Monday, January 18, 2016

Delta and the Bannermen by: Malcolm Kholl directed by: Chris Clough: Not the Bees!

Delta and the Bannermen stars Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor and Bonnie Langford as Mel Bush with Belinda Mayne as Delta, Don Henderson as Gavrok and Sara Griffiths as Ray.  It was written by Malcolm Kholl, directed by Chris Clough, with Andrew Cartmel as Script Editor and John Nathan-Turner as Producer.  The story was broadcast on Mondays in three weekly parts from the 2nd to the 9th November 1987 on BBC One.


This is the twenty-fifth worst story as voted on in the 2014 Doctor Who Magazine Poll and I would argue that it deserves to be even lower than that.  The story, even though it is just a three part story, has some extreme padding with a cast of ten plus at least thirty extras that could be cut in half to be a cast of five main characters with maybe fifteen extras.  Malcolm Kholl does not know how to write for characters as he is trying to make this a space opera and a love story, but to do both of those things you need to be able to do one thing, make the characters interesting so we can understand their motivations.  The characters here are as dull as a lead pipe.  They also don’t act rationally throughout the entire story with the exception of Bonnie Langford as Mel who actually is pretty decent in this story.  You know that something is wrong when Mel is the best character in your story.  Sylvester McCoy is obviously trying his hardest in this story, but the Doctor doesn’t do anything in this story except pop in to remind you that he is in the story.  While that may seem like it’s like one of the Virgin New Adventures, what the novels do is make the Doctor be doing stuff behind the scenes while here he is doing nothing except near the end of Part Two where he gets a great speech just before the cliffhanger.


Now I said that this story was trying to be a love story, which occurs between Delta, who is basically a humanoid alien bee, and Billy a biker from the 1950s.  While that is a weird pairing it could easily work if there was good chemistry.  Sadly Belinda Mayne and David Kinder look like two children in a school play who don’t know the first thing about acting.  The romance isn’t helped by the script which has them glance at each other and suddenly they have fallen in love.  What makes the romance worse is that Billy eats some magic alien bee juice to turn him into one of the Chimeron’s so he can get in bed with Delta.  The romance also doesn’t work for the reason of what we know about the Chimeron life cycle is that every 24 hours they gain about ten years on their life, making Delta about two days old.  Yes Billy is shortening his life by several decades to be with a woman whom he’s met for a day and will die in about a week.  But it wouldn’t be a romance story without a really forced love triangle and the third wheel is Ray, Billy’s childhood friend who is obviously smitten with the man for no real reason.  Sara Griffiths is trying her hardest to come across as vulnerable, but it just doesn’t work as the script is too weak to actually carry a love triangle.  It also turns out that Ray would have become a companion even though outside of the forced triangle she doesn’t do much within the story.


The story is also trying to be an action space opera with the evil Bannermen, who are not a real threat, as led by the insidious Gavrok.  Gavrok is a really boring villain who is just evil for evil’s sake.  He is trying to commit genocide but doesn’t have any motivation to do so that is stated on screen as we are told that he is evil.  He is played by Don Henderson who cannot act his way out of a paper bag.  He is just mugging for the camera and oddly delivering his lines.  The Bannermen are also extremely awful as in the way; to intimidate you by sticking their tongues out and hissing which isn’t intimidating.  Also with these villains there is a ton of mood whiplash where you have the tone being all comedic and suddenly half the cast is blown up near the end of Part Two.


Now there are also four or five other characters who are extremely boring and really are there to get from Point A to Point B in the story.  There are two Americans who do nothing, a Beekeeper who acts all mysterious but is just a way for Malcolm Kholl to be pretentious, the bus driver who is annoying, and a toll master who has a grading voice.  All these people are awful as the story keeps shifting locations with different characters at different places which can be cut out completely and you won’t really miss anything.


The direction for this serial was done by Chris Clough who did five other stories in the late 1980s.  Sadly this is not one of his best direction efforts as he can’t seem to work around some of the tiny sets making some of the actors look like they don’t have good peripheral vision and some of the shots look really badly put together.  He also doesn’t know where to put music correctly as at points the music is way too comical causing some of the crazy mood whiplash.


To summarize Delta and the Bannermen is a story that fails in almost every aspect with stupid ideas and a really weak script with bad actors and the only positive performance is the character of Mel Bush.  It doesn’t even hold up on a so bad that it is good level. 10/100

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