Tales from the Vault

Posted in Audio by - May 08, 2019
Tales from the Vault

Released July 2011

To open the sixth series of The Companion Chronicles, Big Finish has finally brought Daphne Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso from the Eighth Doctor’s sole television outing into the audio medium, by necessity casting them as new UNIT characters in order to avoid any existing rights issues stemming from that movie. Serving as an anthology story of sorts, Jonathan Morris’s ‘Tales from the Vault’ sees new recruit Warrant Officer Charlie Sato receive a wild introduction to the Doctor’s many lives through a guided tour from Captain Ruth Matheson through UNIT’s Vault known as The Museum of Terrors.

The problem with an anthology story existing within only an hour’s worth of time is unfortunately clear right from the start in that none of the five smaller stories told really have a chance to develop and flourish individually which makes the framing device and eventual resolution somewhat weaker than they may have been otherwise. Indeed, although the parallels to Torchwood are abundantly clear with this vault in which UNIT stores alien technology and other unknown artefacts, there’s still a tremendous amount of potential to be mined from this very premise within a UNIT context, and the foundation is clearly set for future stories as a result. However, the attempt to bring together so many different artefacts through accompanying narration from several of the Doctor’s previous companions means that ultimately the nefarious plan that results in the present is little more than a stereotype.

Despite its inherent shortcomings, however, ‘Tales from the Vault’ is still undeniably intriguing due to the whirlwind tour through Doctor Who history that it offers. Sato considers Jo Grant to be something of a legend since she helped the Doctor foil invasions on Earth on a monthly basis, and Katy Manning realistically conveys in a short period of time how exasperating life with the Doctor and UNIT can be as the Brigadier demands paperwork be completed and the Doctor demands a hot cup of tea while they discover a jacket that possesses the wearer with the consciousness of a soldier from the Battle of Spion Kop. Wendy Padbury gives Zoe replete with her memories a second life via a crystal that was once used to wipe memories and that now retains a copy of her consciousness, and she likewise recaptures the enthusiasm, intelligence, and pride of her younger character expertly. Peter Purves again excels as both Steven Taylor and the First Doctor as he recalls an adventure with Dodo in South Africa that has ties to Jo’s, and Mary Tamm quite brilliantly recalls the haughtier tones of her Romana as the Fourth Doctor searches paintings for notes he may have left himself and comes upon a lost work of art that shows the observer precisely how he or she will die.

That Morris is able to weave together these plot elements into a cohesive whole that culminates in an attempt to take over the world is an impressive feat, but the resolution does rather rely on a leap of faith as Matheson implores the villain to look into the painting, somehow assured that she will then learn the means of bringing about his downfall. Sadly, the shortcuts taken because of the vast amount of information needed to bring the different elements together are more obvious than in other stories, and Sato doesn’t truly come off as the most competent or dynamic UNIT member as a result. Still, this look into a hidden secret of UNIT and the bevy of security measures taken to ensure only the proper people gain entry is one brimming with potential, and a more focused narrative could absolutely reach the highs this series is so capable of achieving. As it is, ‘Tales from the Vault’ is an intriguing if less impactful experiment that features strong supporting performances through the narrated vignettes, and fans of all eras of Doctor Who should find something to like about it.

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