Jacqueline Rayner’s Transit of Venus was one of several made available in special June offers (see here) this to coincide with the transit itself happening. Given how much I enjoyed the freebie The Revenants which was also a William Russell / First Doctor tale (reviewed here) and also the superb Doctor Who and the Pirates by Jacqueline Rayner this story had to endure rather a weight of expectation – did it live up to it?
Ian and Barbara are being thrown out of the TARDIS following the events of The Sensorites things don’t quite go as planned and Ian (with the Doctor) end up on Captain Cook’s ship between it’s measuring the events of the Transit of Venus and their discovery of Australia; Barbara meanwhile is presumed drowned! The TARDIS is thrown overboard by fearful sailors who saw it appear and the Ian inadvertently claims to be a Venusian which lets Captain Cook keep them alive as guests.
As the ship continues its journey, Ian is given the task of working with one of the onboard scientists, Joseph Banks. There then follows a series of strange experiences that make Ian believe that Joseph Banks is actually a time traveller and/or and alien who seeks to take over the ship, poison the crew or throw Ian overboard! Examples include Joseph reciting parts of the yet to be written Ancient Mariner shortly after killing an albatross.
The Doctor is sceptical and finds increasingly detailed reasons as to why Ian may be jumping to conclusions or even actually be a source of temporal interference himself! There is also more than a suggestion that the encounter with the Sensorites may have left lasting damage to Ian.
Needless to say it all ends up happy in the end and if there is a week point it is the slightly rushed explanation of what was going on which I didn’t spot at all as I, like Ian, was trying to sort out the aliens from the delusions.
Despite being a two-hander as is the wont for Companion Chronicles, this tale is very heavily biased towards Ian Chesterton or the Doctor so most air time is given to William Russell with Ian Hallard providing the voice for Joseph Banks.
William Russell is a joy to listen to and the language really conveys a sense of this period in the show’s history with a much smaller TARDIS, the TARDIS as a ship and other details.
I was inspired to read up (ok on wiki) on some of the details and was puzzled that the link from Coleridge to Banks is in fact true of Coleridge to the astronomer on the voyage. I assume this was deliberate.
I would have liked the events of the transit itself to have been inside the narrative which seems to peg itself on that title as a matter of convenience – the story could as easily have been called Botany Bay, Endeavour or some such.
This is all picky though, what we have is another decent tale showing off the talents of all concerned wonderfully. There are also some extras as well!
That’s what I thought – what did you think? Have I captured the essence or missed the boat?