The final part of the Fourth Doctor series The Syndicate Master Plan is the Guy Adams tale The False Guardian. As a fan the biggest problem with this story is waiting until next month for its conclusion in Time’s Assassinand as a reviewer there’s the challenge of talking about the story without giving away its twists.
The False Guardian
The product page sets up expectations:
Ann Kelso doesn’t like mysteries. Keen to investigate the trail of the Sinestrans, she sets the TARDIS on a new course… but flies into danger.
Arriving on a desolate world that the Doctor finds somehow familiar, the TARDIS crew discover that something is wrong with time. The inhabitants of an unusual complex are experimenting at the command of their enigmatic director… somebody who has quite a strong grudge against the Doctor.
Facing an old foe who was presumed dead, the travellers are soon trapped in a diabolical scheme. But is it just the tip of the iceberg?
Although only the fourth story in the set after Enchantress of Numbers, the duo of Tom Baker’s Doctor and Jane Slavin’s Ann Kelso feel very well established and Ann has decided they must get back on the trail of the Sinestrans. The first half of False Guardian sets up a mid-point twist which still impresses even if a large hint has already been dropped in the form of the challenge they face in travelling from the TARDIS to a certain complex. It shouldn’t really be a surprise as there are some clues I can’t expand upon but will just point the reader to Edgar Allen Poe’s The Purloined Letter.
Here’s a good moment to praise the wider cast, including Blake Ritson and Tracy Wiles (great as a whole host of drones).
Once the listener adjusts to what seems a great reveal, the plot goes in another direction altogether. As the Doctor takes time for a massage and some rapport building, Ann Kelso gets to explore while K9 gets to do flit between the two in a story that builds while never quite revealing its hand. The ending takes the mystery up another notch while also twisting (again) the listeners grip on just what is happening. February can’t come soon enough (and the chance to add some spoilers!