Fear of the Dark, by Trevor Baxendale

Second paragraph of thrid chapter:

‘Ordinarily, no,’ agreed the Doctor. He regarded Nyssa with a look of consternation. ‘But in this case, I think it could be something rather extraordinary. Tell me about the dream again.’

Back at the start of the 2010s, I read through all of the New Adventures, Missing Adventures, Eighth Doctor Adventures and Past Doctor Adventures at the rate of two or three a month, and wrote them up here as I went – except that at the end of 2014 and the first part of 2015, I was so overwhelmed with Arthur C. Clarke Award reading and other things that I just never got around to blogging them. So I’m going back to the missing entries now, in order of internal chronology, and that means starting with this novel of the Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa, set immediately after Arc of Infinity.

Trevor Baxendale is usually reliable as a Who writer (see in particular The Janus Conjunction and Prisoner of the Daleks), and I think this is one of his better books too. The TARDIS lands on a moon where the team encounters a crew of archaeologists (or are they?) and an ancient evil is unleashed from the depths. Lots of very creepy description and good characterisation, and a couple of welcome shout-outs to Old Who. A good start to this mini-project. You can get it here.

Next up: The Ultimate Treasure, by Christopher Bulis.

Land of the Blind, by Scott Gray, Lee Sullivan, Gareth Roberts, Martin Geraghty, Dan Abnett et mult al

Second frame of third story (“Food for Thought”, written by Nick Briggs, art by Colin Andrew)

This had been on my shelves for ages, a compilation of six graphic stories from Doctor Who Magazine in 1993-95, featuring the first five Doctors. My particular discovery is Colin Andrew, a Scottish artist who did a total of six Doctor Who strips, two of which are collected here (see frame above); I think he captures both form and movement really well, and experiments with the boundaries of the frames on the page with interesting results. (Not everyone thinks so; I found another online review which says that his art is the weakest point of the book.)

I think most people will agree that the two Second Doctor stories by Warwick Gray, now known as Scott Gray, are the high points – especially the exploration of Doctor vs Daleks in the last one, “Bringer of Darkness”. There is lively commentary at the back from writers and artists (except Colin Andrew, who had died before this collection was put together), including an apology from Nick Briggs for his sexist portrayal of Polly in what is still his only comics script, thirty years on. This had lingered quite a long time on my shelf but was worth the wait. You can get it here.

This was my top unread English-language comic – next on that pile is Monica, by Daniel Clowes

Kinda, by Frank Collins (and Christopher Bailey, and Terrance Dicks)

I vividly remember watching Kinda when it was first shown in 1982, and being a little baffled but also a little reassured; I wanted interesting adventures on distant planets, like we had largely had in the Tom Baker years, and apart from the one production fail of the snake itself, we got it.

When I rewatched it in 2008, I wrote:

I also saw Kinda on first showing in 1982, and in some ways it is even less comprehensible than Logopolis, though in other ways it is fairly clear what is going on – giant pink snake trying to penetrate Tegan’s inner recesses, and all that. It is one of Doctor Who’s most successful takes on colonialism (a theme the Pertwee era consistently tried and failed with) even though that isn’t really the point of the story. Wood and Miles point to the influence of Ursula Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest, and while I can see that, I think it may be a more general reflection of the ecological concerns of the day. The deep themes are laid on pretty heavily – the apple in paradise, the reflections of the “real” world in Tegan’s dream, and on the whole we are shown rather than told about it. There are some impressive performances – Janet Fielding as Tegan of course, the three colonial officers (though we never find out what happened to their missing colleagues) the two Kinda women and the Trickster, which means you can almost overlook the cheapness of the sets and how wooden Adric is. Rather fascinating.

When I rewatched it in 2011 as part of my Great Rewatch, I wrote:

I had forgotten quite how fantastic Kinda is. Even the snake at the end is not as bad as I remembered. But it’s a brilliant tour de force of explorations of reality, possession by spiritual forces, possession by colonial agents, about speaking and not speaking. Again, Janet Fielding is the best of the regular cast, but everyone is good, especially of course Simon Rouse as the increasingly deranged Hindle, and Mary Morris – only in two of the four episodes, but bloody hell, what a performance – as Panna. But nobody is actually bad; Nerys Hughes and Richard Todd, big name actors hired to perform auxiliary parts, lift it; even Matthew Waterhouse, delivered with yet another Adric-as-potential-traitor script, more or less rises to the occasion; and though I see some fan criticism of Sarah Prince as Karuna I must say I find her performance pretty luminous and interesting.

It does show the value of watching Who in sequence. Taken as an attempt at a serious big-picture SF story, it would probably fail because of the limited means available. But when one bears in mind the production constraints, and considers the story as a televised theatrical piece, it really ought to blow you away. I don’t have time or energy to wax more lyrical on the subject, so just let me refer you to a brilliant write-up of the story here. [link now long dead].

Just before we go any further, here is Mary Morris 42 years earlier at the age of 25, performing the dance of the robotic Silver Maiden in The Thief of Baghdad:

As with Paradise Towers, I enjoyed revisiting Kinda, and it almost reminds me of the early Hartnell stories which were trying to tell big picture space parables in a fairly small production and budget space. Adric is still annoying, and the snake still disappoints, but the rest of it all works very well, and this was a rewatch that was more rewarding than I had hoped.

An easy pass for the Bechdel test, with four women guest characters and at least one regular (Nyssa only in briefly, but two versions of Tegan), all of whom talk to each other about various things other than men.

Terrance Dicks wrote the novelisation, and it’s not one of his more energetic efforts. The second paragraph of the third chapter is:

She stared challengingly at this new apparition. ‘I suppose you’re also going to tell me I don’t exist?’

When I reread it in 2008, I wrote:

Another standard write-up, not doing any favours to a story whose impact was visual and implicit.

Nothing to add to that. You can get it here.

Frank Collins’ Black Archive monograph on the story follows his previous writing on Warriors Gate and on the first Matt Smith season. As usual, it is dense but enjoyable, one of the longer Black Archives, with seven chapters. Like the monograph of Paradise Towers, it has clearly benefited from a lot of dialogue with the original writer of the story, in this case Christopher Bailey.

The first chapter, ‘An Eccentric Chain-Smoking Buddhist’, looks at Bailey’s personal biography and other work, and convincingly shows how a mild-mannered but politically radical playwright who had not previously touched science fiction ended up writing Kinda.

The second chapter, ‘Only Ever One Ingredient in the Stew’, looks head-on at the Buddhist themes in the story (and the limited visibility of Buddhism elsewhere in Doctor Who).

The third chapter, ‘The Important Part is the Melody’ looks at the behind-the-scene story of the commissioning and production of Kinda. In particular, Eric Saward as script editor rewrote large parts of the last two episodes, and Christopher Bailey then rewrote them again. Its second paragraph is:

However, changes were made to the scripts of The Kinda under the guidance of three different script editors. After his initial consultation with Bidmead, apart from several phone calls and letters, Bailey doesn’t recall meeting in person with him again. Bidmead later saw that Bailey was exploring a ‘strong Buddhist element’ on his own terms and while Kinda ‘lacked the form and structure and indeed the sort of subject that I thought was essential to Doctor Who […] nevertheless, it had an extraordinarily haunting quality to it’3.
3 Bidmead, ‘Dream Time’.

The fourth and longest chapter, ‘The Power of Life and Death, Over All of You!’, starts by looking at the casting of Richard Todd and Simon Rouse and the postcolonial context (unfortunately he says nothing about Nerys Hughes), and goes on to look at theories of ancient science, and then sources of inspiration such as Ursula Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, with a brief coda on cargo cults.

The fifth chapter, ‘Otherwise Out There Gets In. Do You See?’, looks at Hindle’s disintegration, Christianity and imperialism, matriarchy and the Box of Jhana, and the Mara and Janet Fielding’s sensuous performance.

The sixth chapter, ‘The Mara Turns the Wheel of Life. It Ends as it Began’, begins and ends with the Box of Jhana again, and also looks at the unfortunate fact that all the actors are white and how this intersects with the colonial themes, and at the uncomfortable role of prophecy in the story.

The seventh chapter, ‘There is Great Danger in Dreaming Alone’, looks at dark places (Conrad again), the imperfect implementation of Bailey’s vision for gender roles among the Kinda, and the late rewrites of especially the last episode to foreground the Buddhist themes more visibly.

I sometimes complain about the Black Archives on less good Doctor Who stories, that they cannot bear the freights of the interpretation placed on them by the Black Archive authors. This is not one of those cases, and it’s a great rick unpacking of the themes informing the story and how they were realised on the screen. (Though I’d still have liked a bit more about Nerys Hughes.) You can get it here.

The Black Archives
1st Doctor: Marco Polo (18) | The Myth Makers (65) | The Dalek Invasion of Earth (30) | The Romans (32) | The Massacre (2)
2nd Doctor: The Underwater Menace (40) | The Evil of the Daleks (11) | The Mind Robber (7)
3rd Doctor: Doctor Who and the Silurians (39) | The Ambassadors of Death (3) | The Dæmons (26) | Carnival of Monsters (16) | The Time Warrior (24) | Invasion of the Dinosaurs (55)
4th Doctor: Pyramids of Mars (12) | The Hand of Fear (53) | The Deadly Assassin (45) | The Face of Evil (27) | The Robots of Death (43) | Talons of Weng-Chiang (58) | Horror of Fang Rock (33) | Image of the Fendahl (5) | The Sun Makers (60) | The Stones of Blood (47) | Full Circle (15) | Warriors’ Gate (31)
5th Doctor: Kinda (62) | Black Orchid (8) | Earthshock (51) | The Awakening (46)
6th Doctor: Vengeance on Varos (41) | Timelash (35) | The Ultimate Foe (14)
7th Doctor: Paradise Towers (61) | Battlefield (34) | The Curse of Fenric (23) | Ghost Light (6)
8th Doctor: The Movie (25) | The Night of the Doctor (49)
Other Doctor: Scream of the Shalka (10)
9th Doctor: Rose (1) | Dalek (54)
10th Doctor: The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit (17) | Love & Monsters (28) | Human Nature / The Family of Blood (13) | The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords (38)
11th Doctor: The Eleventh Hour (19) | Vincent and the Doctor (57) | The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang (44) | The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon (29) | The God Complex (9) | The Rings of Akhaten (42) | Day of the Doctor (50)
12th Doctor: Listen (36) | Kill the Moon (59) | The Girl Who Died (64) | Dark Water / Death in Heaven (4) | Face the Raven (20) | Heaven Sent (21) | Hell Bent (22)
13th Doctor: Arachnids in the UK (48) | Kerblam! (37) | The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos (52) | The Haunting of Villa Diodati (56) | Flux (63)

Earthshock, by Eric Saward, Ian Marter and Brian J. Robb

I vividly remember watching Earthshock on first broadcast in 1982, at the age of fourteen, and, like many viewers, being pleasantly thrilled by the appearance of the Cybermen in the first episode, and then traumatised by the demise of Adric in the last. This was only a few months after Blake’s 7 ended with the entire team being mown down by the bad guys. BBC science fiction was getting brutal. (It always had been, but it was possible to pretend otherwise.)

When I rewatched it for the first time in 25 years in 2007, I wrote:

As it happens I’ve just been reading Tat Wood and Lawrence Miles on the first two Cyberman stories, The Tenth Planet and The Moonbase, and it’s interesting that Cyberman stories seem particularly lacking on plot plausibility or scientific credibility (particularly as the scientific credentials of their co-creator Kit Pedler were widely touted by the BBC). I think the Cybermen are particularly naff here (but I haven’t seen Silver Nemesis, so there may be worse in store for me). Their plan makes no sense at all, they are less strong than their android slaves, and their failure to shoot all their enemies when they have the chance is totally illogical. In addition the Cyber-controller comes very close to displaying emotions (“Excellent!”).

Another annoying thing about the story is the way in which the troopers and scientists all merrily crowd into the TARDIS, which has normally been the private space of the Doctor and companions (indeed, we see Adric’s own teenage private space in the first episode – he likes decorating it a lot more than Susan did). Once Cybermen start wandering all round the TARDIS shooting people (like the unfortunate Professor Kyle, played by Clare Clifford who was later to try and seduce Anna/Daniela Nardini in This Life – and wouldn’t you?) it almost feels like just deserts for being over-hospitable to armed earthlings. Earlier Doctors would never have allowed it. (When Salamander violates TARDIS sanctity in The Enemy of the World, he gets sucked into the vortex.)

One good thing about the story, and a striking contrast with The Tenth Planet and The Moonbase, is the number of women in leadership roles – Professor Kyle, Beryl Reid as starship captain, plus numerous others. And unlike some commentators I thought both Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton turned in good performances in their roles.

I remember at the time, when the first episode was broadcast, being slightly startled by Adric suddenly developing a personality after a year and a half of appearing without one. Of course this was build-up to him being killed off in the last episode, and that sequence, the credits being rolled in silence over a picture of his gold star for mathematical excellence, is still effective now; shame they didn’t spend more time on building up the character over the previous months.

When I came back to it in 2011 for my Great Rewatch, I wrote:

Earthshock is a different matter [to Black Orchid]. It has brilliant bits and terrible bits. The bits I don’t like: the adolescent spat between Adric and the Doctor, a bolted on bit of inconsistent characterisation to make us feel more interested in Adric before he dies; the androids, which make no sense; the Cybermen’s plan, which makes no sense at all (though that at least is traditional for Cyber-stories); the Cyber-Controller’s emotional glee; the Tardis becoming not only a taxi but a battleground, which runs against all the history of pre-JNT Who. (I’m glad that New Who has kept it as a place of refuge on the whole.)

But there are a couple of brilliant bits as well. The Cybermen’s watching of clips from The Tenth PlanetThe Wheel in Space and Revenge of the Cybermen is actually rather reassuring that this is still Doctor Who, despite the full turnover of cast in the last year or so and the new style of the JNT era, and equally reassuring that these Cybermen (despite the personal peculiarities of the Cyber-Controller) are the same as the ones we saw before – this is the first returning villain who actually looks the same as last time they appeared since Destiny of the Daleks two years ago (the Master doesn’t count). It may be a new-look show but it is still our show.

The other brilliant bit is the killing off of Adric. Purely in dramatic and strategic terms, it’s a masterstroke; this may still be our show, but we shouldn’t think it is safe any more. One of the weaknesses of the end of the first (but not the second or third) series of Torchwood was that we rather felt that the regular characters who were killed would probably come back, and to be honest I feel that way a bit about the current Who season; but from this day on one could never feel that about Old Who. Yes, of course we’d been there before in The Daleks’ Master Plan; but one can’t really call Sara Kingdom or Katarina (and I’d argue for Bret Vyon to be in the same category) long-established characters, and anyway that story had been broadcast before many first-time watchers of Earthshock (myself included) were even born. One can forgive Earthshock a lot for its dramatic success of killing Adric.

Poor old Adric, anyway. At the time I didn’t deeply dislike him, but there was certainly a feeling that the Tardis was too full – I had never seen the older stories with more than two companions, and the dynamics were unfamiliar to me, and frankly not all that well worked out. It got a bit tedious that in a majority of his stories, Adric appears to defect to the bad guys, particularly since Waterhouse’s acting abilities really weren’t up to it, but with three companions there’s not a lot else for them to do. He does have one or two good moments – his awe of Tom Baker in Logopolis (definitely not reciprocated) and his final words (which only on this time of watching did I realise referred to his inability to return home). But he will be well down most people’s list of memorable companions, apart from the manner of his passing. (I do recommend the Big Finish audio, The Boy That Time Forgot,  where Andrew Sachs plays an older insane Adric who is taking over the Earth with mutant scorpions. Peter Davsion comments, “So imagine my surprise when I saw that they had brought Adric back, only this time he is being played by … an actor!”)

Rewatching it this time, I did feel a real thrill when the archive footage of previous Doctors was shown, and the ending retains its tension even if you know what is going to happen. But I was even more annoyed than on three previous viewings by the Tardis’s role as killing ground, and by the narrative disconnection; what the heck are the Cybermen doing in the space freighter in the first place? Still, the two high points do outweigh the negatives. Just.

(See also one of the funnier posts in the very funny Wife in Space series.)

The second paragraph of the third chapter of the novelisation, by Ian “Harry Sullivan” Marter, is:

The Doctor stopped in the entrance. ‘Wait. I have a feeling we shouldn’t go any further,’ he warned them.

I did a long piece on Ian Marter’s novelisations for Strange Horizons long ago, and said this about Doctor Who – Earthshock:

The 1982 Fifth Doctor story Earthshock famously, shockingly, killed off the Doctor’s companion Adric in battle with the Cybermen. While the descriptions in early chapters of people being melted into puddles of liquid by androids seem like yet another gruesome addition of detail by Marter, in fact for once his novelization, published in 1983, stuck pretty closely to the original broadcast version—indeed more so than for any of his other novelizations. Unfortunately this does also emphasise the numerous flaws in the plot—not, of course, Marter’s fault but among many crimes which must be laid at the door of the television script’s author, Eric Saward. Why are the Cybermen hiding on the spaceship? Why aren’t their weapons as good as their androids’? How did they get the bomb onto Earth in the first place? Faced with this material, Marter did a barely adequate job of the novelization.

Rereading it, I found no reason to vary my opinion. Marter did a couple of very good novelisations, but this was not one of them. The cover is a photo still of the Doctor about to shoot something, which grates for several reasons. You can get it here.

The other important and relevant source that I have read since 2011 is Matthew Waterhouse’s autobiography, Blue Box Boy, where he is frank about the reasons he was written out.

The Black Archive on Earthshock, by Brian J. Robb, has only three chapters, but they are long and it is one of the longer books in the sequence.

The first chapter, “Everyone Loves Adric”, looks at how the character evolved, rose and fell, with brief reflection on other teen genius characters (eg Wesley Crusher), and plenty of detail on the strategic choices made by the production team and the reasons for them, starting from Tom Baker’s last season.

The second chapter, “The Saward Imperative”, looks at the specific roles of writer Eric Saward and director Peter Grimwade in writing the story, and considers Saward’s attempt to be true to previous Cyberman stories and Grimwade’s directing technique (good with lighting, less good with actors). The Christopher Priest affair is touched on, but I have heard all about that from a more reliable source. (This is the chapter that deals most with the actual topic of the book.)

The third and longest chapter, “Nostalgia and Cynicism”, looks at the success of Earthshock at the time, but also at how the wrong lessons were learned from it, empowering Nathan-Turner and Award to delve back into the show’s history as it went forward, which in the end killed a lot of the potential creativity. Its second full paragraph is:

There can be little argument that whatever other failings John Nathan-Turner may have had, he was a showman who understood publicity and the various ways to bring much-needed attention to an almost 20-year-old programme. His instinct for ‘gimmicks’, whether in casting (Beryl Reid) or the individual elements (Cybermen) that could make up a Doctor Who story, was unsurpassed. He was willing to take a chance on talent and to develop the skills of actors, writers, and script editors, although perhaps not always successfully. In Saward, Nathan-Turner found the creative talent that would define much of his period in the job and reshape the programme – for good and bad – for the 1980s.

This is not just a book about Earthshock, but a guide to the trajectory of the whole Nathan-Turner / Saward era, and it works very well. You can get it here.

The Black Archives
1st Doctor: Marco Polo (18) | The Myth Makers (65) | The Dalek Invasion of Earth (30) | The Romans (32) | The Massacre (2)
2nd Doctor: The Underwater Menace (40) | The Evil of the Daleks (11) | The Mind Robber (7)
3rd Doctor: Doctor Who and the Silurians (39) | The Ambassadors of Death (3) | The Dæmons (26) | Carnival of Monsters (16) | The Time Warrior (24) | Invasion of the Dinosaurs (55)
4th Doctor: Pyramids of Mars (12) | The Hand of Fear (53) | The Deadly Assassin (45) | The Face of Evil (27) | The Robots of Death (43) | Talons of Weng-Chiang (58) | Horror of Fang Rock (33) | Image of the Fendahl (5) | The Sun Makers (60) | The Stones of Blood (47) | Full Circle (15) | Warriors’ Gate (31)
5th Doctor: Kinda (62) | Black Orchid (8) | Earthshock (51) | The Awakening (46)
6th Doctor: Vengeance on Varos (41) | Timelash (35) | The Ultimate Foe (14)
7th Doctor: Paradise Towers (61) | Battlefield (34) | The Curse of Fenric (23) | Ghost Light (6)
8th Doctor: The Movie (25) | The Night of the Doctor (49)
Other Doctor: Scream of the Shalka (10)
9th Doctor: Rose (1) | Dalek (54)
10th Doctor: The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit (17) | Love & Monsters (28) | Human Nature / The Family of Blood (13) | The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords (38)
11th Doctor: The Eleventh Hour (19) | Vincent and the Doctor (57) | The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang (44) | The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon (29) | The God Complex (9) | The Rings of Akhaten (42) | Day of the Doctor (50)
12th Doctor: Listen (36) | Kill the Moon (59) | The Girl Who Died (64) | Dark Water / Death in Heaven (4) | Face the Raven (20) | Heaven Sent (21) | Hell Bent (22)
13th Doctor: Arachnids in the UK (48) | Kerblam! (37) | The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos (52) | The Haunting of Villa Diodati (56) | Flux (63)

The Awakening, by David Evans-Powell (and Eric Pringle)

I am not sure if I caught The Awakening on first broadcast – I think I did see the second episode but not the first. When I came to it in 2008, I wrote:

Fandom seems to be generally fond of The Awakening; it didn’t really grab me. Tegan’s relatives have worse luck with alien invaders than those of any other companion pre-Rose. I found the Malus utterly unconvincing, and as so often its means and motivation made little sense. I did like Polly James as Jane though.

When I came back to it three years later, for my Great Rewatch, I wrote:

Hey, it’s another two-part story with roots in a past period of English history! For the second time in four stories, and the third in three seasons. For once, the fundamentals are fairly sound, but the execution a bit haphazard – most notably, the Malus itself rather fails to be scary despite smoke machines and dramatic music, there is an awful lot of infodumping for little emotional payoff, and we have yet another Tardis invasion of both bystanders and the Malus somehow penetrating it. Polly James does her best but it’s not really convincing. 

Tegan’s grandfather is about the same age as her late aunt, but I suppose that’s not out of the question.

Nice for the team to get a break and relax after it’s all over. NB that The Awakening is the first story since Black Orchid, almost two seasons before, not to feature a returning villain or companion.

I particularly endorse the first paragraph here. The means and motivation of the baddies are (as so often) not well explained.

As mentioned, Frederick Hall, who played Tegan’s grandfather, was only five years older then Delore Whiteman, who had played her aunt three years before; and he was only thirty years older than Janet Fielding, his on-screen granddaughter. One can think of plenty of ways to resolve this, of course.

I also reread the novelisation by Eric Pringle, who wrote the TV story. The second paragraph of the third chapter is:

She dived around the comer of a barn, and stopped. she was gasping for breath and leaned against the barn wall for support, beside its open doorway. The bricks, warmed by the sun, burned against her back.

In 2008, I wrote:

Often the novelisations of two-part stories bring new material and imagination to the narrative, and I thought at first that this was going to be one of those, with good introductory description (especially of Jane Hampden, one of the great companions who never was). However, the pace isn’t really sustained, and the plot sinks under its own flaws; notably, Pringle misses the opportunity to make something more of the Malus’s physical appearance on the page, and the whole thing ends up essentially as a cut-down version of The Dæmons.

One extra point is that Jane Hampden, played by Polly James who turned 43 in the year of broadcast, is described as “young” in the book. Pringle was six years older than her; it’s a matter of perspective, I suppose. You can get the book here.

David Evans-Powell has done his best here to find depth in what is honestly not a spectacularly good story. The introduction to his Black Archive monograph sets out his stall: that The Awakening is a mediation between 1970s folk horror, and 1980s heritage drama.

The first chapter, ‘Unexpected Aura for a Quiet English Village’, briefly looks at villages in literature and culture as outposts of traditional values under threat from modernity.

The second chapter, ‘There Will Be No Visitors to the Village”, looks at Little Hodcombe as an uncanny landscape, ending up inevitably with the Wicker Man.

The third and longest chapter, ‘We’re in the Wrong Century!’, looks at The Awakening as a ghost story and a time slip drama, ending up with Sapphire and Steel and Quatermass and the Pit. The second paragraph is:

One of the working titles associated with the serial was ‘Poltergeist’1, and this alleged form of haunting is witnessed by the characters alongside more traditional ghostly manifestations. German for ‘noisy spirit’, poltergeists are a particular form of ghostly phenomena in which objects appear to move, appear and disappear without human intervention and where unexplained sensations (such as sudden cold or heat, smells, sounds and noises, and gusts of wind) are experienced. These phenomena have been attributed to psychic abilities, usually telekinesis (the power to move objects with the mind), manifested by those going through emotional or physiological change, such as during puberty2. This association between apparently ghostly activity and psychic ability is a critical aspect of the serial.
1 Doctor Who: The Complete History #38, p63.
2  Dagnall, Neil, and Ken Drinkwater, ‘Eight Things You Need to Know about poltergeists”

The fourth chapter, ‘But That’s a Representation of the Devil!’, looks at the Malus’s roots in the Green Man and M.R. James, and the ancient Greek Gorgons.

The fifth chapter, ‘Think of it as the Resurrection of an Old Tradition’, comes back to the question of folk horror vs heritage drama, and comes down on the heritage side.

The sixth and final chapter, ‘You Must Join in Our Games’, looks at re-enactment in general and at how it is portrayed here in particular.

A coda, ’20th-century Men Playing a Particularly Nasty Game’, looks briefly at how civil wars are remembered, mentioning Northern Ireland and briefly looking at Spain.

I generally prefer the Black Archives where the production itself is described; those that concentrate on trying to find the meaning behind the story sometimes run adrift because there is not much there there, and I’m afraid this is one of them. A good effort, but I was not wholly convinced. You can get it here.

The Black Archives
1st Doctor: Marco Polo (18) | The Myth Makers (65) | The Dalek Invasion of Earth (30) | The Romans (32) | The Massacre (2)
2nd Doctor: The Underwater Menace (40) | The Evil of the Daleks (11) | The Mind Robber (7)
3rd Doctor: Doctor Who and the Silurians (39) | The Ambassadors of Death (3) | The Dæmons (26) | Carnival of Monsters (16) | The Time Warrior (24) | Invasion of the Dinosaurs (55)
4th Doctor: Pyramids of Mars (12) | The Hand of Fear (53) | The Deadly Assassin (45) | The Face of Evil (27) | The Robots of Death (43) | Talons of Weng-Chiang (58) | Horror of Fang Rock (33) | Image of the Fendahl (5) | The Sun Makers (60) | The Stones of Blood (47) | Full Circle (15) | Warriors’ Gate (31)
5th Doctor: Kinda (62) | Black Orchid (8) | Earthshock (51) | The Awakening (46)
6th Doctor: Vengeance on Varos (41) | Timelash (35) | The Ultimate Foe (14)
7th Doctor: Paradise Towers (61) | Battlefield (34) | The Curse of Fenric (23) | Ghost Light (6)
8th Doctor: The Movie (25) | The Night of the Doctor (49)
Other Doctor: Scream of the Shalka (10)
9th Doctor: Rose (1) | Dalek (54)
10th Doctor: The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit (17) | Love & Monsters (28) | Human Nature / The Family of Blood (13) | The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords (38)
11th Doctor: The Eleventh Hour (19) | Vincent and the Doctor (57) | The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang (44) | The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon (29) | The God Complex (9) | The Rings of Akhaten (42) | Day of the Doctor (50)
12th Doctor: Listen (36) | Kill the Moon (59) | The Girl Who Died (64) | Dark Water / Death in Heaven (4) | Face the Raven (20) | Heaven Sent (21) | Hell Bent (22)
13th Doctor: Arachnids in the UK (48) | Kerblam! (37) | The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos (52) | The Haunting of Villa Diodati (56) | Flux (63)

The Clockwise War, by Scott Gray

Second frame of third story (“A Religious Experience”, by Tim Quinn and John Ridgeway):

I had bought this in hard copy ages ago, and had not appreciated that the title story, a Twelfth Doctor / Bill Potts adventure, is a direct follow-on from the previous Twelfth Doctor volume, The Phantom Piper, which I have not read yet. The arc also depends quite heavily on continuity from earlier stories in Doctor Who magazine, most of which I had read but long ago.

But I got over it and very much enjoyed the title story and the collection as a whole. There is a whole arc about Cybermen, which comes close to making them interesting. There is a First Doctor story, a couple of Fourth Doctor stories, and a Fifth Doctor story by Paul Cornell. There are some interesting endnotes by the writers and artists, reflecting on what worked and what didn’t, and why. I still wish I had got the previous volume but I don’t regret reading this. You can get it here.

This was my top unread English-language comic. Next in that pile is Alternating Current by Jody Houser et al, a Thirteenth Doctor volume, but I may have to reassess my approach.