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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Companion Chronicles
The Library of Alexandria


Author: Simon Guerrier
Performed by: William Russell
Publisher: Big Finish Productions
RRP: £8.99 (CD), £7.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 084 8
Release Date: 30 April 2013

The port of Alexandria, in the 5th century AD. The Doctor, Ian, Susan and Barbara have taken a well-earned break from their travels, and are enjoying a few weeks in the sunshine – and the chance to appreciate the magnificent Library of Alexandria. Ian also takes the opportunity to enjoy friendship with the philosopher Hypatia – but things here will not last forever. The time travellers know that the library will soon be lost to history. What they are about to discover is the terrifying reason why…


A repository of rare works, many of them now sadly lost, the Library of Alexandria strikes a chord with me as a Doctor Who fan, since many episodes from the black-and-white television era being depicted in this audio book have similarly vanished into the mists of time. Like the BBC archives, the library is shown to be a victim of politics and bureaucracy. The philosopher Hypatia (Susan Franklyn) bemoans the fact that the collection’s various departments don’t communicate with each other – not unlike the BBC’s Engineering Department, Film Library and BBC Enterprises, who didn’t really start co-operating until the late 1970s. By the end of Simon Guerrier’s story, Hypatia and her fellow enthusiasts are left sifting through fragments for anything that can be restored or reconstructed. Sound poignantly familiar?

Unlike Ian’s televised adventures, this Companion Chronicle isn’t a purely historical or purely sci-fi story. It is something in between: the hybrid pseudo-historical genre that would emerge immediately after William Russell left the show. Like The Time Meddler and The War Games, it begins with every appearance of being a historical tale. We join the TARDIS crew some time after they have landed in 5th-century Alexandria, and we find that they have decided to stay put for a while and relax in this classical setting. So far, so The Romans. However, by the end of the first of its two episodes, The Library of Alexandria has metamorphosed into something quite different – rather like the shape-shifting Mim who attack the library.

I have to say that I found the first episode the more interesting. It establishes an intriguing rapport between Hypatia and Ian, who gets a rare chance to discuss science while in Earth’s past. However, their interaction causes ructions among the TARDIS crew. The relationship is developed a little further during Part Two, but it has to take a back seat to make way for the fear and devastation caused by the Mim.

Behind-the-scenes interviews are sadly lacking as CD extras, though you can hear ten minutes of Toby Hrycek-Robinson’s atmospheric score as an isolated music track.

All in all, this release is worth archiving in your Doctor Who library.


Richard McGinlay

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