A stitch in time…takes up space.
The Doctor and Mel find themselves involved in the end of a war between the Chimerons and the Bannermen, with the Chimeron Queen the last of her kind. Boarding a Nostalgia Tours bus, the TARDIS team find themselves at the Shangri’La resort which serves as the setting as a stand against genocide.
Like much of Sylvester McCoy’s debut season as the Doctor, Delta and the Bannermen has an interesting premise at its core, but it is let down largely by the execution. On the positive side, it does see a much more assured McCoy (the real McCoy?) and a frankly much better performance from Bonnie Langford, and the story is certainly different to anything that came before and definitely anything that followed. However, the lighter tone of this story distinctly clashes with its central antagonist, Gavrok, who seems to have come from a much grittier story, and I feel that the performances of Delta and Billy, in particular, let the story down. The story does seem to struggle with its three-part running time, it feels as though it may have benefitted more from an additional part.
There are certainly tonal issues here though. Delta and the Bannermen seems to want to have its cake and eat it, with the light tone of the holiday camp seeming at odds with the force of Gavrok and his force of Bannermen. There are ideas here, such as a toll booth in space and the Nostalgia bus tours that seem like they wouldn’t be out of place in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which are completely juxtaposed with scenes where the bus is blown up or the attack on Goronwy’s house. I feel that it would have benefitted from being four parts rather than the three it ended up being, which would have allowed for an upping of the stakes. The ending does feel rushed, and the Bannermen are relatively quickly and easily dispatched despite having being built up as quite menacing., which would have allowed them to do something more with the whole Billy and Delta storyline and potentially see some adverse effects of Billy taking the Chimeron substance. Perhaps getting rid of the two Americans would help this story flow a bit beter. It certainly feels as though there are too many ideas to fit satisfactorily into the runtime. That being said, I do quite like the fundamental premise of the story as well as the fact that they end up being in Wales – there’s something almost quintessentially Doctor Who in this. However, an already struggling story isn’t helped by some clunky dialogue.
I don’t just kill for the money. It’s also something I enjoy.
Additionally, I’ll just briefly mention the Chimeron baby, which really took me out of the story, as I just felt a bit sorry for the baby who was painted green. Everybody at the camp seems to be almost too accepting that this alien and her child are sheltering from another alien force too.
Life? What do you know about life, Gavrok? You deal with death. Lies, treachery and murder are your currency. You promise life, but in the end it will be life which defeats you.
Despite the story’s flaws, there are some decent performances here, both from the two regulars, as well as the guest cast. Sylvester McCoy seems to really find his feet as the Doctor here, with everything from his awkward dancing at the Shangri La to his confrontation at the end of Part 2 with Gavrok showing us glimpses of the direction his Doctor would take. Bonnie Langford also seems much more comfortable here than she has done in this series so far, especially when she’s joining in with the singing on the bus, and I found her far less irritating than she has been in McCoy’s previous two stories. She also demonstrates enormous bravery when she lies to Gavrok about Delta being on the bus. Amongst the guest cast, the highlights are certainly Sara Griffiths as Ray and Hugh David as Goronwy. I wouldn’t have minded have Ray as a companion rather than Ace, as they do seem to have quite a few of the same personality traits, and she does show herself to be resourceful. Hugh David gives a good performance as Goronwy, who seems to know more than he’s letting on, and has been accepted as being another Time Lord by certain fans.
Verdict: It’s sadly not a story I’d race to rewatch. Delta and the Bannermen certainly has some ambitious ideas, however, it feels overstuffed and some elements could be removed entirely without impacting the story too much. There are some tonal issues here which don’t help either. 3/10
Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Bonnie Langford (Mel Bush), Don Henderson (Gavrok), Belinda Mayne (Delta), Stubby Kaye (Weismuller), Morgan Deare (Hawk), Tollmaster (Ken Dodd), Richard Davies (Burton), David Kinder (Billy), Sara Griffiths (Ray), Johnny Dennis (Murray), Brian Hibbard (Keillor), Tim Scott (Chima), Anita Graham (Bollitt), Leslie Meadows (Adlon), Robin Aspland, Keff McCulloch, Justin Myers and Ralph Salmins (The Lorrells), Tracey Wilson and Jodie Wilson (Vocalists), Goronwy (Hugh David), Martyn Geraint (Vinny), Clive Condon (Callon), Richard Mitchley (Arrex), Jessica McGough and Amy Osborn (Young Chimeron), Laura Collins and Carley Joseph (Chimeron Princess)
Writer: Malcolm Kohll
Director: Chris Clough
Behind the Scenes
- The title is a reference to the group Echo and the Bunnymen, a popular group in the 1980s.
- At one stage during production, Bonnie Langford was considering leaving halfway through the series, and Ray was being lined up as her replacement. However, Langford decided to stay for the complete series, and Sophie Aldred replaced her in the subsequent story, Dragonfire. Coincidentally, Aldred auditioned for the part of Ray but was unsuccessful.
- This story marks the introduction of the question mark handled umbrella.
- The story features a number of famous people at the time, including Ken Dodd, Don Henderson and Hugh Lloyd.
- This is the first three-parter since The Two Doctors, a format which remained until the end of the original series. Originally, there was a six-part finale planned, but to save money, the decision was made to make two three-part stories with the same production team. Only the TARDIS interior shots were shot in the studio.
- Footage from the wrap party has recently been posted on YouTube: https://bit.ly/2HBoOwG
The Doctor’s face-off in Part 2 with Gavrok.
Actually, I think I may have gone too far.