On a lazy June afternoon in 1925 the TARDIS materialises at the tiny railway station of Cranleigh Halt.
Warmly welcomed by the local gentry, the time-travellers look forward to a well deserved rest from their adventures. After a stunning performance at a friendly cricket match, the Doctor, together with Tegan, Adric and Nyssa, is invited to a splendid masked ball by Lady Cranleigh and her son, Charles.
But a dark menace haunts the secret corridors of Cranleigh Hall. And before the ball is over, the quiet summer will be shattered by the shocking discovery of a brutal murder.
There's nowt as queer as folk, and DOCTOR WHO fans are very queer.
That's the queer that is more "strange" as opposed to "homosexual".
Fans have very obscure, extreme and opinionated views, and they are extremely vocal in disseminating their dissatisfaction.
With that said, recommending - yes, recommending - the latest BBC AUDIOBOOK release, Peter Davison's 1982 Terrence Dudley's DOCTOR WHO - BLACK ORCHID will be an uphill struggle. The original broadcast was lambasted as "padding" by THE DOCTOR WHO APPRECIATION SOCIETY members of which I was a part, and the most recently released BBC DVD version has hardly rushing of the shelves (and virtual shelves of online retailers).
There has been something of a MARMITE impasse, with fans either loving or loathing the two-parter. The story was not really science fiction and neither wholly historical. I wonder that if the story had been produced as part of the NEW SERIES it would be garnering such harsh comment (the nearest comparison is, and for not only being approximately based within the same historical period, SERIES 4's THE UNICORN AND THE WASP). I doubt it.
The resounding success of this DOCTOR WHO - BLACK ORCHID audiobook version is not only the base DNA of the novelisation (crafted by Dudley that purposefully extends the original 50-minute broadcast to a proud 90-minute presentation) but the aural masterpiece jointly painted by its reader, Michael Cochrane, and the additional music & effects (courtesy of Meon Productions).
Simply put, DOCTOR WHO - BLACK ORCHID is one of the most absorbing (you should feed the cat before settling down to listen as you will be suitably drawn into the storyline to a point of forgetting everything around you), informative (the mysteries of cricket are refreshingly explained through the character of Australian Air Hostess, Tegan Jovanka) and entertaining (the scenes describing naïve Adric's persistent mastication of either "vol-u-vents" or "sticky chicken" are wonderfully witty, as his is salivating comment aimed at a railway station advertisement for gravy granules).
Dudley's novel's expedition beyond the boundaries of the TV broadcast is key to it success, acutely questioning if the TV broadcast should be regarded as the "definitive" article. Not only does the author expounds on the hideous machinations within the secret cob-webbed "priest-holes" of Cranleigh Hall, but he delivers a unique & genuine back-story for George Beacham (aka Lord Cranleigh) that will have CLASSIC SERIES fans nodding in acquiescence as the jigsaw of memories are fitted sequentially into place.
In fact, so intelligent and thrilling as DOCTOR WHO - BLACK ORCHID is that if BBC RADIO 4 or, at a push, BBC RADIO 7 wanted to present a DOCTOR WHO series of "Book at Bedtime" then this would be an ideal initial broadcast. A mature, considered story that deserves a wider audience.
Michael Cochrane's reading is reassuringly enthused with his portly Sir Robert Muir and his slight antipodean accented Tegan being highlights of the recording.
Today, I have listened to both DOCTOR WHO - BLACK ORCHID and David Tennant's PEST CONTROL , and, to be honest, it is with the former that my appreciation lies. Even within the boundaries of DOCTOR WHO's science fiction fine pedigree, it is the more "realistic" and rewards the deficit of time (over five hours in length) it necessitates with a suitable sigh of satisfaction (and a disappointment that means Tom Baker's reading of DOCTOR WHO AND THE BRAIN OF MORBIUS will no longer be my favourite DOCTOR WHO audiobook).
DOCTOR WHO - BLACK ORCHID is obligingly infectious. Surprisingly so, and deserves not only a raid on your TARDIS money-bank but your time in being transported to Earth 1925 via BBC TV CENTRE West London recording studios 1982. You'll be glad you did, it will grip you totally like the Unknown throttling Ann Talbot.