blogger_who (blogger_who) wrote,

Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles 6.03 - The Memory Cheats

Rewritten from material that I originally posted 7/3/13 on another forum.

Blurb: Zoe Heriot remembers everything. But she remembers nothing.

A genius with instant recall, Zoe’s mind has been purged of her memories of traveling with the Doctor and Jamie in the TARDIS. And years later she is in deep trouble – prosecuted by the mysterious company that has evidence that she has traveled in Space and Time.

Except Zoe knows they’re wrong.

Aren’t they?

But if that’s the case, why is there proof that Zoe was in Uzbekistan in 1919.

Can the memory cheat?

Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Zoe Heriot. Published by Big Finish Productions and released September of 2011.

Setting: Earth: Uzbekistan, Soviet Union in August, 1919. Zoe recalls this adventure from sometime around 2069 at a prison cell managed by The Company.

Continuity: This story takes place between The Krotons and The Seeds of Death (nothing in the story requires that it be this particular gap but the author has indicated that is where this is set). There is no indication given of when this story occurs with respect to other stories set in the same gap. Zoe mentions that she intended to stowaway on the TARDIS and doesn't recall why she didn't (see The Wheel in Space). Zoe recalls that she's had dreams of further travels with the Doctor and Jamie (see Fear of the Daleks). Zoe and Jen both mention Ali (see Echoes of Grey). Zoe's memories were blocked by the Time Lords (see The War Games).

Canonicity Quotient: Guerrier's fascination with the unreliable narrator returns! This time nothing external calls the canonicity of the story into question, it's simply that Zoe tells us that she made the story up. Since historical records exist of some of the information though, it can't be completely made up meaning that this one is likely around 50% true. 0.50

Discussion: After Dorney's fantastic Echoes of Grey, I was greatly looking forward to this story and a continuation of the Zoe's memory trilogy. I have to say that for the most part I think that Guerrier picked up on all the right notes from that story and created a fairly decent sequel although I would have preferred a continuation from the man who started the arc. Still, I think it remains a better than average story and one that hopefully will take us to a great third part of our four-part trilogy (yes I know that doesn't make sense but the Zoe's Memory Trilogy is in fact 4 parts).

There was some wonderful chemistry in the mother/daughter team of Padbury and Hayes and their discussions together added some great tension to the story. In some ways I feel that these stories lose something because both characters are in the framing device rather than having a second character in the story. That and the fact that more of this Companion Chronicle happen in the present during the narration rather than in the narrated story itself made the narrated story seem hollow and empty. Yet the framing device is one of the best that we've had so there's give and take there.

I feel like the title was a little to "on the nose" for my liking. It was pretty obvious with a title like that and how the story was presented with Jen constantly chiming in with discrepancies between the narrated story and the records what was going to happen at the end and what Zoe was playing for, which means that the dramatic impact of the revelation is muffled if not lost completely. That being said, I will give Guerrier some props on coming up with a reason "why" Zoe might do such a thing that was fairly surprising and fit with the character so there was give and take here as well.

As I already said, I felt like the narrated story was very hollow this time. There wasn't a lot of incident although we do get a lot of Zoe's point of view. I really liked the observation that normal children would be disconcerting for her because they show a kind of wild and free life that she never had. I'm also disappointed that this turned into a sci-historical as I always find those to be a copout on history, trying to take away from the fact that real people can do real horrible things and replacing them with yet another faceless (in this case literally) alien monster. Of course we're left at the end without knowing exactly how much Zoe embellished the account so its possible that the real cause for the abductions was a horribly mutilated person like Lansing's report said and Zoe just invented the part about aliens and spaceships, in which case the children were likely killed by some far more mundane means. In the end I probably would have preferred to hear that story as that sounds like it would had more dramatic impact for all involved. Yet this creates one of the main problems in the story for me. While I realize that the framing device in this case was supposed to be more important than the narrated story, I find the ending to be an absolute cop out and I'm never a fan of this kind of "lazy writing" where we have absolutely no clue what really happened. Was there an alien or wasn't there? If there was an alien did Zoe allow it to take the children, did it kill the children, or did it take them despite the best efforts of the TARDIS crew? I find that its unlikely that the children were returned or one would presume that would be part of the historical record and Jen would have seen through Zoe's ruse from the beginning. While sometimes its nice to leave a character's motivations up to the reasoning of the listener/reader/viewer I greatly dislike stories where you don't even know what occurred. In my mind it makes the whole exercise of reading or listening to the story pointless and was one of my great disappointments here.

The other thing that bothered me throughout this story was "why". This is a very fundamental problem to the story itself because it has no reason for existing. While I realize that on TV Zoe always went into her personal future or alien planets except in The Invasion, the audios are free to invent any story that they like. Yet we have a story here about the fact of a group of kids in 1919. While that in itself may be interesting there's no reason why the Company would be interested in the story as the available evidence leaves no reason to suspect the involvement of aliens and even if it were why would they care that an alien abducted some children in 1919. Echoes of Grey showed us that the Company wants to use Zoe to mine her brain for any useful technology she can give them. It would have made more sense for Jen to grill Zoe on the events of The Invasion then this 1919 incident and while we know that the listeners don't need to be subjected to Zoe recalling a somewhat altered version of the Invasion it illustrates my point that a more appropriate story could have been found while still taking place in history. To me this is another fairly significant flaw in the story as it bothered me all the way through.

The only other nit that I have is that i'm sick of hearing the "I remember everything, and I remember nothing" line. It was brilliant the first time we heard it in Echoes of Grey. It diminished with each statement in that story but it made sense for the ending of that story to end that way. Having it repeated several times in the sequel is rapidly diminishing the sentence to nonsense that means nothing. She clearly doesn't remember everything and is clearly beginning to remember some things so really we need to stop saying it. We understand from the previous stories. Move along please.

Final Rating: 7/10

Recommendation: This one may be a bit of a let down after the awesome Echoes of Grey but it's not to much of a speed bump. Guerrier seems to lose some momentum as he picks up Dorney's storyline but even though his story has some problems it manages to be more than the sum of its parts, giving you a framing sequence that you actually care about as much or more than the narrated story. If you liked Echoes of Grey then this one is recommended.
Tags: audio drama, companion chronicles, doctor who, echoes of grey, fear of the daleks, krotons, memory cheats, season 6, second doctor, seeds of death, simon guerrier, war games, wendy padbury, wheel in space, zoe heriot

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