Bonnie Langford is returning to Doctor Who! In preparation for the return of the universe’s most energetic computer programmer, we take a look at some of Mel Bush’s top TARDIS adventures…
Now, we should point out that Bonnie Langford was one of the briefer Doctor Who companions, arriving midway through Season 23 and departing at the end of Season 24 – so we don’t have a massive pool of content to work through. But if you’re curious to know which are the finest and most definitive Bonnie Langford adventures, read on. We may even include a Big Finish or two.
So, in no particular order…
Terror of the Vervoids
This was Bonnie Langford’s first Doctor Who story and formed the third segment of the longer ‘Trial of a Time Lord’ tale from Season 23. Written by Pip and Jane Baker, ‘Terror of the Vervoids’ gives the character of Melanie Bush a fast but concise introduction; the Sixth Doctor doesn’t ‘meet’ her, per se – at least, not in this story. ‘Vervoids’ is actually a glimpse into the Sixth Doctor’s future, so by the time the viewers join the action, Mel has already been travelling in the TARDIS for some time.
And from the get-go, it is clear that the Doctor and Mel have a very different relationship from the one he had with his former companion, Peri Brown. Mel is a health and fitness fanatic, and may be the first companion in Doctor Who history to put the Doctor on a diet. When the story opens, she has him on an exercise machine guzzling copious amounts of carrot juice. It won’t kill him, after all (or it might, depending on how you interpret the Sixth Doctor’s regeneration!)
But ‘Terror of the Vervoids’ also highlights Mel’s intelligence. She is a computer programmer from Pease Pottage, and she has a notably sharp mind and has perfected the art of total recall, which certainly comes in handy during the Doctor’s trial.
Mel’s talents notwithstanding, ‘Terror of the Vervoids’ is actually just a very gripping story – a sort of murder mystery in space inspired by the classic Agatha Christie novel Murder on the Orient Express. It serves as a strong introduction for Bonnie Langford’s character, and is regarded by many as one of the highlights of the ‘Trial of a Time Lord’ season.
The only confusing thing, though, is figuring out how Mel and the Doctor actually met. They appear to meet for the first time at the Time Lord’s space station after the Doctor’s trial, and then travel on to their ‘Vervoids’ adventure some time after this, and then return to the trial after their encounter with the Vervoids, meaning that Mel’s life with the Doctor is, effectively, a continuous loop.
Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey, as they say…
Although Bonnie Langford was only with the programme for a short time, she was one of companions who had to help the Doctor through a regeneration. So by the time we reach ‘Delta and the Bannermen’ in Season 24, Mel’s relationship with the Doctor has been completely redefined. She is no longer a stringent sports coach with a penchant for carrot juice, but is more the Doctor’s foil; she reins in some of his eccentricities, and has become something of an ‘older sister.’
Not that there is anything particularly ‘old’ about Mel Bush. ‘Delta and the Bannermen‘ is a high-energy, rock n’ roll adventure set in a holiday camp in the 1950s and is perfectly suited to the Seventh Doctor and Mel’s frenetic, high-jinks double act. The scene in which the pair race down a country road in a motorcycle and sidecar whilst being pursued by alien mercenaries (to the accompaniment of the Dick Barton theme, no less) is one of the highlights of this story, if not of the whole Seventh Doctor era.
That being said, Bonnie Langford is not simply there as a side-kick, nor comic relief. In ‘Delta and the Bannermen,’ Mel is more than capable of holding her own, and indeed does so on many occasions, even at the risk of her own life. For example, there is a particularly tense moment at the end of Part Two where she is confronted by the Bannermen war fleet, and she lies (at gunpoint) to their murderous leader Gavrok in order to protect her friends.
In short, Bonnie Langford may have been the companion who was remembered for many a high-pitched scream, but she was also one of the bravest. Indeed, her shrieks often came at moments of extreme bravery, and there are plenty of examples of this in ‘Delta,’ and in other stories from Season 23.
Like many actors, Bonnie Langford never really left the world of Doctor Who, even though she went off to do many other notable things (including a major role in Eastenders, no less.) She returned to the character of Mel in the audio world of Big Finish, and produced a great number of adventures alongside the Sixth and Seventh Doctors.
And whilst ‘The High Price of Parking‘ might not be remembered for its epic, doom-laden scenarios on the scale of ‘The Stolen Earth,’ it is a quirky and exciting Seventh Doctor tale penned by John Dorney. And even more interestingly, the adventure paired Bonnie Langford with the Seventh Doctor’s other companion Ace played by Sophie Aldred. In the TV world, these two actors only crossed paths once in the Season 24 story ‘Dragonfire,’ so it’s great that Big Finish were able to find a way to reunite the two characters.
And one of the great things about ‘The High Price of Parking’ is its wonderful weirdness. In the adventure, the TARDIS lands on a planet called Parking, and it does exactly what it says on the tin – it provides a place for space vehicles to, well, park. It’s basically a planet-sized multi-storey, and whilst it may be lacking in the breath-taking views of planets like Darillium, the tale does what Doctor Who does best – it takes a simple, quirky idea and turns it into something sinister. And, let’s face it, it takes a talented writer to craft an exciting story out of a multi-storey carpark. It’s gripping on every level.
So, if you want to hear more of Bonnie Langford’s further Doctor Who adventures, be sure to check out the range on the Big Finish website. ‘The High Price of Parking’ might be a great place to start.
In the meantime, what are you looking forward to most about Bonnie Langford’s return? And which is your favourite of her Doctor Who stories? Let me know in the comments below.
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