Tuesday, January 17, 2012

REVIEW: The Lost Stories - The Fourth Doctor Box Set

Tommy B is back! And, in fact, some "lost" stories are back too!

Big Finish have reunited, somewhat bravely, Tom Baker and Louise Jameson in two audio tales that were proposed but never finished or broadcast. First up is The Foe From The Future from an original spec by Robert Banks Stewart (Terror of the Zygons and The Seeds of Doom scribe) which sees The Doctor and Leela hole up in a "haunted" stately home - perfect mid~Seventies Who fodder.

Before I continue, it's probably best to broach Baker and his performance. His voice is notably older (of course, he is much older) and this does affect the rhythm and cadence - this is a different kind of Fourth Doctor. Still enjoyable and, at times, hilarious but markedly changed. Once you're used to the sound, however, it's not an issue (and, thankfully, the producers of this story have done a far better job of reining in his Baker~isms than in the Hornet's Nest stories from the BBC).

John Dorney peppers the mainly suspenseful script with many witty and sometimes self~referential gags (a dig at corridors, for example) and the cast play them superbly. In particular, Charlotte, played by Sherlock's Molly, Louise Brealey, lights up the ears with her wonderful accent - could've made such a magnificent companion. She really does sparkle.

Inevitably, at six episodes, the story does tend to drag a little in the middle (a comment that can be aimed at almost every television six~parter) but the incredibly dramatic final two parts make up for any plot wandering. It was admirable to maintain the author's outline but one can't help feel that some editing should have been done, cutting the story down to four parts.

The finale features wonderful sound work and some horrific noises; conjuring up all sorts of unpleasant imagery - not unlike the brutality of The Seeds of Doom. It's difficult to picture telly Doctor Who being able to pull off the audacious time jumping, apocalyptic nature of the closing two episodes (even now), but here, on audio, The Foe From The Future finds a perfect home.

Accompanying is a second story, The Valley Of Death; a four~parter from an original idea by one of the show's legends, Phillip Hinchcliffe (producer from 1975-7). It's another tale that involves time meddling of sorts and a huge jump in locales. The adventure features a jungley opening that switches halfway through to a more familiar London setting with U.N.I.T. involved. The jump does rather jar and the drama, and the threat, rather loses focuses. But it's the Douglas Adams style of the script, the quirkiness and lightness that pulls through.

With even more gags than the previous story, there's also some repeats of giggles from Remembrance of the Daleks and The Invasion of Time. Comparisons can also be drawn with The Android Invasion, with doubles of The Doctor and Leela parading around, but this doesn't work so well in the audio medium.

Noticeably, Baker's tones seem much more livelier and of~the~time than the previous story whilst Jameson still shines as Leela. Beside The Foe From The Future, though, it comes off a clear second.

Also included in the set are a plethora of extras (over an hour!) featuring outtakes interviews from everyone involved (including some fascinating stuff with Louise Brealey chatting about Sherlock) which add a real thoughtful touch to the set. Not just content with ten new episodes, Big Finish lavish special attention for the fans. A very welcome addition to an already fantastic package.

BLOGTOR RATING 8/10

Thanks to Big Finish
RECENT POSTS
10 Characters Who Should Return To Doctor Who
Classic Holmes in Sherlock
10 Actresses Who Should Be The Next Companion
Adrian Lester talks Doctor Who
The Doctor, The Widow & the Wardrobe audio commentary

No comments: