Friday, March 1, 2013

7F3 - Delta and the Bannermen 3

Not only was Delta and the Bannermen one of the first stories to be made completely on location, and the first to be produced in three 25 minute episodes, but it was also the first time the series had truly embraced pop culture. In the rare moments in the past that The Doctor has referenced something that was "popular", it seemed oddly false. Apart from the famous instance of The Beatles appearing in The Chase (which instantly made William Hartnell hip, if only because William Russell's dancing wasn't), The Third Doctor's bizarre mention of Batman in Inferno is the only notable mention of something mainstream that was created after the Boer War.

Delta and the Bannermen is an all-out celebration of the 1950s. Hitting the screen at a time when the tropes of the 1950s were enormously popular thanks to movies like Back to the Future, this story is not only referencing Great Britain's recent past and the rock and roll years for the first time ever, it's trying to ride the wave of what was then a current trend. Even Keff McCulloch's score, easily his best (or perhaps his least worst, for you detractors out there) serves to join in on the fun, and, for once, the overall jauntiness of McCulloch's music adds to the action, rather than grates on the nerves.

It helps that this meshes well with Sylvester McCoy's coming out party as The Seventh Doctor. Just like the disguises and overall clowning of Patrick Troughton being largely discarded midway through his first season as Doctor #2, McCoy's pratfalls and malapropisms are almost completely absent here. He is also at his most Doctor-ly, awkwardly dancing with Ray, unsure how to comfort her when her affection for Billy goes unnoticed, relishing the overall atmosphere of the garish holiday camp that the bus has become stranded in, and so on. The Seventh Doctor is shown as someone who isn't looking for a home, but as someone who is sad that he no longer has one. His mannerisms suit the 1950s (the "real 50s", as he describes the holiday camp in comparison to the traditional American icons of hula hoops and Chevy '57s) - an era empowered with youthful enthusiasm, but still maintained by old guard ideals. The way McCoy mournfully hugs a Stratocaster near the end of the story is almost touching - clinging to a time that he was never really a part of.

Delta and the Bannermen is one of the funnest stories to watch for me. At a time when there were only four stories and fourteen episodes of Doctor Who in one calendar year, this story might have been seen as a waste of a quarter of a season when more important, vital stories in the canon of The Doctor could have been told. But this is a new programme, casting off the burden of its past and enjoying its new, unfettered future, unsure of what's to follow, but eager to take on anything that might come its way. It's a sweet, innocent story of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and is one of the jewels of the McCoy era.


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