Chapter 135. Doctor Who – Delta and the Bannermen (1989)

Synopsis: An unexpected holiday for the Doctor and Mel sees them joining a race of shape-changing aliens at a holiday camp in 1950s Wales. Also in the party is a beautiful woman on the run from bloodthirsty killers – and a spy only too happy to betray her. Soon, the holiday camp is the scene for a massacre, retribution… and romance.

Chapter Titles

The chapters are numbered One to Thirty-Two. With additional prologue and epilogue, this steals the record from The Romans for most number of chapters in a novelisation.

Background: Malcolm Kohll adapts his own scripts for a story from 1987. This followed Paradise Towers on TV, so that’s another pair of stories to be released consecutively.

Notes: A prologue reveals that the Doctor takes one sugar in his tea. The TARDIS is in need of a ‘major overhaul’. Now that he’s less burly than his previous incarnation, Mel has stopped forcing carrot juice upon him and is happy to offer him digestive biscuits (which he declines as he doesn’t like how they collapse into his drink – such a beautiful ‘Doctorish’ moment there that I don’t think has ever actually been noted anywhere else). The Doctor keeps a kitty for loose change, which baffles him as it’s always empty. The Tollmaster is ‘a scaly alien wearing a spangly jacket and party hat’; he has ‘a fine set of large white teeth’ (a lovely evocation of Ken Dodd, who played him so memorably on telly). Mel claims she hasn’t been to Earth in ‘ages’, though she’s previously visited the planet Zoth and recognises paintings at the tollgate of ‘Solterns, Giboks and those funny little creatures the Wormese, who, without the aid of appendages of any kind, propel themselves along by the sheer force of their exhalations’. The Navarinos from ‘the tri-polar moon Navarro’ are ‘squat hairy beings which resemble artichokes’; Murray, the Nostalgia Tours pilot, is ‘ a round, leafy, hairy creature’. 

The Chimeron homeworld is called Chumeria – also known as ‘the Garden Planet of the Universe’. Chimerons are ‘soft and pupa-like’ and have ‘silvery-green skin and vivid blue eyes’. The two American agents are Lex Hawk and Jerome P Weismuller; Weismuller’s wife is called May. The ‘soldier of fortune’, Keillor’, knows of ‘the traveller called the Doctor’ (on TV, he knows the Doctor is a ‘traveller in time’). The Doctor has heard of Gavrok and ‘his violent ways’ – is he really the acidental tourist he’s pretending to be?

Outside Delta’s cabin, Billy hears Mels’ scream and shoulders the door open to see the Chimeron baby emerging from its shell (the telly version has him arrive shortly afterwards). Burton was a major in the army twenty years ago, when Vinny had served as his batman; they’ve worked together ever since. Among the party of Navarinos are Adlon, Crovassi, Diptek, Ethnon, Frag, Gil and Herret. Two of the Bannermen are named Arrex and Callon. The Doctor once rode a vehicle similar to Ray’s motorbike on the planet Themlon that left him ‘TARDIS-bound for a week afterwards’. According to Weismuller, Gavrok is ‘about seven feet tall’, though this comes as part of his otherwise rather exaggerated summary of his role in the battle against the Bannermen. In Billy’s chalet is a record player with a copy of ‘Gamblin’ Man’ by Lonnie Donegan. By the time he leaves with Delta, Billy has become ‘pure Chimeron’.

In the epilogue, having safely installed Delta and her child on the Chimeron brood planet, Billy delivers the surviving Bannermen to a galactic court before returning to his new home. The Bannermen decide that, should they ever find themselves free, they’ll set up a weaving collective to make rugs they can sell across the galaxy. Ray takes the Vincent aboard a ferry intent on exploring the world, while, on board the TARDIS, Mel subjects the Doctor to an old recording of Rock Around the Clock.

Infamously, a typo on page 54 presents the Doctor as ‘peeing’ over a shelf. The credits at the front of the book list Michael Ferguson, not Chris Clough, as the director (a hint at the story coming up next). Worst of all though, the spine on the first edition presented the title of the story as ‘Delta and the Bannerman’ – singular. This is corrected for the reprint, which lists the book as number ‘153’ in the library.

Cover: Alister Pearson’s artwork has echoes of Jeff Cummins’ cover for The Face of Evil as the Doctor’s face appears inside a circular frame, with the Shangri-La sign arching above, a Bannerman bearing his gun and the Sputnik satellite and the Chimeron egg at the bottom. Wonderfully, the composition forms the inverted silhouette of Mickey Mouse (hinting at the intended destination of the Navarino bus).

Final Analysis: There are people who don’t love Delta and the Bannermen (I know, right?) and they should be pitied. For the rest of us, we can also enjoy Malcolm Kohll’s sole entry in the Target library. All the joyful craziness of the TV episodes is present and correct, but like all the best authors for the range, Kohll enhances little details as he goes and the epilogue is delicious. In particular, the rather unconvincing romance at the heart of the story is boosted and Billy in particular is shown to be a young man of integrity and decency (especially in his pleading for a little mercy on behalf of the Bannermen at the Galactic Court).

Just a sidenote – back in The Two Doctors we were presented with, er, two Doctors who were resolute in their belief that Androgums cannot be augmented and will always revert to their baser qualities. It’s a rather worrying colonial view of an entire race, though there are actually few examples of aliens having much nuance generally in Doctor Who (the Ice Warriors are a notable exception). Here, while he offers a note of caution towards Billy’s decision to become a Chimeron, ultimately he wishes him well. We have a much more liberal interpretaton of the Doctor here, which feels much more like a ‘modern’ version, willing to be more compassionate and making allowance for personal choices. Delta and the Bannermen might be a little light as Doctor Who stories go, but it’s also an utter gem. I’d have liked to have seen Kohll’s approach to someone else’s scripts.

2 thoughts on “Chapter 135. Doctor Who – Delta and the Bannermen (1989)

  1. “Delta and the Bannerman” as a title for the story seems to evoke early rock and roll band names like Link Wray and his Ray Men. My mum was serving with the Army in Germany when Doctor Who started, so she only heard about it remotely from home rather than being able to see it. Everyone was on about “Dr Who and the Daleks” and she assumed from this term that they were a rock and roll band!

    Liked by 2 people

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