In the Garden of Death

Posted in Audio by - July 11, 2018
In the Garden of Death

Released July 2018
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

For a character that was introduced with amnesia and who has been defined so heavily and by necessity through his non-televised stories, it’s quite surprising just how often the Eighth Doctor has been the victim of amnesia through his many travels. While Guy Adams precariously flirts with that premise to open ‘In the Garden of Death,’ the prison camp holding the most dangerous man in the universe where no inmate has any memory of his or her past presents a unique angle on this familiar trope that offers an insightful character study on three fronts.

Presenting a story where the audience knows more than the leads is always a tricky proposition, especially with the Doctor, Bliss, and the Twelve all confined and so unable to progress the overarching plot while they try to piece together who they are and what they have done to end up here, but the morality and self-exploration that Adams imbues into the very fabric of the script more than overcomes this potential issue. Tellingly, with the Doctor held in isolation, he pointedly states that he has no reason to believe that he doesn’t deserve this fate; he realises that it’s quite easy to picture himself as a hero who has been wrongly imprisoned and tormented, but it’s just as plausible that his past rightfully dictated his present, especially since he seems to retain a surprising knowledge about prisons and interrogations. The Doctor often has to confront the morality of his decisions and actions, but actually having him trapped with only himself and brief interludes from Bliss whom he cannot remember to think about his own makeup in very broad strokes is a bold decision that pays off quite well by highlighting a slightly different aspect of Paul McGann’s broad range.

When Bliss comes to realise that she at least remembers their captors when she sees them and confirms that the others do as well, the Twelve rightfully asks if that means that their memory dampeners are turned off during interrogation or if the very sight of their captors temporarily sparks their memories. Yet as Bliss tries to find out who she is by piecing together the facts that she must come from a different culture due to words she uses and that she likes to deconstruct everyone and everything she sees to analyse and find out the truth, the Twelve without her own memories instinctively looks for weaknesses in their surroundings that could help her at the very least to escape. Discovering that their every move is being watched, her furtive actions become ever more dangerous, and the re-emergence of her previous incarnations whom she likewise does not remember or understand how to cope with presents a fascinating path for this latest incarnation who until now has seemingly been a model reformed citizen except in the direst of circumstances. Although the outcome of her eventual chosen course of action is almost inevitable given that only one new supporting character is introduced, Julia McKenzie gives a wonderful performance as a tortured figure that highlights the very best of the Twelve’s potential as a figure for good and the very worst of the influences of the past that she will never be able to escape and that always threaten to overtake her without her neural dampener active.

The resolution is quite rushed once the transmat network comes back online, but that’s ultimately a small quibble in a tale that so expertly highlights the three leads in this unique environment with no memories and no chance at crafting a weapon. While the overall plot of the Time War does not necessarily progress from the Doctor’s perspective, ‘In the Garden of Death’ is a most welcome respite from the more bombastic dangers of the Time Lords and Daleks that still leaves the Doctor wondering if he may yet become the most dangerous man in the universe and that hints at a dark secret deep within the Twelve’s mind that must be brought forth.

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