The Uncertainty Principle

Posted in Audio by - June 05, 2019
The Uncertainty Principle

Released August 2012

Continuing the arc begun in ‘Shades of Grey’ and ‘The Memory Cheats,’ writer Simon Guerrier once more revisits the character of Zoe Heriot in ‘The Uncertainty Principle’ as the mysterious Company tries to break through the conditioning that blocks so many of her memories. With plenty of evidence to suggest that she did, indeed, travel through time and space with the Doctor and with the knowledge she accordingly must possess in high demand, Zoe recalls arriving on Earth at the funeral of a woman who was vital to experiments that are bringing forth strange alien creatures.

Zoe knowing but not comprehending that parts of her didactic memory are missing is one of the more fascinating storylines that the classic series left dangling upon Zoe’s forced departure, and Jen’s continued peeling away of layers as she probes deeper and deeper continue to allow Wendy Padbury to explore her beloved companion’s usual confidence under these unique circumstances while the deadly consequences of the charges of sedition and extortion levied against her fast approach. In actuality there isn’t much progression to this plot, leaving much for the next story to continue to unravel and explore in more depth, but the wonderful chemistry between Padbury and daughter Charlie Hayes is nonetheless a delight and assures that the audience’s attention will never waver.

Unfortunately, the actual story being told isn’t necessarily the most memorable from Doctor Who standards, but just how memorable it is to Zoe is quite fascinating. This is a woman who values logic and self-control above all else, and she is accordingly quite distressed when she finds herself falling for the somewhat socially awkward Archie who treats her like a peer rather than a prodigy to be kept at a distance and admired. Most rewarding is the fact that she is able to recall many more details about Archie and her time with him than with the TARDIS itself as the Company would like, hinting at just how profoundly this swirl of emotions continues to resonate within her after all this time. Interestingly, the more compassionate and empathetic Zoe shown with the Doctor neatly contrasts with the more calculating and determined woman being interrogated, hinting at just what an influence the Doctor had on Zoe as a person and a nice counterpoint to the usual narrative of how the companions change the Doctor. That she feared telling Archie how she feels about him out of fear of rejection is also perfectly in line for this character who prefers known quantities, and though the lesson is a bit too direct and prolonged to achieve its maximum effect, the discussion about how Zoe’s memories being unknown lends and inherent uncertainty to their truth is another nuanced angle that further helps flesh out the elder Zoe in her current state.

The biggest issue with ‘The Uncertainty Principle’ is simply that its two storylines don’t quite manage to build up any sense of scope or consequence. The aliens don’t actually mean any harm, the deceased woman is able to return to life, and all of the characters are well-intentioned with no other genuine source of conflict. The characterisation of the lead trio is uniformly excellent, and there’s no fault to be found with the performances, direction, or sound design, but no singular moment of the story in either time period is truly able to meet the importance that Archie inadvertently gains to Zoe alone. Nonetheless, the threats dictating Jen’s actions certainly remain an intriguing hook, and Zoe with her memories certainly have much more to offer in this brilliant setup going forward.

  • Release Date: 8/2012
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