16 July 2019

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Roland Moore

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: July 2019

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online


"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..."

Following on the heels of the Mags trilogy, we see the return of Peri to the main range after several years’ absence. Rather than follow up the plot threads left hanging from her last, post-Trial trilogy, we are instead treated to a story set earlier in her timeline, though at times it feels even earlier than that.

Roland Moore’s debut story for the Big Finish main range, Memories Of A Tyrant is a bit of an odd beast in that it’s a Sixth Doctor and Peri story that feels entirely geared towards it being a Third Doctor and Jo story, complete with a fight scene, references to The Curse of Peladon and The Green Death, central ethical dilemma, and an old friend of the Doctor who helped free wrongly convicted aliens. It gives the entire play a slightly unusual feel, being simultaneously true to the show but not really true to the era. I wonder if perhaps it started off with a different TARDIS team in mind, or if they just wanted to try something different? Either way, it can be a little jarring at times.

This air of incongruity aside, it also happens to be an unusual play for other reasons. Its central premise is interesting: Garius Moro is a tyrant responsible for the murder of billions and he has finally been captured - or has he? No visual record of Moro exists, and the man captured has no memory of his past life whatsoever. There is, therefore, a question of morality at stake here. Is it right that a man utterly ripped of his memories should suffer a punishment for his actions, actions which he cannot recall committing and finds hard to believe himself capable of? And what if they have the wrong man?

The main issue with this play is that it dodges both these issues entirely, something not down to Moore who addressed this in his original script, but down to director, producer and script editor John Ainsworth, who according to the play’s extras insisted that they go unanswered, to better retain uncertainty. All this does is neuter Memories Of A Tyrant, robbing its exciting meat and bones of weight and making the ending feel unsatisfactory. It goes out of its way to dodge the moral quandary but that just raises more questions than it answers, namely why commission a play such as this if you don’t want to fully engage with its soul?

It’s a pity as overall Memories Of A Tyrant is a fairly enjoyable listen which gives Peri a lot to do, and Colin Baker is clearly having fun pretending to be a convict. Moore has hit upon an interesting issue, has written it as a Third Doctor tale, and has had his answers removed from on high. It makes for one of the strangest releases Big Finish have put out for a while now, and certainly a tricky one to grade.

I would like to try and take a leaf out of its book and cheat my memory. I would like to recall the happy cast and the good ideas this play has, ignoring the era uncertainty and production interference. I will not succeed; the execution looms large in my mind. But trying to do so, at least, feels the done thing.


+ Memories Of A Tyrant is OUT NOW, priced £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title on Amazon!


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