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4.6 out of 5 stars
The Library of Alexandria (Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles)
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 20 June 2016
The knowledge of the ancient world is gathered in the great Library of Alexandria. But the Doctor knows that History, inexorable and unalterable, records the destruction of this knowledge and one remarkable woman who expounded it. Once written in Time, History cannot be changed. Or so I thought… 4* (2 episodes, 1 CD, 62 minutes + extras)

After the events of ‘The Reign of Terror’, the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan find themselves on holiday in ancient Alexandria. While his friends enjoy the intellectual diversions of the famous Library and city, Ian takes a job as one of history’s most unique customs officials, to pay their way. He’s enjoying the work and things get even better when he encounters (in the classic style) a famous historical personage.

Hypatia is brilliant, educated, a researcher and teacher of science at the renowned Library. Fellow science teacher Ian Chesterton soon strikes up a friendship close enough to make Barbara uncharacteristically jealous. Because, astonishingly for that time, the independent researcher and science lecturer is - a woman.

William Russell as Ian and Susan Franklyn as Hypatia give excellent performances, sharing the narration and also playing the other characters in a scene. I liked the division of the narration in this story so that we can see the travellers from Hypatia’s viewpoint, underlining just how unusual the Doctor is (which we may sometimes take for granted.)

Simon Guerrier’s script and Toby Hyrcek-Robinson’s sound design and music conjure up a wonderfully convincing picture of a great city of the ancient world, presumably (going by events) in 415 A.D. Because nothing lasts forever… A glance at the CD artwork will tell you that this story isn’t a ‘pure’ historical; I do enjoy ‘history with aliens’ stories, but here I thought it was the weaker aspect of this adventure and why this is only a four star review.

Part One is superb, an intelligent, fascinating exploration of the fabulous Library and the culture of learning that surrounded it, plus Ian’s growing friendship with Hypatia and the effect this has on his friends in the TARDIS. The research that went into this story is obvious, in a script sprinkled with references to classical works and ‘Doctor Who’ stories (*other* classical works in fact!)

But neither Hypatia nor the Library ended well. The Library probably dwindled over centuries through multiple accidents and attacks (as theorised and detailed here by Susan) which destroyed most of its vast collection and scattered the remnants. Hypatia’s tragic end was much more definite; murdered by religious fanatics opposed to ‘pagan’ (scientific) thought. (You may think those are spoilers, but not so…)

Part Two explores the downfall of the Library, made much more sudden here by the arrival of ‘monsters’. That’s fair enough for this style of story but I thought the ‘monsters’ seemed so monster-y and such a sharp contrast with the first half of the story that I couldn’t ‘buy into’ their reality; I thought a more restrained menace would have fitted better. I did like their motivation and the way the Doctor defeats them, which were perfect for the recurring ‘non-interference’ theme of the early historicals, but that in turn leads to what I felt was the closing puzzle of the story.

The TARDIS crew go on their way as usual and the influence that the events have had on Ian and Barbara’s developing relationship is very well done throughout. But what of Hypatia? History is clear about her tragic fate, which is referred to by Barbara early in this story and cleverly hinted at during the later attacks on the city.

But it looks as if the Doctor (the First Doctor at that!) has saved her life and rewritten history, with all the usual implications for the timelines! This goes so much against all his warnings and the grain of the classic historicals that I wondered if I had misread it, but the TARDIS crew leave in such a good mood, after two delightful historical twists at the end of the story, that I don’t think so. ‘The Aztecs’-vintage Doctor would have blown his top!

(A 10 minute suite of the excellent music follows the episodes and the CD insert has interesting writer’s and producer’s notes.)
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on 29 April 2015
This was a really good listen to. I enjoy particular listening to the Hartnell historicals, and this one is no exception. Simon Guerrier really does Ian Chesterton justice as it explores his independence as a character.

Also the story rolls on along quite nicely and also has a sense that you have actually watched it, you really feel like your there in alexandria with them.
Highly recommended to anyone, but once again it's another Hartnell classic!
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on 20 August 2013
William Russell gives a great performance as Ian as usual. I actually preferred the story more before the monsters turned up oddly. I don't think they would ave had the budget to show them on TV back then!
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Latest Doctor Who companion chronicle. These are a range of talking books which see an actor who played a companion to the Doctor on tv return to their role to read an all new story for their character. They also do all the voices save one which is performed by a guest actor.

They are usually two part stories complete on a single cd, with episodes that run for twenty five to thirty minutes each. [Approx].

This one sees William Russell return once again to the role of Ian Chesterton. Whom he played opposite William Hartnell back at the very dawn of the show.

The story sees the TARDIS crew in Alexandria, back in the fifth century. Taking a vacation. And a chance to enjoy the library. Which contained seemingly all recorded knowledge that there was at the time.

All of which was lost to history in due course when the building was destroyed.

Ian strikes up a friendship with a lady philosopher.

But how exactly was the library destroyed? The time travellers are about to find out. And what will survive when it happens?

William Russell has done several of these before and it's always great to see him return to the range for another one because he's a superb narrator.

Whilst some tales from this era would be purely historical and never have any science fictional elements beyond the TARDIS, this one does throw something alien into the mix. It's an interesting creation which fits the era and never feels out of place.

But the story isn't about aliens. It's about the earlier stages of the Ian Barbara relationship, before they'd fully realised their feelings for each other. Ian's relationship with the philosopher Hypatia, a meeting of minds, allows for this to be looked at from a fresh angle. Hypatia is very well acted by guest star Susan Franklyn and allowing her to narrate some of the story is a smart move because her character gives us an interestingly fresh look at the Doctor as a character when we see him through her eyes.

It's also about history. Being in the middle of it. And knowing what might be lost does have an effect on the time travellers.

The sound design and music does vividly bring a hot city and then one that's in chaos to life.

There are some final moments which are slightly reminiscent of similar in a recent release in this range. But they provide a fresh and clever twist, so that's not a problem.

Not quite a five star release but a very good one nonetheless, and well worth a listen.

There's a trailer for the next release in this range on the track after the end of part two.

And just over nine minutes of music from the story on the track after that.
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on 19 April 2013
One of the most enjoyable listens in a long while. As a listener, I don't like to be alienated, so recent Companion Chronicles such as The Child and The Scorchies were more than I could put up with. However, "Library" is a return to form.

It explores a couple of themes that really add to the ethos of Doctor Who, and is therefore highly original. It gradually detaches Ian a little from the rest of the crew allowing us to see the Ian-Barbara relationship in a refreshing light. It added tremendously to the character of Ian, and gives the Doctor the challenge of dealing with one of the most awesome adversaries realised on Big Finish audio.

I am deliberately avoiding any spoilers. Suffice to say having listened to all CC's so far this ranks very high. It feels like "The Aztecs" in quality (my favourite black and white story).

Highly recommended, and probably a nice place to start if new to the range, or only able to sample a very limited number. I really feel I have "watched" this story and was sad that it ended.
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on 10 July 2014
This is absolutely brilliant especially for anyone with an interest in the science of Classical antiquity and how its fundamental ideas still impact on contemporary thought. There are sea monsters as well. The background sound effects provide an outstanding sense of ambience to the scenes set in the story. The reading and cast are superlative. (There is one annoying grammatical error '...to Barbara and I' - why don't people get the idea that in English that the personal pronoun in all cases except the nominative is 'me': 'x was given to Barbara and me' not I. Sorry about that but it annoys me!)
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 16 March 2016
This is one of the series of Companion Chronicles (the tenth story in the seventh series). These normally feature a past companion of one of the Doctor’s incarnations, narrating a story from their time with the Doctor, and performing the roles of most of the cast along the way, with usually one other actor playing a key role in the story. This story features the main role being performed and narrated by William Russell (Ian Chesterton), with some of the narration, and the other guest actor Susan Franklyn who plays the role of Hypatia. The story was written by Simon Guerrier.

The story starts right off in its setting in Alexandria, and it takes a scene or two for the listener to find their bearings; Ian appears to be commanding a group of men who are inspecting ships at the port as they land; and when he meets a commanding young woman who demands access to the scrolls found on the latest inspected ship, he goes back in his narration to give a background to the story.

The Tardis has landed in Alexandria, and the Tardis crew are taking a well-earned break from their travels, in the 5th century AD. Ian has a job at the port inspecting incoming ships, and it’s a role he enjoys. The Doctor, Barbara and Susan have been spending a lot of their time at the famous Library in Alexandria, and when Ian makes the acquaintance of Hypatia, a philosopher, astronomer and Neoplatonic teacher, he also relishes the chance to discuss science and mathematics with her. But the historical records show that the Library of Alexandria is destroyed, and that Hypatia is to face a fearful crisis in her life; the Tardis crew are about to find out exactly what did happen in those fateful times in ancient Alexandria.

William Russell does an utterly fantastic job here in his role as Ian Chesterton, and also in the other parts he plays, including the Doctor, and several more. He narrates the story with great pathos, and plays the other parts in the story with great empathy. This is a story that tells a huge canvas of Alexandria, but also a very intimate tale, of Ian, Barbara and the Doctor and Susan. Susan Franklyn plays the part of Hypatia perfectly, and really brings her to life as a woman of strong and determined character, yet vulnerable withal. The characters are written perfectly in this story, and it really does bring a tear to the listener’s eye to hear such humanity, and performed so beautifully. Simon Guerrier has written a perfect First Doctor tale here, and it is performed perfectly. One to treasure, and to listen to again and again.
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