Saturday, January 9, 2010

Companions: Ian Chesterton

Affiliated with......First Doctor
Home planet..........Earth
Home era.............1963
First appearance.....An Unearthly Child
Last appearance......The Chase
Portrayed by.........William Russell

Ian Chesterton is a science teacher at the Coal Hill School and works with Barbara Wright, a history teacher. One of their students, Susan Foreman, the granddaughter of the Doctor, shows unusually advanced knowledge of science and history. Attempting to solve the mystery of this "unearthly child," Ian and Barbara follow Susan back home to a junkyard, where they hear her voice coming from what appears to be a police box. When they investigate further, they discover that the police box exterior hides the much larger interior of a time machine known as the TARDIS, and are whisked away on an adventure in time and space with the Doctor and Susan.

Ian provides the series with an action-oriented figure, able to perform the physical tasks that the elderly Doctor can not. His concern, above all, is for the safety of the TARDIS crew, and in the early stories he often takes issue with the Doctor's habit of placing the group in harm's way just to satisfy his own curiosity. The chemistry between Barbara and himself is also evident, although the nature of their relationship is never made explicit in the television series.

Ian shows a surprising breadth of skills throughout his tenure with the Doctor. He manages to create fire (An Unearthly Child), rides a horse, knows how to fight with swords (The Romans) and is knowledgeable about pressure points that can paralyze an opponent (The Aztecs). He is also fiercely protective of Barbara, going on a lone mission to rescue her from Saracens in The Crusade. In that story, he is also knighted by King Richard I of England as "Sir Ian of Jaffa," although presumably he would be unable to use that title in his own time. After many travels, Ian and Barbara eventually use a Dalek time machine to get home, albeit two years after their disappearance and presumably with much explaining to do to their friends and families.

The character of Ian was intended by the production team to return for a guest appearance in the 1983 Doctor Who story Mawdryn Undead, but this plan fell through when Russell proved to be unavailable. However, in 1999 Russell did return to the part for the BBC Worldwide video release of The Crusade, two of the four episodes of which are missing from the archives. Russell provided linking narration between the existing episodes in character as an aged Ian Chesterton reminiscing about the events of the story.

William Russell (born Russell William Enoch on 19 November 1924 in Sunderland, England) is a British actor, mainly known for his television work.
In 1963, Russell played the part of Ian Chesterton, one of the four original cast of Doctor Who, starring opposite William Hartnell as the Doctor, Jacqueline Hill as Barbara Wright and Carole Ann Ford as Susan Foreman. His first involvement in the series took the form of the untransmitted pilot episode, which was eventually reshot and aired as 'An Unearthly Child'. He stayed with the series for the entirety of its first season and much of the second, departing alongside Hill in the penultimate story of the run, 'The Chase'.

Four decades on from his first appearance, Russell continues his involvement with Doctor Who, having lent his voice as a narrator to several of the audio book releases of the 'lost' 1960s episodes. He has also appeared in 'The Game', one of the continuing Doctor Who audio stories produced by Big Finish. More recently, Russell has recorded readings of some of the Target Novelisations of Doctor Who episodes, also for CD release.

In the late 1990s Russell returned to the role of Ian for the VHS release of the story 'The Crusade', of which episodes two and four are currently lost. He recorded several in-character scenes to camera, which helped to bridge the gap between the existing episodes.

Russell has also contributed to the Doctor Who DVD range, having participated in several audio commentaries and on-screen interviews since 2002.

Russell appeared in British films from 1950 onwards, appearing in well-known productions such as They Who Dare (1954), The Man Who Never Was (1956) and The Great Escape (1963). He also later had a minor role in Superman: The Movie (1978) and Death Watch with Harvey Keitel and Harry Dean Stanton (1979).

His big break was the title role in The Adventures of Sir Lancelot on ITV in 1956, which for sale to the NBC network in the U.S. became the first British television series to be shot in colour. Following this, he won a role in Doctor Who as one of the Doctor's companions, science teacher Ian Chesterton, appearing in the bulk of the first two seasons of the programme.

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