Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles - The Time Museum
Ian Chesterton is the main exhibit in a museum devoted to someone he knows extremely well...
Writer: James Goss
Starring: William Russell, Philip Pope
In an American TV series, The Time Museum would be the one at the end of a season, a cost-cutting exercise in rehashing old clips to make a new storyline. This audio by James Goss may
not be written for the same reason, but it does feel decidedly cut-price.
Ian Chesterton (William Russell, in typically robust form) wakes up one morning to find himself immersed inside a museum that is solely concerned with displaying one object — himself. His memories, to be more precise. Exactly who visits the museum, and what they see, goes unexplained, but the curator, a fastidious individual called Pendolin, seems terribly keen to extract as much information from Ian's mind as he can. Information about the teacher's friend 'John Smith' would be especially welcome…
The Time Museum doesn't make much of an impression first time round. There is no discernible plot, and the nature of the mysterious creatures who are trying to break into Pendolin's museum is never satisfactorily explained. Listening for the second time — on a trip to Bluewater, but I digress — threw up the possibility that they might be previous exhibits in the museum, joining forces rises up against its curator. But that's just a guess.
As mentioned, Russell is as good as ever, even with slight material like this to work with. He can conjure up word pictures effortlessly, and it really is extraordinary that this actor is still with us almost fifty years after we first saw him in An Unearthly Child. He works well with Philip Pope, who gives his character the rather blustering and pompous air of a small town mayor, or a retired bank manager. There are hints that Pendolin may be more powerful than he seems — he has the ability to literally suck the identity from Ian's brain and make him forget who he is — but, again, nothing is developed. And when Ian reminisces about all the adventures he experienced, he also includes Big Finish ones like The Rocket Men and The Masters of Luxor. The cynic in me is tempted to suggest this makes The Time Museum seem like a rather transparent marketing ploy for the company's Companion Chronicles range. In fact, I will — it does.
The story ends with many questions remaining unanswered. The nub of this tale, cynical marketing exercise aside, seems to revolve around a powerful little scene in which Ian describes the Doctor's attempt on Za's life in The Forest of Fear. His conclusion that he and Barbara somehow 'humanised' the Doctor is thought-provoking, especially in light of Steven Moffatt's recent attempts to give Matt Smith's incarnation a worryingly inappropriate vindictiveness.
But other than that brief moment, when the story suddenly springs into life, this is an inessential purchase.
Listen to the trailer here:
Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles - The Time Museum is out now.
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