When Tom Baker finally joined up with Big Finish most fans flocked to “Destination: Nerva”, the first Fourth Doctor Adventure, but I was one of the few who headed straight for the Fourth Doctor Lost Stories box set (which to be fair, was rather expensive at launch…) and so this was the first Fourth Doctor audio drama I heard, and boy… it’s a damn good one! Admittedly, looking back on it you can tell Tom is still just getting into the groove but hasn’t found the same older Fourth voice he eventually settled on yet. Still, is it a match for the six parter that eventually replaced it? Let’s find out!
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?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
The first of not one, not two but THREE covers for this single story. Talk about the opposite of what would happen if it were released nowadays…
The story is certainly epic in scope, that’s for sure. The Doctor and Leela meet up with “Charlotte from the Village” (Louise Brealey) and soon investigate a series of ghostly apparitions, but that soon turns out to be a trick (admittedly a deadly trick) to keep people away from the owner: the titular foe from the future Jalnik (Paul Freeman). Much like classic film/s The Fly his DNA has been mixed up while teleporting, though in this case with an alien mantis-like creature that has dominated Earth in his time. This has led him to go a little crazy and a lot cannibal, having to eat people and absorb their lifeforce in order to keep going, his “food” often provided by his butler named … Butler.
So person from the future disfigured in his attempt to travel back in time has to absorb the life of innocent people to survive… you can certainly tell which bits of this original script Robert Holmes kept to form “Talons of Weng-Chiang”, that’s for sure! So soon Leela is separated from The Doctor & Charlotte and ends up under arrest from a “blue guard”, while the other two end up being sent to Jalnik’s future. The Doctor goes for a wander, confused over this post-apocalyptic future that shouldn’t be, while Charlotte ends up in a “how to live in the 20th Century” lessons taught by Instructor Shibac, who is impressed with her “fake” accent and knowledge of the time period. The Doctor finds out about how the “Pantophagen” (the giant mantis creatures) came to invade this future Earth from an alternate dimension and how it was all Jalnik’s fault to begin with, before the giant killed insects begin to invade.
Just seeing the Pantophagen in this image reinforces the idea that this story would not have been in budget…
The Doctor is rescued by Charlotte and Shibac in an old Earth car, meanwhile Jalnik intentionally poisons his own people and sends them to the past so they become like him. Leela meanwhile arrives in the future herself and meets back up with The Doctor, but is soon thrown in the time vortex with some Pantophagen and basically lassos and rides one back to 20th century Earth using The Doctor’s scarf (I’m sure that wasn’t in the original script because good luck realising THAT one on 70s TV!) Jalnik, who up to this point thought he was talking to his “brothers” in the giant Mantises, finds out that he’s actually just gone insane and the Pantophagen devour both humans and human hybrids from the future alike, much his dismay. In the end Jalnik is eaten alive while The Doctor seals the temporal rift that the future Jalnik to accidentally bring the creatures to future Earth in the first place, thus undoing that entire “incorrect” future. Charlotte and Shibac go off to live together in the village as The Doctor and Leela leave.
At six parts it’s pretty much perfectly paced, switching from “present day” Earth to the doomed future and back again, introducing plenty of characters and twists to keep your interest. While I believe the final two episodes were never written, but I’m sure if this had gone on last on Season 14 it would be fondly remembered, though I doubt Charlotte and Shibac would be as successful a spin-off as Jago and Litefoot!
You know, I think this is the first time I’ve looked at this cover enough to actually notice the insect mouth-thing poking out of the image of Jalnik here…
The only real bad is Tom Baker during the first half of the story, as he sounds more like he was just reading a lot of the lines as himself. As the story goes on and The Doctor starts exchanging jabs with an increasingly crazed Jalnik he gets more and more into it, and by the end he’s starting to sound like the audio Fourth Doctor we now know. It was early days, after all…
The overall cover for this Lost Stories set, kept nice and non-specific so as to not favour one story over the other, I guess!
There isn’t much, really. Well, beyond Jalnik’s similarities to Greel from “Talons of Weng-Chiang”, but that isn’t a coincidence!
Also The Doctor’s mentioning that this year 4,000 is different from what he knows actually matches up as the First Doctor classic “The Daleks’ Master Plan” is set in that same year and bares no resemblance to the one seen (or heard) here…
I loved Foe From The Future when it first came out, a new Foruth Doctor six parter and a great one to boot, and my opinion hasn’t changed nearly 10 years later. Sure Tom Baker has found a more comfortable and emotive middle for his audio-version of The Doctor that isn’t present in this, but you soon get used to it, as does he. One of the absolute stand outs of the Lost Stories range, and one I truly wished had been made…