blogger_who (blogger_who) wrote,

Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles 5.02 - Echoes of Grey

Rewritten from material that I originally posted 7/2/13 on another forum.

Blurb: Zoe Heriot has a photographic memory. Total recall. But when it comes to the years she spent traveling in time and space, all she can remember is that she has forgotten.

Years after she was returned to the Wheel in Space by the Time Lords, Zoe meets Ali, a young woman who claims to have met Zoe before, when she was with the Doctor and Jamie. Suddenly, part of the hidden past is exposed, as memories return of a visit to the Whitaker Institute in Central Australia. Secrets are uncovered. And the mystery of the Achromatics is about to be unleashed…

Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Zoe Heriot. Published by Big Finish Productions and released August of 2010.

Setting: Earth: The Whitaker Institute, Central Australia, sometime in the late 2050's or early 2060's. Zoe narrates this story from sometime around 2069 (the next story in the Zoe Memory trilogy, The Memory Cheats, states that the events recounted in 1919 were "150 years ago".)

Continuity: This story takes place between The Seeds of Death and the Space Pirates and takes place sometime after the audio story The Glorious Revolution. Zoe mentions that she met the Doctor on the Wheel and that he saved her from Cybermen (see The Wheel in Space). The Doctor mentions biodata (see The Deadly Assassin). Zoe remembers that she had dreams of traveling with the Doctor (see Fear of the Daleks). Zoe's memory is missing because the Time Lords erased everything but her first adventure with the Doctor (see The War Games).

Canonicity Quotient: As far as I can tell, nothing in this one contradicts established continuity. 1.00

Discussion: After the stupendous The Rocket Men, I was looking forward to listening to Echoes of Grey. John Dorney had already distinguished himself in my mind as someone who understood telling a dramatic story and who understood character, both things that would be required in a story with an older Zoe who feels incomplete without her memories.

Echoes of Grey does NOT disappoint. Dorney crafts a tale about desire and its consequences. Zoe wants her memories restored just as the achromatics want to heal but either achieving their goals would have horrible consequences for millions of others. I was very happy with the portrayal of all three of the regulars and its easy to tell that Dorney has a great love for the season 6 TARDIS crew. I can see the events of this story playing out on a television screen where the achromatic's name would be entirely to fitting. I also liked Ali. The interplay between Zoe's narration and Ali's continuing the story seemed to me at first to be a very nice way of doing the framing where both characters witnessed the events being described. Then as with the Rocket Men once you get a key piece of data those scenes instantly reorient themselves and you understand that the seamless swap in narration is Ali constantly inventing details and trying to keep Zoe from remembering that she isn't part of the narrative. I thought that was fairly clever and very well done.

Dorney does double-duty here as an actor with the now famous story of his titillating Wendy Padbury with his "I love you" line immortalized in the extras for Farewell Great Macedon. His clearly human and masculine voice is surprising coming from the "monster" of the story but in a way that's highly fitting as the achromatics aren't supposed to be what you expect either. Wendy Padbury has progressed a LONG way from Fear of the Daleks. She seems to have a lot more energy this time and while she sounds suitably old during the framing she does a decent job of pitching up and sounding younger when portraying her younger self. She also does a decent Troughton this time although still not anywhere near in the league that Anneke Willis or Fraser Hines. Her Jamie seemed a bit off to me. While it was obviously Scottish it didn't sound like Jamie's Scottish. Padbury's main issue seems to be when a lot of dialog comes on top of each other and each person only says a word or two. All of a sudden everyone sounds the same and its difficult to tell whose speaking. Sometimes in situations like that I wish that the Companion Chronicles would go back to the convention of the first two seasons and doing a lot of "so-and-so said" just so that we can keep clear whose talking. Still, I was very happy with this performance and hope that her next story will show just as much improvement. Emily Pithon does a nice performance as Ali, somewhat sounding like a younger Zoe anyway which makes it so easy for her to ingratiate herself in with her.

If there are to be any nits, I do have to say that I was saddened by the idea that Zoe is completely friendless and alone at this point in her life. Yet, I somewhat understand the reasoning behind this. Zoe on the Wheel was emotionally crippled. Then she traveled with the Doctor and had a year or so of experiences that taught her to laugh and to cry. They were meaningful experiences that changed who she was. Now bereft of her memories she wouldn't understand who she was anymore. It would feel like something was missing because she had changed but she couldn't remember changing so there would be a sense of wrongness to everything that happened from then on. I just hate to think that the Doctor's companions don't have happy endings. The other issue is that the reveal with Ali is to simple. It was obvious that something was up with her as Zoe said. Yet, I was convinced that when Zoe was partially consumed by the achromatic gas that we were going to discover that the creature had taken enough of her DNA to create a person similar to her and Ali would turn out to be an achromatic who had escaped - thus explaining why she knew so much about the events there - and who wanted the genetic code information to create more of her kind. Otherwise, I don't understand why that scene towards the beginning exists at all. It makes me wonder if an early version of the script had this outcome but since they wanted to turn this into a trilogy they changed it to Ali being part of The Company. Anyhow, the nits are incredibly minor just showing how good this one is.

In the end I gave it an 8/10. The story was just a little to plain to give it highest marks although the framing sequence certainly elevated it above a 7/10 story, which taken as its own the achromatics likely would have been. I'm looking forward to The Memory Cheats and hope that will be just as interesting of an adventure to listen to.

Final Rating: 8/10

Recommendation: Fantastic! As always John Dorney delivers the goods. This is a story about what you want not necessarily being the best thing for you. In a rare event for a companion chronicle both the framing sequence and the story being told are of equal importance and the twist mean that there's some good value in realistening to this story as well. Definitely recommended.
Tags: audio drama, companion chronicles, deadly assassin, doctor who, echoes of grey, fear of the daleks, glorious revolution, john dorney, memory cheats, rocket men, season 6, second doctor, seeds of death, space pirates, war games, wendy padbury, wheel in space, zoe heriot

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