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Gavrok Serial 7F:
Delta And The Bannermen

Working Title: The Flight Of The Chimeron.

Starring: Sylvester McCoy (The Seventh Doctor), Bonnie Langford (Mel Bush).

Plot
The Doctor and Mel win a vacation on a time-travelling tour bus to a 1950s holiday camp. Also on the bus is Delta, the last of the Chimeron race, who is being hunted by the genocidal Bannermen and their brutish leader, Gavrok. When a mercenary on the bus alerts Gavrok to Delta's whereabouts, it is up to the Doctor and Mel to stop the assassins and find a way to give the Chimerons a new lease on life.

Production
One of the writers contacted by script editor Andrew Cartmel shortly after he joined Doctor Who in early 1987 was Malcolm Kohll, a young writer working with the BBC's Script Unit. Kohll was invited to pitch ideas for Season Twenty-Four, with producer John Nathan-Turner suggesting that he consider a story set in Wales (where Kohll's brother lived) in the recent past. From this, Kohll began to develop a concept entitled The Flight Of The Chimeron. In order to save money, Nathan-Turner had decided that the final six episodes of the season should comprise two three-part serials, both made by the same production team. One story would be made entirely on location and the other entirely in studio; Flight would be the season's location-only adventure while Ian Briggs' The Pyramid's Treasure would be studio-bound.

Another factor influencing Kohll's scripts was the decision in mid-January by Bonnie Langford that she would leave Doctor Who around the end of the season, although she raised the possibility of returning for the first serial or two of Season Twenty-Five if other commitments permitted it. This disappointed Nathan-Turner, who felt that a tenure of only two abbreviated seasons (or less) was insufficient for the character. Because of the uncertainty over exactly when Langford would be leaving, Nathan-Turner decided to ask both Kohll and Briggs to include potential female companions in their stories. In particular, the producer was concerned that there be at least one serial featuring both Mel and the new companion, to provide better continuity within the programme. This would also help determine the season's final running order, as the potential had existed all along that, although The Flight Of The Chimeron was to be made before The Pyramid's Treasure, it might be broadcast afterward.

Kohll's contribution to this plan was the character of Ray, although Cartmel himself had designed a new companion, called Alf, who might be substituted in Ray's place. As it happened, by the time production on The Flight Of The Chimeron came around, Langford had not yet decided when she would depart Doctor Who, and so Briggs' creation -- Ace -- became the new companion. It was also felt that Ray's amiable demeanour would make for less of a contrast with Mel than the rough-edged Ace. Although it looked for a time that The Flight Of The Chimeron was the stronger contender to cap off Season Twenty-Four, this turn of events effectively relegated it to penultimate status.

In writing The Flight Of The Chimeron, one of Kohll's early thoughts was that the adventure would reveal that the Americans had launched a satellite in advance of the Russian Sputnik, only to have it knocked out of orbit by the Nostalgia Tours spacebus. This would have set the proceedings firmly in 1957, but when Cartmel realised that Flight was running overlength, it was decided to cut this element from the storyline, along with additional background on the Bannermen (revealing that they had polluted their own planet to the point that it was rendered uninhabitable). At the same time, though, rock 'n roll music was becoming a prevalent aspect of the scripts. Since the adventure could now be set later, in 1959, far more rock music would be available for the production team to use. Because the rights to use the original songs would be far too expensive, incidental music composer Keff McCulloch was asked to assemble a band to record cover versions of the tracks. Made up of studio musicians and a singing duo called the Wilson Sisters (one of whom McCulloch would later marry), this band appeared as the Lorells in episode one. David Kinder, cast as Billy, also contributed vocals.

Although EastEnders director Bob Gabriel was initially tapped to direct Serial 7F, the job eventually went to Chris Clough, who had handled the final six episodes of The Trial Of A Time Lord the year before. Clough's original selection to play Ray was Welsh actress Lynn Gardner. Unfortunately, Gardner suffered a bad fall while practising riding a scooter in a parking lot, rendering her unavailable for the recording dates. Gardner was given the role of the announcer in the subsequent serial by way of recompense, and Sara Griffiths was brought in to play Ray. Meanwhile, no fewer than four actresses were cast as Delta's daughter: six-month-old Jessica McGough, four year-old Amy Osborn, nine year-old Laura Collins, and twelve year-old Carley Joseph.

Location recording began on June 24th at Springwell Lock Quarry in Rickmansworth, Buckinghamshire, before heading out to complete the bulk of the work in South Glamorgan, Wales, principally in the vicinity of the Majestic Holiday Camp on Barry Island. Poor weather during the initial part of the two-week shoot put Clough and his team behind schedule, meaning that Nathan-Turner was forced to act briefly as second unit director. Fortunately, the weather improved immensely thereafter, and Clough was more than able to get the taping back on track. One minor incident occurred on July 4th, when a small explosive charge went off prematurely and Sylvester McCoy was struck by some debris. Fortunately, he was not seriously injured although the experience did leave him with a bad headache.

The only studio material necessary were the TARDIS sequences. These were recorded on August 12th, the first day of the second studio session for the season's final serial, now renamed Dragonfire. Shortly before transmission, the decision was made to change The Flight Of The Chimeron's title to the more Fifties-sounding Delta And The Bannermen, a name which had briefly been considered back in May. Although Cartmel was interested in working with the writer again, Delta proved to be Kohll's only involvement with Doctor Who, although he was later contacted about the 1996 revival of the series, coproduced by the BBC and Universal Television.

Details
Original Transmission Details
Episode Date Time Duration Viewers Audience App.
1 2nd November 1987 7.35pm 24'47" 5.3m (90th) 63%
2 9th November 1987 7.36pm 24'23" 5.1m (93rd) 60%
3 16th November 1987 7.35pm 24'22" 5.4m (87th) 60%

Principal Crew
Producer John Nathan-Turner
Script Editor Andrew Cartmel
Writer Malcolm Kohll
Directors Chris Clough
John Nathan-Turner, uncredited
Designer John Asbridge
Costume Richard Croft
Incidental Music Keff McCulloch

Principal Guest Cast: Richard Davies (Burton), Morgan Deare (Hawk), Ken Dodd (Tollmaster), Sara Griffiths (Ray), Don Henderson (Gavrok), Brian Hibbard (Keillor), Stubby Kaye (Weissmuller), David Kinder (Billy), Hugh Lloyd (Goronwy), Belinda Mayne (Delta).

Novelisation: Delta And The Bannermen by Malcolm Kohll (book 135), January 1989; cover by Alister Pearson.

Video Release: Delta And The Bannermen, episodic format, March 2001; PAL (BBC Video cat.# 7131) and NTSC (Warners cat.# E1649) formats available; photomontage cover.

Rankings: 151st (48.74%, Doctor Who Dynamic Rankings website, 22nd June 1999); 150th (50.78%, DWM 1997 Annual Survey).

Sources


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