Contributing to the Black Archive: The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos

Contributing to the Black Archive: The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos March 21, 2019

I have some wonderful news to share: I have been commissioned to write the volume on the season finale episode from the last series of Doctor Who, namely the episode with the title “The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos,” for the Obverse Books series The Black Archive! If the name of the series sounds familiar to you, but you haven’t actually read any books in the series (yet), it may be because I interviewed Paul Driscoll on my podcast not long ago, and we focused attention in our conversation on his book in that series, about the episode “The God Complex.” Do have a listen to that if you haven’t already.

For those who aren’t avid fans of the show and may wonder about the name of the book series, in the Doctor Who universe, the Black Archive refers to a top secret vault that UNIT kept things in that it really wasn’t supposed to have. The book series offers short volumes that each focuses on a critical engagement with an individual episode from the series, all the way back from the beginning through to the most recent.

Given the themes of the episode, I’m going to be eager to find resources that help me connect threads between it and other moments in the show’s history. And so I thought I would crowdsource my effort to track down relevant secondary literature. If anyone knows of discussions in periodicals and books about the Doctor’s ethics and nonviolence, or faith and religion, in connection with earlier episodes, please do draw them to my attention. While I’m sure I can find what is essential, it is entirely possible that I would nonetheless miss something particularly great but older and since neglected. For this reason, I’m eager to receive recommendations of things that I might miss, say in old issues of Doctor Who Magazine.

I plan to pay a visit to a library that has a particularly good collection of Doctor Who materials. Unfortunately, I need to let them know in advance what I will need access to. And so I thought I would also take this opportunity to ask about some specific items in their collection that might be worth consulting. Are any of you familiar with Talkback: the unofficial and unauthorised Doctor Who interview book? What about The Handbook: The Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to the Production of Doctor Who? Neither is readily available via interlibrary loan, hence my interest in consulting them when I pay a visit a library that holds them in their collection in the near future. But it would be useful to get a sense of how much I’m likely to find in them that is relevant to my research before I set aside time to spend that way.

Here’s a question about the episode that I’m already trying to answer: Why does Ranskoor av Kolos sound vaguely familiar, or at least like a real language? Is it simply because “Ranskoor” sounds like rancor, and the “av” sounds rather like “of”? If so, is this an indication of lack of imagination on the part of the writers, or an intentional attempt to hint that this world is not as unconnected to Earth and its history as it might first appear? Did it have that odd ring of familiarity about it for anyone else?

And here’s the question that I’ve been saving for last, since I’m not sure that I’ll have the chance to implement it. But I’m thinking about it. And I definitely want input from others before I do so, if I do so. Here’s my biggest question for you: If you could ask one question about this episode to someone involved in it – writer, producer, actor, composer, something else – what question would you ask, and to whom would you pose it? Let me know your suggestions. I might just manage to arrange an opportunity to ask it, and if I do, you’ll definitely get to hear the answer, whether in the book, on the blog, or both!

One thing I hope I can work in some treatment of because of my particular areas of background and interest is discussion of the music in the episode. I don’t know that I’ll manage to talk with composer Segun Akinola about the soundtrack, but I do plan to talk not only about the dialogue and visuals but the music in this episode, which is in turn part of a season that saw a new composer take the reins in addition to a new producer and of course a new Doctor.

Of related interest, there is going to be a Doctor Who audiobook called “Daughter of the Gods” that features an appearance by a companion that is less well-known to modern-day fans of the show than she deserves to be…


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