Moved forward in the releases, The Library of Alexandria is another First Doctor tale from Simon Guerrier; unlike some of his recent contributions to the Companion Chronicles, it doesn’t focus as heavily on the emotional journey of the narrator – although there are some nice pieces of misunderstanding on the part of Ian.
Guerrier plays with the conventions of the range, throwing us in mid-story with what seems, at first glance, to be an alternate version of Ian, before the parts of the puzzle start to fit together. Ian Chesterton isn’t the sort of person to sit around taking in the sights (although that is what seems to be happening at the start of The Romans), and helps in the local community – only to meet Susan Franklyn’s Hypatia, who gives him an opportunity to revert to his own background more than usual. It’s the sort of story that perhaps was originally envisioned for the show with the introduction of a science teacher and a history teacher – learning about the principles of science from the people who discovered them in the same way that the audience absorbed historical knowledge from the tales set in past times.
This isn’t a pure historical story – as the cover illustration hints – and there’s an interesting mix of the show’s then-adherence to the rule that history can’t be changed (as proved in The Aztecs) with an alien invasion in the past that the Doctor and his friends have to deal with. Guerrier has tackled this theme previously in his novel The Time Travellers, and, as with that, the audience knowledge of the future show helps to put things in context which aren’t clear to the participants.
Verdict: A straightforward and enjoyable tale. 8/10