Shows - Review
Doctor Who (1963-1989)
Episode: Delta and the Bannermen (Part 1)
Review by: Michael Hickerson
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.
Last Updated: 2/20/2006
Other Reviews by Michael Hickerson
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