A shockingly nasty suburban housewife in 1970s London is busy ripping her husband a new alimentary canal when a pair of unexpected guests turn up for dinner. Guess who.
But The Doctor notices a portrait in the garage whose background indicates some very different interstellar coordinates than those of Earth…
As more guests arrive, an unusual fog descends…and what are those mysterious panicked phone calls from some future version of the house residents themselves?
“A slow death doesn’t scare me. I’ve been married to Belinda for 13 years.”
“What was all that about? Me, some sort of monster…”
“I do not judge this so unlikely.”
One exception to the rule is Thelma (Annette Badland), the tremulous, rather half-arsed “witch finder general” who comes from a distant galaxy to halt the rebirth of an intergalactic tyrant…but can she be trusted?
There’s a time-spanning bit of business involving simultaneous action in the past and future, a nod to the legend of the baby on a doorstep cum doppelganger, Marvel’s Scarecrow with all that business of a dangerous painting and some alien soul swapping to boot, so there’s plenty of gothicized SF schmutters to keep Baker/Leela-era Who fans happy, but things run a tad more grottily domestic than this particular listener might have preferred.
If author Alan Barnes (Trial of the Valeyard, White Ghosts, Dark Eyes 2) had placed more emphasis on the mystery/occult elements of the narrative and stressed the trapped in an old dark house angle, this would have been one hell of a story.
As it is, things swing too far into New Who territory, leavening any fascinating SF/horror concepts with a distinct overemphasis on kitchen sink melodrama. Obviously this general approach has itself an audience, but it’s a far stretch from the sensibilities that underpin and define Classic Who.
As it stands, this one falls right down the middle: some excellent ideas and concepts are sadly muddled down considerably by a misguided emphasis on some measure of “real life” Eastenders style drama.
What is missed in this inclusionary Mulligan Stew approach is the simple fact that the two shows were not complementary, but rivals (and in fact, the latter was Michael Grade’s reason for putting Who on hiatus back in the Colin Baker era in the first place)…and as this month’s Fourth Doctor Adventure makes all too apparent, never the twain should meet.