Dec. 26th, 2018

purplecat: The Seventh Doctor (Who:Seven)
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.

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