Warning: Spoilers ahead for the TV series Doctor Who
This is the third part of a series featuring the companions of the British science fiction television series, Doctor Who, and will center on the first male to join The Doctor in his travels, Ian Chesterton.
For the sake of people who haven’t watched the Doctor Who series, here is a brief glimpse of this long-running show. The Doctor Who series began in 1963 and has recently passed it’s very respectable fifty-year anniversary. The main character of Doctor Who is The Doctor, an alien who makes his way through space and time in his TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space) which is a time / space machine that has been disguised as the famously blue police box. The series follows the Doctor and his companions though exciting and dangerous adventures as they travel across the universe.
As The Doctor travels he occasionally encounters a person, often human, who, for one reason or another, becomes a traveling companion. There have been a relatively small number of people who have accompanied the Doctor, but their importance to the series can’t be dismissed as they were instrumental in the outcome of story.
The character of Ian Chesterton was played by William Russell who held the role from 1963 until 1965. He played Ian Chesterton in the following episodes: 'An Unearthly Child', 'The Daleks', 'The Edge of Destruction', 'Marco Polo', 'The Keys of Marinus', 'The Aztecs', 'Sensorites', 'Reign of Terror', 'Planet of Giants', 'The Dalek Invasion of Earth', 'The Rescue', 'The Romans', 'The Web Planet', 'The Crusade', 'The Space Museum', and 'The Chase'.
Brave, honest, and heroic, Ian Chesterton was truly a man to be admired. He was a rare type: a Doctor Who companion who was an adult man and was well suited to the role of leadership. There have been other males, but Ian was the first of that small handful who stepped into the TARDIS to travel the timelines of the Universe and, as both an intelligent and honorable man who would stand up to The Doctor and his friends for what he believed was right, Ian set a high standard for the companions who would follow him.
The character of Ian Chesterton was, perhaps, not the most obvious hero at first glance. He was a science teacher at Coal Hill School teacher and about as straight-laced and down-to-Earth as a person could be. He was sensible and logical, a friendly, personable man who kept a neat appearance and dressed in a suit and tie. He was quite ordinary. He was also willingly crawled into the armor of a Dalek to save his friends, fought an Aztec warrior, and even argued against The Doctor when he believed The Doctor to be in the wrong.
Clearly, Ian was far from ordinary.
Another of Ian’s characteristics was his stubbornness. He was so stubborn that in the first episode, when he and Barbara forced their way into the TARDIS he simply didn’t believe in the TARDIS. He called it an illusion. And when he was told that the TARDIS could travel through time space, he called it ridiculous. And then The Doctor opened the TARDIS doors and Ian saw that they were no longer in the London, England that he knew but were, instead, in a cold, prehistoric world.
Ian’s heroism was a thing to be envied, but he was also thoughtful and kind-hearted. Ian’s strong protective nature was also clear during his time with The Doctor. He willingly put himself in danger many times in order to protect his friends, right from the first episode where Ian restrained The Doctor so Barbara could get to Susan because they thought The Doctor was keeping her locked up. The Doctor made Ian’s role of protector clear when he told Ian that as he was the strongest of them, it was possible that he would have to defend them. In each episode Ian showed his sterling qualities in the way he cared not only about his companions but also about other people they encountered during their travels.
Ian’s Memorable Moments
Episode - An Unearthly Child
In ‘An Unearthly Child’, the first episode of Doctor Who, Ian helped to save a life. Not only did he help save a life, but it was the life of a caveman who’d taken him and his friends prisoner. Ian was compassionate enough to save the life of someone they were trying to escape and still wise enough to understand that they were still in danger from the rest of the caveman’s tribe. He quickly organized his friends into making a stretcher for the injured caveman so they could get to safety.
Episode - The Daleks
This episode marks the first appearance of The Doctor’s most infamous enemy, the Daleks. Ian still shows his commanding side when The Doctor insists on investigating a city they happen upon on Skaro, the home world of the Daleks. As The Doctor is the only one able to control the TARDIS Ian will not allow The Doctor to go to the city alone. The idea of one of his companions forbidding The Doctor to do anything is almost laughable with most of the companions, but Ian doesn’t hesitate when he thinks that The Doctor might be endangering them. That becomes glaringly apparent when, after The Doctor insists that they go back to the TARDIS because they find out there is a grave danger from radiation on Skaro, even though Barbara has gone missing. Ian refuses to leave without Barbara and won’t give The Doctor a vital piece of the TARDIS until they find Barbara, demanding that The Doctor start acting responsibly as it was his fault that they were in the mess they were in.
While on Skaro, the crew of the TARDIS becomes involved in a conflict between the Daleks and another species of people living on Skaro, the Thals. When they escape the Daleks, the crew of the TARDIS try to convince the Thals to help them regain a component of the TARDIS that had been left behind in the Dalek city by explaining that the Daleks would surely kill them, but the Thals are pacifists who refuse to fight no matter what the cause. While The Doctor and Barbara argue that they needed to use the Thals in order to attack the Dalek city to get the missing component back, Ian refuses and holds firm to his belief that the only way the Thals should fight and possibly die is if they chose to do it for their own sakes and not just to help the crew of the TARDIS.
Episode - The Aztecs
‘The Aztecs’ episode was one that really showed off Ian’s physical skills. Trapped away from the TARDIS, while Barbara pretended to be the reincarnation of a respected priest and The Doctor nosed around looking for a way to get back to the TARDIS, Ian found his way into being a champion warrior. He defeated the previous champion and ended up throwing him off the side of a temple in order to save his friends.
Episode - The Romans
While they spend some time in ancient times on Earth, getting a well-deserved rest from their hectic travels, Barbara and Ian were kidnapped and sold into slavery. While Barbara was bought by the household of Cesear Nero, Ian had been sent off to row on a galleon. After a harrowing escape with his fellow slaves, Ian found his way to where Barbara was behind held and rescued her.
Sources used for this article include the T.V. episodes: 'An Unearthly Child', 'The Daleks', 'The Edge of Destruction', 'The Keys of Marinus', 'The Aztecs', 'Sensorites', 'Planet of Giants', 'The Dalek Invasion of Earth', 'The Rescue', 'The Romans', 'The Web Planet', and 'The Space Museum'.