Like its season twenty-four stable mates, Delta and the Bannermen divides fan opinion straight down the middle. There are those who believe this story to display the worst excesss of the McCoy era; garish visuals, badly cast guest stars and with a silly pantomime like theme running through. In many respects, these people are right. Delta and the Bannermen has these qualities in copious amounts. However, I am of the opinion that watched on its own terms this serial is a lot of fun.
Malcolm Kohl has scripted the most wonderfully silly story here. The basic outline of the plot is thus; Delta, the last of the Chimerons, is fleeing persecution from the evil Bannermen, led by Gavrok. She manages to escape their clutches and tags along with a bunch of Navarino holiday makers, whose destination is 1959 Disneyland. Following a collision between the Navarino bus and an American satellite, the Navarions crash land not in Disneyland, but at the Shangi-La holiday camp in South Wales. Needless to say, the Bannermen arent far behind
The cast for this story are a mixed bunch. Most famously Ken Dodd shows up as the toll master, complete with garish costume and, erm, party hooter? Actually, given the tone of the piece, Dodd isnt as bad as youd imagine. Besides, hes barely in the thing. Don Henderson as Gavrok is wonderful. He plays the part totally straight and is a very menacing threat that the Doctor must defeat. Belinda Mayne, playing Delta and David Kinder playing Billy are the weak links here. This is a real problem for this serial, as the love story between Billy and Delta is one of the most important elements running throughout. As a consequence of their lack of chemistry and wooden acting I never really bought this element of the plot. Now, mention must go to Sara Griffiths, who plays Ray. Originally scripted as a possible replacement for Mel, Ray gets a lot to do in this story and fills in as a companion for the Doctor whilst Mel is busy doing whatever it is she does. Griffiths, despite some shaky moments, does well. She also has the benefit of being incredibly cute, which is never a bad thing in my book! Those who watch QVC in the UK will be familiar with Griffiths, and they can also attest that she still looks as good today as back in 87.
Sylvester McCoy is still finding his feet here. For the most part he makes little impression. A few lines scattered throughout make up for this however, and at least hes better here than in Time and the Rani. Bonnie Langford really isnt too bad here. She seems to be playing Mel in a less hyperactive fashion, and although the role of traditional companion is taken by Ray here through a lot of this serial, when she is on-screen she doesnt sink to the depths she did in, say Paradise Towers.
Delta and the Bannermen is a real mixed bag. The basic plot and story idea is quite entertaining, and as someone else has mentioned could have been penned by Douglas Adams. I enjoyed the opening action scenes on the Chimerons home planet, and the way the Doctor defeats the Bannermen through the use of honey is silly, but is in keeping with the rest of the script.
Unfortunately, bland direction from Chris Clough and some more awful incidental music from our mate Keff McCulloch stops this one from being thought of more highly by fans.
I cant help but love Delta and the Bannermen. Its a far from flawless production, and indeed in places is laughably bad, but the overall atmosphere of the piece is so joyous, I always end up getting swept with it. This isnt the turkey some would have you believe. Oh, and did I mention Ray is pretty hot?