Beyond the Ultimate Adventure

Posted in Audio by - May 16, 2019
Beyond the Ultimate Adventure

Released December 2011

The fiftieth audio release in any range is understandably a monumental reason for reflection and celebration, yet while The Companion Chronicles has provided some of the strongest Doctor Who material in any medium due to stellar characterisation and brilliant ideas, Big Finish and writer Terrance Dicks have surprisingly eschewed any sort of celebratory expectations by instead providing a sequel to the 1989 stageplay ‘The Ultimate Adventure’ which was later adapted for audio in 2008 with the aptly-titled ‘Beyond the Ultimate Adventure.’

Unfortunately, the framing device rather advertises the shortcomings of the plot that unfolds as companions Jason and Crystal craft a report for the Time Lords to explain the circumstances behind the Doctor’s need to call in for assistance. Of course, a sequel to one of the more obscure areas of Doctor Who mythology necessarily entails a bevy of references to the original work, and a significant majority of the running time is spent filling new listeners in on what has previously occurred with these characters in a manner that is sadly far too blunt and detailed both with entire scenes and individual conversations to ever seamlessly integrate with the progressing plot. While never ideal, this fault could be glossed over if the proper story which is limited to the second episode once the TARDIS enters a new dimension fully captured the imagination and provided something inspiring and unique, but even this is limited to the villain simply bringing forth a series of foes for the Doctor and his companions to confront. Still, this has the potential to be interesting given the different strengths, weaknesses, and histories of foes like Raston Warrior Robots, vampires, and Rutans, but absolutely nothing new is done with any of them and the plot suffers as it simply jumps from set piece to set piece with little genuine drama or characterisation to supplement.

It would be unfair to lay the fault at the hands of Claire Huckle and Noel Sullivan who do the best with what they are given even if neither truly gets a standout moment or is able to create a yearning for another return appearance, but it’s sadly telling for an entry in The Companion Chronicles that it’s Colin Baker who gives the most engaging and memorable performance. Baker is the only element of the production that manages to recapture the bombast of the original stage production that defied so many conventions and was never short on ambition, and while it makes sense that the sequel would not want to use the same enemies or consider inserting new musical numbers, nothing about ‘Beyond the Ultimate Adventure’ except the parade of solitary threats even attempts to recapture the sense of spectacle of the original. This is a story that quite proudly advertises that its central ideas and sequences have previously featured in Dicks’s own works, and it’s revealing that the Doctor quoting Edgar Allen Poe is the strongest moment of the entire story, though a story that features the Doctor asking the Idelon to release the TARDIS so that he can ostensibly work on its controls is clearly a shockingly baffling one regardless.

Any sequel to the Doctor Who stageplays has immense potential to further develop the dynamics and relationships hinted at within if treated with care and respect to the source material, but ‘Beyond the Ultimate Adventure’ is hardly the best result that this experiment could have attained. The direction, sound design, and central performances all ably work, but there is no attempt to recapture the spirit of the original or to do anything original, the lack of ambition and momentum from the script unfortunately leaving a bitter taste after what should have been a monumental release.

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