Rewritten from material that I originally posted 4/27/13 on another forum:
Blurb: “This is The Chesterton Exhibition. A series of breathtakingly faithful tableaux, painstakingly detailed to the nth degree. Dedicated to the life of that most extraordinary time traveller, Ian Chesterton!”
Ian finds himself in a shrine to his own past, and on the run with a man named Pendolin.
From Coal Hill School to Jobis Station, from Totter’s Yard to the Crusades, Ian’s history is unfolding.
And a confrontation with a deadly enemy with a voracious appetite awaits…
Format: Full-cast audio drama. Published by Big Finish Productions and released July 2012.
Setting: The Time Museum, complex space-time event.
Continuity: For Ian this story occurs some time after he traveled with the Doctor. He is married but does not remember his wife's name, although it seems obvious that his wife is Barbara. Before the Time Museum fell upon hard times, it included Sontarans and Rutans (see The Time Warrior and Horror of Fang Rock). It also contained Eternals (see Enlightenment) and Nekkistani (see The Apocalypse Element). Ian's fading memory recalls events from every TV story and many of the audios, confusing the details (to many to list but all of them wrong in some way or other).
Canonicity Quotient: As this story takes place after Ian's travels with the Doctor and sense his fading memory is part of the story there is nothing to contradict and it fits perfectly into the canon. 1.00
Discussion: Overall I really liked this story and I really liked the style. For once we have a story where Ian isn't narrating an older adventure. Instead we have a story about what Ian is doing now or as close to a concept of now as one can get in a time travel series. When I first heard the term "companion chronicles" I assumed that they'd be the story of what the companions are up to now rather than them narrating missing adventures so I'm glad that this format is at least being played with on the Companion Chronicles. I'd definitely like to hear more in this vein and hopefully some of the ones with other companions have been made that way.
William Russell as always put in a stellar performance. He played through all of the right emotions of confusion, outrage at being just a small part of the museum, and determination when things came to an end. I also liked the brief period where he thought he was the Doctor and Pendolin was playing Ian.
The story is a good one. Pendolin's nature is telegraphed a little to early in my mind but the fact that Ian also works it out for himself makes this ok. The trip through Ian's disjointed and merged memories is really neat. I couldn't help but smile in amusement with the details that he gets wrong or such as in the cave of Unearthly Child and Marco Polo where he merges the Cave of Skulls and the Cave of Five Hundred Eyes or as in the case of The Web Planet/The Crusade where he remembers that Zarbi being about to eat him because he's covered in honey. I also liked the subtle reference to the Eternals although Pendolin's nature and how he can do what he does and whether there are more like him is not really answered in the story. I was somewhat worried about where this story was going from Ian's perspective, thinking that he might die at the end or at least thinking that even if he saved the day he'd be hopelessly crippled. The ending where he says that his memories will come back seems like wishful thinking as there's nothing to say that this effect is temporary (indeed Pendolin's other victims seem to be in a final state) but I would like more stories with Ian so hopefully it proves true.
If there's one nit that I have here it's that I have to squint really hard at the concept of a time museum. Its existence seems to imply that time travel is incredibly pedestrian and while I realize that Delta and the Bannermen already did this, I don't think that it's something that needs to be encouraged. The Time Musuem supposedly had lots of patrons, meaning other time traveling races. The idea that the Doctor's companions can so easily be plucked from time and their lives exposed makes one wonder why the less scrupulous races in the universe haven't used this data to locate or harm the Doctor. Still even this works somewhat as we can manage this as being a JNT inspired special. In the JNT era this story fits in easily.
I give this one a 9/10 and I would like any Big Finish producers or writers reading this to know that I for one would appreciate any future Ian Adventures. It'd be neat to have him solving science-related cases in his own time for instance. His audios are superb.
Final Rating: 9/10
Recommendation:: Nothing is better in Doctor Who then seeing how the companions have grown because of their travels with the Doctor. This story not only gives you that but also insight into how the Doctor grew as a result of traveling with Ian and Barbara. The story was superb and while the twist was flagged rather early it's still a gripping yarn that'll make you're inner fan squee or interest a new listener with the rich history that is Doctor Who. Recommended!