It seems that if you want to listen to a guaranteed decent Companion Chronicle, you have to stick with the Hartnells. Whether it’s because the Hartnell years tended towards greater innovation and harder sci-fi, or whether it’s because the better Big Finish writers prefer it, the quality on the Hartnell releases have tended to be far better than those for other Doctors. Certainly, the very worst of the range is still head and shoulders above most of the rest.
Here, for example, we have The Transit of Venus, read by original Hartnell companion Ian Chesterton (aka William Russell). While not absolutely brilliant, it is a very Hartnellian piece, in which Ian and the Doctor are stuck on board the The Endeavour under the command of Captain Cook as it travels to Australia.
1770. Just after the Transit of Venus. The original TARDIS crew land aboard Captain Cook’s ship The Endeavour, due for Australia.
Is it any good?
It’s actually pretty good indeed. It’s something of a ghost story, as with the last Hartnell CC Home Truths, but less explicitly so, with Ian spending most of the story wondering why noted naturalist Joseph Banks keeps saying weird things about the future and trying to kill him. Although it’s reasonably easy to guess at least part of the cause of Banks’ odd behaviour, the explanation is more complicated and more interesting than first guesses would suggest.
As well as a slight Master and Commander feel to the piece, the absence of Susan and Barbara for most of the story does lend it an ominous air, with no clear way for Ian and Doctor to be reunited with them. Russell’s narration is first rate – he sounds surprisingly frail in the interviews afterwards compared with his reading – and Hallard gives a noteworthy second fiddle performance as Banks.
A good one to get if you like an historical, although with few bells, whistles and aliens for those who prefer beastie of the week stories – and a touch fangirly at times.
Did it keep my brain occupied for an hour down the gym or did I, at various points in the play, want to trap myself under something heavy in preference to listening to any more of it?
Yes. I did not wish for gym suicide.
William Russell (Ian Chesterton)
Ian Hallard (Joseph Banks)
Writer: Jacqueline Rayner