on 1 February 2012
This set offers Tom Baker giving a superb performance of the Doctor, capturing much of his Doctor at his very best. The balance of drama and humour in the scripts is excellent, giving Tom some first class dialogue and enabling him to show that he is capable of giving a top rate portrayal. The two stories, originally planned for the television series but not used, are well written, fun, exciting and entertaining. The guest performances, in particular Louise Brealey, are all very good. Music and sound effects are well chosen, contributing to and end result that is nothing short of a total joy. The Foe From The Future is a full, six part top notch, well acted Tom Baker story, and for anyone who who enjoyed Tom's seven series as the Doctor, in particular the styles around seasons fourteen and fifteen, this story is a pleasure to the ears. The Valley of Death is full of surprises, and Tom seems even better than in Foe, if that were possible. Whilst the first story in the new Big Finish series for the fourth Doctor, as a single disc two-parter isn't very strong (Destination Nerva, well performed but not well written) here it all comes together. Congratulations to everyone who worked on these audio stories, in particular to Louise Jameson for encouraging Tom to record them, and Tom Baker for showing that he can still bring his Doctor vividly to life.
This is part of the series of Lost Stories produced as full cast audio dramas by Big Finish. These are stories which, for various reasons, were written, or had story ideas drawn up for various Doctors in the tv series, but were never made. Big Finish have released nearly 30 of these Lost Stories so far, and they’re a brilliant chance to hear stories that we might have seen on tv, had circumstances been different; and a great opportunity to hear stories of their time, written for the Doctor of the time. This one is a box set which features two separate stories, both featuring the Fourth Doctor (played by Tom Baker) travelling with Leela (played by Louise Jameson).
The first story, The Foe from the Future, was a story originally written by Robert Stewart Banks; a story which he started, but never completed in 1976, leaving it on a cliffhanger at the end of episode five (out of a total of six episodes). Robert Holmes, script editor of Doctor Who at the time, had to step in and write a story to fill the scheduling gap. Luckily for us he did, as that story was Talons of Weng-Chiang, a classic story which is still among the top fan favourites, over 40 years later. Indeed without Talons, we wouldn’t have the redoutable and wonderful team of Jago and Litefoot, who now have their own spin-off series of audios from Big Finish.
Foe from the Future has been finished and written for audio by the great audio writer John Dorney, who has given us a real ‘classic’ feeling Fourth Doctor story. Set in 1977, the Tardis has landed in the village of Staffham in Devon, where the Doctor and Leela quickly find themselves helping ‘Charlotte from the village’ with what appears to be a mystery emanating from the local manor, said to be haunted, and under the new ownership of the mysterious Lord Jalnik. From there, the scope of the story gets huge and long-reaching, and it’s a madcap breakneck race from beginning to end for the Doctor and his friends, to save the entire universe itself. This story is absolutely fantastic; over six parts across three cds, it has a great pace, a real 1970s feel to it, and a fantastic support cast, including Louise Brealey as Charlotte, Blake Ritson as Shibac and Paul Freeman as Jalnik.
The second story, The Valley of Death, was a story originally written by Philip Hinchcliffe. The script editor at the time, Douglas Adams, put it aside as the outline submitted was too similar to other stories from the time. Even in its reworked for audio version (by Jonathan Morris) I can see that it would have been of huge scope for its time, involving a plane crash, a tropical jungle, a lost city, and much, much more. Morris has taken the outline and written it for audio as a blockbuster movie, and this is what it feels like; elements of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Independence Day, and more, all presented in wonderful audio.
This story features the Doctor and Leela in 1977, travelling as UNIT scientific observers with an expedition to the Amazonian jungle, trying to discover the fate of a Victorian expedition, but from the Doctor’s perspective, trying to uncover the truth behind a reference in a journal from that expedition – was what the expedition found a spaceship? This is a really huge adventure, which you can just imagine playing out in front of your eyes on the big screen; vast jungles, huge scale lost civilisations, aliens; it’s all there, and more. The Doctor and Leela find themselves facing threats unlike any they’ve seen before, and even when they think they’ve got the mystery uncovered, there’s more layers of mystery and adventure waiting. The support cast, especially Jane Slavin and Anthony Howell, with David Killick do a fantastic job. The Director, Ken Bentley, describes this story as ‘bonkers’, and I think that’s spot on.
There is a sixth cd in this box set, which is a full extras cd; this is all extremely interesting, with great interviews, and discussions with the writers, cast and production team. They talk about Doctor Who generally, and about these two stories in great and most entertaining depth. All up, there is some 6 hours of pure entertainment in this box set; it’s all great stuff, and highly recommended.
Time travel is possible and I have proof! For five wonderful hours I was back in the late 1970s and in my teens again, following the fabulous Fourth Doctor through two more adventures. If you're a fan of the Tom Baker years (and if not, why not?!) this time capsule containing two great, lost stories is a treasure. 5*
These stories were `lost' NOT because they weren't considered good enough (quite the opposite) but for logistical reasons - some people were busy, some stories were too difficult to make in those pre-CGI days. Now, with the freedom of audio, Big Finish have produced them on an epic scale that would be demanding to do visually even today.
Tom Baker and Louise Jameson reunite in spectacularly good form to perform two excellent stories. The Fourth Doctor and Leela always made a great team on screen and nothing has changed in that respect. His brilliant intensity, ready wit and flamboyantly alien scientific wizardry; her clear-minded focus, endless courage and instant readiness for action come through as clearly as ever. I almost pity the villain who gets in their way!
This six-CD box set contains the full length, full cast stories on 3 CDs + 2 CDs giving five hours of adventure in all, plus a documentary CD. Both stories are directed by Ken Bentley with excellent guest casts and sound designs that bring their various worlds to life. The era these stories recreate was a very special one for fans of my vintage, so I'm definitely biased!, but each is a great adventure in its own right. There are some nice touches that seasoned fans will pick up on, but these would be exciting and self-contained stories even if (somehow) you've never met Tom Baker's Doctor before and don't really know who Leela is.
Each CD contains two approximately half-hour episodes followed by a short `making of' track which was interesting, but personally I'd prefer these tracks to be all placed together, after the last episode on the final CD of each story. When you've enjoyed the stories, do take time to look into the CD insert of each disc - they're all different, with background information, credits and cast photographs. The sixth CD (sharing a case with `The Valley of Death' disc 2) is a very interesting 69 minute `making of' documentary about both stories with cast and crew interviews. The best parts were the fascinating details about how each story was written from the storylines, what was changed and added and how much is `lost but found' and how much is new.
So then, The Lost Stories ...
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
`The Foe From The Future' (6 episodes, 3 hours, 3 CDs)
Robert Banks Stewart's third story for `Doctor Who' is probably the most famous `lost' story of all, partly because we knew to expect something very special from the writer of the classics `Terror of the Zygons' and `The Seeds of Doom', and partly because of what replaced it to end the season in 1977.
Robert Holmes' rapidly written alternative, `The Talons of Weng-Chiang', is for me the best story of all `Doctor Who', ever. I thought that when I first saw it and although there have been many fine stories since, I still rank `Talons' above them all. So it's ironic that his masterpiece only happened because of the `loss' of another story which no doubt many people guessed would also have been an exceptional season-ending epic. Now we know - it is!
There are two core ideas that Robert Holmes reused for his Victorian adventure: a foe from the future and a dangerous time travel experiment gone hideously wrong. Apart from that, this is a totally different and exciting take on the same basic theme: that Time should not be meddled with by human amateurs. I did notice one small point of cross-over between the two stories when Leela calls the local bobby a `blue guard', just as in `Talons'. Wherever this detail originated, it was a nice touch of continuity.
John Dorney has written an excellent, tremendously exciting script from the original storyline which, (according to the sleeve notes) stopped after the massive episode 5 cliffhanger! The style of the whole story is so faithful to its time (1977) that I could easily imagine I was watching it back then. The originally non-existent episode 6 now completes the story perfectly by tying in elements from throughout the storyline. Like `Talons', this is one of those rare six-parters that never feels a minute too long; it's straight out of the Hinchcliffe / Holmes `handbook' of how to do `Doctor Who' at its very best.
The Doctor's dialogue especially is full of the quick retorts and wit so typical of this incarnation and Leela's clear, rather formal style of speech is also done perfectly. Listening to Tom Baker and Louise Jameson was uncanny - their great performances let me imagine I was actually listening to the soundtrack of a story they made back in 1977 as planned. I only had a couple of small criticisms of the other characters' dialogue, which is generally excellent; would someone from Devon in 1977 really say something was "way too small" or describe themselves as "a good study" rather than "a good learner"? Maybe it was another time anomaly side-effect!
This is a thrilling adventure on the grand scale, with ghosts, time travel, hideous monsters and a fine guest cast led by Paul Freeman in a superb performance as the villainous `Lord' Jalnik, the Foe from the Future. With full-on modern CGI you could do it, at a price, but in 1977 this story would had to have been made in a much reduced form. On audio it works brilliantly, a reminder of the days when the `Doctor Who' team knew an audience would happily stay with them for six weeks of nail-biting cliffhangers and behind-the-sofa moments. Television really doesn't make them like this any more - but they should. This is one last, magical chance to experience a new story from the `Gothic' seasons that many fans (including me) still regard as `the golden age'; it's a true classic and not to be missed!
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
`The Valley of Death' (4 episodes, 2 hours, 2 CDs)
After that Gothic extravaganza, you'll need to reset your expectations for the second story in this box set. Jump ahead to one of the Fourth Doctor's later seasons and that's the style we have here - a frankly bonkers, non-stop adventure hovering just this side of pastiche; it's a lot of fun and feels like Douglas Adams in full `Pirate Planet' mode. All the more amazing then that this story was originated by Philip Hinchcliffe - `Gothic' it is not, more like a high-end `B' movie combined with half-a-dozen assorted modern blockbusters, films that hadn't been thought of when this storyline was created.
It's a complete contrast with the serious, dark quality of `Foe'. Imagine one of those Victorian imperial novels of daring chaps meets `Indiana Jones' meets `Independence Day' and that goes some way to describe it. The result is hugely enjoyable and the excellent guest cast were obviously having fun with a story where the villain practically cackles with evil laughter, no character is knowingly understated and strict logic never gets in the way of a good idea for a plot twist.
Just as you decide you know what the story is definitely about, there's a cliffhanger, a sharp turn and it all sets off in a different direction. It's a UNIT story too, though I must say the quality of their senior staff isn't what it was! Just as well the Brig. was away in Oslo during this one, considering what happens to his stand-in ...
Jonathan Morris has packed his script with great dialogue and witty side-glances at English culture, especially in episode 3. Hearing the Doctor appositely (mis)quote John Betjeman was a particular delight. Poor Slough! His writing of Leela is especially good and if you (like me) disliked her ending in `The Invasion of Time', then this story gives a model for how it should have been done - not that we lose this excellent companion here of course. Long-time fans should keep an eye open for a nicely oblique reference to `Horror of Fang Rock'.
Apparently, the then script editor Douglas Adams decided this story would have been too expensive and difficult to make - I have to agree; even now it would be a spectacular and pricey CGI-fest, but audio has given everyone the freedom to `go for it' as the storyline demands and the result is a great success. One thing puzzles me and neither the sleeve notes nor the documentary mention it: this is clearly a Fourth Doctor and Leela story - her personality is vital to the plot - but if Douglas Adams was the script editor who decided not to proceed with it in 1979, the companion would have been Romana II and that would inevitably have been a very different story. I could easily imagine the wit and comic moments, but only a warrior of the Sevateem could pull off action scenes like these.
I wouldn't put `The Valley of Death' in quite the same league as `The Foe from the Future' but that's only in the same way that I prefer the first half of the Fourth Doctor's era to the second half, while enjoying it all. This story is tremendous fun, a ripping yarn if ever there was one and there's even a happy ending. Best enjoyed with popcorn.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Lost no more, these are quintessential Fourth Doctor adventures from the two distinct halves of his television era, beautifully made at last and a must-have box set. 5*
Thanks for reading.
on 12 March 2015
The fourth Doctor was the longest serving Doctor. With Lallla Ward and John Leeson this team performs the two dramas in the way it would bedone on TV. You would not guess that the two stories were books. Also the extra discs provide an insight into how both stories were adapted an the thought of the poformers
on 23 January 2012
If you want to Reminisce about when Doctor Who was great but want a modern retelling, this is a great place to start. Tom Baker comes over as his earlier self very well. Obviously he has gotten older and sometimes that shows in his voice but overall you would never know that this was not recorded in the 1970's. The lovely Louise Jameson as Leela still comes over well as the aggressive but naive. Both stories are beautifully done by Big Finish and would have worked well in it's day on TV. You do get a vague impression of the Talons Of Weng Chiang early on in the Foe From The Future. The Valley Of Death comes over as a 1940's Tarzan coupled with Indian Jones.
But, please don't take my word for it, as the advert on BF says.....It's Saturday Tea Time In 1977 All Over Again!
on 17 March 2012
I've been curious to hear how Tom Baker would play the Doctor if he ever mellowed sufficiently to work with Big Finish, particularly given his advanced age and long-standing association with Little Britain and Vic Reeves' reinvention of Marty Hopkirk.
During his time on Doctor Who his portrayal varied somewhat following the departure of producer Philip Hinchcliffe, becoming (arguably) more frivolous during Graham Williams' tenure and then more brooding and restrained during his last season with John Nathan-Turner.
This then is a fourth portrayal, and varies very little from the way he has done anything else over the last 15 years. He is just playing it as eccentric old luvvie Tom Baker. He makes no attempt to recreate the original characterisation from the TV series and seems not to be taking it entirely seriously, in fact some of his delivery sounds as though he has Matt Lucas and David Walliams sniggering away in the next booth, egging him on. So from that point of view it is hard to hear these new stories and envisage the fourth Doctor as he was and the suspension of disbelief is largely created by Louise Jameson's spirited and more nuanced recreation of Leela and the more professional acting of the rest of the cast. But some of the lines that Tom Baker delivers really made me laugh out loud. I don't know whether he chucked in some entertaining ad-libs that stuck or whether he seizes upon some of the sillier or more jokey lines in the script and brandishes them at us. I don't think he is trying to be disrespectful, he is just enjoying his work and playing the Doctor the way he wants to play the Doctor now, rather than then.
The writing and sound production, as usual for Big Finish, is amazing, and there seems to be a lot of pseudo-surround technology employed to make the experience more immersive and surprising (listening to these stories on the headphones I found myself turning around more than once to see where that sound or that voice had come from.)
Don't get these hoping to travel back in time to the 1970s, get these to find out what the Doctor would be like had he not come a cropper at the end of Logopolis and lived to see in the new series.
on 12 March 2012
Some of the other audios Tom has done do not capture his Doctor at all but in these Big Finish audios he has nailed it completely. As has Louise Jameson and it is a delight to see more sunstance to her character at long last. It's the saturday teamtimes of my youth all over again!
on 4 January 2015
As the title of this box set clearly suggests, it contains two stories that are typically characteristic of the Philip Hinchcliffe era. Whether they count as ‘lost’ stories as such, I suppose, depends on your interpretation; but the first is a story that was cancelled due to the script writing not keeping up with production schedules and the second was never commissioned because Hinchcliffe moved on and that it was too ambitious and, thus, expensive for the time.
It takes very little effort to imagine ‘Foe from the Future’ forming part of the third year of the Fourth Doctor. It certainly contains many aspects that will be recognised by those familiar with the earlier half of Tom Baker’s tenure as the Doctor. There’s a sinister presence in an old country estate house, creepy goings on in a village, humans infected with insectoid DNA and elements of English village life being replicated for training purposes for an invasion, amongst others. Where ‘Foe from the Future’ is successful is in blending these familiar things together into an entertaining and gripping story whilst maintaining enough original aspects.
Straddling across two very different time periods, with a huge array of characters, there is enough happening to comfortably sustain the six episodes. The Doctor and Leela are separated for much of the action but there is plenty of scope within the story for them both to have lots to do. In many ways it allows the Doctor to take an intellectual approach to the enemy whilst Leela takes a much more physically aggressive one (including a couple of fantastic fights for audio in the latter stages). There is also space for Charlotte (‘from the village’) to fulfil an almost companion role in her own right.
This is very much early Leela, less tempered by the Doctor as she is in the later television stories and most audios. This is also definitely the Fourth Doctor from his third series, Baker effortlessly emulating the performance of several decades ago. A lot of the dialogue and intonation, especially between the Doctor and Leela, feels like it comes from the scripts at the end of Baker’s third year or the beginning of his fourth.
Is it a better story than ‘Talons of Weng Chiang’, the story that replaced it? Well…definitely not. But that certainly can’t be a criticism as ‘Talons’ is clearly one of the greatest Doctor Who serials. However, it is still a tremendous shame that this was never made. Obviously there has been extensive re-writes, but Robert Banks Stewart was clearly on course duplicate the success of ‘Terror of the Zygons’ and ‘The Seeds of Doom’. If ‘Foe from the Future’ had been made in the seventies it would now most likely be regarded Doctor Who serial.
As much as I enjoyed ‘Foe from the Future’ it is probably the second story in this box set that I prefer. ‘Valley of Death’ was a script up for consideration for Philip Hinchcliffe’s fourth year helming the show. This never happened, however, as Hinchcliffe was untimely replaced. It probably wasn’t taken up by the new regime as the scale and cost would have been tremendous. Its setting is grandiose and ambitious. It could never have been adequately realised in the seventies and probably not today. However, if it could be given a film budget it would be a memorable extravaganza and thoroughly entertaining.
For something that seems highly visual with tropical jungles and alien spaceships over the UK, Big Finish have done an incredible job with this audio. The various scenic sequences are easily perceived within the mind’s eye through the quality of the story telling, the sound and the performances.
There is an interesting structure where the first half of the play is set within the Amazon jungle. Many elements are typical of explorer based adventure stories such as those by Haggard and Doyle. Never has the Doctor been more Indiana Jones. The plot utilises a similar idea seen before in Hinchliffe’s era (‘Pyramids of Mars’ and ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang’) where an alien masquerades as the deity of an ancient civilisation to further his nefarious schemes. There is a dramatic alteration of style for the second half and the plot launches into an alien invasion plan with spaceships over London and genetically engineered duplicates infiltrating human society. It also suddenly feels much more like a UNIT story. Again there are a lot of ideas here that have already been explored whilst Hinchcliffe was producer but they are utilised with imagination and flare and possess enough original aspects to make this story stand out.
It is a fast paced story with lots of action. The cast is smaller than the ‘Foe from the Future’ and everyone has plenty to do. The Doctor and Leela are both paired off with characters that serve as proto-companions, which works very well for Leela as it gives her the opportunity to direct the course of action and be the knowledgeable one (she also gets to use the sonic screwdriver).
With a selection of special features on each disc and a full disc of cast interviews to accompany the collection, this is truly a celebration of the Philip Hinchcliffe years of Doctor Who.
on 28 February 2015
Excellent presentation of the novel, great to hear the wonderful Tom Baker back on form as The Doctor with Lalla Ward John Leeson and a great cast in two great adventures by Gareth Roberts. Big Finish have done it again by recreating and producing the best high quality audio drama.
on 13 February 2013
Basically this is both a nostalgic treat for forty-somethings weaned on Tom Baker's booming portrayal of The Timelord, and a great pair of Sci-fi audio dramas in their own right. One of the best things about this set has to be the elevation of Leela from leather-clad sidekick to fully-formed character; Louise Jameson is excellent here, and now her and Baker have put aside their differences their partnership has to be one of the best Big Finish (and Doctor Who) has ever produced.
With some fine guest appearances, well-crafted adventures, and ample scope for comic interplay between the leads, this is simply superb, and I only hope the actors and writers agree to do some more!