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26 December 2018 @ 08:01 pm
The Randomiser: Delta and the Bannermen  
Back in the day, Delta and the Bannermen was one of my favourite Doctor Who stories. I think, in part, this came from watching with my parents who had been in their teens and early twenties in the 1950s when it is set. The story makes the most of the time period in its sound track and set dressing, and my parents had a nice trip down memory lane.

Delta and the Bannermen was made during what I tend to think of as the awkward transition year, after Eric Saward had left as script editor but before Andrew Cartmel had really taken control of the show. It has the whimsey/surreality of stories like The Happiness Patrol and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy without having the more serious undercurrents of most of the work Cartmel edited. It also has the random and largely unnecessary massacre of a bus load of a harmless tourists which feels like a hold over from Saward's tenure.

Watching it, many years after the first viewing, with Tame Layman, it still (tourist massacre aside) has plenty of verve and is (tourist massacre aside) a fun and light-hearted tale but, beyond that, it seems a rather insubstantial. Tame Layman commented that it was basically an extended chase scene in its construction and there is some truth in that.

One of the most interesting thing about Delta and the Bannermen is Ray, the companion who never was. At this point in the show the production team knew Bonnie Langford was leaving and considered two replacements - the lovelorn Welsh motorcycle mechanic wannabe Ray from this and Ace from Dragonfire (the next story). I can see why they went for Ace, her characterisation is more immediate from the start and contemporary companions are generally considered easier to write engagingly, and I think Ace was great, but sometimes I regret that we didn't get the rather gentler Ray. She had the capacity to be just independent and capable as Ace was allowed to be while at the same time being less in your face with her attitude and issues.

I remain fond of Delta and the Bannermen. It has a rather poor reputation and fandom circles. Its characters are a collection of bizarre and somewhat random folk (including a cameo from Ken Dodd) and if you don't buy into the bizarre randomness of it as, essentially, part of its charm, then its lack of budget and weird set of characters makes it look like a reject from a children's show such as Rentaghost. I love its joy in its 1950sness and its madcap and random heart, but Tame Layman is right that it really is just a long chase scene with screwball comedy aspirations and it is marred by the unnecessary massacre of the bus load of innocent and charming tourists.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/535999.html.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on December 26th, 2018 10:29 pm (UTC)
Tbh, I think most three-parters are extended chase sequences! This is one of the most obvious, though. I like it a lot, perhaps because I saw it for the first time at a point in my life where I was very disappointed with the direction Russell T Davies was taking the show, which seemed to me at the time to be about making the Doctor and companion super-cool and draining all the eccentricity and individuality out of the programme to avoid scaring off casual viewers (although that's not how I look at Davies' time now). This seemed to be more my type of Doctor Whoabout people being eccentric and quirky and winning out because of their individuality, a story that wasn't afraid to be a little bit 'out-there' and 'oddball', although not so much as later Cartmell stories. Along with Paradise Towers (which has a more polished script, but a worse realisation) it's probably best seen as a staging post on the way to later stories like Ghost Light and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
louisedennis: Who:Sevenlouisedennis on December 29th, 2018 04:40 pm (UTC)
Hmm... I'm not sure I'd agree most three-parters are chase sequences - Dragonfire has pretty simple plotting (under all the frills) but is more a treasure hunt than a chase and I'm not sure you could accuse Ghost Light or The Happiness Patrol of being a chase and you'd be stretching it with Survival. Silver Nemesis - frankly who knows, the story is all over the place.
liadtbunny: Bulman eatingliadtbunny on December 27th, 2018 03:03 pm (UTC)
It's a nice bit of nonsense, although I like Rentaghost so I'm probably not the best the comment! It's interesting seeing the old resort before it was knocked down too without having to visit.
louisedennis: Who:Sevenlouisedennis on December 29th, 2018 04:40 pm (UTC)
I do think the extent to which you buy into the supporting cast makes a big difference to whether you like this.