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This story is the first instance of a throwaway story in television Doctor Who. To me, it feels like there was a two-episode gap that was discovered and the script was hastily written to patch the hole.
It’s not a bad story at all. It’s rather refreshing for our characters to go on a break from monsters in 1920s England. The higher-class posh drama is fun to see, and its a fact that the BBC always does costume dramas well. The supporting characters, such as Lord and Lady Cranleigh are very much the stereotypical lords and ladies, but their characters have much more depth than that. The disfigured figure and the secret passageways add a menace that we rarely see in Doctor Who, a sort of English murder mystery, something like Midsomer Murders. I love the atmosphere of the garden party, very much a mixture of Clarence and Marple.
In my mind, in Series 19 every companion gets a chance to shine. Kinda is very much a Tegan story, while Earthshock is Adric’s story. Black Orchid is Nyssa’s story. Sarah Sutton plays two roles here, Nyssa and her doppelgänger, Ann Talbot, with ease. She manages to play the characters similarly, yet making each of them unique. Nyssa gets a lot to do in this story, being kidnaped and held hostage. I’m a fan of Nyssa, so that give this story a plus in my books.
The story really falls flat in Part Two though. As soon as the police arrive and arrest the Doctor, it’s just not as interesting or engaging. The threat and menace are gone, and instead, we are treated to a chase to find the TARDIS, which ends in the most anti-climatic way. Also, I don’t understand why the story is called Black Orchid either. While there is a flower called the black orchid in the story, that detail plays no relevance in the plot besides being part of the backstory. I propose a new title: The Cranleigh Murder. At least that tells us something about the plot!
Still, I feel that this episode is still a good story, and clearly not the worst of Series 19! I think its a short, fun story that you can easily squeeze into your schedule.