WARNING: Significant spoilers follow
I’ve always rather liked the character of Ian (William Russell). He seemed to have a good head on his shoulders and was more than willing to call out the First Doctor when needed. His relationship with Barbra was fascinating and wonderful to see and the way he acted toward Susan was just about pitch-perfect. He really did set a very high standard for subsequent companions of both genders.
He gets a story all to himself in “The Time Museum,” Big Finish’s latest story in their companion chronicles line and the first title in season seven. It tells the story of Ian waking up in an odd museum; one which appears to be dedicated to him. The only other person there is a man named Pendolin (Phillip Poe), and it seems that he’s the one running the museum.
Soon the two are on the run for aliens that have invaded the time museum. They wind up moving through various moments in Ian’s life, with references to, and occasional scenes from, things like “An Unearthly Child”, “Marco Polo”, “The Crusades”, “The Keys of Marinus”, “The Aztecs” and others, including at least one reference to the upcoming Lost Story title, “The Masters of Luxor”. Eventually Ian stumbles onto the dark secret of the museum, but not before it’s almost too late.
This really is one for the fans. Most of the Companion Chronicles line are, mind you, but this one more so. A lot of Who fans haven’t bothered to watch much of the Hartnell years, and given the gaps in the record, that’s not much of a surprise. The existing stories also tend to be quite a bit challenging for newer audiences used to extravagances like color.
But for those of you who like the First Doctor’s era, you’re in for a real treat. You basically get Ian talking about living through the various adventures he had with the Doctor, including his reflections on the scene in “An Unearthly Child” where the Doctor was able to kill a wounded caveman. Ian has wondered ever since whether stopping him was the right thing to do, and it’s great to hear his doubts expressed.
It’s also great to hear William Russell playing Ian, a role he’s so very good at. I particularly enjoyed a scene where Ian essentially became the Doctor while Pendolin essentially became Ian. It’s wonderfully done and both actors are great with it.
The problem is that while this is a great story for long-time fans of the series, I have a feeling anyone who is at all new, or unfamiliar with most of the early days of the series, will be completely at sea. I think it’s a bit too “inside baseball” for those who aren’t familiar with the source material. That’s a shame, but the story here is good enough that I’d recommend they get familiar with the original series and then come listen to it.
Rating this one is hard, because as I said, it’s great if you’re familiar with the old stuff and probably not so much otherwise. Therefore I’ll give it a 4.5 for long-term fans of the series and a 2 for those who haven’t seen much of the older stories. I’ll therefore give this one a rating of 3.5.
Next month: Wendy Padbury returns as Zoe in “The Uncertainty Principle”, which, from the cover art, appears to feature Golum.