by half. Also, the opening is rather disorientating and pathetic-- the green skinned Chimerons getting shot by the Bannermen, who match them in terms of being hapless. The story's title is inane-- blatantly ripping off the Indie band 'Echo and the Bunnymen.' And finally, the early scene of Mel and these disguised aliens on the Tour Bus, singing Rock'n'Roll tunes really gets on my nerve (as does the real appearance of the Bus Driver).
To sum it all up, I feel that it is just better than Dragonfire, although the negative points just outweigh the positive points to create a story that is scoffed at and derided without stop. 5.25/10
A Review by Leo Vance 12/3/98
I have read that this is the best story of Season Twenty-Four often. I have read that this isn't saying much. I have read that The Ark in Space is a classic, and this is not.
Rubbish! Delta and the Bannermen is one of the best Doctor Who stories ever broadcast. From start to finish its fun, its got a good plot, a mix of wonderful over-acting and superb seriousness from different members of the cast, and utterly perfect in its production values.
Ken Dodd's performance is one of the funniest that Doctor Who has ever featured. Don Henderson provides a superb Gavrok, and Belinda Mayne is quite good as Delta. Sara Griffiths is an equal of Ace, her performance a wonderful compliment to Sylvester McCoy. Bonnie Langford finally gets a good story. The American detectives are well played, Goronwy is a wonderful character, and the Bannermen are good villains.
Sylvester McCoy is superb as the Doctor, and at the end of episode two, he confronts Gavrok in a truly wonderful scene. Here, he finds the correct mix of humor and seriousness. Perfection. The music is fun, the holidaymakers are excellent, Murray is a good character, and the direction (plus the ludicrous and brilliant bee subplot) is good. The scene where the Bannermen get covered in honey are great.
All in all, one of the greatest Doctor Who stories of all time. 10/10
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 18/9/98
Why season 24 is slated as much as it is, I don`t know. Yes, the future of Doctor Who was uncertain then, and Delta and the Bannermen presents an example of why the season should have worked as a whole, but failed. To me, this was the best of the season, a tale of good versus evil set in the Fifties.
It is a very authentic little tale, the holiday camp being reminiscent of Hi-Di-Hi, complete with music to match. The location work is excellent, resembling the tranquility of Wales in that period. The basic plot of a lone survivor of a seemingly doomed race being hunted for nothing more than pleasure and her fight for survival is refreshing and means that casual viewers of Doctor Who can follow it as well as the series fans. Basically, it is a tale about love and makes a change from the usual alien invasion story.
Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor begins to show his darker side here, and Bonnie Langford as Melanie is ideally suited to the storyline here, with something actually being made of her character for once. Don Henderson`s Gavrok is basically a bully and doesn`t really differ from any other small time villain in the show; whilst he plays the part well, Gavrok suffers from a lack of character development. All he seems to do is dish out orders to the equally forgettable Bannermen, whose only real "moment" is in the opening scene.
However, these are only minor quibbles with good parts vastly outnumbering the bad. Highly enjoyable, to say the least.
It's Just Bad by Daniel Callahan 21/9/98
Whenever fans wax eloquent about the virtues of Delta and the Bannermen, I always feel like I'm waiting at an airport terminal for a flight that no one remembers booking. Questions like: "What exactly is going on that I don't understand?" jump to mind and keep jumping until my legs get tired. Undeterred, I'll borrow a lovely saying from a guy I knew from Sheffield (UK) to sum up my point-of-view of this JNT brain-child: "At were crap!"
From the opening scene, I get the feeling that this is a low-budget put-on. A Chimeron queen (a blond with skin-tight clothing) sees the last of her green, rubber-masked race gunned down, so she takes off with her egg (that looks just like the Sontaran ship from The Two Doctors)... she has my vote for the best-looking fowl in the galaxy, at least. Her pursuer, Gavrok, is just a mean, vicious guy who wants to kill the Chimeron race and Ken Dodd. Not the usual character-motivation, but it'll do.
Enter the Doctor: winning the trip to Disneyland was a clever stroke, although spending a few episodes with full-fledged tourists isn't really what I hope for in quality television. He wisely travels by TARDIS just in case Mel and the rest of the space-bus are threatened by Sputnik. And, guess what, they are. (Sputnik looks just like it did in all those Bugs Bunny cartoons, too.)
Of course, the best line of the entire season arrives in this story: "We're calling from Wales, in England." It's one of the most natural jokes ever in Doctor Who, on par with the excellent "foreigners" joke from Robot. Also, Ray dancing with the Doctor amidst break-up blues is absolutely charming.
Now back to all the bad jokes in Delta and the Bannermen. Billy, 19, falls for the 30 year-old queen. Natural enough (I'm assuming he's a chicken chaser). However, she falls for him. Only in a sad fan's basement fantasy would that happen. Then the queen's little princess grows to age twelve a few days after hatching, and her clothes grow with her! This allows Billy to skip the whole 'father' thing and stay focued on the queen's blond skin-tightness, as well as give the writer an easy plot-device in episode three. (The little chickadee even changes color, saving JNT a few quid on the make-up.)
Back to Gavrok. He eats raw meat. Heh heh... subtle characterization attempt there.
Back to the Doctor. "And woe betide any man who breaches [the white flag's] integrity!" No wonder Syl kept his script in his trouser pockets. He had to learn lines that no human, alien, or fowl would utter unless they were named Kohll or Cartmel.
At least Burt saves Mel with his quick thinking, giving his character a chance to show a little... well, character. The Bee-Keeper is a hoot as well as an enigma, but not enough on his own to keep the story afloat. (As for fan theories that he's a Time Lord: of course he is. Only Time Lords show intelligence in this series, right?)
And in the end: Billy eats some alien grub which changes his DNA into a Chimeron male without green skin (JNT saves a few more quid). Realizing this, he promptly dumps the only intelligent female in the whole story, Ray, for his new live-in girlfriend (the queen) and her rapidly maturing offspring (the chick). Honestly, only the appearance of Adric could make this more of a fan-boy moment.
Oh, and all the tourists in the space-bus are killed for absolutely no story-driven reason expect to reinforce how evil Gavrok is. Maybe Kohll, Cartmel, et. al. thought that we didn't already have enough clues and hints to that effect. Or maybe JNT didn't have enough cash to shoot a lift-off scene. Or maybe... it's just bad.
Why I Like Cheese by Mike Morris 21/1/99
It struck me once that criticising, say, the Graham Williams era is completely pointless. The thing is that the Graham Williams era mocks people without a sense of humour, so if you criticise it for being silly you just look like the type of person it's mocking. Er, got that? Good. Because in many ways, Delta and the Bannermen is similar.
I was pleasantly surprised at the number of positive reviews in the Guide about this story, but a bit disappointed that no-one really saw it as anything more than a fun runaround. I've always felt that there's much, much more to Delta. It comes off the back of the grim cynicism of the Saward era, and it's such a great contrast -- it really does have silly, ordinary people triumphing over nasty bad guys, and that's what makes it so great.
Take the setting. A cheesy holiday camp in 1950's Wales, populated by rock 'n' roll mechanics, pinstriped officials with incomprehensible accents, and (sigh - oh Ray) innocent girls with a bad case of unrequited love. Even the CIA are charmingly naive and nice. And then, into this idyllic setting, come the Bannermen -- the ultimate Thatcherite baddies, with no morals and a job to do. They're obscene. That's why the scene where they raise a gun at Hawk and Weismuller is so effective -- the naivety of the setting accentuates just how nasty the Bannermen are. I was almost praying that Gavrok wouldn't kill them.
But he doesn't, which is why Delta and the Bannermen is so uplifting to watch. The rotten Eighties ruthless swines are beaten by simple, homely things -- honey, bees, a little girl's song, the Doctor's brilliant angry speech at the end of Part Two. Whereas the Saward era ended up praising cynicism and scepticism, Delta champions idealism and being open to the wonders of the universe -- another hero is an old man who looks after an alien baby without batting an eyelid.
Let's admit it: Doctor Who is a ridiculously idealistic series, about a guy who constantly defeats monsters without even picking up the gun. And Delta and the Bannermen embodies that. Yes, there are a couple of holes in the plot (Billy turning into a Chimeron is a bit hard to swallow), but that's where what I said about the Graham Williams era comes in. If you sneer at Delta, saying that it's silly / unrealistic / naive / incredible / set in Wales (delete as applicable), then you're not just missing the point -- you are Gavrok.
Right, that's that off my chest. I think I'll watch telly for a bit now.
Who-De-Who by Rob Matthews 14/6/00
I hadn't seen this story for a few years, and Mike Morris's review is so convincing that I wanted to like it.
But it was no use. By the end of episode three I just felt queasy. Yes, there are some nice asides about the power of nature. The beekeeper is a great big generous open-minded character, and most of the others are quite likeable too. Mel doesn't scream too much and I like how fast-thinking she is after the coach/ship is blown up. The Doctor's speech is also powerful and enjoyable - "Life will defeat you"; maybe one of the greatest sentiments ever to be utterred in the show. All of these elements could have been part of a wonderful Who serial. But none of them helps fill in the hole where a plot should be in Delta and the Bannermen.
Fundamentally, the premise is weak - there is no attempt to explain why Gavrok and the Bannermen would want to wipe out the Chimerons. I don't think I'm being overly picky or lacking in a sense of humour to want something as basic as this explained to me. Added to that, there are some truly embarrassing embellishments like Ken Dodd's jacket, the use of that chase music, and the silly spurious title.
But between the two, there's the sticky filling of nostalgia. And this is the thing that irks me most about DATB. Ray seems like almost a stock fifties character, in love with some greasy wannabe rock 'n' roller who, naturally, owns a motorbike. The fifties are represented by a holiday camp full of cute, naive characters practising with their hula-hoops. It's all too easy. Join-the-dots to create a sense of innocence.
That's the real problem for me. This is naivety manufactured knowingly. Like nostalgia itself, it's rose-tinted and glosses over its own contradictions. Even with the nature theme, I'd prefer an honest approach than an optimistic one. There's ugliness in nature as well as beauty. It's rather smug and cruel to forget that.
It's not that I'm missing the serial's point; I just don't think that the point is really being made in earnest. This is a wafer-thin escapade glazed over with prepackaged optimism. And what can be more cynical than adopting a forced innocence so that people will overlook your deficiencies? To me, Delta and the Bannermen represents cynicism wrapped in optimism. It is, to twist Mike's metaphor, Gavrok in a Welsh fifties holiday camp uniform.
Maybe It's Because I'm Welsh by Robert Thomas 24/9/00
Before I begin I must say that Delta and the Bannermen is my least favourite story of all time. It is the only one that I find painful to watch.
The main things that I hate are the "comedy" welsh accents and use of the "B" word. I'd like to say that us Welsh do not use the "B" word and it is an English myth and stereotype.
I'll admit only two proper characters have an accent, Ray and Burton. But it's still bloody annoying! While I'm on the subject Billy, who is a local is not given an accent. Why? Because he may be dull and wet, but he's important to the plot. It reeks of nationalism!
The Bannermen and Gavrok are the by far the most dullest bad guys of the entire series. These parts call for overacting and they are all played woodenly. In fact this can be said of all the characters except Ray, Burton, the Tollmaster and Goronwy. There are two American characters who appear to have stumbled into the story when they have nothing to do with it. I suspect they appeared because Malcolm Kohll misplaced his finished script and it got mixed up with someone else's.
The alien food subplot is utterly ridiculous but the baby is a nice touch and well handled. Apart from that there's very little to be said for the story.
As for the regulars, Bonnie Langford seems to have noticed how crap the story is and tries to over-act. The result is that amongst the card board like skills of the guest cast she thinks she is in a pantomime. Sylvester McCoy saves the show from complete derisal as he has some good moments. Indeed The Doctor is the only good thing about the story as Sylvester begins to stamp his authority onto the part. Of particular note are the scenes when the Tardis follows the bus and the scenes when he comforts Ray.
So overall, this story is for completists only as it is utter c**p. But then maybe the reason why I hate this story so much is because I'm Welsh...
But between you and me, I don't think so.
I've Always Liked it! by Cainim Truax 10/10/00
I finally have to say it. I've watched it forty times, including once more just a few minutes ago and I can't help it. I like Delta and the Bannerman.
Sure, it has a two dimensional supporting cast. True, Ray is barely intelligible. And don't even get me started about the bus. But how often do we get to see the Doctor spun around to dance, or hugging a guitar, or giving us a few brief but poignant words about love.
I'll admit I'm not sure how Billy transforms himself but who wouldn't make this sacrifice for love. True, Billy barely knew this Chimeron Queen but come on people this is fantasy.
I think what has always bothered folks about this story is that it doesn't take itself seriously. Unlike Silver Nemesis and other silly ilk, Delta has its hearts in the right place. We're just meant to watch and enjoy. No continuity baggage. No returning villains. And no complicated plots to make us think to much. Watch Delta with an open mind, as a break from all those serious things in life. The second you begin to wonder about the power of hand-held telescopes, just stop yourself. Relax and have some honey and brace yourself for darker things to come.
Murray and Music
Burton and Americans.
Silly staffers and cheesy music.
These are not reasons to bury Delta but instead are reasons to praise it. This story is magical and I've always liked it.
Rating:6 Doctors(out of 8)
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 28/1/02
Season 24 was a mystery to me, but not in the same way it was to everyone else. I was working away from late 1987 to 1989, and never saw any of it (you lucky devil, I hear someone shout!). And so a year later, when the TARGET books came out, they were read before I had seen the TV version. I would wager that this was probably the best way to tackle Season 24 for most people!
Out of all the 4 stories that encompass the worst season of Doctor Who it was not Dragonfire, as it is with most, that I liked the best. It was Delta and the Bannermen. The TARGET book was so enjoyable. I loved the idea of these Nostalgia Trips, plenty of DW fans on those I expect!
The whole conceit of sending a Coach Trip back to 1959 Disneyland, and instead putting them in a Welsh Holiday Camp is great. The Delta hunt by the Bannermen gave the story an edge. There is plenty in the book about the Bannermen/Chimeron conflict. It outlines why the Bannermen were so obsessed with killing off the Chimerons. There is none of this in the TV version, which is a shame, because the Bannermen and Gavrok have no motives. When the teddy boy bounty hunter (I’m sure he was a Kwik Fit Fitter in a previous life) contacts Gavrok there is a great sense of anticipation towards the coming conflict. Delta and her baby have to hide, the glitzy Holiday Camp is about to become a battleground.
It was a wacky idea, and the book fairly flew. When I read the reviews of the TV story (about a year and a half after the original transmission) I was astonished to see the negativism that surrounded it, and this included the novelization. I have since, of course, now viewed the TV version. Whilst not capturing the magic of the book it still is a very enjoyable runaround. True, it’s not that serious or profound, but it’s not that bad. The whole idea of it was light-hearted. Hear the music throughout. The chases around the Welsh Countryside on the motorbike. The 1950s Rock N’ Roll anthems. It is fun, it makes me smile.
The characters are a very peculiar bunch and there is surprisingly a lot for a 3-part story. On the plus side we have the extremely funny Ken Dodd starting things off, it’s a great little cameo. There’s Murray, the over-enthusiastic Coach Driver with a love of Rock N’Roll. There’s the villain of the piece, Gavrok – a vicious portrayal by Don Henderson. There’s Burton, the camp owner and king of his own little part of the world. There’s Goronwy, the Beekeeper, full of wise sayings and little lessons in life. There’s also Ray, who is innocent and sweet, typical girl next door – she would have made a terrific companion.
Then there’s the others. Mel was just getting very irritating by now, her role here is taken by Ray. The Bannermen look very silly too, not at all matching their leader Gavrok. Delta never comes across as a princess, a very vacant performance. Billy is the ultimate Wooden actor, about as animated as my Kitchen Table. The 2 Americans are totally superfluous, and not at all funny. That’s a lot of bad characters, too many for one story.
Then there’s the Doctor. Sylvestor McCoy is getting into the swing of things by now. He is still the clown, the slapstick performer on stage – but there is depth to him too, witness his comforting of Ray. He’s a very likeable chap all round.
The story benefits as well from its Welsh, green, Countryside setting. Authentic Holiday Camp creates authentic atmosphere. It is also filmed in the middle of Summer, and that’s nice to watch in the middle of cold Winter. Delta and the Bannermen is nothing more than a light-hearted romp, a fun run-around with the Doctor. And as such it’s very entertaining. 7/10
A Review by Benjamin Mann 4/6/02
Delta and the Bannermen is an example of the sort of Doctor Who story I've always had problems with.
Yes, it can be thoroughly enjoyable if you're in the right mood. It's fun and it's never boring. It's even got some really good bits in it, like Mel's quick reaction to the destruction of the coach.
But "fun," "never boring," and "has really good bits" are descriptions that can be applied to quite a few TV programs. And to me, Doctor Who isn't just a silly children's show which I like for some reason, it's the greatest TV series of all time. (And the greatest book series of all time.) Of course, there's a lot of Doctor Who which doesn't fit this description at all, but at it's best, there's nothing that can touch it.
And that means when I see a story in which the makers couldn't think of anything else to do but make something fun, it just seems terribly unambitious. Making something like Delta is really quite an easy thing to do, but there's a limit to how good you can make it. What's the point of making a Doctor Who story if you're not even going to attempt brilliance?
But Delta and the Bannermen is also a very good example of the dangers such an approach always entails. Because Delta is deliberately unrealistic. That means it's not telling you the truth about the world. And while this is certainly not a problem in itself, when you avoid telling the truth you have to be very careful about what you say. And Delta and the Bannermen does not take sufficient care.
When you start to look at it, there are a lot of questions with no apparent answers. Why are the Navarinos, a noticeably nonhuman species, nostalgic for a period of Earth's history? Why are a 1950's human and a Chimeron capable of falling in love, having one switch species to that of the other and finally interbreeding? And rather more puzzlingly, why is chewing raw meat a sign of evil? Are cats and dogs evil? If I had the right taste buds and digestive system, I would quite happily eat raw meat. Would that make me evil?
The obvious response is that there's no point in asking these questions, that the story is not supposed to be realistic and you should just ignore these points. But these questions have something in common, which is a common thread of humanity, and good/evil.
The Navarinos are good. They also behave far more like humans than you would expect. The Chimeron is good, and made similar enough to a human for romantic and interbreeding purposes. Gavrok is evil. So he eats raw meat. Not an evil characteristic, but certainly something that humans don't do.
Further, we see Mel fitting in to the 1950's setting wonderfully, and the Doctor behaving in a very much humanised way. The story equates 1950's human with good, and not 1950's human with evil. It's the sort of subtle xenophobia you usually only get on Star Trek.
The Doctor states that life will defeat Gavrok. But Gavrok is a part of life. To fail to admit this is incredibly dangerous. The 1950's (in Britain and plenty of other places) was a time in which just having dark skin was enough to make you a second class citizen. But none of the 50's characters in Delta and the Bannermen seems in the least bit concerned about an interspecies love affair. The story tries to pretend its "home" is perfect, and anything wrong is external to it. This is the sort of attitude which gives rise to xenophobia.
The message of Delta and the Bannermen seems to be that whenever there is something wrong, it can be solved by finding the evil people, (you can tell who they are, they don't behave in the same way as us nice humans,) and defeating them. And when they are defeated, everything will be perfect. Forgive me if I find this utterly unbelievable.
The Doctor Who musical...? by Joe Ford 2/7/02
I hold my hands and admit it. I was wrong about this story. I have been unduly harsh towards Delta and the Bannermen in recent years based on mere glimpses at a telly screen on one seriously hung over Sunday morning. The colour. The music. The acting. It was just sooo jolly. And I felt like crap. The atmosphere of a fifties musical was not what I needed after a drink binge. Fortunately I overcame my prejudice and forced myself into WH Smith to buy a copy, rationalizing that couldn’t miss out on a Bonnie adventure to cheer me up (she’s not the best dramatic actress in the world but she’s one of my boyfriend's dad's best friends and she’s a REALLY great dancer!).
I must have felt REALLY ill that day. Because watching on a a brilliantly sunny Spring day like I did this week the all location season twenty four tale springs to life, forcing a broad grin on your face with all its manic energy and crazy fun. This is without a doubt the best story of the season (although Dragonfire does have strong points) and a true example of how far the evelope can be pushed without making it seem really stupid or overly melodramatic.
Keff whatshisface is not my favourite composer of all time but I have to admit he judged the tone of this story just right and some of the musical stings were left zigging around my head for days. In particular the funny chase music when the Doctor and Mel are on the bike and being shot at by Bannermen is really funny and kind of appropriate. The chorus singing at the end leaves you with a heartwarming feeling in your belly unmatched in the series. Gotta be worth something.
Say what you will about Bonnie (and I've said some things in my time) she is super in this story without a doubt. Although peripheral (which perhaps not a bad thing) she got a chance to go out on location which perhaps helped to bring in the realistic nature of the show. I dunno, all I know is moments like her quick and brave decision to bluff about Delta’s death and her creeping about on the tollport are prime examples of how good she can be. But she could have REALLY have done with a new costume designer. Oh dear.
That was McCoy? That dazzling, thoughtful, humourous but not slapstick-y, human and all round lovely guy? Dost me eyes deceive me or is McCoy just GREAT in this? So many standout scenes like comforting Ray and his very funny yet deeply serious verbal assault on Gavrok prove on his good days he was wonderful. Unfortunately on his bad days… but let's not ruin things.
The plot is so blissfully simple it comes like a breath of fresh air through a musty old attic. They want Delta dead. We must stop them. Strange how most of the simpler stories are the most enjoyable.
The were some performance problems, Ray had a really odd accent but she was dead lovely, Billy was a little woodern but he was damn sexy, Delta was an alien so we can rationalize her serious behaviour but on the whole they were spot on. Grwonway was particularly well done. How nice to meet a genuinely nice old duffer in Who. His little wink at the end was perfect. Even Hawk and Weismiller work.
Just enjoy this for what it is, an attempt at something different. A cheerful holiday tale to be enjoyed after a long day out with your mates in the sunshine. And don’t for one minute try and take it seriously like I did initially. You’ll just render the whole production useless. And that would be a tragedy.
Carry On Camping by Andrew Wixon 24/7/02
What a hugely influential story this ultimately proved to be! The story of an alien princess fleeing an inexplicable invasion, pursued by unconvincing nasties, who takes up with a mechanically-inclined youth. A fast pace cannot disguise crass comic relief and some stilted dialogue.
Well, it's obviously the inspiration for The Phantom Menace, isn't it?
(Actually, that's not quite as stupid as it sounds. Malcolm Kholl said the Bannermen's look was inspired by Akira Kurosawa movies, one of which was The Hidden Fortress - the inspiration for Phantom and quite possibly this.)
I really, really liked Delta when it was first broadcast. It was a breath of fresh air, it didn't even attempt to be realistic, you couldn't mistake it for anything else but Doctor Who (except perhaps Hi-de-hi!). Watching it again these days, I'm rather more ambivalent about it. It's a winning concept (final battle of an interplanetary war is fought in a Welsh holiday camp in 1959) badly let down on a number of counts. First off, it looks cheap: the effects work on the fighter ship is actually pretty good but the silly firework guns let things down. Shooting it on VT only adds to the impression that this could be a sitcom with the soundtrack missing. Secondly, there are some really, really iffy performances. The Delta-Billy relationship needs to be utterly convincing but instead it's like a romance between the talking clock and an 'I speak your weight' machine. Set against this, though, there are nice turns by Richard Davies and Don Henderson. Sara Griffiths is no worse than Sophie Aldred was in her debut story and it would have been interesting to see how things would have turned out, had she been Mel's replacement.
If Delta and the Bannermen had been lavish and polished and played with conviction, it would have been something very special indeed. Instead it just seems like a surreal collision of sitcom and nostalgia show with the odd element of 50s SF pastiche occasionally thrown in. And they should have gone the whole hog and done it as a musical!
Two steps forward, three steps back by Michael Hickerson 18/8/02
Had it been part of any other season besides Doctor Who's twenty-fourth, Delta and the Bannermen might have been dismissed by fans as a fun rather inconsequential romp. However, set down in the middle of a season packed with two rather silly, pantomime stories, Delta and the Bannermen sticks out like a sore thumb. It's not that Delta is really all that bad, really -- it's just that following after Time and the Rani and Paradise Towers, it feels like yet another silly story in a season that screams out for a serious story that gets back to the basics of what makes Doctor Who great.
Does that mean that Delta and the Bannermen is really all that bad? Not really.
Does it mean that Delta and the Bannermen is really that good? Again, not really.
There are some good things about Delta. The biggest is that it's probably the best story featuring Mel as a companion. Again, that's not saying a lot really and I think a large part of this is that Mel is relegated to the sidelines for much of the story in an attempt to introduce possible companion, Ray. Also, the story sees Sylvester McCoy become more relaxed in his role as the seventh Doctor. The confrontation with Gavrok at the end of episode two is a great preview of things to come as we see McCoy slowly getting comfortable inside the seventh Doctor's skin. That said, there are still times when the script is embarrassing enough that you can see McCoy's discomfort -- namely in the bringing back of the mixed up quotes from Time and the Rani and any time the Doctor is required to ride a motorcycle (apparently, McCoy was not a big fan of riding the motorcycles). Another plus for the story is the possible companion, Ray, who, when she's not pining for Billy, is rather interesting and does a nice job overall.
Unfortunately, it's the rest of the story that's a bit too over the top and silly to really garner it much high praise.
My biggest problem with the story is that it spends a lot of time trying to convince us just how fearsome the Bannermen really are, only to undermine this idea at every opportunity. For the most fearsome bunch of mercenaries in the known universe, they are a rather ham-fisted lot and the ping pong balls on their heads don't really add that much to their overall evil appearance. Also, Gavrok is not that bright or fearsome a leader -- he kills his contact on Earth, before he's locked in exactly on Delta's location. I'm not sure whether to chalk this up to the character's impulsive nature or sloppy script-writing by Malcolm Kohll (we get our heroes into a near-death situation -- now just how do we get them out?).
Another problem is the supporting cast is just too insane. If the series was ever to be put on trial for casting guest stars only for their name and not for what they bring to the role as actors, Delta and the Bannermen would be biggest evidence for the prosecution. From Ken Dodd as the Toll Booth guy to the incredibly bad team of Weismuller and his sidekick and it all adds up to a horrible lot of miscasting. Indeed, the entire running subplot of the two inept American "spies" seems to have been added for these two actors and not because it provides any amusement value or moves the plot forward.
Then, there's the music for the story. One of the strengths of the McCoy years will be the incidental music, but you wouldn't know it by watching this story. The music is supposed to underscore and enhance the story. However, here the music serves as a distraction and takes the viewer completely out of the story. Also, the serious scenes are undermined by a campy soundtrack that makes them just seem sillier than they should be and not really adding to the overall atmosphere of the story.
Finally, there's a script that's just plain silly. As I've stated before, it wants us to buy that the Bannermen are feared and respect mercenaries but offers no evidence to support this. Second of all, you've got a bus headed for DisneyLand that ends up in Wales (as McCoy once said, "It's cheaper for the BBC"). Next up, you've got Delta herself. For a queen of a people who is the last survivor of her race, she seems pretty laid back about the whole thing. There are also some huge problems with her "baby" and the rate of growth (and as others have pointed out -- just how the heck do her clothes grow with her?!? ). Indeed, the baby seems only to be a plot device so we can easily and quickly defeat the Bannermen (again why are they so damn fearsome) in the end of episode three and nicely wrap things up.
In the end, Delta and the Bannermen ends up being two steps forward for the McCoy years but three steps back. Again, there are glimmers of potential here but the script once again lets down the fine effort of several people who are trying to rise above the story here.
Pleasant Nostalgia by Tim Rol-Pickering 10/7/03
This story is a blatant homage to the fifties, featuring rock 'n roll, 1950s style 'I fell for an alien' science fiction, early satellites and holiday camps, motorbikes as well as being told in a whimsical style. The serious story of a genocidal warlord pursuing the last survivor of a planet can be potentially depressing but it is told in a fun manner that makes the story fast paced and enjoyable. This is the first three twenty-five minute episode story since Planet of Giants but it works for the story since there is little noticeable padding. This story aims to be entertaining and enjoyable and it works.
Malcolm Kohll's script is full of humour such as the scene where Burton asks if there will be 'Space buns and tea' at the end of the day or when Weismuller announces he is calling 'From Wales... In England', but never once hides the seriousness of the threat. The Bannermen may stumble around and appear incompetent at times but why should every race of conquerors be entirely regimented and disciplined? In such an atmosphere scenes such as the Bannermen getting smothered with honey do not feel at all odd, and they show how resourceful the Doctor is when on the run. Donald Henderson gives a good performance as Gavrok, playing up the character's sadistic side to the full, especially in the scene at the end of Part Two where he is confronted by the Doctor. More so than any other early McCoy scene, it is this point that the 'Dark Doctor' first starts to materialise before becoming fully crystalised in the following season. The pace is fast and frantic but contains many wonderful touches and characters, especially Goronwy who takes everything that is going on in his stride whilst the two US agents, Hawk and Weismuller are far more surprised by the course of events around them. Shooting virtually the entire story on location helps no end since it gives the tale a strong feel.
The music is a strong part of the story and even the title 'Delta and the Bannermen' sounds like a 1950s rock 'n roll group. Throughout the tale it never once fails to give the right atmosphere. The cast does well as well, with the strongest performances coming from the aforementioned Donald Henderson and Sara Griffiths (Ray). Sylvester McCoy continues to give a strong performance as the Doctor but is hampered a little here by the continued use of deliberate misquotations which was fortunately phased out after this story. Otherwise the cast live it up to the full and never once does it feel like a send-up. Even the often criticised Ken Dodd does well in his role as the Tollmaster, acting just like any charismatic company rep would towards the winners of a prize.
The production is strong, with a good feel for the 1950s though it is all too obvious that the TARDIS prop is being used for the real police box. The opening scenes on Chimera benefit from the blue filter used though the make-up on the Chimeron soldiers doesn't look the best but fortunately this is only establishing material and soon the course of events moves away from there. All in all Delta and the Bannermen continues the rejuvenation of the series in 1987 by providing a fun story that throws itself into the spirit of the things and has a good time. 8/10
The worst season 24 has to offer. Surely? by Keith Adams 8/9/03
As I have just begun rewatching the entire of the McCoy era in order and over a short space of time, I thought I'd write a few reviews of some of the stories featured along this journey. First off: Delta and the Bannermen.
From what I've heard from talking to other fans and from what I've read in DWM and in reviews here, it would seem that Season 24 is regarded as the "silly" season of Doctor Who, with Time and the Rani being the worst of the lot.
Often, after I've watched/listened/read a Doctor Who story, I check the review guide here to see what others thought, but I have to say I was disappointed with the praise which seems to have been heaped upon Delta and the Bannermen here.
THE STORY: Delta and the Bannermen can be summed-up in one word: Farcical. I have the feeling that this story on paper probably looked like a good idea - a tale set in 1950s Wales where the feared Bannermen lead by the evil, nasty Gavrok are hunting the last survivor of an alien race - the Chimeron, who has the the future of the Chimeron race - the baby, to protect. However, the direction to pull this off is completely absent. Moreso, than Paradise Towers, Delta and the Bannermen is a very silly story, which doesn't know what it's trying to be - sometimes there's seriousness, then it cuts back to Ken Dodd being Ken Dodd and the viewer has to remind themselves that they've not fallen asleep and switched channels by accident. I'll come to the cast in a moment, however. The plot contained within this story is shallow and seems padded in many places - Weismuller and Hawke serve no purpose in this story apart from being poor comic relief after Ken Dodd is killed. The story also left me questioning a lot of what I'd seen: it's the 1950s and everyone just simply accepts the notion of aliens?? if the Chimeron queen's daughter can emit that sound that defeans the Bannermen, why didn't Delta use her sound (presumably she can do it) to do the same at the start of the story to the Bannermen? Why does Gavrok let the Doctor walk in and take Mel and Burton at the start of episode 3? Why does Billy start to eat the green baby food? Why does it turn him into a Chimeron? Why are the Bannermen even hunting the Chimeron in the first place?
THE ACTING: Like Paradise Towers before it, Delta and the Bannermen seems to be entirely over-acted by everyone involved. Don Henderson's Gavrok should be a great villian, but he's trying too hard - it takes more than eating raw meat, shouting a lot and threatning everyone in sight with a gun - the character lacks motiviation - characters which are JUST nasty for the sake of nastiness never seem to work well in Doctor Who. Ken Dodd is his usual, camp and silly self - what on earth possesed the production team to cast Dodd in Doctor Who? Thank heavens his character was killed in episode 1. Bonnie Langford always plays up Mel and I've always liked the character, but in this story she gets little character development - being only there as the token companion to scream and get tied up - I can't help but feel that if Mel had been given more to do and got a chance to use the intellignece she possessed, then Bonnie Langford might have stayed for another season. Ray seems to be offered here as the companion - getting more screen time with the Doctor and acting as his foil throughout the story - I thought she was good, barring her sad devotion to the hopeless Billy, obviously an Ace prototype - with her bag full of wrenches and a liking for motorbikes - but softer than Ace ever was - I think she'd have made a good companion to the Doctor - too bad she has such a dreadful accent which grates after a while. Like Langford, McCoy is totally in character here - the speech at the end of episode 2 is very good, as are his usual comedic antics, which, bizarrely, fit neatly with this story, there are even winks back to Time and the Rani at a few points with his misquoted phrases - which shows that the Doctor himself still is finding his feet after the regeneration. The rest of the cast act as if they were involved in a stage pantomine with strange characters like the Bee Keeper, Burton and the Bounty Hunter all hamming their roles in key with the story.
THE PRODUCTION: In places the musical score which accompanies Delta and the Bannermen is good, with some neat themes overscoring parts of the action, but, by and large, it jars with the images on the screen - again tieing in with the overall confusion in direction of the story and giving the story a very "jumpy" feel. The sets and costumes look great - the Bannermen look like the militaristic rogue hunters they are, the Doctor's costume is complete now with the additon of the question mark umbrella. Mel's costume is less flamboyaunt than she has worn in previous stories. The story does have an authentic 1950s feel to it - with the cars, radios, satellites shown on screen.
OVERALL: Delta and the Bannerman is a weak and padded run-around. It desparately tries to be funny, but comes off as a campy and silly story. Thankfully, season 24 would improve with the next story: Dragonfire, as would the McCoy era.
"Where is he, your Uncle Sam?" by Jason A. Miller 5/2/04
Hiding in plain sight in the middle of Delta and the Bannermen is a dotty old Welshman named Goronwy. He's a beekeeper, a collector of honey, and a student of human nature. Script writer Malcolm Kohll clearly had something different in mind for this character. Everything Goronwy says reflects directly on the story unfolding around him. He's a living, breathing, Basil Exposition. It's he who tells us that, just as an ugly pupa becomes a beautiful butterfly, so will Delta's hideous green baby become the new Chimeron queen. It's he who tells Billy -- and us -- that a newborn bee can become queen just by the right diet.
On the other hand, Kohll also sees fit to include a pair of bumbling CIA agents named Hawk and Weismuller. Contrary to Goronwy, absolutely nothing they say advances the story at all. In fact, Delta and the Bannermen stops dead whenever they're on screen. And that's Delta and the Bannermen for you. The sublime and the ridiculous, all aggressively sewn up in the same package.
This most small-scale of Doctor Who stories -- twelve evil black-clad soldiers menace a Welsh vacation resort in 1959 -- is also the most hyper and frenetic the show ever got. The whole thing is a gigantic car chase. I mean, here we have more spaceships and motorcycles and buses and cars and other vehicles all in one place for the first time since Planet of the Spiders. If you thought all those Season 11 chase scenes were too much to handle, try this 75-minute caper on for size!
The guest cast is variable. Let's go back to Hawk and Weismuller for a minute. Weismuller is played by Stubby Kaye, the New York-born Broadway star ("Guys and Dolls") who somehow wound up living in England, trapped in the middle of Season 24. Not only is he wearing a New York Yankees jacket, but he's wearing a Yankees cap, too, just in case we missed the point. In 1959, the Yankees only finished in third place, and Kaye looks tired and over the hill, just like Casey Stengel. But he's charming in the role and it's nice to add him to the Who legacy. His partner Hawk, on the other hand, has the worst American accent this side of The Chase, and is played by someone named Morgan Deare who, if the Internet Movie Database is anything to go by, was most certainly not from New York.
The rest of Delta can be boiled down to vignettes that are interesting, and vignettes that are not. Resort director Burton gives a totally pointless speech to his staff before he evacuates them. You'd have thought, to hear that speech, that the entire staff was about to get blown up by Bannermen! A few minutes before that, Burton's assistant clears his throat directly into the camera and sings "When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin' Along". Yes, this is 1959, we get it. Mel wears four different outfits, and that's just in the first thirty-five minutes.
Much better is the rock-and-roll themed incidental music, and would-be companion Ray, who's such a cute breath of fresh air. I love how she keeps explaining to everyone that Keillor, the ill-fated bounty hunter in blue suede shoes, was "ionized". Sylvester McCoy is also terrific in this. You can tell they still weren't sure where to go with his Doctor yet -- witness all those misquotes ("A stitch in time fills up space!") that were never again a staple of his character. And yet, he's gentle with Ray, avuncular with Billy ("For a primitive piece of technology, it certainly delivers the decibels!"), and devastating to Gavrok. His Part Two confrontation with the Bannermen leader, cleverly staged on a rickety staircase, features great line after great line. A few minutes later, he's back to discussing honey with Goronwy.
Also of note is Kohll's take on the Whoniverse -- it's a very insular place, where everyone can time travel: not just the Navarinos in their retro-fitted bus, but the clunky Bannermen as well. There are galactic tollports, and even a no-account like Keillor has heard of the Doctor. Gavrok's communications system can shoot deadly ionization rays across time. That would've come in handy for the Daleks, speaking of The Chase again.
The story wraps up about five minutes before the end, leaving time for an extended denouement where all the (surviving) characters get something amusing to do. Even that much free time wasn't enough for Kohll, who added five or six scenes on top of that for his novelization. It ends with Goronwy telling us that, in the end, the new queen bee creates "a new hive, and a new life", and then he winks at the disappearing TARDIS.
There is almost something profound in the middle of all this silliness, but it all went by so fast that maybe I didn't have time to realize that it was a lot more silly than it was profound. Or vice versa.
A Review by John Anderson 17/9/04
The ratings for your last season were a disaster - what do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO? Do you look at the pattern of the 1980s, where from a strictly ratings perspective your two 25 minute Saturday afternoon seasons (18 and 23) have proven to be the least successful of the of the decade? Do you reflect on the fact that the two episodes per week format has been the biggest ratings draw of the last six seasons?
Or do you stick with the weekly half hour serial format that has patently died a slow and lingering death?
By the mid-80s audiences had proved reluctant to stick with a serial for the three weeks it takes to reach the conclusion. The Davison seasons overcame this to an extent because part four was broadcast just over a week after part one, whilst during season 22 that deficit was reduced to a single week. Heaven knows what was going through JNT's mind when he agreed to a fourteen week serial...
What I'm getting at is this; having been forced to regress to a format that should have long since been abandoned, through accident or design Cartmel comes up with the best compromise he can, the three-parter. It would be unfair to saddle the three-parters with the generalisation that they were simply four parters with the crap episode taken out (that's part three, by the way), but they are certainly a natural step on the path to self-contained 45-minute episodes that would become genre television's stock and trade in the 90s.
In their most simple terms, Cartmel has reduced the formula thus: episode 1, exploration; episode 2, investigation; episode 3, resolution. The episode 3 exposition instalment that has bogged down Doctor Who plots since time began is removed and the resolution is now only 14 days away, rather than 3 weeks.
In short, I think three-parters were a good idea.
And so on to Delta itself. It's fab. I am totally unashamed to admit that I love it to bits. It feels like the first story to be made exclusively for my generation (by my generation, I mean people who weren't about in the 70s), which probably explains why anyone over a certain age hates it.
A group of rock and roll loving aliens go on a trip to Disneyland in a spaceship that looks like a bus, crash in to a satellite and find themselves in a holiday camp in Wales in 1959. There they meet Burton, who deadpans the line, "You are not the Happy Hearts Holiday Club from Bolton, but instead are spacemen in fear of an attack from some other spacemen?" in a way that Leslie Nielsen couldn't have bettered. Thereafter he wanders through the story like Captain Mainwaring on acid, facing the bad guys with an enthusiasm that seems almost improper for a tale about genocide.
You couldn't make it up, well... er... yes you could, evidently.
After eight weeks of toil Sylv is getting a grip on where he wants to take the character. He dances uncomfortably with Ray, confronts Gavrok, rides a motorcycle, hugs a stratocaster and talks about love in a way than none of his predecessors could have done. Then he hatches a plan to defeat the bad guys with honey; he's a joy. Bonnie is still as stilted as usual, but she seems on firmer footing back on earth with (regular?) human beings to interact with.
As for the guest cast, Ken Dodd is Ken Dodd and doesn't bring shame on his profession in the way Richard Briers did a week before; Don Henderson is Don Henderson - I've never seen Z Cars but from what I've seen of him in other things, here he plays the same gruff character he'd been playing for the previous thirty years. Stubby Kaye is Stubby Kaye; actually, can you see a pattern developing here? By the same token I can only assume that David Kinder and Belinda Mayne are as bland in real life as they are on screen.
But the two who really steal the show are Richard Davies and Hugh Lloyd. Davies I mentioned before, he's possibly my favourite character in the whole thing. There's only been two characters in the whole series that I wish had joined the TARDIS crew; the wonderful D84 is the other. Hugh Lloyd as Goronwy adds a wonderfully magical edge to every scene he's in, and provides all of the exposition. In fact, sometimes I wonder if 'Goronwy' is welsh for 'Basil.' For example, when he's talking about the Queen bee secreting hormones into food to create a mate, he's not really talking about bees... or perhaps I'm just reading too much into it.
Either way, I love this tale of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll to bits. Really. Oh, and if Malcolm's Mum could put the cheque in the post, that'd be great.
A Review by Paulo Felipe 8/2/05
Some say the this episode was silly. Not at all, I think it was a creative plot. Some say it is one of the best episodes ever. Very Whoish but not that great. What sucks in this episode is the lack of continuity and the lack of common sense.
Beware of Mind Altering Substances and Copulation with Insectoid Life Forms by Michael Creevey 28/2/05
Yes, kiddies, drugs are bad. They could induce confused and possibly insane fantasies, maybe even of the order of ridiculousness of that pile of putridity aka Delta and the Bannermen. Even worse, protracted drug abuse could eventually weaken essential brain functions enough to enable one to think that that story had an iota of believability, or value. This can even lead to further problems. In my case, I wasn't even suffering drug-induced psychosis, but I allowed myself through a pathetic sense of loyalty for DW to waste several precious minutes of my life which I will never experience again, watching this self-indulgent, chunderous tripe. If this seems a trifle harsh, can I say in its defence, umm, nothing. Well I tried to think of something.
To get back to what I was saying, this was the only DW story which caused me to cringe throughout, at least whilst I was watching it. To be honest I couldn't watch it in its entirety. This was the worst of the McCoys, and I hated every McCoy story to some degree. In fact this misguided and burnt offering is unquestionably, in my opinion, the nadir of the entire series. The fact that it had some bloke who looked like a reject from On the Buses and a holiday camp straight out of some other utterly forgettable BBC 'comedy' then made a segue straight into some story bearing a relationship with Eraserhead, whilst undoubtedly appearing highly irrational, cannot give the reader the full flavour of the rankness of this camp and flatulent drivel. Think intergalactic bus travel. Think inter-species romance. Think rrrrrolling rrrrrs. Think twice before watching this. You'll be grateful.
PS I feel better know, 17 years is a long time to have something like this fester in one's brain.