The Ultimate Adventure

Posted in Audio by - October 29, 2017
The Ultimate Adventure

Released September 2008

With successful forays outside of television into the written, graphic, film, and audio mediums, it’s easy to forget that Doctor Who has also featured in a limited number of live stageplay adaptations dating back to the 1960s. And while these had all been forgotten to time with no official recordings of the performances made, Big Finish has turned back the pages of the history book to once more bring these unique offerings to life for an entirely new audience, beginning with 1989’s ‘The Ultimate Adventure.’

It’s obviously impossible to fully judge an audio representation of what is ultimately a very visual story, and there understandably is some very descriptive dialogue for the stage that wouldn’t necessarily make it into a dedicated audio adventure. Nonetheless, in a play in which Jon Pertwee starred for the first half of its run and Colin Baker for the second, it’s also impossible not to imagine just how impressive and grandiose this production involving both the Daleks and Cybermen must have looked in person, making up for the Daleks’ somewhat confusing recycling of their plan from ‘Day of the Daleks’ in which they attempt to covertly ruin a peace conference on Earth so that they may invade in the wake of damaged international relations.

Obviously featuring Colin Baker for the audio release, it’s a bit unsettling to imagine the Sixth Doctor taking on a mission for Margaret Thatcher, though this is a plot development easily reconciled by the fact that the Third Doctor originally starred. This duality inadvertently becomes one of the most fascinating aspects of ‘The Ultimate Adventure,’ proving that the Doctor is always the Doctor but allowing plenty of thought about just how differently the two incarnations would have handled the situation even with the exact same dialogue. Baker is obviously having a blast here as he takes the fight directly to the Daleks after infiltrating a group of mercenaries, and it’s great to see his larger-than-life persona as he fights and mimics a Dalek balanced out by a touching bit of character development as he reflects backon all of the companions that have come and gone during his many lives as he has continued his travels throughout space and time.

‘The Ultimate Adventure’ is also tasked with introducing new companions, and Noel Sullivan dutifully steps into the role of Jason, a young man who was destined to lose his head in revolutionary France before the Doctor crossed his path. While the French accent is somewhat dubious at times, the amorous Jason proves his mettle on multiple occasions and sets a solid foundation for his continuing adventures to which the end of the play alludes. Claire Huckle also quickly develops her bombastic Crystal into a more likable and practical character as the play progresses, and the burgeoning feelings between the two companions feel at least somewhat earned even if the execution of some of the more emotional scenes together is rather saccharine.

Though the characterization if fairly good as far as the leads go, the story itself is anything but. While it was undoubtedly a huge spectacle to have both the Daleks and the Cybermen sharing the same stage, the Cybermen are reduced to nothing more than Dalek flunkies and offer absolutely nothing useful or unique to the serial. In fact, the story is so filled with set pieces that there is simply no way to create a seamless flow between them, and so while there are some nice ideas regarding the American envoy’s importance to the conference, the Daleks’ cunningness and ruthlessness, and even an inspired sacrifice of one life, the overall effect is far too disjointed to be completely effective. The fact that the mercenary plot as a whole falls flat as it wallows in generalisations and clichés only further detracts from what was obviously intended to be an epic and sprawling tale.

‘The Ultimate Adventure’ is nevertheless an intriguing piece of Doctor Who history that is certainly worthy of a listen. Though the audio version cannot capture the full spectacle of the live version even with the inclusion of the original music, this is ultimately a satisfying if very generic and safe science fiction outing that makes this a solid first entry into the limited The Stageplays range.

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