“Delta and the Bannermen” is another Doctor Who episode from the Sylvester McCoy era that seems to be unsure what sort of story it wants to tell. Doctor Who has always combined the serious and terrifying with the comical, but “Delta and the Bannermen” only rarely seems to achieve and effective balance. Some love it, some hate it. My initial impression was that it took the silly and campy elements too far. But then a quick glance at some other episodes made me realize that the plot was not inherently sillier than many episodes of Doctor Who that I absolutely love.
So here are some key plot elements. The TARDIS materializes on a sort of galactic weigh station, and the Doctor and Mel are identified as their ten billionth customer. As a result, they have won a trip to Disneyland in 1959. Purple aliens transform themselves into human appearance for the trip in a spacecraft made to look like an Earth tour bus.On board, the Chimeron queen Delta is apparently the last survivor of her species, fleeing from the genocidal Bannermen.
The bus-ship collides with a satellite in Earth orbit, and as a result has to make an emergency landing not at Disneyland but at a camp called Shangri-La in Wales.
Apart from the name Shangri La itself, there are really no references to religious themes worth speaking of in the episode. Just lots of 1950s rock and roll.
Ultimately the Bannermen arrive, and the Doctor works to help Delta and her newly hatched princess survive.
Perhaps the most interesting twist in the story is when the character Billy eats some Chimeron food in order to become a Chimeron himself. He eventually departs with Delta and her daughter, with the hope that their species will survive. In reality, an inter-cultural relationship, never mind an interplanetary, interspecies one, is not so easy. But as the Doctor says, “Love has never been known for its rationality.”
You can actually watch the episode online, apparently. Here’s the first video of several: