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Orchid House, The (1991)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Part One: The Return of Master (originally transmitted Channel 4, 21/12/1991)

The Caribbean island of Dominica, 1938. Madam shares her secluded hillside-villa with a bizarre ménage-a-trois, with Master, her mentally disturbed husband, and Mamselle, a former governess. Her daughters, Stella and Natalie, live abroad in Trinidad, America and England. Stella is returning to the island, accompanied by her son, news which Madam shares with Lally, the family's retired African nanny. As Lally contemplates the visit, she is plunged back 20 years, to the end of World War I. The island is still controlled by the social forces that ruled from slavery - the plantocracy and the Catholic Church. Lally, the house cook, Christophine, and her young son, Baptiste, wait with the family for the return of Master from the Great War in Europe. Madam, a creole insecure about her own social status, wonders why Master has delayed his return. Master and the other war veterans return to a hero's welcome, but remains cold towards Madam. The girls give him a puppy, Flanders, which he subsequently kills.

Meanwhile, Madam's brother, Marse Rufus, seeks advice from Master on how to improve himself and his magazine, but is humiliated by an indifferent Master, who is now suffering fits. Seeking peace, he employs a Mr Lilipoulala, an African heroin dealer from Haiti. At the end of episode one he has become a slave to Lilipoulala.