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Audio Drama Review
The Doctor and Turlough arrive on a planet where to be forgotten is to cease to exist. But the Forgotten leave a gap in the world – and that’s where the monsters are hiding...
Each of the single-part stories in this anthology release is about… well, stories. After all, as those folks at Big Finish keep telling us, they love stories. In most instances, there’s also a strong theme of remembrance, most obviously in the opening tale, The Memory Bank.
Here Turlough (Mark Strickson) finds himself the unwitting custodian of a book of memories. With it comes the responsibility of remembering details about and incidents from the lives of an entire community of people, because those who are not remembered will perish. Chris Chapman’s script touches upon the subject of the tragically forgotten in our own society: the lonely and the destitute. One of the painful memories that Turlough is forced the endure is the dreary Christmas of a man alone, and one of the forgotten people who is rescued by the Doctor (Peter Davison) is living on the street.
In the interviews at the end of Disc Two, Chapman explains that part of his inspiration for writing The Memory Bank was his own fear of losing memories of his late father. Whether or not you pick up on that angle, there will surely be something in this story that resonates with you.
Deep in the heart of old Europe, a village awaits the coming of a mythical teller of magical tales – but, as the TARDIS travellers discover, not all such stories end happily…
An altogether more light-hearted proposition is Paul Magrs’ The Last Fairy Tale, in which the Doctor and Turlough encounter a wandering storyteller (Duncan Wisbey), who many of the locals in the village of Vadhoc assume the Doctor to be. Despite his modesty and retiring nature, the Time Lord all too readily blurts out intriguing anecdotes about his many travels to strange times and places, which only encourage his eager audience.
Eccentric fairy-tale characters include a stuck-up princess (Sarah Sweeney) and an embittered old witch (Mandi Symonds). There’s no troll, except insofar as the witch accuses the storyteller of badmouthing her and her kind via the narratives he has been spreading – in other words, he’s been trolling them…
The Doctor and Turlough have tracked the deadly Bratanian Shroud to 22nd-century Reykjavík – where the Time Lord is about to become the victim of a serial criminal… again…
As is common with these anthologies, many of the stories feel as though they could have played out for longer, if they had been allowed a longer timeslot. That is especially true of Repeat Offender. We join the time travellers in the midst of an adventure, and at first it seems as though we have accidentally tuned in to the second episode (or later) of a serial.
However, writer Eddie Robson makes a virtue of his limited running time. Much of the mystery revolves around what has taken place prior to the point at which we join the story. These details are explained by the Doctor and Turlough to the newly arrived characters of apartment resident Lara Jensen (Sarah Sweeney) and police inspector Jill Sveinsbottir (Mandi Symonds). The scene never shifts from its single location, but what the Doctor deduces about the past activities of an alien killer has huge implications that are vividly evoked, even though they are never directly dramatised.
Here the themes of storytelling and memory are bound up with the issue of the reliability of eye-witness accounts. The law enforcers of 22nd-century Reykjavík prefer to use hi-tech electronic surveillance. However, as the Doctor points out, even electronic systems can be tampered with…
A young woman climbs a perilous mountain in search of her destiny. The TARDIS crew save her from the ravening Hungerers – but what awaits them in the Cavern of Becoming is even stranger…
In Ian Potter’s The Becoming, the recollections in question are the race memories of a peculiar alien people, which are heard in the mind of the questing Waywalker (Kae Alexander). As the Doctor and Turlough cross paths with her and learn more about her mission, I was reminded of The Mutants, with its metamorphosing inhabitants of a planet during a period of climatic change, and Full Circle, with its rapidly healing, biologically connected life forms. Understandably, the Doctor briefly recalls his former companion Adric.
When the ever-cynical Turlough pooh-poohs the idea of inherited wisdom, the Doctor reminds the lad of his own people’s deep-seated memories about the Tractators – one of three references in this release to the companion’s home world of Trion. The most prominent of these occurs in The Memory Bank, when the boy recalls a traumatic incident from his planet’s civil war. In The Last Fairy Tale, a disgruntled Turlough utters the epithet, “Oh, for Trion’s sake.” Ah, it’s good to have the sardonic schoolboy back again!
Sometimes I find anthologies such as this to be too bitty, but this one is well worth storing in your memory bank.
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