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Black Archive, The

The Black Archive, a series of book-length looks at single Doctor Who stories from 1963 to the present day.

 

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The Black Archive 24: The Time Warrior

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"I am an expert at war, Irongron.’

 

This Black Archive looks at how the US involvement in Vietnam combined with author Robert Holmes’s experience of the Second World War in Burma and consciousness of Britain’s imperial decline to create Doctor Who’s first Sontaran, Linx.

 

It also explores how the serial’s medievalism invoked a shared cultural memory of Gothic and Romantic literature and cinema to launch not only one of the series’ most enduring alien races but also one of its best-loved heroines, Sarah Jane Smith."

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The Black Archive 25: The TV Movie

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‘I can’t make your dream come true forever, but I can make it come true today.’

 

In 1996 the Doctor Who TV movie gave new hope to a generation of fans, but it quickly proved a false dawn. While the production’s successes and failures have been exhaustively documented, the script, with its unique perspective on the Doctor’s Britishness, has been given lesser attention.

 

With the help of a viewer survey and interview with screenwriter Matthew Jacobs, this Black Archive fills that gap.

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The Black Archive 26: The Daemons

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Something is wrong in Devil’s End. An archaeologist is overly eager in his attempts to dig into a barrow, a local white witch is foretelling doom and destruction, and the old vicar has disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

 

The Dæmons (1971) is a celebration of occult and new age history and culture, a story that cherry-picks from sources as diverse as Goethe, Kneale and Lovecraft. But how did this most unusual Doctor Who story become such a nostalgic touchstone for the era?

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The Black Archive 27: The Face of Evil

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‘You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common…’

 

When Robert Holmes and Philip Hinchcliffe asked Chris Boucher to write about a civilisation that breaks down when its controlling computer fails, Boucher handed in an outline called ‘The Day God Went Mad’. The finished serial, retitled The Face of Evil (1977), featured a giant stone face of the fourth Doctor and the introduction of Leela.

 

This volume of the Black Archive puts the ‘mad god’ Xoanon on the couch for analysis – but also examines the stereotypes of ‘madness’ and Freudian explanations for behaviour that pervade the serial (and the series).

 

Viewing the serial through a psychological lens uncovers answers to many questions, including whether the different Doctors are really so different, what madness means in Doctor Who, why exactly Leela’s eyes had to be brown, and whether Boucher really based his script on a novel by Harry Harrison. Bonus features include a report on a study of the Doctor’s personality and a new interview with Boucher.

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The Black Archive 28: Love and Monsters

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‘Let me tell you something about those who get left behind.’

 

Russell T Davies’ tale of regular people searching for the Doctor has become one of the most divisive episodes in Doctor Who history. Diving into the narrative theories of Bertolt Brecht, Viktor Shklovsky, Henry Jenkins, Stuart Hall and many others, this Black Archive on Love & Monsters explores how one profoundly alienating story made us see our favourite alien time traveller in a whole new light.

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The Black Archive 29: The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon

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The Black Archive, a series of book-length looks at single Doctor Who stories from 1963 to the present day.

 

‘A lot more happens in ’69 than anyone remembers.’

 

Starting with the Doctor’s death and ending with a shootout against alien abductors, The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon is an audacious start to a season that redefines the relationship between the 11th Doctor and his companions and raises questions about his motives and methods. It presents a Doctor on the back foot, knowing less about his predicament than his friends do and willing to take desperate, ethically questionable action against his enemies. It introduces the Silents, monsters whose ability to control humans through subliminal suggestion has profound philosophical implications. It also engages playfully with recent history while subverting the ‘celebrity historical’ format by forcing the Doctor to team up with one of the 20th century’s less well regarded political figures.

 

This book delves deeply into the iconography of The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon, pointing out its thematic strength as a story and as part of Doctor Who, before considering in detail the moral dimension of the story’s controversial resolution.

 

Written by John Toon

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The Black Archive 30: The Dalek Invasion of Earth

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“Survivors of London, the Daleks are the masters of Earth. Surrender now and you will live.”

 

The story of the Daleks’ return to Doctor Who in The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964) has been told in multiple media, but for this Black Archive, Jonathan Morris has had unparalleled access to the many variants of the scripts.

 

After 55 years, learn the identity of ‘The Waking Ally’, discover Milton Subotsky’s working draft of the second feature film, and find out why the iconic shot of the Daleks crossing Westminster Bridge doesn’t appear in the actual story.

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The Black Archive 31: Warriors' Gate

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The shadow of my past and of your future.’

 

Representative of Doctor Who at its most experimental, narratively and visually, Warriors’ Gate (1981) was the rich by-product of a producer seeking to modernise the series for the 1980s, a radio writer and novelist who had never written for television, and a film director with one television drama to his credit.

 

Examining television authorship in the 1980s, and using archive research and new interviews, this Black Archive traces the development of writer Stephen Gallagher’s scripts and their onscreen realisation by producer John Nathan-Turner, script editor Christopher Bidmead, and director Paul Joyce.

 

Similarly, it explores the story’s complex blend of absurd tragicomedy, quantum theory, randomness and entropy, within the context of British New Wave SF, the philosophy of science, modernist theatre, film and television, German Romantic painting, pop video, and the development of electronic video effects. Many ‘authors’ contributed to the transmitted version of Warriors’ Gate and the book also considers whether it can be claimed as the work of a single author given the collaborative nature of its troubled production.

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The Black Archive 32: The Romans

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The Black Archive, a series of book-length looks at single Doctor Who stories from 1963 to the present day

 

Written by Jacob Edwards

 

‘Oh, something else I forgot to tell you: I think I’ve poisoned Nero.’

 

Following 53 episodes of unbroken action adventure, The Romans (1965) was Doctor Who’s first ever comedy. Beyond this seminal place in history – beyond the serial’s clever script, vigorous direction, fine acting and all the humour – it remains notable as an expression of 1960s culture, counterculture, and a burgeoning spirit of reinvention.

 

The Romans afforded us the gift of laughter and allowed Doctor Who the freedom to shed its skin.

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The Black Archive 33: Horror of Fang Rock

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The Black Archive, a series of book-length looks at single Doctor Who stories from 1963 to the present day

 

Written by Matthew Guerreri

 

‘Yes, I always find trouble.’

An isolated Edwardian lighthouse, mysterious deaths, an unexpected shipwreck, a body-snatching alien: Horror of Fang Rock (1977) distils Doctor Who’s vein of Gothic horror, setting the Doctor in a locale that mirrors and amplifies his duality. The story intersects with the lore of the lighthouse as historical icon, as technological compendium, and as literary allegory, to probe the limits of knowledge, the artifice of class and the dangers of narrative.

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The Black Archive 34: Battlefield

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The Black Archive, a series of book-length looks at single Doctor Who stories from 1963 to the present day

 

‘Is this honour? Is this war?’

 

Battlefield (1989) sees a clash of mythologies, as the progressive, anti-racist, sporadically pacifist Doctor Who of the late 1980s takes on Britain’s authoritarian, chivalric national myth of King Arthur. With a script by Ben Aaronovitch, now a bestselling urban fantasy novelist but then only the writer of the previous year’s acclaimed Remembrance of the Daleks (1988), it forms with its predecessor a ‘philosophical pair’, replacing its 1960s setting with an imagined 1990s and showing a Doctor dealing with the repercussions of his future actions, rather than his past.

 

Even as a script Battlefield falls short of complete success, yet it remains an emotionally literate, politically engaged and thematically complex piece. It finds areas of overlap between Andrew Cartmel’s radical conception of Doctor Who and Arthurian myth in the legend of a past golden age, represented by the return of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and UNIT, and in the identification of the Doctor – always presented by the series as a wizard, a prophet and a mentor – with Merlin. It interrogates the patriarchal attitudes of both the Arthurian myths and 1970s Doctor Who from a contemporary perspective, and questions the attitudes to war found in both.

 

It also does an exemplary job of worldbuilding, sketching in a convincing near future based on a handful of lines, and presents a complex, questionable, even sympathetic villain motivated by a value system alien to our own. Finally, it raises questions of predestination: through the other characters’ foreknowledge of the Doctor’s future; through the fate apparently decreed for Ancelyn and Bambera; and, perhaps, through the Brigadier’s survival of a story whose structure seems to demand that he should die.

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The Black Archive 35: Timelash

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The Black Archive, a series of book-length looks at single Doctor Who stories from 1963 to the present day

 

‘After all, he does have an interesting story to tell.’

 

Most people watching Timelash (1985) these days are probably re-watching, and hold firmly to their opinions about this often maligned two-parter. But here are some questions to consider.

How do the ideas of HG Wells haunt Timelash? His socialism? His feminism? Do both Wells and Doctor Who fall short of their ideals in the same ways? How does power speak on

Karfel? Is the Borad a ventriloquist? Is the Borad vegan? Can idealism succeed in Doctor Who in an era script-edited by a profound cynic? And where have we seen that sofa before?

By asking fresh questions of Timelash, this Black Archive may allow new and old viewers to see the story in a different light – indeed, perhaps, as the most luminous force in this part of the galaxy.

Written by Phil Pascoe

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