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Doctor Who The Companion Chronicles: The Rocket Men by John Dorney

1/09/2011. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy Doctor Who The Companion Chronicles: The Rocket Men in the USA - or Buy Doctor Who The Companion Chronicles: The Rocket Men in the UK

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pub: Big Finish. 1 CDs 60 minute story. Price: CD: GBP 8.99 (UK), Download: GBP 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84435-581-5) cast: William Russell and Gus Brown.

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This latest ‘Companion Chronicle’, sees the return of the dashing Ian Chesterton played by equally dashing William Russell.

'The Rocket Men' is a narrated adventure where most of the action is told in a series of interlaced narratives. Appropriately for a time-traveller, the narrative hops about to a before, during and after scenarios where Ian contemplates how you know when you really love someone. As you might already have guessed, it is usually when you feel you might lose them forever. Is this the moment that he realises that Barbara really is his Miss Wright?

The heart-stopping moments and the twists in this story are constantly foreshadowed and marked by repetition of key phrases and words which indicate the change in time frame. It’s a clever use of language which causes an almost poetic resonance which draws us in to the story. Despite knowing the outcome, that Barbara and Ian live to fight another day there is plenty tucked into this audio that makes it worthwhile listening to.

When the travellers arrive on Platform Five, the floating city above the planet Jobis, they believe they might have a relaxing break in the paradise-like setting. Relationships are good and Vicki now travels with them since Susan’s departure.

The sudden arrival of a horde of space pirates intent on subjugating the population means Ian has to think fast to avoid capture. The pirates are also rocket men, with shades of ‘Flash Gordon’. Events make Ian really think about his relationship with Barbara and where it might be going. I can hear the fans cheering as I write this, looking for beginnings and endings only ever hinted at in the ‘family show’ of Doctor Who.

Ian is once again the man of action. His use of intrigue and disguise and his quick thinking is at least as important as his ability to use violence where necessary. His intuitive behaviour is made much of and with the Doctor largely absent, it is down to the humans to sort out a solution.

This is an exciting and fun episode of the ‘Companion Chronicles’ and it is always a pleasure to listen to William Russell’s beautiful enunciation and of course his reproduction of the essence of William Hartnell’s Doctor. We have a guest voice as well with Gus Brown playing the leader of the Rocket Men, the vicious and thuggish Ashman.

There is a great deal of thought into this elegiac piece that intersperses action and physicality with the emotion and feeling and wonderful description. I like the narrative moving backwards and forwards which builds up slowly and subverts expectations. Wonderful stuff. Another ‘listen again’ and again.

Sue Davies

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