DW: The Valley of Death Review

The second of the two Fourth Doctor Lost Stories (for now!) is not lost in the same way as a lot of the other ones. “The Valley of Death” by all accounts is based on an idea Philip Hinchcliffe had during his time as a producer on the show where he wanted to do a story set in the Amazon, but sadly for him none of the writers were all that interested, so he dropped it. So it was an idea rather than anything already scripted or even pitched on paper, so although Mr. Hinchcliffe did give all his ideas to Jonathan Morris to adapt here, this feels more like a “Phillip Hinchcliffe Presents” release rather than a truly lost story. Still! The main thing is… well, is it any good? Let’s find out!

Synopsis:

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?

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

*Gasp!* What’s Ann Kelso doing on this cover?! (now there’s a reference I can only make now, rather than way back when this was first released!)

This has a lot of scope, a lot more than would’ve been possible back in the time, that’s for sure! So The Doctor and Leela arrive at a conference where Edward Perkins (Anthony Howell) is proclaiming to be heading into the deepest Amazon to find his great-grandfather’s expedition and they soon tag alongside him and a journalist named Valerie Carlton (Jane Slavin), The Doctor only there because he heard of a crashed spaceship. They later crash-land  into the area themselves and come into contact with giant creatures and stereotypical tribal men, with Leela and Edward being captured. The Doctor and Valerie meet Edward’s great-grandfather Cornelius (David Killick), still young as can be, and finds out a time barrier had been erected over the area. The Doctor, Leela, Edward and Valerie all meet up in the fabled golden city that both generations of Perkins were searching for and meet a yellow-skinned alien named Godrin (Nigel Carrington), who is controlling the native tribe by pretending to be their God.

Cornelius was in on the whole thing from the start, he was testing The Doctor to see if he had the knowledge to help Godrin repair his ship and escape. The alien repays his debt with Gold… and then kills him. Godrin convinces The Doctor to take him to London so he can travel home, but then reveals that it was all a lie and that the Luron mothership is hovering around Jupiter and plan to invade. He hitches a ride to BBC HQ after luckily being mistaken for someone playing an alien in a TV show, and makes the invasion official.

I’ll leave things there for the Good, because that was quite a unique setting and has a fun cast of characters, but as for the next half of the story…

The Bad:

It’s funny that a character so frequently referred to as being yellow ends up green thanks to the cover’s colour pallet…

So continuing on, Godrin calls the Luron mothership to Earth and a delegation is beamed up to negotiate, but instead they’re all scanned and have robot duplicates created from them, including The Doctor, Leela, Edward and Valerie. This leads to a run-around on the alien ship, having to deal with robot doppelgangers and a decent final showdown between The Doctor and Godrin above the artificial Luron Sun that includes Leela nearly sacrificing herself and Godrin falling to his death. Weirdly Edward and Valarie decide to help the now more peaceful Lurons establish a new planet rather than go back to Earth, and that’s that!

Now the final showdown is good, but it went from unique and interesting straight to robot duplicates and basic alien invasion stuff. It’s such a disappointing tonal shift that it takes a lot of wind out of my sails, even if I did like the final showdown.

The Continuity:

Another look at the overall boxset, even though there’s not much to talk about…

The biggest bit of continuity really is some similarities to the Phillip Hinchcliffe produced (but not written, to be fair) Fourth Doctor TV story “The Android Invasion”, where yellow-skinned aliens use robot duplicates to try and take over Earth.

Otherwise there wasn’t any direct connection, although when Leela was nearly blinded by the light of the Luron Sun she mentions having been blinded before, which is a reference to Fourth Doctor TV classic “The Horror of Fang Rock”. Again, just a passing reference, but any excuse to mention Fang Rock!

Overall Thoughts:

The Valley of Death starts off well, with an interesting adventure-serial style story based in the Amazon, but eventually switches to then-contemporary London and has robot duplicates and basic alien invasion stuff. The ending is fun and exciting, but by that point you’re already disappointed which how the story has turned. More good than bad maybe, but I won’t be listening again…

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