Released October 2016
‘The Memory Bank and Other Stories’ is Big Finish’s 2016 anthology release, giving four authors the chance to explore the relationship of the Fifth Doctor and Turlough under the thematic umbrella of memories and just what the concept of memory actually means.
The titular ‘The Memory Bank’ by Chris Chapman brings the TARDIS to a world where the inhabitants cease to exist if they are forgotten, or rather if they are not remembered. With Turlough accidentally taking the mantle of Archivist, it is his responsibility to keep the 37,000-plus inhabitants safe and remembered. Fortunately for Maxine, an otherwise unremarkable woman who is in danger of fading from existence, the Doctor is there to learn about as much about her as possible, at the same time learning of the true horror of the situation and what really happens to those who are forgotten and the spaces that they leave in their wake. While ‘The Memory Bank’ could easily benefit from just a few more moments to more fully flesh out the motives and intent of its villain, it successfully brings the notion of staying alive through memory to the forefront while asking what death and memory truly are.
‘The Last Fairy Tale’ by Paul Magrs follows, finding the Doctor and Turlough in the medieval European village of Vadhoc. With the Doctor assumed to be a great storyteller of legend, and with Turlough having no reason to object given everything the two have been through together, events quickly take an interesting turn as certain denizens voice their objections to the way they have always been portrayed in the stories. As preconceptions are challenged and expectations subverted, ‘The Last Fairy Tale’ is consistently witty and smart, and full credit must be given to the comic timing of Davison and Strickson as well as to the performance of Duncan Wisbey as Grayling Frimlish.
The short but extremely intriguing ‘Repeat Offender’ by Eddie Robson comprises the third tale of this collection, set in a futuristic Reykjavik where refugees flee to escape global warming’s more devastating effects elsewhere. Wasting no time with exposition, the story begins in the middle of the action, and the Doctor is quickly accused of murder. Mandi Symonds’s Inspector Jill Sveinsbottir soon arrives on the scene to take charge as inspector, judge, and jury all in one, but the truth that slowly reveals itself is much more complicated than initially thought. The Bratanian Shroud makes a devious villainous debut, and the resulting story involving edited memories and perceptions as well as the Doctor’s personal doomed future in this very locations makes for a fascinating listen that could have easily been extended to a full-length adventure.
The final story, Ian Potter’s ‘The Becoming,’ is also the most experimental while making the best use of the unique mindset the character of Turlough possesses. With an almost surreal and fairy tale tone of its own, a young woman named Waywalker and played aptly by Kae Alexander attempts to attain a certain fruit that will prove her worthy of fulfilling her destiny and adding her voice to her ancestors’. Learning about this fascinating woman and culture rightfully makes up the majority of this story; while it may not be to everyone’s liking, it certainly questions the actions of the Doctor and Turlough and makes for a unique conclusion to this memory-laden set.
The greatest strength of the anthology setup is also its greatest weakness in that there are four very strong core concepts on display that each deserve more time. However, even under the loose thematic linking of memories, these four stories all showcase Peter Davison and Mark Strickson brilliantly, a tremendous achievement given the brevity and distinctiveness of each.