Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Memory Lane written by Eddie Robson and directed by Gary Russell

What’s it about: No summer can ever quite be as glorious as the ones you remember from when you were young, when a sunny afternoon seemed to last forever and all there was to do was ride your bike, eat ice-lollies and play with Lego. Tom Braudy is enjoying just such an afternoon when the TARDIS lands in his Nan's living room and interrupts her in the middle of the snooker. After they've apologised, the Doctor and his friends soon discover matters of far greater concern than the fact that their time machine is blocking Mrs Braudy's view of a thrilling century break. The street which Tom happily cycles up and down appears to have no beginning or end, and every single house on it is identical. Is this the future of suburbia, or something even more sinister? Why doesn't Tom look as young as he behaves? And can anybody remember which house the TARDIS is in?

Breathless Romantic: Much like the opening to Carnival of Monsters where the third Doctor’s piloting ability is questioned by Jo (he thinks they are in the Acteon Galaxy whereas its clear to her that they have landed on Earth on a sailing ship…when it fact they are in the Acteon Galaxy inside the Miniscope!), Charley and C’rizz jibe at the Doctor’s flying skills at trying to reach Lucentra but landing on a regular Earthy street. I was happy to see the Doctor say I told you so when he is proven right! The Doctor wants a Sky Ray Rocket Lolly! He laughs outrageously at the terrible joke on the lolly stick and it reminded me that we haven’t heard the eighth Doctor laugh like that in the main range for a long time. The Doctor finds it morally wrong to have your self-awareness taken away. He has to take time travel requests on a case-by-case basis. He refuses to simply free Tom because he cannot be known for making unauthorised prison breaks! The Doctor finally gets to meet Lady Louisa Pollard in a roundabout sort of way and he is very pleased to do so. The Doctor goes round and round in his nightmare of losing the TARDIS and cannot fathom how many times he has been through it.

Edwardian Adventuress: Roast pork and all the trimmings is her favourite. For a while you think this is going to be another Something Inside and Charley would be forgotten in all the plot mechanics (just visualise her trapped between words on a page screaming ‘I don have a character!’) and then her mother phones her from within the scenario! It comes entirely out of nowhere and reminds you that this woman has left a family behind on Earth! Suddenly Charley is talking in a childish voice and lives on the street that they live in and she rushes off home to her mother! The faster you get somewhere the more time you have to have fun when you get there! She’s been making a model of the R-101 with Tom! When Charley wakes up she suddenly realises she is in her childhood home and states that every time she sees her mother these days it is always an illusion. Nice one Charley – the Doctor tells C’rizz not to mention to Kim that the TARDIS is a time machine because he will want her to take him back and in bumbles Ms Pollard: ‘Oh Doctor I just told Kim that the TARDIS is a time machine! Have I put my foot in it again? Doh!’ Charley is thinking again, conjuring up the plan to make the prison take on her memories and if she doesn’t struggled they will be able to escape far easier – even the Doctor is impressed! Charley creates a composite setting, her childhood but without the war hanging over her (the 1920’s in the peaceful 1910’s!). Other girls are quite capable of having fun quietly and not falling off things but not our Charley! It’s a very revealing story for the eighth Doctor as he is trapped within a cell at the end of episode three which takes you to a place where you are most happy and he is back in the TARDIS being congratulated by Charley and C’rizz for foiling the latest dictators scheme in some devilishly brilliant way! Gets all excited when she is given the choice by her mother of where to go on holiday and she starts spitting out trekking through a jungle, walking along the Great Wall of China and Egypt! She stills her fake mother it was super to see her and she hopes it isn’t too long before she sees her again.

Chameleonic Rogue: C’rizz lacks explanations because he won’t understand the cultural references. He orders Kim to let go of her gun or he will break her wrist and given his activities in previous stories you jolly well believe him! C’rizz knows he is rude and he doesn’t care – just because somebody is real he doesn’t have to like them. I rather enjoyed Crizz’s chemistry with Kim, its not even love/hate its pure hate/hate and yet they still have to work together. All the time they spend together he is absorbing her personality like a sponge and he’ll have to carry her around inside him forever. If the prison tries to get inside C’rizz’s head it will get quite a shock with all the victims inside his head waiting to pounce. It tries to worm its way inside and please all of his desires but it didn’t quite bet on having so many desires to please.

Standout Performance: Loved Nina Baden-Semper’s accent – I have a friend who sounds very similar and I could listen to that heavy Jamaican accent all day! It’s fantastic to have Anneke Wills back as Lady Louisa Pollard, a lovely touch of continuity in one of Charley’s last stories with the eighth Doctor.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘The TARDIS has been stolen…by an ice cream man!’ – surely one of the weirdest cliffhangers for a while to top of a tasty episode full of mysteries.
‘Until some alien cracks the pod open and munches me down like some Pepperami!’
‘I suppose you’d call that cell division!’

Great Ideas: Sometimes it feels as though Eddie Robson has been rummaging around in my head and brought out lots of elements of my childhood – I loved custard creams and Blur Ribbond’s – and I was always fobbed off with fish fingers and chips! A little boy playing with his models and riding his bike tuning into a station that sees him grown up and in panic stricken life or death situation. A street that goes on and on. Materialising the TARDIS in a living room and unfazing Mrs Braudy but when they returning she thinks she has never seen them and the TARDIS isn’t there. The same person lives in every house, opening the door and claiming to have never met them. Loading the TARDIS in the ice cream van and stealing it! Kim tried to warp jump her ship out of here and ended up in Mrs Braudy’s attic by mistake! The whole street is a prison cell and Kim has been trying to broadcast messages into the TVs of black box footage showing a Marmadon (foul creatures that live in deep space) killing one of the crew. The crew went into cryogenic sleep for a mission to Jupiter and there was a system failiure, the ship drifted off course but they didn’t wake up. More than 100 years later the Marmadon broke in to loot the place and then they woke up. They got back to Earth 227 years after they left, after being considered long dead. Imagine going back to Earth 200 years after you left – everybody you know is dead, technology has moved on in leaps and bounds…how would you adjust to that? Prisons on Lucentra where the prisoner doesn’t know he’s a prisoner, he regressing to safe happy time in his life so that he’s docile. Mrs Braudy is shot on the kill setting and just gets up and carries on – Kim admits she has shot her several times out of frustration in the past couple of weeks! The Doctor and Charley once spent a day placing bets on dinosaur fights – I would love for that to be part of a story! Not satisfied with turning peoples memories into a prison they then violate those memories and turn them against people.

Audio Landscape: An ice cream van that immediately brings back memories of running out of the door on summer afternoons trying to grab the change from me mother, snooker on the TV which reminded me of late night sleepovers at my nans who loved watching the dullest sport on Earth after midnight (!!!) – a very reminiscent first scene! Making the tea, the buzzing of the Mr Whippy maker, sucking on their lollies, the ship screaming into orbit and approaching the Earth, ray gun, the space shuttle crashing into the house, rubble falling, a lovely scratchy old gramophone, delicious summery birdsong as the Doctor leaves the TARDIS (its divine), the ice cream van jingle in the TARDIS, the cloister bell, Morvik’s insane voice, the TARDIS freefalling and the Doctor screaming as she does so, the voices inside C’rizz’s head breaking free.

Musical Cues: The music bubbles along accentuating the mystery of the story in the first episode – it sounds strikingly like the music in the new series episode Fear Her which is ironic considering the similarity in the stories setting.

Isn’t it Odd: Here I go, comparing stories again – if you’re bored of me doing this then skip this section. In its most basic form Something Inside and Memory Lane are both exactly the same story – the Doctor and co trying to escape from a prison. Except one story works up a clever mystery, juxtaposing anachronistic elements and whipping up an air of tension and fantastic imagery before even revealing it is set in a prison and the other tells you in the first scene it is set in a prison and the plot doesn’t progress much further than that. You try and figure out which is which. There’s a wonderful concept thrown up in this episode to do with C’rizz about him absorbing the personalities of the people he meets – what an awesome idea and this could have been explored in some very funny and dramatic ways. What a shame he’s leaving in the next story, this is a case of too little, too late.

Standout Scene: My favourite moment in this story came towards the climax in a story where I thought C’rizz wouldn’t be given the same superb treatment as the Doctor and Charley and then Eddie Robson goes and does something very clever with the voices in his head that doesn’t involve him killing somebody again.

Notes: I always feel that this story is the equivalent of Frontios for the eighth Doctor main range stories – one last gasp of greatness before the subsequent adventures write out each of the regulars. The parallels don’t end there because with the 5th Doctor, Tegan and Turlough and the 8th Doctor Charley and C’rizz you have in both cases a potentially great Doctor that has had a few moments of greatness but has overall been underwritten and handled badly, a hanger on character who simply will not go away and has started to become more than a little irritating and a male companion where they have tried to do something a bit different and failed miserably. A brilliant cover, a spaceman holding out an ice cream with the Doctor reflected into his visor and the moon dominating the skyline! Mention is made of the Phobos mission which would be followed up by Eddie Robson in the eighth Doctor and Lucie adventures. Charley’s mother tells her she can go to the kitchen and have Edith make her a jam sandwich which is a lovely touch of continuity back to The Chimes of Midnight.

Result: Welcome to Big Finish Eddie Robson! Any writer who can take the bottom of the barrel combination of the eighth Doctor, Charley and C’rizz and whip up a brew this intoxicating gets my vote! His handling of both the Doctor and Charley are masterful and C’rizz is not far behind and all three get their best material in an age. The first two episodes are exceptional, building up a great mystery with lots of quirky moments and having some very satisfying answers when they come. The latter half of the story doesn’t quite have the same sense of magic but it still manages to conjure up some great surprises and gives us some rare insight into the most vacuous of regulars. The whole piece is superbly directed by Gary Russell who handles the atmosphere of the piece very cleanly and not leaving the audience behind for a moment. A quick mention for David Darlington’s superb score and sound design – this guy has done a lot for Big Finish audios over the years and his name rarely gets a mention. Memory Lane gets the range back on track after The Gathering sunk to new depths and provides an entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable ride. Lets have Robson back for more: 8/10


Artwork by Simon Hodges @ http://hisi79.deviantart.com/
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