Monday 3 July 2017

Black Orchid: a Black Archive experiment

I've not read three of the Black Archive series: The Massacre, The Evil of the Daleks and Ghost Light. So far they've all offered interesting perspectives on their given stories and I'm more than sold on the series. However, with my next purchase I decided to change things up a bit in order to present the series with a bit of a challenge.

You see, those first three books were all on stories with, shall we say, interesting pre-existing debates. The Massacre is a story we know to have been rewritten several times so the actual facts of the narrative are a bit fuzzy. The Evil of the Daleks is largely missing from the archives so there's a lot of mileage to be gained from the book's angle of trying to reconstruct the most authentic version of the story (though, interesting as that was, I fear the angle might become rather trying if replicated for other missing stories). Ghost Light, whilst the only complete story of the three, nevertheless has a story traditionally thought of as hard to follow, at least in received fan wisdom. Plus, all three are set at interesting points in history with two of the three dealing with political debates of those times (the Catholic/Huguenot schism in The Massacre, evolution in Ghost Light).

As you can imagine, I was quite confident all those purchases would get me a riveting read.

So what, I wondered, would this series produce on a less contentious subject? Of the available titles perhaps none offer a less controversial subject matter than Black Orchid.

Now, it isn't that Black Orchid is dull. Its not the most exciting two episodes Doctor Who ever produced but it passes the time pleasantly enough. Its just that I'm not sure what there is to say about it. It exists in its entirety, its from perhaps the most analysed portion of the classic series which is also the era least interested in being “about” anything. Its a simple murder story (not, in any real sense, a mystery) set in an Agatha Christie-esque stately home. There's some crass casual racism, some equally crass casual ableism and a rather dull attempt to give one of the companion actresses something to do by having her play one of the guest roles as well.

There's no great debate about what the story is about, the story is pretty simple. There's no debate about its quality, its neither particularly loved or particularly hated (except, in the latter case, by Peter Davison), its just a one-week filler story between The Visitation and the big Cybermen return of Earthshock.

So I eagerly look foeward to finding out what Ian Millsted will think of to fill his hundred-odd pages.

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