(special thanks to Big Finish for providing me with review copies!)
Big Finish is continuing their introduction of Fourth Doctor audio adventures with this, a "lost story" from the Tom Baker era. It's worth noting that when you get this set, you get 300 minutes of audio goodness, and you get an entire set of extra features. Yes, the price is a bit steep, but believe me: it's worth it!
Staring Tom Baker as the Doctor and Louise Jameson as Leela.
The Foe from the Future
"The Grange is haunted, so they say. This stately home in the depths of Devon has been the site of many an apparition. And now people are turning up dead. The ghosts are wild in the forest. But the Doctor doesn't believe in ghosts.
The TARDIS follows a twist in the vortex to the village of Staffham in 1977 and discovers something is very wrong with time. But spectral highwaymen and cavaliers are the least of the Doctor's worries.
For the Grange is owned by the sinister Jalnik, and Jalnik has a scheme two thousand years in the making. Only the Doctor and Leela stand between him and the destruction of history itself. It's the biggest adventure of their lives - but do they have the time?" - bigfinish.com
The Foe from the Future: Paul Freeman (Jalnik), Louise Brealey (Charlotte), Blake Ritson (Instructor Shibac), Mark Goldthorp (Constable Burrows), Philip Pope (Father Harpin), Jaimi Barbakoff (Supreme Councillor Geflo), Dan Starkey (Historiographer Osin), Camilla Power (Councillor Kostal)
This was a long story. At six parts it's equal in length to TV stories like "Genesis of the Daleks" and "The Talons of Weng-Chiang." At times in the show's history, that's led to very bloated stories. In this case it really works to the story's advantage. At no time did I feel like it was padded, and that's not often the case even with some four part stories.
Tom Baker and Louise Jameson are as one would expect: excellent. Baker still doesn't sound quite like I'm used to from the TV series, but the more I listen, the more I come to accept things as they are now. And special recognition needs to go to Louise Brealy, who creates a character I could easily see as a companion. Come on, Big Finish. Let's give Four a new companion all his own!
As for the villain of the piece, well, Jalnik frankly isn't that interesting. He's kind of a stock Who villain, and while that isn't really a bad thing, I do kind of wish they had done more with him.
That said, the story was otherwise wonderful, all the acting was great, and I'm pleased to report that Big Finish has (or, if you're English, have), another great work on their hands!
The Valley of Death
"A century after his Great-Grandfather Cornelius vanished in the Amazon rainforest, Edward Perkins is journeying to the depths of the jungle to find out what became of his ancestor's lost expedition. Intrigued by what appears to be a description of a crashed spacecraft in the diaries of that first voyage, the Doctor and Leela join him on his quest. But when their plane runs into trouble and ends up crash landing, everyone gets more than they bargained for.
The jungle is filled with giant creatures and angry tribesmen, all ready to attack. But in the famed lost city of the Maygor tribe, something far, far worse is lurking. Something with an offer to make to mankind. Who are the Lurons and can they be trusted? Will the Doctor defeat the plans of the malevolent Godrin or will he become just another victim of the legendary Valley of Death?" - bigfinish.com
The Valley of Death: Nigel Carrington (Emissary Godrin/Dr Summersby/Announcer), Delia Lindsay (Overlord Saldor/Newsreader), Jane Slavin (Valerie Carlton), Anthony Howell (Edward Perkins), David Killick (Professor Cornelius Perkins), Richard Bremmer (General Hemmings/Valcon/Taxi Driver)
This was an interesting one. I'd thought it was going to be a big adventure in the Amazon rain forest, dealing with tribesmen, strange creatures and nasty weather. It was that, to a point, but then about halfway through it became something altogether different.
I did feel that the bad guys were, at times, a little over the top; a little too "see how gloriously EVIL I am! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!" But on the other hand, that fits well with the era of the show, and it also gets explained at the end, which was something quite unexpected
But for all the over the top nature of the villain, he was still quite interesting, and kept me guessing as to exactly what was going on. And also in keeping with the era, I loved how they had a ready explanation for why the Brigadier wasn't on hand to deal with certain things as they came up.
Baker and Jameson are still doing well with the roles, and the guests, especially Slavin and Howell, are wonderful in their roles. Carrington chews so much scenery that it's probably for the best that this is an audio production, as I doubt they could have afforded to constantly replace the sets on a TV show.
In almost every way this felt like an authentic adventure from the late 1970s. Everything really fit well, and in my mind I was able to visualize exactly how it would look; from the cheap airplane miniature to the odd swapping between film and video tape. Admittedly, this is somewhat helped by the fact that I had, just the night before, watched "The Android Invasion", which shares a couple of elements with this story.
With the great authenticity, excellent story and wonderful acting, this is one I can recommend wholeheartedly. So far Big Finish is batting a thousand on the Baker audios. I hope this trend continues.
AUTHOR: Robert Banks Stewart, adapted by John Dorney; Philip Hinchcliffe, adapted by Jonathan Morris