AUDIO REVIEW: The Companion Chronicles - The First Doctor Vol. 1

The Companion Chronicles:
The First Doctor Volume 1
by Martin Day, Simon Guerrier, Ian Potter

Starring Carole Ann Ford, Maureen O'Brien & Peter Purves

Out Now - Buy HERE

Review by Sami Kelsh

The Big Finish box set The First Doctor, Vol. 1 presents four stories featuring companions of everybody’s favourite lapel-clutching grumpy grandfather, The First Doctor.

Plucky young granddaughter Susan (Carole Ann Ford) stars in The Sleeping Blood, in which The Doctor has become gravely ill, and it is up to Susan to seek out a cure for him. She finds herself on a planet where the search for a simple course of antibiotics is far more complicated than it ought to be. In spite of being alone, Susan copes admirably in seeking a treatment for what ails her grandfather, and in her dialogue with a feared and dangerous terrorist, we see very much the sort of young woman she is – infinitely compassionate, but quite innocent as well.

In The Unwinding World, Vicki (Maureen O'Brien) and her friends – The Doctor, Barbara, and Ian – find themselves separated from the TARDIS, blending into the local community as they work to retrieve it. Vicki faces off against Connie, the deceptively friendly face of a computer system whose purpose in automating the many systems of the planet's everyday life are far more complicated than they seem - but so is Vicki's plan to retrieve the TARDIS and get the team out of there. This was my favourite of the four stories: writer Ian Potter has crafted a clever and compelling set of layers to this tale, the (auditory) staging of which brings a sense of atmosphere and scope to the tale.

The final two stories, The Founding Fathers and The Locked Room bring us the story of Steven (Peter Purves) - all grown up and retired from public office, and with a granddaughter of his own. In the former, Steven tells his granddaughter of the time he, Vicki, and The Doctor encountered Benjamin Franklin and his mysterious lady friend. Steven's impression of Franklin sounds like an English fellow doing an impression of an American, but it’s what American sounded like to him, and indeed this is even lampshaded in the story's dialogue itself; to that end, as part of a memory play, it is just as it should be.

The Doctor figures in both stories as well – in the first, as the copy of his consciousness confined to a machine, who first suggests that Steven’s granddaughter Sida run for president; in the second, The Doctor himself materialises in Steven’s room (just as he was on the eve of regeneration) and, alongside Sida (now president) and Steven, battles an old enemy. This one calls back fairly significantly to previous adventures of Steven and The Doctor, but with enough helpful exposition that those just joining the story now won’t struggle to understand and enjoy what’s going on.

There’s something I find particularly satisfying about hearing of the companions’ post-TARDIS adventures, allowing their stories to continue after the time they said goodbye to the Doctor, like these chapters of Steven’s later life. After all, their stories are just as important as The Doctor’s.

Thanks to Big Finish

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