❉ 30 not out! Another indispensible essay from The Black Archive.
With more than 55 years of Doctor Who to experience, both on- and off-screen, it’s hard to fully appreciate how much of a game-changer The Dalek Invasion of Earth was when it first aired. From the larger quantity of location footage to the proactive stance taken by the Doctor to fight the Skarosian menaces, a new mission statement for the character, the story shifted what the show was and what it could do from now on…
In many ways, The Dalek Invasion of Earth proves to be the perfect story for analysis, being (as noted above) a tale that shifted the show’s parameters, and also one with multiple versions doing the rounds: televised, novelised and adapted for cinema. It is this that forms the bulk of Jonathan Morris’ essay in the latest book in Obverse Books’ Black Archive range.
Morris compares and contrasts the story’s three iterations, making use not just of what was filmed/printed but also early drafts of both the film and television serial. The latter is especially fascinating, showing how much David Whitaker brought to the table. (He really is an unsung hero.) It’s interesting, too, to see that proactive female characters (for the film) and casting suggestions for people of colour (for the TV version) were dropped at the planning stage, somewhat scoffing at the idea that such things weren’t even considered back in the day.
There is also a look at the differing editorial styles of Whitaker and Dennis Spooner, the state of the TV series when Dalek Invasion first turned up, and what happened next. In some ways I felt this was the most interesting portion of the essay, reminding me of Morris’ superb analyses for Doctor Who Magazine of Patrick Troughton’s era and Steven Moffat’s tenure as showrunner. I wish more had been said on this topic, but appreciate, too, that it would then become less focussed; more a look at the bigger picture than necessarily the story in hand.
The compare/contrast portion of the essay reminded me of James Cooray Smith’s Black Archive releases, though there the stories he covered (The Massacre and The Ultimate Foe) were ones with huge changes made in the scripting process, whereas the changes here are significant but not as seismic. Think of this more as a thorough look at redrafting and the impact different voices have on an idea, not to mention the impact the story had on Terry Nation’s career and future scripts for Who and other ventures.
I dearly hope future stories are afforded this treatment. Mention is made of The Daleks’ Master Plan having early outlines still in existence, for example, which whets the appetite somewhat. If it does happen, then I hope it’s written with every bit as much respect and scholarly knowhow as is the case here.
From the flashback to Morris as a schoolchild to the pun-laden final sentence, this is a release bursting with love for its source material. Its behind-the-scenes glimpse at the creation of a giant in the show’s history makes it indispensable, and I have everything crossed that Morris makes another return to the Black Archive fold before too long.
❉ Nick Mellish is a regular contributor to We Are Cult.