Wednesday, 18 July 2018
In the Garden of Death written by Guy Adams and directed by Ken Bentley
Physician, Heal Thyself: With no memories and no idea of who they really are, the Doctor and Bliss find themselves trapped on a garden planet and imprisoned. He wonders if he is the evillest man in the universe given he is the only one in a high security prison.
Bless Bliss: With each instalment I’m getting to like Bliss a little more whilst still acknowledging she is nowhere near approaching the companion greats. I think Thakrar has started to adjust to delivering her dialogue on audio (that you can be subtle and not everything has to be pitched at a melodramatic level) and the character is settling in to a rhythm. Here with her memory taken, Bliss is the most humane with have seen her. Vulnerable and caring, I hope she continues in that vein even with her memory back. She likes to solve things. Everything and everyone she looks at she starts deconstructing and analysing.
The Twelve: The only character that is really different from their persona in the previous story, Julia McKenzie is less kindly old woman and far more assertive and condemning as the Twelve with memory loss. It’s still a far cry from the overdone villainy of the Eleven, thank goodness. A paranoid old lady or someone with exceptionally good instincts? The inhibitor is damaged and she struggles with the voices in her head. She doesn’t want anybody else to think she is mad.
Standout Performance: Victor McGuire’s voice is unmistakable. I was happily listening away and I kept getting images of Gary’s mate from Goodnight Sweetheart, a show I hadn’t thought about for years. It’s not a bad thing, having an unmistakable voice. He gives a good turn here in a likeable role. Why is McKenzie so much better at doing the ‘voices in the head’ acting than Mark Bonner?
Great Ideas: Personal memory dampeners focused on an individual sense of self; that’s the explanation given for the memory loss. A quirk of technobabble, of course. There’s purely biological defences on this planet because the prisoners could turn the technology into weapons.
Audio Landscape: The transmat sound effect from The Five Doctors. I’m such a geek.
Isn’t it Odd: There are very few original ideas in this story, or even original takes on old ideas. Because theses stories are released in box sets rather than individually I think it is fair to come to expect some kind of narrative thread to run through the four stories but as far as I can tell this is three very separate, distinct stories with the Time War looming angrily in the background. I may have bemoaned in the Doom Coalition sets that the arc trod on the individual instalments but there was no denying that the penultimate episodes of each set left you gagging for more as the latest threat to the universe was unveiled. There’s none of that here. I wandered out of the third story going ‘what was the point of all that then?’
Standout Scene: Given the emphasis of this story is very much on the Twelve, especially in the last scene, perhaps this box set was mis labelled as ‘Doctor Who.’ The cover is abysmal.
Result: To lose your memory once because of a great Time War smacks of carelessness. To lose it twice for exactly the same reason smacks of plagiarism. I’m joking of course but given the eighth Doctor Adventures (the books) played about with the idea of the Doctor losing his memory because of a great conflict between the Time Lords and their enemy and flogged it to death (very successfully in my eyes) you would think this was something that the audios would avoid. Aha. The memory wipe mystery plays out amiably enough, but it’s the sort of thing that every show has had a stab at and unless it’s going to be played for all out comedy or all out drama it is just your regulars fumbling around in the dark until somebody switches the light on again. There’s no revelatory reason for the Doctor, Bliss or The Twelve to lose their memories. When they get them back it isn’t like a flood of unfortunate memories overwhelm them in a devastatingly emotional moment. And having their minds wiped isn’t part of some creative scheme. It just sort of happens and ten it’s rectified. An early scene suggests that this might be an impressive interrogatory story between a Dalek and the Doctor. I had visions of scenes like those between the Dalek and the Doctor from the series one episode Dalek or something reminiscent of Dalek Empire when Susan Mendez was under the spotlight. Unfortunately, In the Garden of Death ducks away from a good psychological battle to focus on its cliched amnesia plot. There is some good stuff in here too; the Twelve is given an interesting new spin as an amnesiac and struggling to control voices that she doesn’t understand, I really liked the idea of a prison planet with biological defences and Bliss gets her best airing yet, interesting that that should be when she has no knowledge of who she was. Perhaps a sign that she was a fundamentally flawed character and needs a bit of a reboot. McGann seems a little subdued, because he doesn’t really have much to hang his performance on. He’s an empty shell of a Doctor for no real reason and what can he do with that? Overall this isn’t the most enthralling of stories, but it’s still a cut above the worst of the last Time War boxset. It just smacks of time filler when it should have had a little more momentum given it leads into the finale: 6/10