Published on June 21st, 2009 | by James Whittington
Delta and the Bannermen
When Delta and the Bannerman was originally broadcast on November 2nd 1987 I had began to move away from the series. Not because I had lost interest or thought Sylvester McCoy was a poor choice of Doctor, far from it. I simply had decided life had more to offer than watching TV.
Ironically one of my new endeavours was finding work at a holiday camp! I only got to see this three parter when the VHS tape was released and it was then that I realised what a gem I’d missed.
Its 1959 and The Doctor and Mel have won a holiday to Disneyland but end up in Wales thanks to bumping into a satellite along with other galactic tourists. Among these alien travellers is the Chimeron Queen known as Delta who is about to lay an egg(!). Delta is the last of her race and must protect her offspring, but the Bannermen are after her, will the Doctor and Mel save the species?
Originally to be called "Flight of the Chimeron", Delta and the Bannermen is 1980’s Doctor Who at its most inventive. It may look cheap (the Transformation Arch sequence is memorable to say the least), it may not have the strongest cast going at the time (everyone is in full pantomime mode) but this signalled Doctor Who’s return to inventive and original storytelling after a patchy run.
By casting Ken Dodd as the Tollmaster few could accuse John Nathan-Turner as being subtle with his stunt casting. But Doddy does a half decent turn here and can be forgiven for his few glances to camera, as if waiting for a reaction from the audience. Richard Davies, the BBC’s token Welshman is great as the over buoyant Burton, the campsite host who is more formal than he’d like to be!
Back to the main cast – Sylvester is given a bizarre story to help focus his interpretation of The Doctor. His seriousness begins to peep through his clownish exterior, his frustrated exclamations to Mr Burton about the ever-dangerous situation being a fine moment that proves this point. Even Mel has more to do than stand and shout obvious observations. The two American spies seem superfluous to the story and are possibly here just to fill the three parts. Don Henderson, as the ever-sneering Gavrok eats up every scene he’s in, not a bad thing at all as he lightens some of the darker moments of the story.
Commentary: This enthusiastic gag-track has Sylvester McCoy, Chris Clough, Sara Griffiths and Andrew Cartmel chatting with warm affection about the story. Bags of laughs and good vibes, this is fine extra.
But First This: A segment from the 1980’s TV show hosted by Andy Crane (remember him?) this is a look behind the scenes of the shoot of Delta and the Bannermen. Nice and light and allows Sylvester describe his memories of the series of when he was growing up.
Wales Today: Running just over two minutes this is another look behind the scenes and though it doesn’t reveal much to the hardened fan out there it is nice to see how the show was promoted on regional news items for those not from the area.
Episode One – First Edit: A great extra, the full 30-minute version of episode one. Added sequences are missing some sound effects etc but this is the sort of extra I think makes these Classic Doctor Who releases a must.
Interview Rushes: Raw footage from the interviews taken for the But First This show. Again its great to see these pieces in their fullness and illustrate the fun Sylvester obviously had when he took on the role.
Hugh and Us: The disc just keeps getting better. This new interview with legendary character actor Hugh Lloyd (he plays Goronwy the Beekeeper in the serial) is a wonderfully conducted piece where Hugh quickly goes through his television career and his involvement in the show. Gentle yet informative this should be your first extra you look at.
Clown Court: Here Doctor number 7 faces Noel Edmonds to defend himself for his crimes against acting. What looks like a segment from The Late Late Breakfast Show (but I could be wrong) this is a clip collection of the cock-ups from the recording of this story.
Stripped For Action: This is a short documentary charting the Seventh Doctor strips from Doctor Who Magazine. Scott Gray, the comics’ writer and editor and Alan Barnes who was the magazine editor chat honestly about the stories. Gary Russell, also one time editor of the magazine and others talk candidly making it a very interesting and intriguing feature.
Trails and Continuity: Exactly what it says on the tin! Here are the announcements from the original transmissions adding that extra piece of nostalgia to the release.
Photo Gallery: A huge collection of behind the scenes snaps from the shooting of the story.
Info Text: I love the Info Text option on the Doctor Who DVD releases. Packed with more than you need to know this one seems to have more of a humorous streak than others.
PDF Materials: Here we have a selection of listings from Radio Times magazine.
Coming Soon: This is a cracking trailer for The War Games triple disc set release.
Delta and the Bannermen helped put Doctor Who back on track and helped to prepare the audience for the darker side the Doctor would show in his next story, Dragonfire. This extras packed DVD release does the story justice making me embarrassed that I missed it when it was originally shown.
Delta and the Bannermen is released Monday June 22nd and is available from Amazon.com for an amazing £12.98!