Review [DW]: “Delta and the Bannermen”

24×3. Delta and the Bannermen
Writer: Malcolm Kohll
Script Editor: Andrew Cartmel
Director: Chris Clough
Producer: John Nathan-Turner

Synopsis: The Doctor and Mel are en route to 1959 Disneyland with an alien tour group when they are diverted to a holiday camp in South Wales, only to find that one of their traveling companions is Delta, the last of a species known as the Chimeron, and that Gavrok and his Bannermen are intent on finding and killing her.

Review: “Delta and the Bannermen,” like its predecessor “Paradise Towers,” is a fairly unique entry into the annals of Doctor Who history. I certainly can’t think of another Who serial where the Doctor’s companion boards an interstellar tour bus and sings along to “Rock Around the Clock,” where the Doctor delays the villains by dousing them with honey so that they get attacked by bees, where a character helps save a species from extinction by transforming into one of their number by consuming alien food, where a troop of soldiers signal all stick out their tongues in unison, or where scenes of characters driving back and forth are scored with the kind of upbeat music that composer Keff McCulloch supplies here. Unfortunately, some of this – however distinctive or unexpected it might be – verges on inappropriate silliness given the stakes involved: Delta’s species is being hunted to the point of genocide, and the bus full of alien tourists is destroyed with no survivors right when it appears they might escape. The script also suffers not only from a slim backstory (another commonality with “Paradise Towers”) but from vague characterizations whose decisions don’t always make sense. Just who exactly is Gavrok, and why are he and the Bannermen so intent on killing the last of the Chimeron? Why does Gavrok kill the mercenary who might otherwise have located Delta for him? Why do two of his men untie their prisoners simply because the Doctor tells them to and waves a white flag of truce, when they seem so unconcerned with any rules of honor or fair play otherwise? Meanwhile, local aspiring singer and mechanic Billy falls in love with Delta in a romantic subplot so arbitrary that I found myself wondering if I’d missed a scene somewhere, and the two of them go for a ride into the hills with no apparent concern that someone might see her newborn green alien baby that they’re carting around. I like Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor, and I’m pleased that the series seems to be moving past the often grim style of the previous few seasons, but unfortunately these latest serials have just proven too contrived and underdeveloped for me to count any of them as a success.

Rating: ** (out of four)

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