Review: Doctor Who: Big Finish Audio 217: The Memory Bank and other stories

dwmrcd217_thememorybank_1417The Doctor and Turlough find brave new worlds to explore…

Helen Goldwyn’s debut on the main range of Doctor Who stories gives her plenty of opportunities to display her directorial talents, with a quartet of tales that are very different in tone and style. None feels like it should be longer – we start in the middle of one of the stories, but the recapping of what’s come so far is an integral part of the plotting; otherwise they start with our time travellers arriving and end with their departure. I did wonder if the memory bank that features in the first story would become an overarching theme for the entire set – in the way that Ace’s attempts to pilot the TARDIS drove an earlier collection – but that’s not the case. Each is a discrete adventure.

Chris Chapman’s opening story spins a strong SF story from a neat idea – we talk about forgetting our friends, but what if survival was reliant on that? It’s a good opener, with Peter Davison and Mark Strickson both playing to their respective character’s strengths (although it’s the first of a number of times where Turlough seems jealous of the Doctor’s ability to get on with people). You may well guess the secret behind Paul Magrs’ dark Disney fairytale world long before those involved do, but that doesn’t stop it being a potent tale, provoking some wry smiles.

Eddie Robson’s Repeat Offender is probably my favourite of the lot, building off this incarnation’s frustration with elements of his own personality, with a clever paradox at its heart. Ian Potter’s The Becoming does similar, although again you’re likely to be a number of steps ahead of the Doctor in realising what’s going on.

Throughout Goldwyn keeps a tight rein on the mood of the pieces – from lyrical moments to taut interrogations, with soundscapes from Richard Fox and Lauren Yason that build the moods without you ever feeling that they’re manipulating you into feeling certain emotions. A new director often means some new voices, and Goldwyn ensures a fresh feel through her casting. She’s also got a clear feel for the Fifth Doctor and Turlough (even if the latter does feel a little too sulky, given some of the development we’ve had in the audios), and I’d be interested to hear how she handles other combinations.

Verdict: A varied and enjoyable collection. 8/10

Paul Simpson

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