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Dale Smith (1) (1976–)

Author of The Many Hands

For other authors named Dale Smith, see the disambiguation page.

7+ Works 391 Members 12 Reviews

Works by Dale Smith

The Many Hands (2008) 244 copies, 10 reviews
Heritage (2002) 112 copies, 1 review
The Albino's Dancer (2006) 17 copies
The Perennial Miss Wildthyme (Iris Wildthyme) (2015) — Editor — 6 copies
Spinning Jenny (2017) 6 copies
The Talons of Weng-Chiang (2022) 4 copies, 1 review

Associated Works

Short Trips: Transmissions (2008) — Contributor — 37 copies
Short Trips: The Solar System (2005) — Contributor — 35 copies, 1 review
Collected Works (2006) — Contributor — 30 copies, 2 reviews
Tales of the City (2012) — Contributor — 15 copies, 2 reviews
Wildthyme in Purple (2011) — Contributor — 9 copies


Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Smith, Dale
Legal name
Smith, Paul Dale
Leicester, Leicestershire, England
Places of residence
Marple, England




With the publication of Dale Smith’s monograph on The Talons of Weng-Chiang, the Black Archive covers six consecutive Tom Baker stories and 26 consecutive episodes, which is their longest run of any era. I think that underlines the consensus that the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era, which ended with Talons, was a true high point of the show.

Smith’s monograph is actually quite short by Black Archive standards, at 137 pages. It has just five chapters.

The first, “Foe from the Future”, looks at the story’s roots in the Jack the Ripper murders, Fu Manchu and The Phantom of the Opera, and also reviews the production process which was deeply exhausting for Holmes.

The second chapter, “The Talons of Victoria”, looks at the affinity that Doctor Who has with the Victorian era, and explores the role of science and the narrative of colonialism (also very much applicable to Leela).

The third chapter, “The Time-Traveller and his Savage Companion”, looks at the many double-acts in the story – not just Jago/Litefoot but also Doctor/Leela and Greel/Chang and even Greel/Mr Sin – and also at the extent to which it really does draw on Fu Manchu, The Phantom of the Opera and indeed The Island of Doctor Moreau.

The fourth chapter, “‘Die, Bent Face!'”, looks at Greel’s disfigurement and at disability in fiction in general and Doctor Who in particular, a theme that suddenly caught fire for about 48 hours last year.

The fifth and longest chapter, “Of Its Time, and Ours” addresses the crucial issue of race and racism. I think this is one of the best such analyses I’ve read by a white guy, addressing a largely white audience. We can love things that are problematic, but it’s really important to understand why and how they are problematic. Smith very briefly reviews the history of British engagement with China in the nineteenth century (it was, again, refreshing that I had just read Kuang’s Babel) and also the history of discrimination against London’s Chinese population, led by the trade unions. (He doesn’t mention the issue of Chinese slave labour in South Africa which became one of the themes of the 1906 general election, but there is plenty else to choose from.) He makes it clear that the question of whether Talons of Weng-Chiang is a racist story isn’t a matter of debate; what is up for debate is our response.

"We know this is a bigger issue than just whether one story broadcast in 1977 contains racism. Talons isn’t just a product of the 70s – that young proto-fan can find it just as easily as they would find any of Christopher Eccleston’s stories. It is impossible for anyone to watch anything in the context it was made: everything is watched within an elastic context of ‘now’, and Talons is quite literally a product of now. It is easy for someone to get down their Blu-ray and settle down to watch it, to buy books about how it was made or listen to sequels that ape its atmosphere. The same can’t be said for The Black and White Minstrel Show. That’s why we feel uncomfortable when it is raised, why the urge to minimise and argue is so strong: we have watched this story and enjoyed it, and we are not racists so something else must be wrong."

"But it isn’t. We are."

"If we were educated through the British school system; if we have engaged with British culture; if we have lived in this country for any length of time. If we are white. It would be impossible for us to eliminate every unconscious racist assumption we have been taught to make. That is why the onus is on those of us who are white Doctor Who fans, to listen when people raise the issue of the racism in Talons. We have to educate ourselves about what that racism is and how it displays itself, and ultimately we have to decide how we as people are going to respond to it. Because it is too easy for us to push back, to force the people that racism targets to carry out the emotional and physical labour involved in educating white people. Because racism is a white problem. We benefit from it every day. It is up to us to solve it."

This is a short but powerful Black Archive.
… (more)
nwhyte | Feb 24, 2024 |
Lots of fun, yet another Doctor Who book that didn't disappoint.
theBookDevourer211 | 9 other reviews | Jan 27, 2023 |
Another visit to Earth history, Scotland
dookdragon87 | 9 other reviews | Oct 25, 2021 |
The Tenth Doctor and Martha visit 1759 Edinburgh to see the city as the New Town is being built. Apart from the surprise of seeing a loch where you’d expect the Princes Street Gardens, Martha and the Doctor end up facing some 18th-century mad science, an alien bent on immortality, and seriously creepy sentient hands. Overall, this was a good story. Having been to Edinburgh myself I enjoyed the setting, and I found the scenes with the hands to be delightfully creepy (Chapter 6 was the best in that regard). If you like the more historical stories of Doctor Who, or are interested in early science or the era of the Scottish Enlightenment, you might like this one.… (more)
rabbitprincess | 9 other reviews | Feb 3, 2019 |

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