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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Memories of a Tyrant


Starring: Colin Baker
Publisher: Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 855 4 (CD),
978 1 78178 856 1 (download)
Release Date: 31 August 2019

What if you’d committed a truly dreadful crime but couldn’t remember it? The Doctor takes Peri to the Memory Farm – a state-of-the-art space station where hidden memories can be harvested and analysed. To their surprise, they find the station in lockdown and all its resources dedicated to probing the memories of an elderly man. Garius Moro may, or may not, have been responsible for the deaths of billions of people many years ago, but he simply can’t remember. The assembled representatives of two opposing factions, each with their own agenda, anxiously wait for the truth to be unlocked from Moro’s mind. But when a memory does eventually surface, everyone is surprised to learn that it is of Peri…

This audio drama by Roland Moore combines two main themes – the seeking of justice for war crimes and the unreliability of memory.

The former tackles the issue and questions the value of trying to find and punish perpetrators of genocidal atrocities, even when the accused may now be old, infirm and perhaps not even remember the crimes they are supposed to have committed. Such is the case with Garius Moro (Joseph Mydell), who may or may not be the war criminal Altrius of Kelpus IV, and who is being subjected to attempts to recover his lost memories. Moro comes across as so feeble that for the most part the listener (and companion Peri) feels sympathy for him rather than fear or revulsion.

The latter theme has a basis in real science. Cognitive psychologists agree that human memory is far from foolproof. When pushed to recall details that we cannot readily remember, our imaginations try to fill in the gaps, embellishing and corrupting the accuracy of the memory. Experiments conducted by psychologist and science writer Dr Julia Shaw have demonstrated how frighteningly easy it is to plant false memories of criminal activity that the subject accepts as completely true.

For a while, it looks as though Memories of a Tyrant is going to play a subtle mind game along such lines – as, for example, Peri (Nicola Bryant) realises that a childhood friend’s dress is not the colour that she always assumed it was. However, the cliffhanger at the halfway stage of this two-disc release heralds a sudden and enormous change of direction with a revelation that we (and Peri) know cannot be true. The trouble is, everyone else thinks it is. The second half of the drama strays into territory that has already been covered in some of the Sixth Doctor’s television episodes, but it does allow Colin Baker to chew the scenery in an enjoyable manner. I had also expected some childhood trauma to be dredged up from Peri’s past. This never materialises, but, as Bryant herself says during the 15 minutes of interviews at the end of Disc Two, you really don’t know at the outset where this story is going to go.

This release marks the beginning of a trilogy of adventures featuring the Sixth Doctor and Peri that takes place between Seasons 22 and 23. Accordingly, we hear the exciting Peter Howell arrangement of the signature tune (I remember it well) rather than the moodier Dominic Glynn version. Meanwhile, Andy Hardwick’s incidental score bigs up the drama with powerful Murray Gold and David Arnold-style notes.

Thankfully, the TARDIS crew have been allowed to move beyond the bickering that characterised Season 22, as Bryant gratefully acknowledges in the interviews. She also makes a surprising revelation about how Peri’s character arc might have played out had the 18-month hiatus not taken place. That’s assuming her recollection is accurate – memories of a Bryant, anyone?


Richard McGinlay

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