|Memory Lane by Eddie Robson|
What an odd adventure "Memory Lane" turned out to be. It's success is tied into the role that mystery plays in a Doctor Who adventure, so it's worth re-examining that here. Like "The Chimes of Midnight", that great eternal benchmark, it begins by depositing our heroes, without any prior knowledge, in an agreeable and familiar setting which is clearly not quite right. The mystery from then-on subsides as the "true" nature of the story is slowly revealed.
The trouble with this is that the not-all-it-appears-to-be is actually more interesting than the eventually revealed truth of things. After a number of Eighth Doctor adventures on alien worlds ("Something Inside", "Time Works", "Scaredy Cat"), it was somewhat refreshing to encounter a story involving a suburban street, an Iconic African housewife and an ice cream van. Like "The Android Invasion", it's a great pity when these things all turn out to be illusions and we're in a dull alien simulation after all.
However, on subsequent viewings
"Memory Lane" nevertheless reveals itself to be a charming, if unambitious
tale at the higher end of the Eighth Doctor quality spectrum. There's
nothing new here of course - the whole thing is, in truth, ripped off from
"Carnival of Monsters", and the two comedic henchmen at the root of the
trouble is a similar idea to that used in "Something Inside" (even C'Rizz
remarks on how the TARDIS keeps landing in prisons lately). But it's done
with such panache, from the nagging haunting melody of the incidental
music to the top draw cast, that it just about gets away with it. India
Fisher again reprises her "little girl" act, and is a joy to listen to,
although C'Rizz is again a decidedly unlikeable fellow companion -
spending the adventure being impolite and untrusting towards Kim. But only
Neil Reidman (who sounds, and acts, like Reggie Yates) really lets the
side down, not convincing as a stranded astronaut, even after he's been
freed from the alien's possession.