‘The Black Archive #34: Battlefield’ reviewed

❉ This is an in-depth and interesting, intelligent engagement with the material at hand, writes Nick Mellish.

A little while back, I read the novelisation of Battlefield for the first time.  Upon finishing and reviewing it, I remarked that I’ve never much cared for the story and that while Marc Platt’s novelisation fixes a lot of my problems with it, it’s also far from perfect and that’s frustrating.  There is a good story somewhere in Battlefield, we’ve just never had it.

The only reason I’m being hideously arrogant and quoting myself is that this sentiment is in part echoed in Philip Purser-Hallard’s rather glorious essay on Battlefield, the 34th book to be released under the Black Archive label.  I say in part as Purser-Hallard goes on record as saying Battlefield was his favourite Doctor Who story for years, a sentiment far from my own, but he acknowledges that his memory of the story and its lasting impression upon him doesn’t really tally with reality, something many of us can no doubt relate to.

Part of this essay is looking at just why the finished product doesn’t live up to its premise.  Taking into account the initial pitch, draft scripts and the finished production (both televised and Special Edition cuts), it is a thorough and convincing analysis which confirms that the original ideas underpinning Ben Aaronovitch’s tricky second album really were exciting and rich.

The rest of the essay is tasked with looking at the script’s Arthurian roots and its parallels with Aaronovitch’s debut script, Remembrance of the Daleks.  Like the look at previous drafts, this is an in-depth and interesting, intelligent engagement with the material at hand.  It makes you want to dive deeper into Arthurian texts yourself, which is the highest accolade I can lay at an essay such as this.

Purser-Hallard looks back on the story and his own love of it, and says he doesn’t expect his passion for the tale to elevate its standing for any reader.  I think he is wrong though.  While it is never going to come top of the polls for me any time soon, this essay has convinced me to give Battlefield more respect the next time I watch it.  That alone is worth the book’s asking price, so hats off to everyone involved in this essay.  Obverse Books, you’ve done it again.

❉ ‘The Black Archive #34: Battlefield’ is out now from Obverse Books, RRP £3.99 – £7.99.

 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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