Memoriam


William Merlock

August 2004

Memoriam, the sixth of the Doctor Who Audio Dramas featuring Jym DeNatale as the Doctor and the second DWAD audio written by Julio Angel Ortiz, begins with one of the best episodes that Everlasting Films/Infinite Imagination has recorded. This first episode is centered fully on the Doctor's current companion, Christine, though from the very beginning the listener knows something is very wrong: the genius of this episode is that the sense of this wrongness comes largely from the "ordinary-ness" of Christine's early-twenty-first-century life. After all, we know she's the Doctor's companion, an orphan from the 13th century, so seeing her as an average teenager in modern times...well, we the listeners know something's not right. But the disquietude doesn't come only from this juxtaposition. After several listens to “Memoriam”, I began to see that the directing and editing of this episode really completed the sense of unease, of things-not-quite-right. Scenes cut rapidly from one to another, giving Christine's “normal” life a claustrophobic, harried, and unreal aura.

As an aside, Christine continues to be one of my all-time favorite companions of the Doctor. She's exactly the right combination of tough and vulnerable, providing exactly the right personality to counterbalance Jym's grandiose Doctor.

I won't go into further detail; suffice it to say that the first episode was almost perfect, with near-flawless writing, acting, music, effects, direction, and editing. I could hardly wait to get to the second episode...

...which started out marvelously. The Doctor, who had but a few moments presence in the first episode, plays a much more prominent role here, and his interplay with Christine is as usual priceless. Christine's situation continues to zigzag here in episode two, between the ordinary and not-quite-right, culminating in an ominous family reunion...

...which is where the story flattened out a bit. The suspense that had been built up over the first episode and a half is resolved too quickly. Christine's malevolent family members are dealt with too easily. A few loose ends are left unresolved, and, with Christine now safe, the episode nears its conclusion with the Doctor offering a long explanation of exactly what happened to Christine and why.

Now, to digress a bit, let me refer to Past Imperfect, the third story with DeNatale as the Doctor and the first written by Ortiz. Past Imperfect is my favorite Doctor Who audio story; Ortiz throws a magnificent curve ball at the end of the third episode of that story (sorry to those across the pond for the baseball metaphor). Just when we think the Doctor has everything under control, well, we find out things have gotten immeasurably worse. OK, back to Memoriam. Episode two concludes with a similar twist, and episode three contains a whole new problem for the Doctor which in this case never has a chance to build suspense. The ideas and characters presented are very interesting, and I wish there has been more time to build the concepts and explore the ideas that were presented.

Ultimately, the problem with the final episode and a half of Memoriam is that there are too many ideas for the allotted running time, resulting in too much narrative explanation and not enough development of suspense. Memoriam, I think, could have easily been a five or six part story. But don't think I'm selling Memoriam short; an extremely strong beginning, overall excellent production values, and the charisma and charm of Rachel Summers and Jym DeNatale make this story a solid, above-average entry in the DWAD lineup.

8/10


Last updated: Tuesday, August 10, 2004