Book Review – Doctor Who: The Memory Cheats

  • Title: The Memory Cheats
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Simon Guerrier
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Zoë, Jen, Jaime, Second Doctor
  • Cast: Wendy Padbury, Charlie Hayes (as Jen, guest)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/05/2017

**Spoiler Alert** The Memory Cheats is the second volume in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles “Zoë Trilogy”, with the first volume being, Echoes of Grey. Since it’s been awhile since I listened to Echoes of Grey, I re-listened to it prior to listening to The Memory Cheats. This also isn’t the first time I’ve listened to The Memory Cheats, either, I’ve listened to it a couple of times but never had the time to review it.

The story starts with Zoë being held by The Company, and she’s being interviewed by “Jen” who at first seems to be an attorney or advocate. Jen, though, slips Zoë a drug in her tea to stimulate her memory. Jen discusses the Achromatics from the previous story, but Zoë insists she doesn’t remember the formula. Jen switches tracks and asks her about her previous travels with the Doctor – specifically a trip to Uzbeckistan (Russia) in 1919.

The TARDIS arrives and the Second Doctor (as portrayed on Doctor Who by Patrick Troughton), Jamie, and Zoë, leave it and head to the local village. Although the people in the village are welcoming and generous, all are sad and upset. And as Zoë puts it, it’s more than the recent war, the sickness, or the change in leadership that is upsetting them. The Doctor impersonates a Russian official, and soon discovers that several of the village children are missing. The TARDIS crew joins with the Lansings – a couple who run the local school and are trying to help the impoverished village. The Doctor discovers that every child that was taken disappeared from a room with a door or window that faces West. They form a group to investigate the mountains to the West. The group discovers a spaceship, and an alien, with the children held captive, but being fed medicines and food through tubes. Although the Lansings die in an initial mistake with the alien (which Zoë blames herself for – going so far as to say “she killed them” because it was her error), the alien is relatively harmless. It has crashed during the war, and while trying to repair its spaceship, had become concerned about the children. Zoë insists to her interviewer from The Company, that the alien would take the children to a planet, where they would have an up-bringing like her own, devoted to logic and free from prejudice and want. The bargain for letting the captured children go to this other planet is that no more children will be taken from the village, and that the group that had gone in search of the children would be allowed to leave.

The name of the planet, however, is that of something that doesn’t exist. And Zoë then insists to Jen that it’s a file – the file that describes the Elite program in detail. How Zoë, and others like her were taken from their parents and put in the training and education program. How they were devoted to logic at the expense of emotion and personal ties. Zoë insists the Elite program, which The Company sponsors must be stopped. Jen tries to return to finding out more about Zoë being a time traveller – and that she wants her to explain the secrets of time travel, but Zoë insists that she made everything up. That she read Jen’s files, repeated back what Jen wanted to hear, and that if she got stuck, Jen herself supplied more details. Then Zoë insists again that there is no such thing as time travel, she made everything up, and she remembers nothing.

Overall, I found this story a bit weak. The story within a story is very short, and Zoë insists that it was a parable anyway – a fable she uses to try to get Jen to stop the Elite program. Meanwhile, the company still wants to learn secrets from Zoë – secrets she won’t or perhaps can’t remember. Having “Total Recall” but also having been mind-wiped by the Time Lords, she literally can remember that she can’t remember. This makes both Zoë and Jen unreliable narrators – one because she doesn’t know what she does or does not know, and the other because she has unrevealed motivations. Like “Ali” in the previous story, the listeners don’t know what The Company is up to, but it’s definitely no good. Perhaps the third story in the trilogy will make more sense out of the whole group, but overall, this one was a bit flat.

Go here to read my Review of Echoes of Grey.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

Click here to order The Memory Cheats on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

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Doctor Who: The Scorchies Review

  • Title: The Scorchies
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: James Goss
  • Director: Ken Bentley
  • Characters: Jo Grant, Third Doctor, UNIT, The Scorchies (Guest)
  • Cast: Katy Manning (Jo), Melvin Hayes (The Scorchies)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/26/2017

The Scorchies want to take over the world. The want to kill the Doctor. And they want to perform some outstanding showtunes. Though not necessarily in that order…

Doctor Who The Scorchies is a Big Finish Companion Chronicles story performed by Katy Manning and Melvin Hayes. The Scorchies are a very nasty bunch of aliens, who just happen to look like cute, adorable, puppets. They come to Earth and take over a children’s TV show, using it to take over the minds of the adults who watch the program. Apparently, it’s the television equivalent of comfort food – something not really good for you, but that adults can’t ignore. Throw in some form of mind control and you have the basic plot.

The story, however, starts with Jo already captured at the television studio – by the Scorchies. The Doctor and UNIT are outside the studio, attempting to lay siege to it so they can defeat the “alien menace” so to speak. The plot, including the background of where the Scorchies come from, and the horrifying meaning of their name (they leave behind nothing but completely scorched planets – utter devastation). But because they look like puppets, and it’s a “children’s television show” this is accompanied by some truly awful songs and fairly terrible singing.

What surprised me about this particular story was that I expected it to be very, very funny. Instead, it’s horrifying. The moral – “don’t watch so much television” feels out of place in a television tie-in universe. Katy Manning, as always, is wonderful though, and the Scorchies (voiced by Melvin Hayes and by Katy herself) are voiced well, and at times, are very chilling. However, overall, since the actual story wasn’t really what I expected, I didn’t enjoy the story like I expected that I would. Still, even though it wasn’t the wild and humorous story I expected, it’s performed well, and it’s also much more like a full audio play, rather than what’s normal for the Companion Chronicles line where someone is telling someone else a story (not that I mind that, the story-telling part is a big part of what I like about the Big Finish Companion Chronicles.) Recommended with reservations – this is not what it says on the tin, rather, it’s a fairly horrifying story.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com

Click here to order The Scorchies on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Book Review – Doctor Who: Mother Russia

  • Title: Mother Russia
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Marc Platt
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Steven, First Doctor, Dodo, The Interrogator (Guest)
  • Cast: Peter Purves (Steven), Tony Millan (The Interrogator)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/22/2017

Doctor Who: Mother Russia is a story in the Big Finish Companion Chronicles line. Peter Purves (Steven) tells the story which also features Dodo and the First Doctor. The TARDIS lands in Czarist Russia and the TARDIS crew settles in. The Doctor gets a job as a tutor for the local landed aristocrat’s children, Dodo also gets hired as a music tutor, and Steven spends his days, wandering around, fishing and meeting and befriending the locals. During one of his fishing trips, Steven hooks a fish that is so strong he is pulled in the river. It’s Summer, so it’s no disaster, and the forester, Simeon, laughs at him. Steven and the forester becomes friends, so much so, that the forester invites Steven to be best man at his wedding.

At a dinner with the aristocrat’s family, the TARDIS crew learn it is 1812, both Dodo and the Doctor knows what this means. Steven has no idea – so the audience doesn’t know for sure what’s happening. The Doctor also starts to press for travelling to Moscow.

The time of the wedding grows closer, and rumors start flying that Napoleon will invade Russia.
Finally, the first night of the three-day wedding ceremony arrives – and it is interrupted by a spaceship crash-landing in the forest. Simeon and Steven go to check it out. From that point on things get a little weird – Steven encounters a bear that he swears talked to him, Simeon breaks off his engagement, the Doctor becomes more insistent on traveling to Moscow, though at one point he leaves in the TARDIS without Steven and Dodo – and when he lands again he insists they pilot the time-space machine.

Eventually, they do all travel to Moscow, have an encounter with Napoleon, watch the city burn, see the Russians rout the French, and the alien, a shapeshifter, is found out.

Overall, this story was OK. That the mysterious bear, and various people not acting like themselves were actually a shapeshifting alien was painfully obvious – so much so that it seemed weird that Steven and Dodo couldn’t figure it out faster. The story is also broken up a bit to Steven telling his story to The Interrogator, who is the shapeshifter. And the Russian accents are horrendous, almost to the point of being offensive – like comedy accents. But the story, especially the early part of Steven, Dodo, and even the Doctor assimilating into an alien time was pretty good, and I liked that.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

Click here to order Mother Russia on CD or Download. Note the Download is currently specially priced at $2.99.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Magician’s Oath

  • Title: The Magician’s Oath
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Scott Handcock
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Capt. Mike Yates, Third Doctor, the Brigadier, Jo Grant, UNIT
  • Cast: Richard Franklin (Mike), Michael Chance (Diamond Jack (guest))
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/13/2017

The Magician’s Oath is a story in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles line, told by Capt. Mike Yates (Richard Franklin), though it’s set fairly early in the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) era, probably his second season. The framing sequence has Capt. Yates showing up at UNIT to “make a statement”, this being his story.

During the Summer, in London, a series of strange weather events occurs. At first, these strange occurrences are amusing, but when a flash freeze hits half of Hyde Park and kills every one there, UNIT becomes involved, including Mike, Jo, the Brigadier, and the Doctor. The Doctor also detects some strange energy readings, which he thinks are more worth investigating than the weather.

Mike and Jo, despite being warned off, decide to investigate anyway. A witness comes forward, the only person to survive what happened in Hyde Park, and she gives the cryptic clue of “Diamond Jack”. following the weather reports, Jo and Mike go to Trafalgar Square where a street magician named, Diamond Jack, is performing. Jo is dragged into his act and disappears. When Mike confronts him, weird stuff happens, including Diamond Jack floating in the air.

Capt. Yates finds Diamond Jack’s house. While outside, Mike is warned off confronting Diamond Jack by the Doctor and the Brigadier, but he ignores the warnings to rescue Jo. He locates Jo inside, who can’t believe she’s only been gone a few hours – she thinks it was days. The house itself is strangely empty with no photos or personal touches. Before Jo and Mike can escape, they are confronted by Diamond Jack.

The Brigadier, the Doctor, and UNIT arrive. The Doctor had found Jack’s spaceship. At this point things get a little weird. The Doctor uses a device he found at the spaceship, a red cylinder, which seems to work in the reverse of the zap device from “Men in Black” – and restores Jack’s memories. But Jack is actually an alien prisoner – and a prisoner in three types, a “human” Jack who’s suffering from short-term memory loss until the Doctor reverses it, the person’s memories, stored in the cylinder, which the Doctor restores, and the physical body – which has only animal instincts. The Doctor, Jo, and UNIT go to the spaceship, where they manage to release the animal creature.

Meanwhile Jack manages to kidnap Jo, again, and take her to Tower Bridge. Mike and the Doctor race to rescue Jo before the human Jack and his animal counterpart meet. Mike does rescue Jo, but not before Jack attacks her mind again, causing her to be placed in a coma. UNIT manages to take down Jack and the monster.

In the end, Mike confesses it took Jo a week to recover from her coma, and she lost her memory of the incident. Mike also confesses that he truly cared for Jo, even loved her, but she had only feelings of friendship for him.

The first half of this story works pretty well – the flash freeze is an intriguing mystery. But the second half, with the mysterious three-part alien, not to mention some alien civilization deciding Earth would make a great prison planet, works considerably less well. It’s like part 1 and part 2 are almost different stories, and they don’t gel being forced together. Mike’s sudden crush on Jo also seems misplaced, though the ending interview remarks that Mike was supposed to be a love interest for Jo. (Note: Mike was on the show before Jo Grant, as he was introduced with UNIT in Pertwee’s first story, whereas Jo was the Third Doctor’s second companion.) Even the flash freeze seems a little weird as “freezing to death” doesn’t work that way (it’s usually a process that takes a lot of time, and in cases where people have fallen into freezing water, for example, and are pulled out immediately – even if they seem “dead” they recover.) The way the situation in Hyde Park is described by Mike it’s more like the entire park was flooded with liquid nitrogen. I was left wondering, “huh?” Not to mention thinking the author had never actually experienced cold weather or frostbite.

But this is a Companion Chronicles story told from the point of view of an unusual companion, Capt. Mike Yates. As far as I know it’s the only story told from his point of view in all of the tie-ins for Doctor Who. Yes, there are various UNIT stories, but they are often more team stories than the point of view of a single member of UNIT. Though as I said, I don’t remember even hints of a Mike-Jo romance, this is from Mike’s pov, and from what I remember of his character, he could quite easily have a thing for a woman who has no interest in him.

Overall, I’d give this 3.5 stars. It’s not horrible, but it’s not one of the best Companion Chronicles either.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com

Click here to order The Magician’s Oath on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Book Review – Doctor Who: Resistance

  • Title: Resistance
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Steve Lyons
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Polly, The Pilot, Second Doctor, Ben, Jaime
  • Cast: Anneke Wills (Polly), John Sackville (the Pilot)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/08/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Doctor Who: Resistance is a release in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles line, and features Anneke Wills as Polly telling this purely historical Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) story. The TARDIS lands and Ben, Polly, Jaime, and the Doctor step outside, only to discover that the TARDIS has landed on railroad tracks and it’s night. The TARDIS crew tries to shift the TARDIS off the tracks, to no avail. When Jaime remarks that they should just get back inside and leave, the Doctor answers – “And never know where we were? That won’t do.” Soldiers attack and the crew are split up, Jaime getting shot and captured. The Doctor sends Ben to find and rescue Jaime. They are to meet in the woods.

Needless to say, that doesn’t work as Ben and Jaime don’t show up. The Doctor and Polly run off, knowing now where they are – Nazi-occupied France, and the soldiers who were after them are the French Gestapo. The Doctor and Polly end-up in a barn near a farmhouse. Luckily for them the young woman who lives on the farm with her parents, Jacqueline, is a member of the Resistance. She’s already hiding a stranded British Tommy (or “Invader”) and has made arrangements to pass him through her network of contacts to get him out of France and free.

This is exactly what they do. The Pilot, Polly, and the Doctor are passed from person to person, in a sort of French Underground Railroad to escape. Jacqueline hides them in her truck, and takes them to town, passing the free to a local tailor who is heavily involved in the Resistance. There, the Doctor wins favor by forging identity cards for everyone who needs them, so they can travel a bit more freely. Three other invaders are already waiting in the hidden room under the tailor shop. To Polly’s amazement, the Pilot that Jacqueline was hiding on her parent’s farm is Randolph Wright, Polly’s Uncle, whom she knows died in a German POW camp during the War.

The day before everyone is to leave to take a train to the Southern border of France, Jacqueline shows up again. The tailor, Claude, gives her a tongue-lashing for putting everyone in danger by showing up at the shop. But Jacqueline has terrible news – the French Gestapo were waiting at her farm and have arrested her parents. She only escaped because she was warned by a friend. Claude’s upset at the risk helping Jacqueline poses. The Doctor creates an identity card for her, which greatly reduces the risk. He takes the entire group to the train station.

There, the Doctor tells Polly they shouldn’t actually get on the train as it will take them even further away from the TARDIS, not to mention Ben and Jaime. There are a few scuffles at the station, and the Doctor is left behind (he does provide distractions so other resistors can escape) and Polly ends-up on the train. In a compartment on the train, she and the Pilot start to talk and gossip about their families. Polly realises that the Pilot isn’t her Uncle Randolph Wright as he claims – but a French Gestapo spy, responsible for their losses so far. He attacks her, she screams, Jacqueline shows up and shoots him. Thanks to a conveniently loud steam train, no one hears the shot, and the Invaders, Jacqueline, and Polly are able to hide the body. The train arrives at their stop and they leave, and meet the last link in the chain, Paul Bernard, who will show them through the mountains and over the border to freedom in Spain. However, in the mountains, they meet the Doctor again, who now has Jaime and Ben with him. Polly explains to Jacqueline she must leave with her friends, but assures Jacqueline she will be alright, since she’s almost home free so to speak. Jacqueline agrees, then tells Polly that Jacqueline is only her code name and her real name is Michelle. The Doctor, Jaime, Ben, and Polly return to the TARDIS and leave France.

The CD opens with a trailer for another Companion Chronicles story, and closes with a panel discussion about Resistance with Lisa Bowerman, Anneke Wells, and John Sackville, as well as the producer of the series.

I enjoyed this story a lot. Yes, it’s basically, go here, then here, then here, etc., like most “quest”-style stories – but it’s a fascinating time, if a bit dark. However, there could have been a sense of paranoia as no one really knows who to trust – and there is none of that. Even though Claude, especially, is concerned about spies in his midst, and he has reason to be concerned, it comes off as common sense, given the circumstances, and not unjust paranoia.

One tiny issue I had with this story was the pronunciation of Jacqueline’s name. The Pilot, and Jacqueline herself, pronounce it as “JACK-CUE-lynn”, which is correct. Polly for some completely unknown reason keeps pronouncing it as, “JACK-leen”, which is just wrong. OK, I’m not sure how it would be pronounced in French – but as it happens to be my own first name, I can tell you, “JACK-CUE-lynn” is correct. I don’t know if it was something done to indicate Polly’s background or what. (Anneke plays both Polly and Jacqueline – so she’s pronouncing the name differently depending on the character. John Sackville, as the Pilot, pronounces it correctly as, “JACK-CUE-lynn”.) I also was completely lost by Jacqueline’s important name-drop moment that her name is “Michelle”. Was that meant to mean something?

However, given the dire circumstances, there are a few light and even funny moments in the story (for example, while hiding out in a barn the Doctor starts fiddling with a tractor and hot-wires it. They are caught. They try to escape on the tractor, and Polly, narrating, remarks, “As a get away vehicle, a slow-moving tractor was, perhaps, not the wisest choice…” and given this is audio, it just brings to mind the image of the Doctor on this huge tractor, being chased by someone catching up to him without even having to run. Or Jaime’s perfectly practical suggestion at the very beginning – of why don’t they just get back in the TARDIS and leave rather than even trying to push it off the tracks.

I highly recommend Doctor Who Resistance is a brilliant, truly historical Doctor Who story.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com

Click here to order Resistance on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Mahogany Murderers

  • Title: The Mahogany Murderers
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Andy Lane
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Henry Gordon Jago, Professor Henry Litefoot, Ellie the barmaid, Fourth Doctor
  • Cast: Christopher Benjamin (Jago), Trevor Baxter (Professor Litefoot), Lisa Bowerman (Ellie the barmaid)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/31/2017

Doctor Who: The Mahogany Murderers is a volume in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles and it also plays like a backdoor pilot. Professor George Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago are two characters from the classic Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. However, this story takes place some time later, as the two have not only remained fast friends but solve mysteries and conundrums together.

This story begins with the two meeting up in a pub to catch each other up on their latest adventure. The two swap parts of the story with Jago constantly warning they must be careful to not put Act II before Act I as their stories overlap. Professor Litefoot, a professional pathologist who works for a local hospital and the police was finishing up his duties and cleaning the mortuary when two police officers arrive with a body in a wheelbarrow. They put the body on one of the tables then leave. But when he examines the body Litefoot finds it isn’t a dead body at all – it’s a life-sized intricate mannequin. Litefoot sends a messenger to send a telegram to Jago to ask him to investigate the area where the “body” was found.

Jago does so, describing in detail one of the worse areas of Victorian London. Jago ends-up finding a warehouse, a warehouse full of strange electric equipment.

Meanwhile at the morgue, Litefoot is continuing to investigate the “body” when a man arrives demanding he turn over the body since it belongs to him. Litefoot refuses, citing that it’s part of an on-going police investigation (which is a slight exaggeration). Later, the body itself rises from the mortuary table and walks out.

Meanwhile, Jago is investigating the warehouse, and he trips over one of the cables on the floor. He tries to plug it back in but is hit over the head. He wakes up only to be confronted by a group of wooden men. The men can speak and move – and they are all criminals. Jago is mistaken for Dr. Tulp, and recognizes one of the men as Jack Yeavil, a infamous criminal who had recently died in Newgate Prison. But as he’s learning about exactly what’s going on, the wooden man that Litefoot had examined arrives – and tells everyone this is not Dr. Tulp.

Litefoot meanwhile had followed the wooden man to the warehouse. Jago seems to be in a lot of danger – but Litefoot throws an oil lamp, starting a fire, and allowing Jago to escape. There’s a hansom cab race as Jago takes one cab to the warehouse and one of the wooden criminals takes the other. The criminal offers eternal life to him in a wooden, metal, or porcelain body. But in the end, Jago and Litefoot burn down the warehouse as well and all the wooden men are destroyed.

This was a fun story, and a bit different even for a Companion Chronicles tale. The Doctor isn’t in the story at all, though he’s mentioned at the very end. It plays like a test case or backdoor pilot and in the CD extra panel discussion the idea of starting a “Jago and Litefoot” series is batted around as an idea. That idea must have been taken seriously at Big Finish, because they have introduced a Jago and Litefoot series on audio. This is also pretty close to a full-cast audio drama. Not only does it have music and sound effects, but it has three people in the cast: Christopher Benjamin as Henry Gordon Jago, Trevor Baxter as Professor Litefoot, and Lisa Bowerman, the director, as Ellie the barmaid. So, even though much of the story is Jago and Litefoot telling each other what happened, it’s also a bit less of “telling a story” than the average Companion Chronicles story. I enjoyed it.

However, as there are a lot of Doctor Who audios available from Big Finish, and other series I’m interested in, this story wasn’t quite enough to hook me in to trying the Jago and Litefoot series. I don’t regret the purchase, it was a fun and different adventure, but I prefer the Companion Chronicles stories than feature actual Doctor Who companions and the Doctor Who ranges themselves. One can only buy so much. Still The Mahogany Murderers is recommended as something a bit different and novel.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

Click here to order The Mahogany Murderers on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Transit of Venus

  • Title: The Transit of Venus
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Jacqueline Rayner
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Ian Chesterton, Joseph Banks (guest), First Doctor
  • Cast: William Russell, Ian Hallard
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/23/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles series features stories told from the point of view of the Doctor’s companions. This series gives Big Finish the opportunity to tell stories set in previous eras of the British Television Series, Doctor Who with previous Doctors and companions. In that aspect, the Companion Chronicles are similar to the Missing Adventures and Past Doctor Adventures original novels. The Transit of Venus is performed by William Russell as Ian Chesterton, and is set in the First Doctor (William Hartnell) Era. As is the case with many of the Companion Chronicles, Russell is joined in his performance by Ian Hallard as Joseph Banks. The Transit of Venus is a pure historical story. The only science fiction elements are the TARDIS, and Ian’s references to the previous television story, “The Sensorites”.

The story opens with the Doctor, now very angry with Ian and Barbara, dropping them off someplace on Earth. He doesn’t even stay to see if they are in fact in 20th Century Earth or to check that they are alright. In turns out they are not alright, and, luckily for Barbara and Ian, Susan insists that her grandfather (the Doctor) stay and check. The Doctor and Susan see Ian and Barbara being attacked by the sailors of the 18th century sailing ship they have landed on. The Doctor and Ian end up staying on the ship and Susan, Barbara, and the TARDIS are pushed over the side. Thus, this is a First Doctor and Ian story. Never fear, though, Barbara, Susan, and the TARDIS are found and the crew reunited at the end of the story. In some aspects, this is typical of early Doctor Who – the stories often depended on the TARDIS crew being separated and reuniting later. Often such separations serve the plot by the crew separately learning important information which is later pooled for plot purposes. Other times, characters disappearing serve more practical purposes – giving the actors on the show some much-needed time off (back in the days when producing Doctor Who was closer to a three-quarters of the year repertory theatre than modern television. In the case of this audio play, having half the cast missing for all but the opening and closing scenes seems to have been done for purely practical reasons – less characters makes the story smaller and easier to tell on audio.

However, that is not purely a negative. Once it becomes apparent that this will be a Doctor and Ian story, the listener can just go with it, and it is still a very enjoyable story. Ian and the Doctor end-up on Captain Cook’s Endeavour sailing ship, navigating the Pacific Ocean on their way to charting Australia and discovering the Cook Islands. The story is educational – teaching about the famous voyage as well as the geography of the region – the groups of islands, their names, the coastal features of Australia, etc. It’s the type of story that if filmed, especially with some sort of budget, could be extremely enjoyable, sort of Doctor Who does Master and Commander. Because this is Doctor Who there is another plot to pass the time on the long ship voyage – Ian meets Joseph Banks, a famed botanist. Yet, whenever Ian is alone with Banks, weird things seem to happen. Ian sees Banks shoot an albatross that is following the ship, and Ian warns him of the superstition against killing an albatross. Then he hears Banks quote the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Later, as Ian approaches Banks’ cabin, he hears voices, which, to Ian, sound like Banks is reading aloud a diary entry containing information about the future. A few days later, Banks and Ian are on the ship’s deck, and Ian becomes fearful of Banks and even believes Banks pushed him overboard. Banks rescues Ian, and states that he became disoriented on the ship and fell. As a result of his dunking in the ocean – Ian becomes quite sick, contracting a fever, and is cabin-bound. Ian has additional strange experiences on the ship, especially when near Banks.

Finally, the Endeavoour reaches the place in Australia where Ian knows they will land. And he sees Susan and Barbara on the shore. Barbara explains briefly what happened to them, how they survived, and even tells him that since they knew they would have a long wait – she had, as a history teacher, filled Susan in on the history of Captain Cook’s voyage, even telling Susan about The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and later that she had sung “Botany Bay” to her. Susan, after her experiences on the Sensesphere in turns out still had latent telepathic abilities. It was Susan who had unwittingly transferred information to Banks that Ian picked up. Information that Banks himself was unaware of, but that because of his familiarity with Susan, Ian was able to hear as a ghostly voice. This is a bit of an science fiction element – but The Transit of Venus is not a story where Joseph Banks is secretly an alien or time traveler as Ian at first suspects. Also, Ian is actually experiencing something outside his normal experience even as, by this point in the First Doctor Era, he is a seasoned time traveler himself. Playing with Ian’s emotions could have come off as cruel, but instead it suits the story and the characters – and everything works out. After being reunited the TARDIS crew leaves in the TARDIS.

I enjoyed The Transit of Venus as a purely historical Doctor Who story for the most part. Ian’s suspicions are played more as paranoia than something really going on – which is novel for a Doctor Who story. Yes, in the Doctor Who universe if a character thinks someone is an alien and up to no good – they usually are. So for the accused to not be an alien is actually a surprise. Plus, Ian is a practical man and a man of science. Before meeting the Doctor he would have dismissed aliens, time travel, and the like. Now, dropped in to a purely normal situation (albeit in 1770), Ian leaps to the opposite conclusion – based on his last couple of years of personal experience. That is pure Ian.

I did miss having Barbara in the story. I’ve always liked the Ian-Barbara dynamic, and the two had great chemistry as a couple. It is no wonder that in fan canon they are not only a couple, but a married one. And this long-standing fan theory was even made canon in an episode of, The Sarah Jane Adventures. However, even though I would have liked to see Barbara in the story – if she had been on the ship with Ian, there would have been no conflict. The two, plus the Doctor, would have simply had a nice sea cruise. Enjoyable for them, but probably a bit boring for the audience. And Ian’s concerns and fears were played particularly well – playing off the audience’s expectations for a Doctor Whostory, without making the character look like an idiot.

Overall, this is an excellent historical Doctor Who adventure. The CD version includes a panel interview with the cast, director, and producer as well as a trailer for the next Big Finish Companion Chronicles adventure. Recommended.

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Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!