This week’s journey in the TARDIS is interesting for a couple of reasons, first, it’s the shortest story in a long time, only two episodes. They were written by Terence Dudley and aired on the first and second of March, 1982. The second is, that outside of our time travelers, it’s not really a science fiction story, but more of a historical story, set in 1925, with a murder mystery at its heart.
The Doctor (Davison) and his companions, Nyssa (Sarah Sutton, who plays a dual role in this story as the Doctor’s Companion, and Ann Talbot), Teagan (Janet Fielding) and Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) arrive on Earth in the early part of the 20th century, and through a series of errors are believed to be someone else.
As such, the Doctor finds himself taking place in a local cricket match, and the group finds themselves invited to a fancy dress ball hosted by Lord Charles Cranleigh (Michael Cochrane). Unfortunately, bodies are starting to pile up, and the group will have to figure out whodunnit before they continue on their way.
Outside of the murders, this trip is a fairly relaxing respite, and it’s fun to see the Doctor playing cricket (he’ll get on to football (UK not American) a little later).
Everyone is shocked to see that Nyssa is the exact doppelganger of Charles fiancee, Ann. Everything seems to tie in with a dead botanist, and a flower he sent home to the Cranleigh estate, the Black Orchid, and a South American Indian guarding someone in the attic.
There are secret passages, Edwardian stereotypes, a malformed person being hidden by the family, and some delightful humor. In all, I truly think this story does make for a nice change, and a good break. I also think, that from a production standpoint it may have been the most cost-effective of the stories to produce, besides the location, most of the sets and costumes probably already existed.
The Doctor, as always, is at first suspected of the murder when Ann is almost killed by someone in the same fancy dress as the Doctor is supposed to wear to the party (he’s wandering the secret passages of the estate in a bathrobe at the time). But it seems some people want to keep things hidden, and don’t want the truth to be outed.
Teagan seems to be having the most fun in this episode, having elected to stay in the TARDIS for awhile, dancing the Charleston, and enjoying the drinks. Nyssa is close behind sharing in the fact that she apparently has a twin, and the two of them play at some pranks during the party. But the murder, and the accusations leveled at the Doctor spoil the party soon enough .
Things find a resolution when the true killer and their motivation is revealed.
Next week, events take on a more epic and dire scale next week, when the Cybermen in Earthshock.