Delta and the Bannermen ★★★

What a wonderful day for Ken Dodd to kick-start a collision of Dick Barton and Hi-de-Hi! Plus, a meeting with Sylvester McCoy...

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Season 24 – Story 146

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 “Are you telling me that you are not the Happy Hearts Holiday Club from Bolton, but instead are spacemen in fear of an attack from some other spacemen?” – Burton

Storyline
At a galactic Tollport, the Doctor and Mel win a holiday to Disneyland in 1959. But their space bus, filled with alien tourists, is deflected by a satellite to the Shangri-La holiday camp in Wales. Among the holidaymakers is Delta, the queen of a dying race of Chimerons, who is pursued by genocidal Bannermen led by the evil Gavrok. Can she evade her pursuers long enough to give birth to her child, the saviour of her race?

First transmissions
Part 1 – Monday 2 November 1987
Part 2 – Monday 9 November 1987
Part 3 – Monday 16 November 1987

Production
Location recording: June 1987 at Springwell quarry, Rickmansworth, Bucks; British Tissues hangar, Llandow trading estate; Hensol Forest; Sutton Farm near Penarth, all South Glamorgan; Coed y Wallas, near Castle upon Alun, Mid Glamorgan. June/July 1987 at Majestic Holiday Camp, Barry Island, South Glamorgan.
Studio recording: August 1987 in TC3

Cast
The Doctor – Sylvester McCoy
Melanie – Bonnie Langford
Gavrok – Don Henderson
Delta – Belinda Mayne
Weismuller – Stubby Kaye
Hawk – Morgan Deare
Tollmaster – Ken Dodd
Goronwy – Hugh Lloyd
Burton – Richard Davies
Billy – David Kinder
Ray – Sara Griffiths
Murray – Johnny Dennis
Keillor – Brian Hibbard
Chima – Tim Scott
Bollitt – Anita Graham
Vinny – Martyn Geraint
Adlon – Leslie Meadows
Callon – Clive Condon
Arrex – Richard Mitchley
The Lorells – Robin Aspland, Keff McCulloch, Justin Myers, Ralph Salmins
Vocalists – Tracey Wilson, Jodie Wilson
Chimeron Princess – Laura Collins, Carley Joseph
Young Chimeron – Jessica McGough, Amy Osborn

Crew
Writer – Malcolm Kohll
Incidental music – Keff McCulloch
Designer – John Asbridge
Script editor – Andrew Cartmel
Producer – John Nathan-Turner
Director – Chris Clough

RT Review by Mark Braxton
The 80s were wilderness years for me in terms of Doctor Who. End-of-pier campery, a knockabout aesthetic and elbow-nudging stunt-casting seemed to me to be the norm, and made me wander away from this sci-fi flagship for long periods. The title sequence featured an overegged pudding of a theme and a silver-faced pixie winking inanely. And yet, despite the fact that here was one of my least favourite Doctors, Sylvester McCoy himself was one of my favourite actors in the role.

I met the former Vision On mime artist and Jigsaw star long after his years in the Tardis. In autumn 2003, Radio Times shot a special montage cover for Doctor Who’s 40th anniversary, which involved McCoy’s Doc, clutching his straw boater and question-mark umbrella, cowering from a Cyberman, played by myself.

That day, back in 2003, McCoy was patience and kindness personified. As well as being concerned for my welfare under the strong lights of the studio (and making sure I didn’t stumble over the uneven “planet” surface), he happily discussed his take on the Time Lord, and the fact that he would never carry a weapon, preferring instead to rely on his intellect.

He remembered his three years on the show with fondness but also a fair few reservations. “My biggest problem with being the Time Lord was there wasn’t enough time to do the job. The Time Lord had no time! That made it very hard work. But it was wonderful to work with some of the best actors in Britain who were all queuing up to be in it, because it was great kudos to be in Doctor Who.”

McCoy’s enthusiasm and an overriding sense of fun certainly infect Delta and the Bannermen, Malcolm Kohll’s unrestrained collision of Dick Barton and Hi-de-Hi! It begins in familiar “Quarryworld” territory, continues in Holiday on the Buses mode and ends in a gleefully cheesy musical, complete with “Love is the answer” belted out on the soundtrack.

Which isn’t to say that the story is all smiles and glitter. The puzzlingly motivated Bannermen will kill anyone who gets in their way, and not just a “By Jove”-spouting Ken Dodd and the lead singer of the Flying Pickets.

The location filming and action sequences are handled breathtakingly competently, but the story fails to capitalise on its virtues. Two characters are introduced who could have been so much more. Hugh Lloyd is rather wonderful as the deceptively bumbling Goronwy. His cryptic comments suggest he’s some sort of cosmic sage, even a Time Lord in disguise, but we never hear from him again. And Sara Griffiths has an achingly lovely naivety as “Ray” – a kind of Sandy from Grease – as well as a rapport with McCoy that oozes more naturalism than his companionship with Mel.

Having said that, it’s a good story for prancing, carbonated Mel; rock ’n’ roll, Yellowcoat exuberance and impromptu jive dancing are her natural habitat, it seems.

And for all Kohll’s attempts to work in a serious subtext, it’s impossible to get away from sitcoms: look, there’s Pricey from Please Sir! “Bloody hell!” as that character might have said. And a full-on chase involving a Morris Minor, a scooter and a motorbike-and-sidecar screams out for Dad’s Army’s Vicar and Verger to be clinging on for dear life.

It’s mad as cheese and about as scary as an episode of Play Away. It doesn’t feel like Doctor Who for a second. But just once in a while the show can afford to go mad. To quote Dick Emery, “You are awful, but I like you!”

Radio Times archive

RT coverage for the story, bigging up Ken Dodd’s cameo role.

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[Available on BBC DVD]