Rewritten from material that I originally posted 5/13/13 on another forum:
Blurb: The TARDIS has landed on Platform Five, a floating city in the sky of the planet Jobis, and for a time the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki get the chance to enjoy this idyllic place.
And then the Rocket Men arrive, led by the sadistic Ashman.
When the only other option to certain death is suicide, Ian Chesterton takes the gamble of his life…
Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Ian. Published by Big Finish Productions and released August 2011.
Setting: The Planet Jobis, somewhere in the 23rd century (2259)?
Continuity: This story is set between The Web Planet and the Crusade. There's no indication of when this occurs in relation to The Dark Planet. As a personal aesthetic I prefer for this to be as late in Ian and Barbara's relationship as possible but if someone wants to set The Dark Planet after this story that would fit as well. Ian mentions their recent journey to Rome (see The Romans).
Canonicity Quotient: This is another rare thing. It's a story that slots almost effortlessly into its gap without any serious problems. There are some issues with placing two stories here only because Barbara chooses to tell Saladin about The Web Planet when painting her group as traveling story tellers. If both this story and The Dark Planet were more recent adventures then why wouldn't she choose to tell those stories? I consider this to be a minor issue but it does need to be addressed. 0.98
Discussion: I only have one question after listening to this one. Rocket Men - A great story or the greatest story?
Wow, I didn't think that a Companion Chronicle narrated by William Russell would get better than Transit of Venus but Rocket Men proved me wrong. I must admit that I'm a sucker for Ian and Barbara and this story did such a great job of talking about their relationship and moving it forward in such a way that it didn't contradict the TV series. I'm very glad that John Dorney utilized the second season to do this story. There's not much you can do with Ian and Barbara's relationship in the first season. It isn't really until the post-Romans period where you can do more than just have glances and things but here so close to the Chase we can finally have some developments in their relationship and not really make it seem like it jars with what we see from them after this in the TV stories.
The second season of course is more problematic than the first for missing stories. The only real gap is the one between The Web Planet and the Crusades but it comes difficult to establish why if numerous stories appear in this gap why Barbara doesn't reference those when convincing Saladin not to kill her. The other problem with season 2 is Vicki. I cannot stand Vicki. She acts like she's 5 but looks like she's 20. I've seen some of the novels say that she's 14 and if that's what they're going for then I begin to understand her character even if she still acts far younger than that age but since she looks like 18-20 I always assumed she was much older and wondered why she always acted so childish. Here we're thankfully only subjected to one scene of this when she and Ian are observing the planet in the glass bottom ship but thankfully this story is mostly about Ian, Barbara, and the Doctor and that is just fine with me.
That brings me to another point. Let me just say that its so surprising in a story that's all about Ian and Barbara's relationship and told entirely from Ian's point of view that the Doctor just shines in this story. In fact, it's one of the best first Doctor tales as well. The fact that its a later story allows Hartnell to be at his most charming. His false modesty and charm are at their highest here. The conceit of the Doctor being the only thorn in the Rocket Men's side is fantastic. Yet even though there's an invasion going on it isn't an invasion story. It's all about one very personal event for Ian and Barbara. Somehow within all this the Doctor gets to be as great as he ever is and stay completely in the sidelines and it's just amazing.
I like the non-linear nature of the story. Really its only there to set up the cliffhanger but that cliffhanger is amazingly brilliant because you're not given all the facts yet so the entire sequence that you just heard reorients itself in your mind just as soon as you're given the vital piece of information. It's something that could have never worked on TV and as long as it's done sparingly in the audios I am all for giving me that level of surprise.
I love the rocket men idea of this story. I don't agree with Dorney that this would have ever been tried on the TV series. It seems like a very "American" concept for lack of a better term and I'm an American. Still, I'm a big fan of that retro-futuristic style and the location of Jobis station is fascinating to me. I like the idea of a protected park on a gas giant populated with diamond insects and flying manta rays. The part of the story when the manta ray becomes important is great because you realize that they weren't just mentioned as part of the backdrop. It just feels like it's "right" and fitting when it happens.
The only minor nit that I have is why the story of Ian saving Barbara is in 2nd person. The other sections clearly show that Ian is narrating this story to someone else after these events, yet we switch to second person and it jars and pulls you out of the narrative. Who is he talking to as the events are transpiring? It doesn't make sense but other than that this one is perfect. This is my new favorite audio.
Final Rating: 10/10
Recommendation:: A beautiful tale that may bring a tear to your eye as you discover Ian's feelings for Barbara with him and its done in such a way that even if you already knew he was head over heels for her that you understand why he hasn't consciously realized it yet. The cliffhanger is utterly brilliant and the writing for each of the regulars are as good as it has ever been. This story is VERY highly recommended.