It’s been a long time since we got a new story featuring the Sixth Doctor and Peri (especially the “as seen on TV” versions) so if nothing else this story felt both fresh, in a way, and nostalgic. The central premise of punishing someone for crimes he can no longer remember is a genuinely interesting idea that was only partially explored, sadly. So let’s have a look at the story overall, shall we?
What if you’d committed a truly dreadful crime but couldn’t remember?
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 lock-down 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…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
In case you’re wondering, the weird cyborg guys were an army invested in the plot, but don’t do anything other than act as heavies… Cool look though!
As I touched upon in the opening paragraph, the idea of having someone in prison, someone you’re at least 80-90% sure is one of the nastiest dictators in history, but being stuck with the problem of not knowing it was him or not due to his memory having been lost (and no known footage of him existing) is a really interesting concept. Once they get to a certain point is there any way to actually “punish” them? This is seen from both the POV of the people who want to get justice, and from the viewpoint of fanatics who, in the end, don’t care if it’s actually him if they could just claim to have found and “saved” their leader then the cause could pick up steam once again.
In the end our heroic Doctor lets the person go, knowing he’ll never get his memories back, and therefore there would be no point in letting him get imprisoned, which is a controversial idea and a nice highlight. Makes you think and debate (if you have someone to debate it with), which is a good thing.
There are some nice scenes of Peri searching for memories of her father as well, just to add a bit more flavour to the story, plus given The Doctor and Peri a reason to come to the “Memory Farm” in the first place, a facility that can drag out and present memories in front of people like a hologram.
Sadly the middle of the story is less interesting, with an extremely telegraphed plot twist that really only serves to put the plot on hold until we get the final part. When Peri starts looking at her memories, the technician specifically states that he has to put on a helmet, otherwise her memories could become his for a while and he’d be unable to distinguish them from his own. So, unsurprisingly, some shady goings on happens and The Doctor becomes convinced he is the tyrannical Garius Moro, someone who revelled in the deaths of billions.
He is sent to a prison planet and slowly regains his memories before escaping back to the Memory Farm to resume the story, meanwhile Peri and the one person she has managed to make her believe The Doctor isn’t Garius have been running around being chased by the conspirators. Now, none of this is that bad, and it’s always fun to hear Colin Baker ham it up as a villain, but it did feel like the interesting stuff was put on hold because the story had to be two hours long…
A Space Security Service agent named Kennedy is featured in the story, the SSS made their debut in the Mission to the Unknown / Daleks’ Master Plan double bill of First Doctor TV stories.
Beyond that and a few recollections of past adventures by both Peri and The Doctor, there isn’t much connecting the story with anything else.
Memories of a Tyrant played with some interesting ideas and told a good story overall, though a lot of the middle devolved into a bit of a standard run-around. It’s still a good story mind, and one that’ll make you think at the end, and possibly question one of The Doctor’s actions, and that’s always interesting and fun.