Rewritten from material that I originally posted 7/6/13 on another forum.
Blurb: In the future, Zoe Heriot is a prisoner of the mysterious Company, which has evidence that she traveled through space and time with the Doctor. Zoe’s memories have been blocked by the Time Lords, but the Company is determined to break through this conditioning…
And so Zoe recalls a journey to Earth in the past, to the funeral of a young woman called Meg, who was involved in scientific experiments that are bringing forth sinister alien creatures. Only the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe can stop them…
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 2012.
Setting: Earth: England, 2022. Zoe narrates the story from sometime around 2069 in a prison cell managed by The Company.
Continuity: This story takes place between The Wheel in Space and The Dominators and after the audio story Fear of the Daleks. Zoe is just learning that she has an allergic reaction to nature, which means that this story must take place before The Invasion. Since that story leads on from the previous 2 the only other usable gap is this one. Zoe recounts some of her previous conversation with Jen (see The Memory Cheats). Zoe's memories were blocked by the Time Lords (see The War Games).
Canonicity Quotient: Guerrier once again uses the conceit of the unreliable narrator. Yet, this time it seems that more of the story actually happened although Zoe's characterization is completely off. Here's she's just a normal 16-year-old who happens to be smart, which isn't like the Zoe on TV at all. 0.75
Discussion: The Zoe's Memory Trilogy has been an interesting part of my re-read of the Companion Chronicles. I like that it's dealing with the aftermath of Zoe's time with the Doctor. Anything potentially could happen as a result, so it doesn't feel as safe as many of the other Companion Chronicles that I've listened to except for The Time Museum. While loving Dorney's Shades of Grey, I was a little less enamored with Guerrier's The Memory Cheats. How would I feel about the subsequent and penultimate installment of the four-part trilogy (yes I know that doesn't make sense)? Let's see.
Once again we get a great presence from Padbury and Hayes. Their mother/daughter relationship likely give them a comfortability and this seems to translate well into their characters. I was pleasantly surprised that things didn't proceed according to the rules of these sci-fi interrogations. I was expecting that Jen was going to get taken outside and shot for her failure to get anything useful out of Zoe showing that her sense of urgency was because her life was on the line and Zoe's never was, so it was nice to see that things are going in a slightly different direction.
The story itself has a little more impact than The Memory Cheats. A little more time seems to be spent on setting the scene and introducing the two main characters. I think that this makes the story feel like it has more applicability and makes the narrated story a little more interesting than in the former tale. I love the idea that Zoe is allergic to nature but this also generates a nit. The back cover of the CD cast says that this happens between The Krotons and Seeds of Death. There's no way this gap works for that. I've seen another online reference set this right after Fear of the Daleks and before The Dominators and that gap seems to work far better for such a revelation. I do have to say that a lot of the stuff about Zoe and Archie seems to ring very very false. She talks about how he was trying to chat her up but I can't believe that the Zoe who traveled with the Doctor would even have the emotional vocabulary to realize if someone was doing that. I also feel that the relationship and her feelings seemed an odd thing to introduce. I suppose towards the end of her travels with the Doctor that this might make sense but for an earlier Zoe even between Krotons and Seeds of Doom I don't think that she'd even understand anything about feelings of attraction and love and such. As a result I found that a lot of what was supposed to be the hard hitting side of this story felt rather flat with me because it didn't seem like I was hearing about the character I've seen on screen.
The core plot was alright but as others have noted it seems to fizzle out at the end. Oh wait the aliens are really nice and just wanted to fix the problems all along and guess what Meg can leave to. Wha...what? Glad everything was solved in the last minute there. While I'm typically very positive about Guerrier working in his actual science knowledge into stories any kind of quantum mechanics type story deserves some caution. Nothing is said about the fact that Quantum effects don't "scale up" to the macro world and the very fact that Meg's dead body was observed seems to take away the idea that this was a quantum effect in the first place. While most listeners probably aren't scientists, I think that they should be given some credit for at least having a layman's learning of quantum mechanics since many Who fans are at least interested in science. The plot also has some hefty dramatic implications. They cured death?! While it seems odd that Jen jumped on this because it seemed to me that you could only bring someone back to life that you'd "killed" under a very specific set of circumstances. Yet if her "leap to a conclusion" is correct then that presents huge problems for any writer writing anytime after this story. Its why I hate these kinds of "get out of jail free cards" in fiction because if it works then people should be doing it all the time and when they don't do it then it kind of stretches stretches the suspension of disbelief to the breaking point. I'm also a little confused why the nice aliens tried to kill Archie's mother.
There are some temporal problems as well and they're very significant because they happen in stories concurrent to each other and because there's no reason for the author to have given us any specific temporal reference points at all. His choice to do so indicates a plan but the fact that it doesn't add up makes it problematic. To illustrate, The Memory Cheats states that 1919 Uzbekistan is 150 years prior to their own time. This sets the Zoe and Jen framing sequences around 2069. Zoe's about 40 years older so The Wheel in Space happened around 2029. The Wheel in Space's dating remains one of the more controversial 21st century stories but 2030 is one one of the suggested dates for that story so that works. This story is set on or near 2022 as Zoe reads a tombstone with that as the year of death. So I'm confused. Zoe acts as if her entire life the atmosphere and such has been regulated but if she's 16 in 2030 then she was alive in 2022. Its just 8 years prior to her own time yet she talks about it as if its a recent past but one she's never seen. It's...odd. She also discusses that everyone around her would be dead in her own time but again if you're only talking about an 8-year discrepancy then that seems very strange.
There were also things that I just thought were plain wrong. I don't doubt that Guerrier has worked hard on his studies and he's clearly gotten a lot of science understanding under his belt but the assertion that scientists want there to be inconsistencies in the data is more of a philosophic standpoint and has nothing to do with science. If anything, science doesn't care if data is inconsistent or not. Inconsistencies can lead to new understanding by forcing one to revise their theory. Consistency can lead to new understanding by showing that a certain theory has a strong basis to be true. Neither is favored over the other. Both are the outcomes of the scientific method. I can't imagine Zoe who is both logical and a scientist believing anything else and it seems far more like someone who is only somewhat acquainted with science superimposing their own philosophical belief onto the character. While I'm sure this is common with authors and characters it just doesn't seem to fit Zoe.
At the end of the day, the Memory Cheats got a 7/10 because of its mix of what I perceived to be brilliance mixed with mistakes. Here the whole mix is more of a level with the highs not being as high and the lows not being as low but the production as a whole remains at a 7/10. I hope that the end to the Zoe's Memory Trilogy goes back to the initial excellence of Echoes of Grey and so far I haven't heard a single Dorney story that I haven't thought was excellent.
Final Rating: 7/10
Recommendation: The Zoe's Memory trilogy appears to be puttering out in its penultimate installment and you get the feeling that they're just marking time now. Guerrier turns in a story with some fairly large inconsistencies, but if you can get past that there's a story here that should at least intrigue you enough to keep your attention until the resolution. If you liked the first two installments of the Zoe's Memory Trilogy then I recommend this one as well.