Today sees the release of the annual Monthly Range release that consists of four single part stories. This is the first time I’ve reviewed such a release on GallifreyArchive, so let’s get straight on with it, shall we?
This is fun isn’t it? Essentially four reviews in one! You’re lucky aren’t you? Before I even listen to The Memory Bank, let alone review it, I think it’s best I go into a bit more detail about how the “…And Other Stories” releases work. Basically, they’re a hybrid of the Short Trips range and the Monthly Range; giving you short, sharp bursts of Classic Who with a full case. It’s a win-win. Unless you’re really committed to having a four part story. Doctor Who is about change and how you should embrace it though, so stop complaining! Let’s review…
The Memory Bank
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.
We start The Memory Bank with a chilling account of a childhood nightmare; it seems that wherever we are, whenever we are, you need to be able to remember everything. If you don’t… well, you don’t want to forget. Unless you do. It seems as if there are monsters in everyones memory; just as you’re about to forget. What an absolutely terrifying concept. If you forget anything, the monsters will come.
Of course, it’s not a Doctor Who story without the Doctor and his companion(s) turning up. On this, and the next three, adventures, we’re with the Fifth Doctor and Turlough. Just the lads. Lads on tour. Banteriffic. Yeah, I’ll stop now…
Anyway, the Doctor hasn’t landed where he intended, so we know we can either blame his steering or the TARDIS’ ego. Whilst the Doctor insists on exploring wherever it is that he’s brought Turlough to, Turlough asks the extremely relevant question, “Doctor, do you have to interfere?” If I’m being perfectly honest, this is exactly the sort of question that a companion should be asking. I’m going to admit that, at the time of writing this review, I haven’t seen much of Turlough’s televised episodes of Who, but I have a feeling that this release may make him go up in my estimations.
Considering that Turlough asks the Doctor if he has to interfere, it’s not long before Turlough himself is interfering; and arguably interfering way more than the Doctor did. After a serious of unfortunate events, Turlough ends up being the Chief Archivist of the Memory Bank. (Big Finish sure loves archives at the minute, don’t they? The Gallifrey Archive in The Crucible of Souls, the upcoming release The Torchwood Archive and the Memory Bank being an archive.)
With Turlough now appointed the archivist of the Memory Bank, mainly do to unforeseen circumstances; it’s up to him, the Doctor, and Archie the archive computer to remember. Everything and everyone. If Turlough forgets someone on the planet above; any one of the 37,704 of them, they will die. No pressure then.
Luckily for Maxine, the woman who Turlough forget, or rather didn’t remember, the Doctor is around to try and save her. Using a tansmat, the Doctor finds her before she’s forgotten and tries to learn as much as possible about this seemingly unremarkable woman.
Personally, I think that Chris Chapman’s concept of the Memory Bank is one that works infinitely better on audio than it would on the TV; solely for the reason that, in a way, you’re in the same boat as Turlough is. You’re not seeing these people, making it easy to identify and remember them, instead, you have to see them purely in your mind’s eye; figure them out, almost take on their persona. If this was a televised episode (as amazing as I’m sure it would be), you’d lose the challenge of trying to visualise and remember someone you’ve never seen before.
If being forgotten wasn’t bad enough; the hole you leave on the planet seems to allow some type of vicious, violent and dangerous creature to bleed through into the place of the forgotten; and where there’s monsters, the Doctor has to try and save the day…
The only problem I think that I’ll have with the rest of the stories in this release, as I know I do with The Memory Bank, is that the conclusion feels somewhat rushed; within the last seven minutes, we meet the true villain, conquer it, sort out the whole ordeal at the Memory Bank. Honestly, I think if there was another ten minutes, allowing us to get to know Maxine a little bit more, and expanding on the villains motives, the conclusion would have been much more satisfactory.
Overall, The Memory Bank is an absolutely great short story; with a really interesting concept at it’s core. It’s a story about looking back and, essentially, is a story about legacy. Like I said earlier, the conclusion felt a tad rushed, but I do believe that it was due to the thirty minute time restraint.
The Last Fairy Tale
Deep in the heart of old Europe, the village of Vadhoc awaits the coming of a mythical teller of magical tales – but not all such stories end happily, the TARDIS travellers discover.
I already have every faith that this story is going to be amazing. Paul Magrs, the writer, also penned the incredibly deep and moving The Peterloo Massacre earlier in the year, as well as the incredibly silly Baker’s End: The King of Cats that Amy reviewed. Looking at those two stories alone, you should get a real scope for just how diverse Magrs’ writing can be. Throwing in a fairy tale element should surely work, shouldn’t it?
We begin this tale with the Doctor and Turlough arriving in Autumn, at somewhere beautiful, so that Turlough has a nice landscape to draw. It’s not long before the Doctor and Turlough find themselves in a bit of a pickle, and they get accused of being up to no good. Luckily for the TARDIS pair, a very peculiar man who thinks he’s much funnier than he actually is is on hand to help them out. Greyling Frimlish is the name of the Doctor and Turlough’s saviour, and he offers them somewhat of a refuge, of which Turlough seems against. In all honesty, I wouldn’t trust Greyling either; he’s just too weird.
The Doctor and Turlough get taken to the village of Vadhoc; a city that’s getting prepared for a celebration. The Doctor quickly gets separated from his companion, meaning that Turlough is forced to stay with his new best friend, Greyling. I absolutely love Mark Strickson’s performance in The Last Fairy Tale before I’m even ten minutes in; his snobbery and somewhat hostility against Greyling and the period he’s found himself in make’s him seem all the more believable. A companion going back to a time when there was no such thing as technology wouldn’t be looking round in awe and wonder, and instead would be complaining that the mod-cons aren’t there. I know for a fact that, if I were in Turlough’s position, I’d be acting the same way too.
It transpires that the people of Vadhoc are getting prepared for the coming of someone known only as the Storyteller (a Time Lord perhaps?) but, instead of the Doctor being delighted that the TARDIS has brought him just in time for this monumental occasion, he seems more and more desperate to find Turlough and Greyling. We learn quite quickly that the people of Vadhoc seem to think that the Doctor is the Storyteller, and the Doctor is quick to deny any relation. It’s not often that the Doctor just wants to wander; and it really made me think why he’s so against the idea of being this fabled man.
I very rarely talk about favourite characters in Big Finish stories, mainly because I wouldn’t say I normally have a favourite; most Big Finish characters are so well constructed to work with one another that you can’t really have a favourite, otherwise it undermines the rest of the brilliant work from whichever cast. The Last Fairy Tale is an exception though; as I absolutely adore the dwarf. Whilst some might think the portrayal of the character is in poor taste; personally, I think he (at least, I think the dwarf is a he) adds some much needed silliness that I’ve come to expect from Paul Magrs.
Following on from the point in the previous paragraph about Paul Magrs trademark quintessentially British humour, we have a small snippet of a conversation that is so brilliant that I couldn’t not include it in the review. I’m going to transcribe it, and hopefully, you’ll see why Paul Magrs is so brilliant.
“We’re perfectly nice and reasonable people actually!”
“Then…why are you keeping us hostage?
With Turlough and Greyling being held prisoner by the locals of the tavern, it’s up to the Doctor and his knack for storytelling to try and rescue them. There’s an absolute corker of a twist though; it turns out that the Doctor isn’t the Storyteller. Well, we knew that, didn’t we? But the person who is really the Storyteller has been hidden in plain sight all along. It seems that the Storyteller is out to make amends with the people of Vadhoc.
The conclusion of The Last Fairy Tale is exactly what you’d expect. It’s a fairy tale ending. Everyone gets their happily ever after, apart from the Doctor and Turlough, who, as always, have to slip away back into their box and go for another adventure.
Overall, The Last Fairy Tale is an absolutely great escape of a story; there’s no real intergalactic threat, no conspiracy, no plot to destroy reality; just the Doctor and his companions stumbling across a great story. It’s utterly refreshing and brilliant.
The Doctor has tracked the deadly Bratanian Shroud to 22nd century Reykjavík – where he’s about to become the victim of a serial criminal. Again.
In this story, we start seemingly in the middle of a (mis)adventure with the Doctor and Turlough; which, personally, is always my favourite way to start a story. We don’t need to waste time on setting up an event, especially when the story you’re telling is only twenty minutes. Let’s just put the Doctor and his companion in danger and see how he’s going to get out of it and what he’s going to do next. I have to commend Eddie Robson for starting at such breakneck speed. The Doctor, as usual, is being too honest for his own good, and Turlough seems to think that the situation he and the Doctor have found themselves in, would be better handled if the Doctor let him talk for once. I have to say that I’d agree in this situation.
It seems apparent from early on that Repeat Offender is going to be an incredibly personal and claustrophobic story, which I don’t think Big Finish does all that often. Sure, they do a lot of personal stories; but they’re always part of something much bigger. I don’t get that impression whilst listening to the opening minutes of Repeat Offender though, instead, I get the impression that Eddie Robson has purposefully wanted to the listener to feel cramped. It’s different and refreshing, and it works extremely well.
Within minutes, the Doctor is arrested and put on trial, (something that the Doctor’s next incarnation will be all too familiar with) with no legal representation, no TARDIS and no Turlough, the Doctor must use his intellect and logic to try and dig himself out of this hole. But with time seemingly running out, it seems as if the crime that the Doctor has been tried for has happened before. Multiple times. In the same apartment complex. It couldn’t have been the Doctor, could it?
Making things more complicated, it transpires that Turlough has some bad news whilst trying to flee from the police; the TARDIS has seemingly multiplied threefold. Within one hundred meters, there’s three versions of the Doctor’s TARDIS. I never thought it would happen, but Repeat Offender really reminds me of Heaven Sent, and it’s almost just as brilliant.
Considering it’s such a short story, Repeat Offender touches on a plethora of interesting, complex and relevant themes from global warming to immigration to the powers of the police. Overall, Repeat Offender is really a hidden gem in Big Finish’s ever expanding crown. Well done to all involved; you’ve managed to make the best short story I’ve ever listened to.
A young woman climbs a perilous mountain in search of her destiny. The Doctor and Turlough save her from the monsters on her trail – but what awaits them in the Cavern of Becoming is stranger, even, than the ravening Hungerers outside.
The Doctor and Turlough are on a mountain. That’s pretty much all we know during the opening minutes of The Becoming. They’re seemingly on the trail of a woman who is being guided by heavenly sounding voices. It seems that this mountain is populated by beings known as Hungerers, and, unsurprisingly, they’re hungry.
The Doctor is always there to save the day; and the woman’s life. We learn that the woman is called Waywalker (which, I have to say is a beautiful and whimsical name) and that the Hungerers are really really hungry. At the point of writing this, I’m almost a Hungerer. I could murder a pizza. Anyway, I digress…
Something that’s really interesting to me in this release, is that Turlough as a companion, to me at least, is a lot like Donna was in Series Four. Where Donna was all mouth when she needed to be, she also really grounded and almost humanised the Doctor; and that’s what Turlough does in The Becoming. A prime example of this is when the Doctor is examining some of Waywalker’s injuries, and Turlough has to remind the Time Lord that Waywalker isn’t a case study.
The Becoming might quite simply be the hardest story I’ve ever had to review, mainly because most of time is spent learning more about Waywalker and the customs of the race that she’s a part of. I’d argue that, for the bulk of this story, it’s more fairy tale than The Last Fairy Tale was.
I know I haven’t gone into much detail about The Becoming, but it’s because there’s not much there to review if I’m being honest. I always hate it when I don’t quite gel with a story, because I know that it’s not the writer, or the editor or the casts fault. There is nobody to blame, I just didn’t like it. The problem with reviewing is that it’s a very personal and intimate thing to do; as you’re broadcasting your opinion and hoping that others will take it into consideration. I’m sure there’ll be loads of other people who think The Becoming is the best story in this set, and I wouldn’t say they were wrong. All I will say is that, for me, The Becoming is by far the weakest story, as it’s more a lesson in a species than it is a story. It was an enjoyable listen, and I didn’t feel myself wanting to stop listening at any point; but, I just didn’t get along with it as much as the other three.
Should you want to purchase The Memory Bank and Other Stories, it’s currently available from Big Finish which can be purchased here for £14.99 for a physical version, or a download for £12.99.