Cards on the table: I picked up The Silver Archive Special #1: The Christmas Box slightly out of obligation. I’ve loved Obverse Books’ The Black Archive range, and I’m lucky enough to be writing an upcoming instalment of The Silver Archive. Naturally, I want experience with the series, so picked up the first one, admittedly despite some reservations: namely, this is a book which talks about loads of festive TV specials, many of which I’ve never watched. I’m interested in the bits on The Christmas Invasion, K9 & Company, and A Muppet Family Christmas – but would the tome hold my interest when covering the likes of Cagney and Lacey, He Man and She-Ra, and Crossroads?
Ah, but it’s by that ingenious chap, Paul Magrs. I was an idiot to worry. Because The Christmas Box sums up the magic of Christmas better than 99% of what you’ll see on television in 2018, and, indeed, any year.
The contents page tells you that Magrs covers all manner of programmes, from soap operas to chat shows, reality series to genre pieces, but what it doesn’t tell you is that this is a story about the human condition. It’s a microcosm of our years, our hopes, ours anxieties, our loves, and our relationships – with each other, with media, with the festivities. It’s a book that glows. It’s warm and funny and heartfelt. Arguably, Magrs puts more of himself into this book than in anything else he’s written (and I say that as a fan of his extensive portfolio).
Certain sections piqued my interest more than others, of course: Sherlock Holmes (The Blue Carbuncle from 1968, starring Peter Cushing), the 1979 version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and The Morecombe and Wise Show: 1975 Christmas Special in particular.
And yes, I enjoyed the bits related to Doctor Who. However, the best chapter was about The Snowman (probably my favourite Christmas tale). It’s not Christmas unless I see a small boy’s heart break because his dreams have melted away. Steven Moffat once said that Dragonfire interested him when the Seventh Doctor bade Mel adieu; he said the Doctor revealed himself to be a sad clown, and that’s the story of everyone.
The Snowman takes a similar stance: it notes how our imaginations and dreams can take flight, that our positivity exists shoulder-to-shoulder with terrible torments, and that’s okay. It’s a beautiful tale, and you get the same feeling from The Christmas Box. Plus it talks about David Bowie, so you’re already adding a copy to your basket, right?
This is a perfect beginning to the Silver Archive range, and it makes me very proud to know I’ll be contributing to it. (Equally: the pressure!)
Magrs has a Christmas tradition: he gets out a box, filled with DVDs and rewatches television that puts him in the mood for Christmas. As you’ll discover if you pick up The Christmas Box, he does this even in the dark times. It’s a little pick-me-up, and that’s what The Silver Archive is too. I finished this opening instalment in the series and was sad to leave that lovely world. I’m sure I’ll read it again next December. In fact: Thank you, Mr. Magrs. You might’ve just given me a new tradition.
The Silver Archive Special #1: The Christmas Box is out now: the paperback’s just £4.99, but if you want to read it over Christmas, an eBook is £3.99 from Obverse Books.