The Library of Alexandria is a lovely mix of science fiction and historical storytelling that Doctor Who does so well, the pseudo-historical tales from the Doctor Who annuls are always much more fun then the straight up history lessons that the show originally tried to give and writer Simon Guerrier takes care to give fans a mix of both for one of the more exciting Companion Chronicle releases.
Taking a break from their journey around the universe the original TARDIS crew, in the shape of the First Doctor, Barbara, Ian and Susan, find themselves in Egypt at the Royal Library of Alexandria, where they’re taking in the local culture and enjoying watching history unfold first hand. Ian has even got a job finding books for the library for cataloguing and is getting himself immersed into the swing of things. But once he meets local philosopher Hypatia, that’s where things start to become complicated.
Barbara is showing a touch of the green eyed monster where it comes to Ian and Hypatia but that’s only the emotional side of things, because when Hypatia finds a mysterious book not like anything else in the catalogues titled “The Pathway to the Stars”, Ian soon deduces that he’s found an alien reconnaissance report that will shortly lead to an attempted invasion.
Where the first episode of this story takes a slow but interesting approach to the tale, with discussions regarding philosophy, future history and of course, the fate of the Library, the second episode steps up the game to full on action. The ‘invasion’ that has been discovered by Ian turns out to something more interesting and more original thanks to Guerrier and the Doctor’s heroic and defiant stance against the aliens that turn up is a classic slice of Hartnell.
So engaging is this adventure that this reviewer did a little research on the Library of Alexandria (the actual library, not the Doctor Who story) and discovered that it burned down, resulting in the loss of many of its books. There are also 4 possible occasions of when the burning took place, Guerrier’s story attempts to rectify this mystery in good Who fashion and succeeds in involving the Doctor nice and heavily, as it always should be.
Susan Franklyn also delivers a touching and powerful performance as Hypatia, there’s a chance of a love interest for Ian in this story but Hypatia’s growing feelings only fuel the fire for the ‘will they, won’t they’ story arc that has been discussed between Ian and Barbara over the last 50 years in Doctor Who. A return from Franklyn and her character would be welcome, she seems to be a woman ahead of her time here and it would be marvellous to find her aboard the TARDIS one day.
The Library of Alexandria is a magnificent Companion Chronicle that also serves as homage to The Aztecs, with discussions regarding the changing of history and how far the TARDIS crew can go. The music that accompanies the tale is also one of the better incidental compositions from Big Finish and really sells the location that the travellers find themselves in. This is simply one of the smartest historical that Big Finish has ever produced.
The Library of Alexandria is available from www.bigfinish.com now.