October 18th, 2013


Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles 3.07 - The Transit of Venus

Rewritten from material that I originally posted 3/23/13 on another forum:

Blurb: The year is 1770, and daring explorer Captain James Cook and his crew on the Endeavour are navigating the Pacific Ocean.

Into their midst come strangers: the Doctor and Ian Chesterton, who are believed to have come from Venus. But the TARDIS is lost to them - along with both Susan and Barbara - and Ian makes an enemy of the ship's chief scientist, Joseph Banks.

Why is Banks acting strangely? Could it be that the travellers are not the only visitors from the stars?

Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Ian. Published by Big Finish Productions and released January 2009.

Setting: Earth: The Pacific Ocean and Australia on the ship Endeavor, April to June 1770. Ian narrates the story from some point in his future, time unknown.

Continuity: This story is set between The Sensorites and The Reign of Terror. Many references are made to The Sense Sphere and how it may have effected Susan's telepathic prowess. The Doctor also mentions his threat to put Ian and Barbara off the ship that was made at the end of The Sensorites. At the end of the adventure, the Doctor sees the shambles that the TARDIS is in and promptly decides that he'll put Ian and Barbara off at their next destination, thus maintaining continuity with The Reign of Terror. Ian remembers his encounters with the Daleks (see The Daleks), Voords (Keys of Marinus), and Aztecs (see The Aztecs). He also remembers being told about adventures that the Doctor and Susan had prior to his traveling with them. He makes mention of Quinnis (see Quinnis and The Edge of Destruction) as well as the metal seas of Venus (see Marco Polo and Venusian Lullaby).

Canonicity Quotient: The conceit of setting an adventure between two stories that don't obviously have a gap, The Sensorites and the Reign of Terror, actually works because Jacqueline Rayner has spent so much time making sure that all of the details are right. The references to other stories are all well done and tying the timing of the TARDIS' arrival with a reference to the metal seas of Venus works incredibly well. However, there's some odd behavior here. Ian becomes positively obsessed with the idea that Banks may change history, yet this story is post-Aztecs where Ian was convinced by the Doctor that history can't be changed. Of course Ian is being wracked by grief here and may not be thinking straight but it seems odd that he would think this way. The TARDIS has always been shown to float unless the Doctor is inside and forces it to go under or its acted upon by an outside agency. Here it sinks ostensibly because it took on water, but seeing as how its interior is in a different dimension that explanation doesn't really work. As a result, this story seems almost completely reliable but misses some points for a few items that don't seem consistent with the series at large. 0.97

Discussion: Let me just get out of my way that so far this is my favorite Companion Chronicle (I've actually listened to a few more and have just gotten ahead of my writeups). Although the spacing between The Sensorites and Reign of Terror seemed awkward they at least made sure that everything linked up and as the Sensorites is not directly mentioned in Reign of Terror its just possible to make this work. William Russell was excellent in his reading and I felt that his Doctor was excellent and I loved his reading from Ian's point of view and even telling that beautiful anecdote about his student who was turned off from science together for learning the result before seeing the experiment through himself.

The idea of the lost TARDIS and the hopelessly long expedition was a good setup for the story. I've always loved historicals and this was an interesting situation that we hadn't seen before. I wish that we could have been privy to the scene where the Doctor had to convince Captain Cook that they were actually travelers from Venus. Thankfully the imagination comes to help and you imagine a scene probably better and more convincing then they would have been able to pull off in the actual recording.

I must confess that the plot twist wasn't really the mystery that it was intended to be. The Sensorites and specifically Susan's telepathy was mentioned quite prominently by Ian in the beginning so you have some hint of what was going on with Banks. Still, I don't think that it was a huge detraction from the overall story as I wasn't quite sure of all the inns and outs of it and wanted to make sure that I understood the conclusion and understood how they would rescue Susan and Barbara

As always I have a few nits.

1.) The TARDIS has always been shown to float (and remains perfectly stationary upon the water) unless some outside agency acts against it (in the War Games it took Time Lord interference to sink the TARDIS and the Doctor seemed quite surprised about this). Why does the TARDIS sink in this adventure?

2.) Cook seems surprised when Ian mentions Barbara. Did none of the sailors mention that they had seen a woman? This seems odd especially since they felt that this was such a horrible thing that they had to cast them into the sea.

3.) How in blue blazes did Susan swim from the TARDIS to the ship, and secure a line from each to each that kept hold of the TARDIS for months so they were dragged along with the ship? I'm trying to imagine this scene but it falls apart every time that I do. It isn't just that it seems far more proactive than Susan ever was. It's just that where did she secure each end to and what did she use? Things seemed to happen to quickly for her to run inside the TARDIS spending a lot of time getting a heavy-duty line and then swimming out to the Endeavor and hammering a pinion in place to attach it to. It's a little to Deus ex Machina for my tastes.

4.) Why is Ian worried that Banks will change history? This and other Companion Chronicles that I'll review later are set post Aztecs. In the Aztecs, the Doctor convinced Ian and Barbara that changing history is impossible and that any attempt to do so would be foiled. I realize that the Doctor was only telling them this to keep them from trying but in that context, even if Ian suspected that Banks had some knowledge of the future he shouldn't have worried because he knew that he'd be foiled.

Still, overall this story is excellent and you get real emotion from Ian and truly wonderful scenes between Ian and the Doctor and between Ian and Banks.

Final Rating: 9/10

Recomendation: It's a story that reminds you of everything that you love about the first season of Doctor Who. Willian Russell is fantastic as both Ian and the Doctor. There's a mystery to solve and there's science to be learned. Rayner weaves it all together that sounds far less like the preachy, grafted on educational scenes in early Doctor Who and makes the science and history part of the story. This is a true triumph of the Companion Chronicles range and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in them.

Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles 3.01 - Here There be Monsters

Rewritten from material that I originally posted 3/18/13 on another forum:

Blurb: A new adventure with the First Doctor as told by his grand-daughter, Susan.

“It was a terrible sound, like someone had just stabbed the Universe and it was crying out in pain”

The distant future. The TARDIS, with the Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara aboard, is drawn out of the Vortex and lands aboard the Earth Benchmarking Vessel Nevermore, where Captain Rostrum is navigating by punching holes in the very fabric of space. The Doctor is appalled by this act of vandalism, and fearful that it could unleash monsters from the dark dimensions.

As the benchmarking holes begin to fray, the fate of the universe is at stake. And while the Doctor contemplates a terrible sacrifice, Susan befriends the Nevermore’s First Mate - someone she will remember for the rest of her life…

Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Susan. Published by Big Finish Productions and released July 2008.

Setting: The Earth Benchmarking vessel, Nevermore, time unknown but likely sometime in the late 25th or early 26th centuries since Earth is just getting to the point where it needs to create accurate plots to far off points in space. Susan narrates the story from some time in her future but prior to her narrating the events of Quinnis.

Continuity: This story is set between The Reign of Terror and Planet of Giants. In the framing sequence, Susan mentions her husband, so she must have narrated this story prior to his death (see Quinnis). Susan mentions that she was an accidental passenger on the TARDIS (see Lungbarrow). She also mentions her time at Coal Hill School as well as her meeting with the Daleks (An Unearthly Child and The Daleks, respectively). She's never told David that she isn't human (see The Dalek Invasion of Earth). The Nevermore is benchmarking space to create accurate points which stellar navigators can use to steer through the galaxy. This implies that it is either before or in the very early days of the Earth Empire (see Frontier in Space, The Mutants).

Canonicity Quotient: For the most part the references in this story work well and it slots into the potentially large gap between Reign of Terror and Planet of Giants. There are also some nice hints that this gets Susan thinking about leaving the Ship, which would explain the framing sequence in The Alchemists. However, the old fan theory that Susan ages slowly despite not being a Time Lord comes up again. While this agrees with Legacy of the Daleks it is flatly contradicted by the TV series and most of the extra-canonnical sources. Doctor Who's first producer also confirmed that it was always their intention that Susan was 15 years old. Any older and many of her actions in the series would not make any sense. This docks the story some points but as its the only canonnical issue and only comes up as an aside and is not important to the story it does not effect it much. 0.95

Discussion: So I decided that since I started with Quinnis that I'd proceed with another Carol Anne Ford narrated Season One story. The only one narrated only by herself was Here there be Monsters. I really liked this one although I was disappointed that unlike Quinnis the story was told almost in a complete vacuum. Susan is telling the story but we have no idea when she's telling the story or why. I preferred the context of the other story. The idea of a Plant Based Lifeform controlling ships seems like a neat idea but at the same time it seems odd that we've never seen this kind of thing before. I originally dated it as a very late story but when when we learned about the nature of the Benchmarking expedition and the Doctor categorically states that its part of the Earth Empire it seems that this must be a very early Earth Empire story dating it in the 23rd or 24th centuries. We've seen the idea of monsters not really being monsters before in Galaxy Four and Frontier in Space and I rather liked the idea of both sides seeing each other as the barbarric menace when really both are civilized and capable of coming to an agreement if they'd just try. The characters were well written and reminded me of their television counterparts and Carol did a great job of reading for all the parts.

I was not a big fan of the implication that Susan was much older than 15 years old. This is something that Carol Anne Ford has put forward in multiple interviews I know, but Verity was always clear that the intention was for Susan to be 15 and that agrees with the vast sum of information we have from the show and the expanded universe of books/audios. She never really acts with a maturity level to show a wisdom beyond her apparent years nor does she seem to have the memories to go back that far.

It was a struggle for me listening to this because the actor playing the first mate sounds just like William Russell. I kept on thinking his lines were Ian's and had to keep reminding myself that he was another character.

In the end though it was a good story as I've come to expect from Andy Lane (don't think I'm aware that he's produced any clunkers ever). I hope to hear more of the quality of the last two that I've listened to.

Final Rating: 9/10

Recomendation: Another fantastic story from season one. Susan is characterized beautifully and you see how she feels about always being ignored even though she if often right about what she says. Her relationship with the First Mate is well done as she grows to respect and admire this man and his fatherly atittude towards her just makes the ending far more poignant. Carol Anne Ford is also fantastic doing her own role as well as those of the rest of the TARDIS crew and Captain Rostrum is creepy. Great job overall and I strongly recommend this as one to listen to.