blogger_who (blogger_who) wrote,

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.
Tags: audio drama, aztecs, companion chronicles, daleks, doctor who, edge of destruction, first doctor, ian chesterton, jacqueline rayner, keys of marinus, marco polo, quinnis, reign of terror, season 1, sensorites, transit of venus, venusian lullaby, william russell

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