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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 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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Release Date 20 September 2019

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

 

Written by Phil Pascoe

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