blogger_who (blogger_who) wrote,

Doctor Who: The Lost Stories Special - The Foe From the Future

Blurb: 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?

Format: Full-cast audio drama adapted from an unmade television script. Published by Big Finish Productions and released October 2011.

Setting: Earth: Devon, U.K. in 1977 and also circa the year 4000 (the Doctor isn't sure about the precise date and it could easily be a couple hundred years in either direction. The ending of the story leaves this as an aberrant timeline so there is no need to reconcile it with the year 4000 depicted in The Daleks Masterplan)

Continuity: This story takes place between the Talons of Weng-Chiang and The Horror of Fang Rock. Since the audio, Destination:Nerva, takes place immediately after Talons of Weng-Chiang, this story must take place sometime after that and likely after the entire first season of Big Finish Fourth Doctor Adventures. There's no indication if this takes place before or after the various Doctor Who novels, which are also set within this gap. Leela mentions that Jalnik speaks through the air like Xoanon (see The Face of Evil). She also mentions that she's familiar with the Blue Guards and that she has seen the results of those who step into the time machines of others (see The Talons of Weng-Chiang). The Doctor mentions that he's been to the year 4000 before (see The Daleks Masterplan). The Doctor mentions that he's met Shakespeare (see The Empire of Glass and City of Death).

Canonicity Quotient: It's a lost story but for once it's a Lost Story that would have fit fairly well into the era in which it's set. The Doctor and Leela are perfectly in character. The Doctor seems to imply that it's only the discovery of the tear in the time vortex which causes the future world to be different than it should be, which presents something of a problem as the Galactic Federation and the position of Guardian of the Solar System are not mentioned. Yet, there's just enough vagueness about the exact timeframe that Jalnik and his people come from that it may be an era after the collapse of the Federation and a change of regimes or closing the tear had a greater impact on history than he realizes. Either way, that docks it a couple of points. 0.98

Discussion: Words can't express how excited I was when I listened to this story for the first time. Tom Baker was the first Doctor that I remember and I became a kid again when I started listening to this. I hadn't listened to any of the Fourth Doctor Adventures, so this was my first experience of Big Finish's Fourth Doctor audios. It was like Louise and Tom hadn't been away at all. For the most part I hadn't thought very highly of the Lost Stories that I'd heard up to this point but this one made me a true believer. This was a worthy addition to the Doctor Who canon.

Now that I've gushed I should get back to some actual analysis. The Foe from the Future is the story that almost got the slot for the story that we know of as The Talons of Weng-Chiang. Robert Banks Stewart wasn't able to rework it to script editor Robert Holmes' spec, so Holmes wrote Talons of Weng-Chiang using some elements from Stewart's script. Fans had always assumed that the original storyline was very similar to what we saw onscreen. But really Foe from the Future is a very distinct story with almost no similarity to Talons. Holmes only took the element of a main villain who was from the future and who had become disfigured as a result of that process. If anything, the storyline is an homage to the entire Hinchcliffe era with callbacks to The Ark in Space, Genesis of the Daleks, The Brain of Morbius, and especially The Seeds of Doom being extremely strong in the story. If anything, I think that the reason why Foe wasn't commissioned and required rewrites is that the production team was probably worried that viewers would find it to similar to what they'd already been watching.

For the most part the story is excellent, which is what I'd expect from something adapted by John Dorney. I'm very curious what elements he created and what elements are from the original draft. It's true that some things do feel somewhat out of place for a 70's story. I can't imagine them showing Jalnik actually eating people. Even for the Hinchcliffe era that would have been a little to gory and visceral. I imagine that's part of why Holmes ameliorated that aspect of Talons to Greel just sucking the life essence out of people. I also wonder if Stewart really remembered that the Doctor had been to the year 4000 before or if that was Dorney putting in a touch of continuity. It's not like we see an alternate version of Mavic Chen's "Solar System" so I suspect that was a line added by Dorney but it still felt a touch out of place as I doubt that we would have gotten that line in the 70's but it certainly made my inner fanboy happy. I also suspect that they wouldn't have been so cavalier about the time changing aspect of this story. It's almost ignored after the second episode. It was rare enough in classic Who for them to acknowledge that time travel could have ramifications to history and if they ever did I suspect the whole story would have revolved around it ala Day of the Daleks. I suspect that Dorney is right in the interview that Stewart may have been angling for some form of possession aspect in his story outline rather than implying that history was actually changing although this would have been a groundbreaking story if this had been about cavalier changes to history. In the end, none of this really matters and is just an observation from my point of view.

There were some things that were truly excellent about the story. Dorney is a tight plotter and nothing is introduced in the story without a good reason and everything ends up coming full circle and having some value. I also like that Dorney can infuse a six-parter with so much energy. The story never flags, which is amazing feat for something that long. I also like the fakeout that was done with Jalnik. I'm not sure if it was part of the original storyline or an addition by Dorney but the idea that Jalnik was hearing voices in his head from some sort of psychic connection to the Pantophagen is such a Whoish thing to do that the audience would completely accept it. Totally subverting that expectation by making it that he wasn't really hearing the Pantophagen's voices at all but was just insane was a wonderful turnabout. I also like how Dorney gave the story some female leads, which were lacking from the original version. I thought about how progressive a story it was for the 70's to have a woman in charge of the future and with her chief rival also being a woman but that was a change that Dorney made from the original and I definitely approve. I also like the turnabout on Kostal's fate as you think that she's going to join the other hybrids in feeding only to see that she's the one being fed upon. Geflo's fate was also incredibly tragic and you really feel for her having to make such an awful choice. Finally, I will say that I almost cheered when Leela turns up in episode 6. It's such a Leela thing to happen but something that they could have never pulled off on Doctor Who for her to ride the giant insects. It was definitely the right note and I'm glad that Dorney changed that portion of the storyline so that we could have such a fantastic moment.

A few things don't really work. We never get any kind of explanation for why if history is in constant flux in the town and events keep changing why the constable can remember the priest but Charlotte can't. The last episode also seems to be a bit of a rush job. The Pantophagen can live in the time vortex but ghosts composed of energy from the vortex can kill them? The whole time vortex origins for the Pantophagen doesn't work for me and I think was only thrown in there so that they could travel through the time corridor without a signal. Nothing about them really seems to involve time. I also think that the Doctor was a little to quick to conclude that all of the hybrids were dead. Did he really count every single one to make sure that the Pantophagen had got them? Also if they're so indestructible how did just dropping a bell on Butler kill him? I suppose his human half was vulnerable but I expected him to get back up and after Leela again after they'd been set up as such implacable foes. I was also annoyed by the Doctor's insistence that despite changing history "the dead stay dead". Um, explain that one for me again Doc? Didn't you just save a whole future and prevent all the people from that time period from dying at the hands of the Pantophagen? What about Day of the Daleks? We're supposed to wink and ignore these holes and its a testament to the strength of the story that we do. I also wasn't keen on the pop culture references except for the ones that are jumbled up in the future, but I get that this is an area of personal preference on my part that others may not feel so strongly about. Also, am I missing some sort of inside joke about Charlotte's accent making her sound as if she could tell no lies or was that just an indication of how smitten Shibac was with her? Either way, Shibac's infatuation was really overdone and I could have really done with it being toned way down.

Louise Jameson and Tom Baker are on fire on this story. There's no other way to describe it. I've heard the first Gallifrey CD and I was very turned off by Jameson's performance in that. Here it feels like she never even left the role of Leela. She's the same feisty savage that we all know and love and it's such a joy to hear her again. Tom is also great. He sounds a great deal older but his wit complements the story rather than detracting from it and his righteous anger is there in all of its glory. Over the course of the story he made me stop caring that he sounded so much older. Paul Freeman was also amazing as Jalnik. He sounded every inch the calculating, cultured, scientist villain but he also exudes the evil and maniacal when he needs to. I also thought that John Green did a fantastic job as Butler striking just the right note of being sinister while also subservient to Jelnik. While I liked Kostal and Geflo I have to say that my one criticism is that Jaimi Barbakoff and Camilla Power sounded way to alike and in some scenes I wasn't sure of who was talking. Louise Brealey was fine as Charlotte but I found her accent distracting rather than endearing and she didn't do a whole lot for me.

Production-wise this story also boasted high values. The Pantophagen attack sound is truly chilling. I never did quite understand why there was a sound of skittering across the floor whenever Jalnik and later Butler speaks. I wondered if he had insectoid legs but that doesn't seem to be indicated by later scenes. Why would he be skittering across the floor while talking anyway? The sound is very creepy though. The music is also very well done and while it isn't quite Dudley Simpson style it is very appropriate for the story being told. The whole thing creates a very nice ambiance that reminds you of a heyday in the show's history.

Final Rating: 10/10

Recommendation: Brilliant! This is a Lost Story that truly transcends and is perhaps even made better by the fact that it was released now rather than back in the day. It's a Hinchcliffe story through and through with nice little touches that would make any fan of the series happy while also being a fantastic story that should delight any new listeners as well. The performances are top notch and if you want to recapture that early Tom Baker magic this is the story for you. I highly recommend it.
Tags: ark in space, audio drama, brain of morbius, daleks masterplan, doctor who, face of evil, foe from the future, fourth doctor, genesis of the daleks, john dorney, leela, lost stories, louise jameson, robert banks stewart, robots of death, season 14b, seeds of doom, talons of weng-chiang, tom baker

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