20
Oct 10

Time Reconsidered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Who Eps: #11 BLACK ORCHID aka NYSSA’S DREAM

FT2 comments • 400 views

or “i dremt it in the hidden pantry with the freudo-oneirical screwdriver

… being a show-by-show TARDIS-esque (ie in effect random) exploration of Doctor Who Soup to Nuts, begun at LJ’s diggerdydum community, and crossposted at FT.

Two-part 5IVE’n’chums diversion from 1982, set in an isolated country house complete with 20s JAZZ PARTY/HORROR MURDER MYSTERY: the Doctor is a key suspect; Nyssa encounters her earthling lookeylikey; Tegan gets it on with a top local cop. A quasi-historical — the last I believe for a very long time — featuring only TARDIS-related sf content. In fact, I have a THEORY about this ep, which may or may not be original to me! NOW READ ON

i: so is it this genuine time-travel adventure at all, or is it, well, NOT? I’m going to argue not! Which will explain various things (see steps following), inc. the strangely minor relevance of the story’s official name…
ii: … which is of course a repression and masking of the adventure’s REAL sekrit name, which is NYSSA’S DREAM. I argue that no one leaves the TARDIS and this all happens inside her sleeping head.
iii: Here are some things this theory explains. 1: The Doctor’s tongue-tied passivity. 2: Adric’s near-absence (he is parked in front of the salad bar and ignored). 3: the extreme profusion of fever-symbols gathered into an allegorical panic mode (you’re due at a party but you can’t find your way through the labyrinth of rooms in the unfamiliar house; in a gathering where everyone is dressed . not as themselves, there bustles a plethora of doppelgangers; WHO IS DRESSED AS THE SCARY CLOWN HARLEQUIN?; to escape a room you BURN THE HOUSE DOWN; you are in love but trapped in a hideously insane disfigured body which won’t do as you wish, and your brother is marrying your darling; you’re on top of a house which is ON FIRE, the police are accusing you of a crime but you CAN’T SAY WHY YOU DIDN’T DO IT… and so on, and on, and on)
iv: so yes, the mise-en-scene is utterly cluttered with the furniture of dreams, from the very outset, where we see/hear a shuffling monster (backstory pre-TARDIS arrival), followed by a shot of Nyssa fast asleep in bed; steamtrains hurrying into tunnels*, and materialisation on an olde worlde rural railway platform (*OK I suspect there were actually no tunnels)
v: … and we can go FURTHER: because the narrative framework of the dream’s set up is ALSO borrowed, from the book that Nyssa was evidently reading before she dozed off, viz Dorothy L. “Sayers’s Murder Must Advertise”, in which the detective, Lord Peter Wimsey, during his invesitigations, takes on the persona of his own evil identical cousin, Mr Death Bredon, dresses as a Harlequin at a coke-sozzled countryhouse jazz party, and is nabbed by the police for the main murder during the cricket match he is playing the winning innings in (largely a feint set up by cops and wimsey, to trick the real murderer into showing his hand; but the cricket is real and nearly gives the secret game away)…
vi: the only thing giving the scriptwriters’ game away comes right at the last moment — the true murderer is caught (a sad figure, the insane older son of the lady of the house, once a great explorer and botanist, cursed and tortured by south american tribespeople for desecrated their sacred BLACK ORCHID in the name of western imperialist science socalled CULTURAL THEFT MOAR LAIK) and the TARDIS team are taking their leave. The chums are given their fancy dress costumes as leaving presents; 5IVE is given a copy of explorer-botanist’s book, “Black Orchid”, except that picture on the flylife is not that of the botanist-author, but instead, of his younger brother….!!!??!!!
vii: So whaaaat does it all meaaaaan? Well, recall: this is the ep before EARTH SHOCK, and I believe that dreaming Nyssa is going precog on us — seeing the doctor as, yes! a monster and a murderer, and the TARDIS crew trapped in a story that leads, horribly, to death…

Very enjoyable if somewhat naggingly unresolved — why is the mum not banged up for criminal negligence, given she has allowed her homicidal mad disfigured son wander round strangling servants and molesting and kidnapping time-guests is anyone’s guess; i blame the semi-feudal violence in the rural squirearchy system… the police are clearly covering everything up, which is why it’s ok to take em on a tour of the TARDIS… also it’s all in nyssa’s head anyway

Comments

  1. 1
    weej on 20 Oct 2010 #

    This is one of my favourite Davison-era episodes, along with Snakedance. To be fair the resolution is a little disappointing, yes.

  2. 2
    Billy Smart on 6 Mar 2011 #

    Part 5 of my attempt to trace a literary antecedent for every Doctor Who story;

    http://drunkennessofthingsbeingvarious.blogspot.com/2011/03/doctor-who-reading-list-part-5.html

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