Foe From the Future [Big Finish Fourth Doctor Lost Story, starring Tom Baker and Louise Jameson]

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Summary: Baker is on perfect form, as is Jameson, in this John Dorney adaptation of a Robert Banks Stewart Lost Story [i.e. the story replaced by The Talons of Weng-Chiang]. When a haunted house turns out to be connected to a tear in the fabric of space time, what secrets does it hold? And what does it have to do with a dark time line in the future with the whole of humanity in danger? The Doctor and Leela investigate...

BLOT: (17 Jan 2012 - 03:01:16 PM)

Foe From the Future [Big Finish Fourth Doctor Lost Story, starring Tom Baker and Louise Jameson]

John Dorney owes me a good night's sleep. Last night, knowing I had to be up at 6am, I stayed up until after 2 because I needed to know how the six-part, roughly three hour, Foe from the Future ended. Originally based on the story seed that a killer from the future would haunt the streets of London [ala Jack the Ripper], Robert Banks Stewart [Terror of the Zygons, The Seeds of Doom] was unable to complete the story due to other commitments and Robert Holmes ended up having to craft his own story to finish Season 14, one that became the now-classic [if racially insensitive] Talons of Weng-Chiang.

Stewart's scripts were full of action-hero Doctor1, government science-team GO!, and explosions, which have been translated well by writer/adapter Dorney and director Ken Bentley into audio. What's more, Dorney has done a great job of adding in feminine characters—according to the CD extras, the original script had few to no female characters outside of Leela, and it is really hard to picture this without Charlotte—and taking a script that would have likely taxed 1970s effects budgets [grasshopper headed men would likely have faired better than the quarry-as-a-blasted-landscape and the giant insects to follow] and bringing out nuances perfect for the imagination.

When I say that this is rather excellent Who, I do not meant that it works as passable spin-off. I mean that this is the kind of story that is likely to go down on some fans' lists as Top 10 Who stories of all time. A local legend of a haunted place collides with a tear in the fabric of the Time Vortex2. As the Doctor investigates, he finds clues to a future that should not be, the danger of an immense universe-shredding paradox, and a strange mutated madman with a purpose. A mix of horror [with a bit of gore], humor [too many quick puns and one-liners to catch in just one go, as well as a series of anachronisms about the present], action [car/insect chase sequence and blaster battles], old school villains with just a little extra, political turmoil, timey-wimey paradox dilemmas, romance, and a bit of behind-the-mask moments for the Doctor [his grief and anger are always a mercurial concept, but his somewhat cold hearted dismissal of certain people later in the story is worthy of debate]. The kind of flavorful, Baker-on-a-whim Fourth Doctor [with Jameson-as-a-recovering-savage] brilliancy that showed up on my old black and white TV when I was just a kid watching geeky stuff on Saturday night. The strong performance by the leads are ably backed by Louise Brealey as Charlotte3 and Paul Freeman as the sinister but with at least a degree of purpose Jalnik [an interesting counterpoint to Magnus Greel from Talon, who shares several characteristics but has a core of difference]. All topped with some spot-on music and excellent sound design and direction.

Not much else can be said but that I loved it and that I highly recommend. Big Finish has a number of releases that I will readily gush over, and I consider this one of the best.

Currently can be gotten as part of the Four Doctor Lost Stories Box Set, including as a $45 download set. If you are in the States and would like to order it from someone non-overseas, I also recommend ordering through Who North America.

1: Since Seeds of Doom includes such surprising moments as the Doctor snapping, non-fatally, a man's neck, it would have been interesting to see a script pitting that writer with Leela as a companion. "Don't use a Janis Thorn!" *KERSNAP!* "Snap the neck instead!"

2: For those getting Image of the Fendahl vibes [though Fendahl would have come after Foe had Foe been written on schedule], there were a handful of Tom Baker-era stories that had elements of haunted legends tied into more science fictiony elements. Stones of Blood, The Horror of Fang Rock, State of Decay, and Talons of Weng-Chiang had this tie-in while many others such as Horns of Nimon, Underworld, and the Power of Kroll had the sister element of the science-fiction truths behind myth.

3: As I said before, it is hard to picture the story without her as she adds quite a bit of fun and humanity to the plot even as it veers a bit bleak. What's more, I did not realize that Brealey was Molly in Sherlock until after the fact, though as I was picturing the character, I was more or less picturing Molly.

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Written by Doug Bolden

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