The Black Archive #8: Black Orchid
I just discovered the Black Archive series of books about Doctor Who. There’s one per story (for the ones they’ve covered so far), ranging across the entire gamut of Doctors, with a new one coming every month. Unlike many books on that topic, these works don’t talk as much about who made the episode, instead analyzing the content of the story, the themes and associations.
Based on the one I read — the one by Ian Millsted about Black Orchid, one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes, because of its historical setting and cast members — it’s a worthy series. After a synopsis of the episode, this particular volume covers influences from other works, the associations of the villain (and discussion of who the true monster is), the portrayal of race and colonization, the theme of doubles/twins, the harlequin costume, and the game of cricket.
Now, some of these don’t make sense without knowing the story, so you’ll have to take my word that these are all the main points of the story, and they’re discussed knowledgeably and in readable fashion. It was a great dive, like talking about the show with a well-read friend. I particularly appreciated the noted comparisons to Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey, as suggested by the time period and costuming. I’m off to order a dozen more — you can buy the ebooks for four pounds each, which works out to about $5. They put out paperback versions, too, but the shipping is atrocious. If you’re a fan, you may want to sample those based on your favorite episodes or Doctors.