Recently I had the chance to watch Doctor Who: Delta and the Bannermen, a serial from 1987 starring Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor and Bonnie Langford as Mel. I was curious to see this one because of its generally poor reception–this was written during a time when the BBC was actively trying to kill the show so they could use the production money to bring newer, original shows to TV. It wasn’t as bad as I had feared, but it could have been much better, too.
The story was set in 1959, which would have been perfectly acceptable had they not taken every single stinking opportunity to play 50’s rock and roll music. It was clever the first few times it happened, but by the end I was ready to scream every time 50’s music started to play. The plot, although intriguing, needed to be fleshed out better–what attracted Billy to Delta in the first place? How come Ray is taking her boyfriend’s decision to run off with an alien queen so calmly? Was there really a valid reason for Hawk and Weismuller to be in the story at all other than to provide some rather stale comic relief?
It wasn’t a complete disaster, however. The bit of exposition about bees was fun and educational, but then we found out that the development of bees was a parallel to Delta’s race, the Chimerons–some people might find that cheesy; I thought it was a clever little twist. Sylvester McCoy’s performance showed that his Doctor is truly underrated, and Bonnie Langford proved that Mel Bush really did deserve a better chance to prove her worth as a companion. Sara Griffiths was also enjoyable as the one-storyline-only companion Ray–in fact, she was so popular that she was almost the new full-time companion when Bonnie Langford left the show, but, as we all know, that distinction instead went to Sophie Aldred as the erstwhile Ace.
It’s difficult to decide if I recommend Delta and the Bannermen to the rest of you. If you decide to see it, just remember that you’re not seeing Doctor Who at its best. If you don’t watch it, you’re not really missing anything.