The latest release in Big Finish’s monthly Doctor Who range makes a change from the usual four-part serial format and instead gives us an anthology of four short plays, each featuring Peter Davison’s gentle-mannered Fifth Doctor travelling with Mark Strickson’s somewhat less selfless Turlough.
The first story, The Memory Bank, is written by Big Finish newcomer Chris Chapman. The two travellers arrive on a planet where people who are forgotten cease to exist; Turlough unwittingly becomes the new ‘Memory Archivist’ while the Doctor runs around trying to uncover the mystery behind this society. It deals with its big sci-fi concept well, with some thoughtful things to say about the kinds of people who are undeservedly forgotten – the Doctor’s scenes with the homeless and ignored Max are very touching. The ending may rely a little too much on a recurring Who trope, but this is nevertheless a very strong début from Chapman.
Next up is Paul Magrs’ The Last Fairy Tale, in which the Doctor is mistaken for a fabled Storyteller when visiting a village in medieval Europe. It’s a small scale but charming adventure which may initially seem like a simple fairy tale pastiche but actually has a very interesting message about the nature of stories we tell and those we represent within them – a message told through the comedic and meta idea of an old hag, a dwarf and a hellhound complaining about the way they’re represented in fairy tales.
In Repeat Offender by Eddie Robson, the Doctor and Turlough answer a distress call from 22nd century Reykjavik and find themselves embroiled in a murder mystery with an alien twist. It’s set entirely in one flat, but Robson’s sharp and witty dialogue prevents it from feeling slow, with a strong dynamic of mistrust between the Doctor, the flat’s resident, and the police inspector.
Finally, in Ian Potter’s The Becoming, the travellers explore a planet’s woodland and meet an alien girl on a quest to complete her ‘Becoming’ ceremony and thus determine her position within her town. It’s perhaps the more traditional story of the lot, with a twist you’ll see coming, but there’s nevertheless an interesting coming-of-age story with some reflection on finding your identity in life.
The four stories each present a different take on the Doctor Who formula but are united by the great-as-ever performances of Davison and Strickson; even though none of the stories explore the Doctor’s mistrust of this particular companion, the two certainly are entertaining to put together. These four varied tales make for very easy listening and a nice change from the usual format.
DOCTOR WHO – THE MEMORY BANK AND OTHER STORIES / AUTHOR: VARIOUS / DIRECTOR: HELEN GOLDWYN / STARRING: PETER DAVISON, MARK STRICKSON, MANDI SYMONDS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW