Vienna: The Memory Box

Vienna-Memory-Box-bigfinishVienna Salvatori – a glamorous bounty hunter played by the equally glam Chase Masterson – first appeared in last year’s Doctor Who audio The Shadow Heart opposite Sylvester McCoy. She has now been spun off into this pilot for a new series (due in 2014). Written by Jonathan Morris (who also wrote the Doctor Who story), it’s a fast-moving, all guns blazing murder mystery told in the style of such Philip K. Dick movie adaptations (rather than the original texts) as Blade Runner, Minority Report and especially Total Recall.

The following review is offered as part of the Tuesday’s Overlooked AV Media meme hosted by Todd Mason over at his Sweet Freedom blog and you should head over there to see the many other fascinating titles that have been selected.

Berkeley Silver, one of the richest men in the Earth empire, lies dead in the Penthouse Suite of the Galileo space-hotel. Law Enforcement Officers Detective Captain McGinnis and Detective Sergeant Mead are called in to investigate – but it seems to have been the perfect crime. Even when subjected to a memory scan, everybody in the space-hotel has an alibi for the murder.

This may be a full-throttle adventure but the tone is essentially comedic as made clear by the opening scene in which intergalactic cop McGinnis moans to his junior colleague Mead about how sick he gets whenever they go in and out of hyper drive – I bet this never happened to Hans Solo! Having said that, technology has certainly made investigations a lot more precise in some respects – within seconds the time of death has been established with ironic exactitude

“Time of death 18:00 hours and 30 minutes and 40 seconds … approximately”

They arrive at a hotel that is so discreet there are no security cameras (McGinnis calls it “a galactic knocking shop”) which makes their job much tougher so they are obliged to run memory scans of the guests, reviewing their last 24 hours of activity. The first guest through the process is one Miracle Valentine, who is very anxious to get on with her holiday.

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Eyes front, Doctor! Chase Masterson and Sylvester McCoy while recording THE SHADOW HEART (image: Big Finish)

After being cleared Valentine gets to her spaceship and is unveiled as being Vienna, who has managed to disguise her activities by parking her memories in the eponymous ‘Memory Box’ – something she only remembers herself through a mnemonic device she had pre-programmed to go off once she returned to her spaceship. We now get a flashback as she remembers that she has accepted a job to kill Silver and must now travel to a small research facility to collect payment. But the spaceport has been closed and Vienna’s ship is blocked by a star yacht in her way – she kidnaps it’s owner, Norvelle Spraggott, and manages to get off the planet with the police in hot pursuit. Spraggott provides the comedy relief as the actually quite willing hostage, ferrying Vienna through the galaxy and proving to be a bit savvier than she initially thought. But then again, everyone here turns out to be hiding something and Morris’ script takes the concept of ‘unreliable narration’ to fairly giddy, if tongue-in-cheek, heights

“Nobody who ever hears my name lives to tell the tale”

Great fun is had by all, especially at the climax where, after being chased by legions of the undead and members of the ‘Flaming Sword’ revolutionary group, revelation follow revelation as masks are removed by virtually the entire cast. The script does at this stage start to play a bit like a sci-fi version of Scooby Doo but in a good-humoured and knowing way, delighting in its own complexity as layers of deception are removed to display even more smoke and mirrors. Let’s hope this small-scale taster paves the way for a more substantial series – Masterson makes for a fiery heroine (her character proves to be more heroic and a bit less mercenary than first thought thankfully) and I look forward to hearing a lot more from her next year when the first box set is due to be released.

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John Banks, Gemma Whelan, Tom Price and Chase Masterson (image: Big Finish)

Writer: Jonathan Morris
Director: Ken Bentley
Music: Jamie Robertson
Sound Design: Jamie Robertson
Running time: 65 minutes
Main cast: Chase Masterson (Vienna Salvatori), John Banks (McGinnis), Gemma Whelan (Mead), Tom Price (Norvelle Spraggott)

Availability: This release is available on CD or as an MP3 download from Big Finish  – visit: www.bigfinish.com.

***** (3 fedora tips out of 5)

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This entry was posted in Audio Review, Big Finish, Jonathan Morris, Philip K. Dick and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Vienna: The Memory Box

  1. Sergio – Certainly sounds like an action-packed thriller. Thanks for your take on this. I’ll be honest, I don’t think it’s for me, but it’s good to hear it’s well done.

    • Hi Margot – well, audio is not for everyone and mystery/science fiction hybrids are definitely not for everyone. It’s more like a cross between episodes of Star Trek: Next Generation and X-Files than anything else, but tongue-in-cheek, which really helps.

  2. Colin says:

    Not a huge fan of sci-fi myself Sergio – sometimes I like it, other times I can just as easily leave it. I have to say you make this sound quite fun though, and Ms Masterson certainly is easy on the eye – bit of a shame this is audio really.

    • I’ve become, belatedly, a big audio fan and on this case it allows it to be expansive in a way that would be prohobitive for an hour-long adventure for TV shall we say. But I have a lot of good friends that just don’t get it as a medium however (and I get a lot less traffic on these kinds of posts too). Chase Masterson is great fun and very glam so perfect casting – it’s hard to believe she’s passed her half century already. She talks about Star Trek and Vienna in this short video:

  3. TracyK says:

    This really does sound good but I am one of those who doesn’t get audio. Glad that you liked it so much and are letting others know about. I know a lot of people who really do like audio.

    • Thanks TracyK – and I really do mean that some of my best buddies just can’t get into audio drama so I completely understand. Obviously it’s a big part of the BBC’s output and is brilliant for the visually impaired too but I really like it’s flexibility – oddly enough I don’t really like spoken books very much!

  4. Sergio, this is something new for me, so thanks very much for writing about it. I have never listened to audio of anything other than songs and an occasional speech. I’d like to try listening to audio versions of mystery, sf or anything that might catch my fancy. Do you have any recommendations for a beginner?

  5. Thanks a ton, Sergio. I’m parked at Archive 24×7 so those links should be easy to get to. Will head over to the others this weekend.

  6. Pingback: Vienna – series 1 | Tipping My Fedora

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