Delta And The Bannermen. Its name among fans of classic Doctor Who generally induces mirth, with it regarded as one of the weakest episodes of the oft-criticised (unfairly in my view) Sylvester McCoy era of the show. This an adventure from his first series in the TARDIS, and it’s fair to say that that’s where his worst adventures were to be found (Time And The Rani, anyone)?
And I’m not going to step in and suggest that time has suddenly breathed revisionist fresh air on the story. It blatantly hasn’t. But here’s the thing. I enjoyed, silly as it clearly is, Delta And The Bannermen when it was first broadcast, and I enjoyed rewatching it now. I say that knowing that it’s a bit rubbish, but it’s charming rubbish.
Take the story. The Doctor and Mel – my feelings on Bonnie Langford are pretty much in line with everyone else’s, incidentally – plan a trip to Disneyland, but actually meet Ken Dodd instead. He’s taking a bus load of aliens off on a Nostaligia Tour, but the arrival of the Bannermen of the title knackers the plan somewhat. With Ken Dodd soon dead, the bus heads to 1950s Wales rather than Disneyland. Fortunately, the aliens on the bus assume human form.
One of them is the Delta of the title, who is, as you might expect, hiding from said Bannermen. Protecting her newly born child, and with the Bannermen – led by Don Henderson, no less, as Gavrok – hunting her down, it’s predictably up to the Doctor to bring on the happy ending.
Given that this is early McCoy, he’s not yet fully fitting the hat and jacket of the Doctor (and playing things more for comedy, rather than adopted the slightly darker edge of his later adventures), although he doesn’t make a bad start in the role. The supporting cast around have a few notables within, but few standouts, and the adventure is clearly nonsense. But heck, it’s fun nonsense. Every criticism you can throw at it probably sticks, after all.
Yet this reviewer would take it over Time And The Rani any day…
As with most Doctor Who discs, the extras package here is quite exceptional. Here’s what you get.
Commentary track with Sylvester McCoy, Chris Clough (director) and Andrew Cartmell (Script Editor), Sara Griffiths: Commentaries on Doctor Who discs are generally exceptionally good fun, and this is no different. The four participants, hosted by McCoy, interact well, and throw up plenty of interesting nuggets about the production.
But Now This (6 mins): Andy Crane in his shorts on TV, talking about new Doctor Who Sylvester Mcoy, who in turn is sat on a motorbike. You also get Bonnie Langford interview clips, and she’s suitably giggly, offering insights such as “If anyone’s going to get wet, it’s me,” she says. And then you get Ken Dodd talking about his love of sci-fi, and finally getting to play an intergalactic car parking attendant! They’re brief interviews, but longer versions are also provided (we’re coming to them shortly).
Wales Today (2 mins): A brief news report from Wales Today about filming at Barry Island. A lovely irony, of course, that two decades later, the show would be synonymous with the country. Sylvester McCoy and John Nathan Turner give promotional interviews, which are always fun to look back at.
Episode One: First Edition: A longer cut of the first episode of the adventure, albeit without the audio effects you’d need for it to really work. It’s a nice feature to have, and it does expand the episode somewhat, but you suspect at the end of it that an extended episode is not what was needed.
Interview Rushes: This is 16 minutes of raw footage from promotional interviews undertaken for the adventure. We’ve seen the edited-down versions in the But Now This segment, but we get the longer versions of the chats with McCoy, Bonnie Langford and Ken Dodd.
Hugh & Us (7 mins): A chat with the late Hugh Lloyd, who played Golonwy in Delta And The Bannerman. I love little features like this that Doctor Who discs throw up, given that they give the limelight to actors who otherwise wouldn’t necessarily get exposed to a modern audience (although Lloyd, obviously, is far more likely to be known by slightly older viewers). It looks back at Lloyd’s career, and he engagingly chats us through it. It includes working with Tony Hancock, as well as the 87 episodes of Hugh And I. Plus he discusses his admiration for Colin Baker, working in panto with John Nathan Turner, and then filming Delta And The Bannerman. I’d have been happy for this to run even longer, personally.
Clown Court (5 mins): At first, I thought that this was a preview of The Greatest Show In The Galaxy. In fact, it’s a segment from a Noel Edmonds show, where Sylvester McCoy is on trial for pretending to be a Time Lord. It throws in some outtakes, and then – in a lovely piece of postmodern irony, some outtakes of the outtakes segment.
Stripped For Action (21 mins): A regular feature on Doctor Who DVDs, Stripped For Action is the story of Doctor Who comics, here with specific relation to McCoy’s Doctor. These are take it or leave it segments for many, I suspect, but still interesting. The team behind the comics talk through bringing the seventh Doctor to the comic strips, and everyone is suitably critical and retrospect.
Photo Gallery (8 mins): Set to Keff McCulloch’s music from the serial, it’s a slideshow of images from the production of Delta And The Bannerman.
Info Text: I must admit that I struggle to keep on top of the subtitled titbits that you can switch on, but they sure do throw up a lot of trivia on each adventure. The same is true here.
Trails and Continuity (3 mins): You know the drill here. The promo clips and segments broadcast on the BBC to promote the serial.
PDF Materials: You can, if you have a PC or Mac, open up the Radio Times listings for the show in PDF format.
Coming Soon: a 97 second promo clip for the upcoming release of the Patrick Troughton adventure, The War Games.
Time has not been particularly kind to Delta And The Bannerman, and it was hardly a classic in the first place. But it’s still quite good fun, and the extras package along justifies the purchase price, as usual. Why can’t other DVD producers take a leaf out of the Doctor Who Restoration Team’s book, we wonder?
The Feature:The Discs: