Poor old Black Orchid, one of the most unloved stories and for good reason. It’s a mess and can’t make up it’s mind about what kind of story it is. It’s not really a historical but yet it’s not really the murder mystery it purports to be either. It`s a sort of 80’s stab at The Unicorn And The Wasp without the wasp. Okay so we have the deformed brother but, leaving aside the usual tedious “ugly people are nice too” debate, he isn’t really much of a villain. If they’d let him have some dialogue instead of making him mute that might have improved things a bit. But no.
Despite having some of the trappings of the old Agatha Christie country house murder mystery, it isn’t that kind of story either. If only there was a Not Poirot character, in the same way that there was a Not Bertie Basset character in The Happiness Patrol, to liven things up. You could have had a nice reversal with the great detective becoming the equivalent of Captain Hastings when faced with the “leetahl greh cells” of the monsieur le Docteur. But no, there’s no Hercules Parrot to enliven Le Orchid Noir.
As it is, there are some nice moments in it and some of the dialogue’s quite entertaining but the story is so thin it can’t even stretch to two episodes, which is why this Fan Edit ends up cutting it back to the equivalent of just one. I took the opportunity to reinstate some of the extended/deleted stuff from the DVD and dug out a piece of Test Card music to cover the journey to the cricket match and part of the match itself. Montages always help move things along and it was a fun sequence to cut together. When George enters the Doctor’s room to steal his costume [how does he know?], the scene seemed a bit empty so I borrowed a music cue from another Davison story. And again for when he burns the door down to escape. I’m sure you`ll be able to tell which one!
And was it really necessary for Nyssa to have a duplicate? It would have made more sense if another actress had played Anne, one who was similar in appearance to Sarah Sutton. That would have made sense of poor old George’s tortured mind. If Nyssa and Anne look a lot alike you could understand him mistaking one for the other. But to have Sutton playing both parts is to misunderstand the role of the doppleganger in fiction. I mean, has Terence Dudley never seen Metropolis?