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Companion Guide: Ian Chesterton

Science Teacher by day; Action Hero by night

Planet of origin: Earth
First TV appearance: An Unearthly Child
Last consecutive TV appearance: The Chase
Last TV appearance: The Power of the Doctor

Ian Chesterton, played by William Russell, is a companion and character inextricably linked to Barbara Wright and hugely significant to the early days of Doctor Who.

Envisioned as the character who would carry the action parts of the stories, Ian was often a source of strength and stability in the crazy universe he and Barbara found themselves thrust into in An Unearthly Child. Fiercely protective of Barbara, he would not hesitate to defend the group against adversaries and always strived to find practical solutions to the problems they found themselves confronted by. It is Ian, in the episode The Forest of Fear, who manages to convince Hur that he is a ‘friend’ and wants to help the injured Za. Even when disabled by a Dalek blast in The Daleks, he wants to be the one who returns to the TARDIS to retrieve the Thal drugs rather than allow Barbara or Susan to go.

In the same story, it is Ian who manages to provoke the Thals into helping them carry out an assault on the Dalek city in quite a ruthless deception which ends up with him getting thumped by Thal leader, Alydon.

The Aztecs is the story where Ian’s ‘action hero’ credentials are put to the test as he is positioned to challenge Ixta, the city’s greatest warrior, in combat. However, it is his cunning that shines through when a trick with his thumb helps convince the Aztecs that he is worthy of the challenge. Likewise, in The Crusade, Ian sets off on a solo mission to rescue Barbara from the clutches of El Akir and manages to survive being captured and tied up in the searing heat of the desert by, again, using his skills of deception.

As his time aboard the TARDIS continues, his lighter, comical side emerges and his joy at having a chance to relax in The Romans is palpable whilst the comfortable, some would say loving, bond between him and Barbara develops.

Ian and Barbara leave, together, in The Chase, having taken the opportunity to use a Dalek time machine to get them home to London, 1965. However, as is the case with many of the Doctor’s companions, Ian’s connection to the Doctor is never far away. Ian and Barbara are brought in to help UNIT and the Master in the BBC Book, Face of the Enemy and in the DWM comic strip Hunters of the Burning Stone they are reunited with the Doctor, in his eleventh incarnation, as well as the Tribe of Gum.

And, on Earth in around 2022, Ian – now in his 90s – attended a support meeting for companions of the Doctor where he was surprised to find that the Doctor was, as far as some in the circle were concerned, female.

William Russell, the actor behind Ian, has been very active in the expanded universe, despite his advancing years. Ian Chesterton’s first appearance for Big Finish was in the Companion Chronicle – The Transit of Venus, where Ian meets the naturalist, Joseph Banks and the famous Captain Cook. Russell then went on to narrate a number Chronicles including historical stories The Flames of Cadiz and The Wanderer (where they would meet Rasputin) and more fanciful fare such as The Rocket Men and The Time Museum.

The Early Adventures also see Russell reprising his role as Ian in various adventures such as Domain of the Voord, The Doctor’s Tale and The Fifth Traveller with the Lost Stories featuring Ian giving us such stories as Farewell, Great Macedon and The Masters of Luxor.

The novels also saw further adventures for Ian with stories including The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Eleventh Tiger and Byzantium! Significant short stories featuring Ian include Mire and Clay in the anthology, A Universe of Terrors and The Duke’s Folly (included in Seven Deadly Sins).

More of Ian’s adventures as an older man are seen in The Five Companions (which occurs during the events of The Five Doctors) and Sphere of Influence, where he returns to the Sense-Sphere alongside Susan, during the events of the Time War. But all of this is preceded by an adventure set soon after Ian and Barbara return to London, 1965 – the third part of a BBC Audio series: Beyond the Doctor.

As with the rest of the original cast of Doctor Who, Ian has been recreated by a different actor, Jamie Glover, after he appeared as William Russell in the drama-documentary – An Adventure in Space and Time. Glover (son of King Richard himself, Julian Glover) has appeared alongside David Bradley, Jemma Powell and Claudia Grant in, to date, five box sets of The First Doctor Adventures.

Ian Chesterton is a solid, reliable presence in the early years of Doctor Who. His protective nature, his willingness to face danger of any kind and his amiable sense of humour make him a wonderful character to share adventures with. Willam Russell’s continued support of the world Doctor Who with further performances and many personal appearances and conventions and signings, have secured him as a legend – a status solidified by his appearance in The Power of the Doctor; an appearance which made him a Guiness World Record holder for the actor with the longest gap between episodes as the same character – 57 years and 120 days. Iconic.

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Read more about Ian at the TARDIS Wiki

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Written by: deltaandthebannermen