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From TARDIS Index File, the free Doctor Who reference.

"Digby has gone..."
Black Orchid
Series: Doctor Who -
TV Stories
Season Number: Season 19
Story Number: 121
Doctor: Fifth Doctor
Enemy: George Cranleigh
Setting: Cranleigh Hall, Oxfordshire; 11th June 1925
Writer: Terence Dudley
Director: Ron Jones
Producer: John Nathan-Turner
Broadcast: 1st March - 2nd March 1982
Format: 2 25-minute episodes
Prod. Code: 6A
Previous Story: The Visitation
Following Story: Earthshock

For other uses of Black Orchid see: Black Orchid



The TARDIS arrives on Earth in 1925 where, due to a case of mistaken identity, the Doctor ends up playing in a local cricket match. The travellers then accept an invitation to a masked fancy dress ball, but events take on a more sinister tone as a number of murders are perpetrated at the country home of their host, Lord Charles Cranleigh.


Part One

The TARDIS lands in 1925 at Cranleigh Halt, a small railway station in rural England. The Doctor is surprised to find himself addressed by a policeman, who tells him he's expected at Cranleigh Hall for a cricket match. Though the invitation is unexpected, the Doctor is keen to play; soon he, Adric, Nyssa and Tegan have arrived at Cranleigh Hall, home of the Cranleigh family. The Doctor is immediately put into the game, and does superbly--bringing the team back from defeat to a win and delighting Lord Charles Cranleigh, who invites the travellers to a fancy dress party to be held that evening.

After the match, the cricketers and spectators retreat to Cranleigh Hall for introductions. In an opulent sitting room that houses a magnificent black orchid, Lady Cranleigh laments the loss of her botanist son, George, who was killed during an expedition to find the rare bloom. Her surviving son, Charles, introduces his fiancée Ann Talbot--who could be Nyssa's double. The travellers then set off to rooms they had been given and prepare for the upcoming fancy dress ball.

The titular Black Orchid, a rare specimen from the Amazon.

George provides the Doctor with a costume for the party: a harlequin suit, complete with a full mask. The Doctor emerges from the bath to hear a sound. He investigates, only to find himself trapped in a secret corridor. An unseen person takes the harlequin costume.

Upstairs, Nyssa, Tegan, and Ann Talbot prepare for the party. Nyssa and Ann decide to dress in identical costumes in order to prank the guests; Tegan demonstrates the Charleston, a dance popular in 1925, for her alien friend.

The Doctor finds his way out of the corridor into a hidden area of the mansion. He finds closets of old clothes and books... and a body in a cupboard.

At the party, someone wearing the Doctor's costume arrives and dances with Ann. He takes her indoors and begins to attack her. James, a servant, attacks the figure and is killed. Ann faints. The figure closes in on Ann...

Part Two

The Doctor finds Lady Cranleigh and her servant Latoni in one of the secret passages, and shows them the body. The Doctor agrees to not tell the guests, in order to avoid causing panic, and returns to his room.

The Doctor's impostor carefully returns the costume. The Doctor arrives back at his room and dresses in the costume set out for him, unaware that it has just been worn by a killer.

Lady Cranleigh and Latoni come to a locked door in the secret passages; on the other side of the door, Ann wakes and panics at the unfamiliar surroundings, while a mysterious figure hides under her bed. Ann runs out the room and into the arms of Lady Cranleigh. Latoni enters the room and ties up the figure, a horribly disfigured man with dead drooping skin on his face, and no tongue.

The second body has been discovered, and the servants alert Charles and Sir Robert Muir. As the Doctor descends the stairs, Ann identifies him as her assailant. Despite the Doctor's protests, he is betrayed when Lady Cranleigh refuses to corroborate his presence in the secret corridors, or the existence of the other body, and he is soon taken away by the police, along with Nyssa, Tegan, and Adric.

They stop at the railway station after the Doctor declares evidence is there, but the TARDIS is missing and they have little choice but to head on to the police station. There, coincidentally, a policeman declares they have found a police box which no key can open. The Doctor opens it, proving that he is an alien and that his story is true.

Back at the house, George has escaped his room by setting fire to the door. Nyssa is captured by George, who mistakes her for Ann, and carries her to the roof. Sir Robert demands answers.

Lady Cranleigh tells Sir Robert that the scarred figure is her son George, not killed during the course of his search for the black orchid, but disfigured by a tribe that considered the bloom sacred and themselves its guardians. After George's maiming, Latoni's tribe looked after him and brought him home, where his family preferred that he stay out of sight and pretend to be dead. Chafing under the restrictions, he only wanted to speak to Ann, his former fiancée--which was why he was stalking her.

The Doctor attempts to get to him through the house while Charles climbs up the side. They confront George on the roof. George realises that the woman he is holding is not Ann, and returns her. Charles thanks him, and attempts to embrace his lost brother, but George recoils and falls from the roof to his death.




Story Notes

  • To preserve the mystery of his character's identity, Gareth Milne was credited as The Unknown for Part One and in Radio Times, and as George Cranleigh for Part Two.
  • Although Sarah Sutton was credited as Nyssa/Ann on-screen, she was billed only as Nyssa in Radio Times.
  • This story has characters who are not evil or bad people, but have a vested interest in maintaining appearances to avoid the embarrassment of a disfigured relative.
  • This is the first story since The Highlanders not to feature any science fiction elements, apart from the use of the TARDIS, in the story. Of all the purely historical serials, this is set in the (as of 2008) closest time from its airdate.
  • While other stories have featured incidental indications that the Doctor likes cricket (DW: The Ribos Operation, Castrovalva, Four to Doomsday, Human Nature), this is the only televised story to depict the Doctor playing in an actual match. (Peter Davison, a keen cricketer, actually did play cricket in the Doctor's cricket match, and did quite well--he bowled out his opponent.) The Fifth Doctor's particular love of the game would be later developed in other media. It has, for instance, significantly figured in a number of audio stories. (BFA: Phantasmagoria, Roof of the World, Circular Time)


  • Part 1 - 9.9 million viewers
  • Part 2 - 10.1 million viewers


  • Black Orchid is sometimes referred to as the first historical Doctor Who serial since The Highlanders. Although it takes place in an earlier era, it is not explicitly a history-based adventure, unlike The Highlanders. It is correctly the first non-science fictional serial (disregarding the TARDIS and the presence of the Doctor and two non-Earthling individuals) since the earlier story (and, to date, the last).

Filming Locations

  • Buckinghamshire Railway Centre, Quainton, Buckinghamshire
  • Buckhurst House, Withyham, East Sussex
  • Bewdley (Steam Railway), Worcestershire
  • Quainton Road, Quainton, Buckinghamshire
  • Withyham Cricket Club, Withyham, East Sussex
  • BBC Television Centre (Studio 3), Shepherd's Bush, London

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

  • The Mackenzie Trent police box, which the Doctor's TARDIS is disguised as did not exist until 1929, four years after the events of this story, yet the policemen recognise it. Police boxes of a similar design had been put into use starting in 1923; police boxes in general had been in use in Britain since 1891.
  • In the rooftop shots, you can clearly see that the film was reversed by the smoke.
  • Peter Davison (the Fifth Doctor) and Gareth Milne (George Cranleigh) are of distinctly different sizes and builds, yet the same costume fits both of them perfectly. The costume isn't exactly tight-fitting, in fact it would appear to be one-size-fits-all, and is baggy enough to somewhat hide the person's form, making it easier for someone to confuse George with The Doctor.



Released in April 2008

DVD and Video Releases

Black Orchid was released on DVD in April 2008. It was originally scheduled for May but changed at the last moment, and The Invasion of Time was moved to May.




Main article: Black Orchid (novelisation)

See also

People meeting their doubles

External Links

Season 19
Castrovalva  • Four to Doomsday  • Kinda  • The Visitation  • Black Orchid  • Earthshock  • Time-Flight

This article uses material from the "Black Orchid (TV story)" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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