❉ As a celebration of diversity in fan opinion goes, this essay is quite the thing, writes Nick Mellish.
Well, they had to do it one day, didn’t they? The thirty-fifth release for The Black Archive deals with that most notorious of stories, Timelash. My bias is on my sleeve with this story: it’s really not very good, is it? The idea of having to watch, or (worse still?) read it again brings me out in a cold sweat, and the knowledge that the author of this essay would have had to do so several times over makes me wanted to either award them a medal or my pity. Both are slightly patronising though, so instead I’ll judge the essay on its own merits.
Phil Pascoe has taken on Timelash here, a name no doubt familiar to some as the author of …ish, an underrated Big Finish release. I was intrigued by what this essay would offer. I was not expecting to be converted into any sort of love for Timelash, but all the same I wanted to see if this essay had something to say that would make me think twice.
Pascoe writes with a twinkle in his eye throughout, from the dedication onwards, all of which makes for a very quick read. Looking at the story’s big twist (that Wells is a de facto companion throughout) and its implications for both Wells’ own work, Timelash and Doctor Who as a whole through hauntology is a really smart move that benefits the essay, as is the fact the entire essay’s tone is playful yet informative and not afraid to dismiss several things taken as fact when they are anything but, from who really painted the Jon Pertwee picture to just how inaccurate aspects of HG Wells in the script really are. In addition, some of the asides in the essay are genuinely amusing: for example, does the use of an outdated sofa show a set designer subliminally commenting on the story itself?
There were a few things I expected going in to this essay, partly through familiarity with the range and partly through familiarity with Timelash.
Not unreasonably, I expected this essay to tackle the elephant in the room: namely, that it’s an (almost) universally unpopular story for cast, crew and fans alike. Which in all fairness, is quite an achievement to pull off, so fair play to it. I expected there to be a defence, of sorts, of the story within the essay, and I expected it to look at the ‘real’ HG Wells in some sort of comparative manner with the one as portrayed in Timelash itself. I was on the money with all of this.
What I didn’t expect though was for the essay to move me. The very ending of this essay genuinely brought a tear to my eye, and while I was also right that I am not persuaded that Timelash is any good, for one, fleeting moment I saw it through the eye of another; the power of nostalgia and associated happiness mixed with genuine fondness for them, creating a love I cannot myself see but one I can understand and relate to. As a celebration of diversity in fan opinion goes, it’s quite the thing, and as a party trick, it’s a good one. I am never going to love, or even like, Timelash, but just for a second, I could absolutely see why somebody would.
❉ ‘The Black Archive #35: Timelash’ is out now from Obverse Books, RRP £3.99 to £8.99.