Chapter By Chapter features me reading one chapter of the selected book at the time and reviewing it as if I were reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have, and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
Lucky for me the prologue is short because I don’t have a lot of time tonight. “Short” is relative to the rest of the book, where the smaller type could make for a longer chapter. We’ll see how it goes.
So what I’m expecting is the Doctor not being the savior of the universe but a cantankerous old man who by this point is at least willing to help but still tries to be uninvolved, like the other Time Lords. His problem was that he stole a TARDIS and left with his granddaughter because he wanted to explore time and space (plus we later learn he had to hide a Time Lord weapon and chose Earth for whatever reason, which is what the Doctor and Susan originally ended up near Coal Hill for). However, being the prologue I’m not really expecting the regular cast so much as a set-up for what they’re about to find, a teaser opening if you will. No images and no titles so we’ll just be jumping right into these chapters.
From what little I remember of the book the prologue honestly confuses me, but that could show you how well I remember the story. After all, I read it over a course of years while dealing with various personal issues so honestly this may be my second read but it’s the first time I read it all the way through. However, starting in 1967 was an odd place given that this book is supposed to take place a year after the book came out. Odder still it starts in a farmhouse where a woman named Joan has various people helping her around the house, as she likes company. She’s also apparently not very rich, as we see that she kind of pushes her rationing by offering hot cocoa to a new helper. Modern readers will find how she makes it…do I want to say “quaint”? There’s no microwave back then and apparently no hot cocoa mix. She has to pour hot milk into a cup filled with chocolate, like she’s making tea. Even I’m not old enough to remember doing it that way. We always used a mix or chocolate syrup.
What’s surprising is that Joan is Joan Wright, who we learn is Barbara’s mother, but that’s not the surprising part. Her guest is Ian Chesterton, much older than we usually see him, and he’s here to tell Joan the story of Barbara’s fate, because apparently something’s happened and she’s not coming back. We also see the first sign of something I don’t think was even really hinted at in the show, as Joan believes Ian loved her. Whether she means as a friend or not she doesn’t think (she doesn’t actually say it out loud but thinks it to herself watching as Ian tries to tell her what happened) but I think this comes up again in the book. I don’t remember a romantic connection happening between them. Actually, most of the romantic entanglements between Companions have always been in New Who: the Doctor and Rose (plus Martha’s crush on his, later marrying Mickey because this show shies away from interracial romance) or Amy and Rory. Maybe the writers intended for them to be a couple but in the episodes I’ve seen (and I haven’t seen all of the still available episodes with them) that doesn’t appear to be the case. We’ll see how this one goes.
Also interesting here is that we meet Barbara’s mother. Visiting Companions’ families was a rarity and usually an extended family, an uncle or something. It wasn’t until New Who that Companions kept bringing their mothers or fathers into adventures as their family and friends were rarely acknowledged. Tegan had a job where she might be missed as a flight attendant and yet she went traveling with two versions of the Doctor. Nyssa’s dad was killed, I think Victoria had the same problem, and pretty much everybody else never bothered with their family. New Who loves bringing the Companions home to visit their families and friends. Under Moffat they even often stayed on Earth and every now and then the Doctor would show up and they’d go off for a day trip before coming back home, like they were just going on holiday, as they say in the UK. I think Guerrier is taking some cues from New Who rather than Classic Who so we’ll see how that goes as well.
So what did happen to Barbara and why is an older Ian showing up on her mother’s doorstep? I suspect it will be a while before we find out, but we’ll get started on that next time in chapter one.