‘The Black Archive #38: The Sound of Drums/The Last of the Time Lords’

❉ This may be one of the slimmer volumes in the range, but writer James Mortimer has plenty to say.

“This essay is a reminder that there is still a lot to be said about the show post-2005…”

For their 38th Black Archive essay, Obverse Books are heading for the future(kind) with a look at The Sound of Drums and The Last of the Time Lords by new-to-the-range writer James Mortimer.

It may be one of the slimmer volumes in the range, but Mortimer has plenty to say.  It’s darkness that provides the essay with much of its focus, with looks at how the show changes to fit this new mood, how successful and/or tasteful elements of it are, and why this happens.  I was especially interested in his opinions on the latter topic, which he articulates well.  As he points out, with the Doctor indisposed, the Master has free reign and you realise just how horrible life under him would be, and the show reacts with horror and darkness as a result.

Whether it’s all successful is another matter entirely, and this occupies much of the rest of the essay.  From looking at Lucy Saxon and her black eye to Martha’s journey and the treatment of her family, the essay reminds you just how grim things get at times, and Mortimer’s look at the treatment of Lucy especially proves fruitful.  It’s perhaps hard to forget about all the darkness when you’ve the Titanic crashing through the TARDIS at the end, quips about the Face of Boe and David Tennant floating through the air to distract you, but all the same it’s there.  It probably also shows how muddled the finale is, and why it’s treated as a curate’s egg by many fans.

Mortimer clearly has a lot of affection for it though, but at times the essay stalls slightly and repeats itself, despite its brevity.  It does not lessen the good elements, but it does give things a sense of being slightly inflated.  Sadly, the essay also seems to have a higher than normal level of spelling or formatting errors, and my (printed) copy seemed to be entirely missing one of the promised appendices, which is a shame as usually the range is very strong in this regard.

When it hits though, it hits well and the bibliography tells a story of its own.  A quick glance through it shows you just how well-documented the show post-2005 is for the most part, but essays such as this and on other ‘new series’ episodes such as The Eleventh Hour and Hell Bent show that there is still a lot to be said.

Long may the Black Archive be saying it, and long may new voices such as Mortimer’s be given air to do so, for 38 further essays and many, many more beyond.


‘‘The Black Archive #38: The Sound of Drums/The Last of the Time Lords’ ’is out now from Obverse Books, RRP £3.99 – £8.99.

 Nick Mellish is a regular contributor to We Are Cult, and author of Target Trawl. Sometimes, he blogs: http://tinternetmellish.blogspot.com

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