17 December 2011

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Terrance Dicks

RRP: £8.99

Release Date: 31st December 2011

Reviewed by: Matthew Davis for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 17th December 2011

There are some sequels that are inevitable, and there are those which are completely unexpected, and this new release in The Companion Chronicles is certainly one of the latter.

Jason and Crystal have survived yet another adventure in the TARDIS, and the Doctor has managed to hoodwink both of them into recording a report of it to the Time Lords, something he himself would rather avoid. Together, they both relate what happened. The adventure begins when their former enemy Karl, contacts the Doctor to attend the funeral of Madam Delilah, hostess of the Bar Galactica. But Karl has ulterior motives. He has heard of the legend of Ultima Thule, a legend made more compelling by the words of a dying fellow mercenary. For at Ultima Thule, there is hidden treasure and a very serious threat to the whole of the Universe. The TARDIS crew with Karl in tow seek out the truth behind the legend, and a dark new enemy waits for their arrival, including a few old ones...

When Big Finish decided to make an audio version of The Ultimate Adventure Stage play, it was met with excitement and nervousness. After all, this was a pantomime of Doctor Who, and if that weren’t horrifying enough to some it also had songs. Songs!

The final result however was, I felt, a rather fun and charming piece of Who lore put together and performed really well. It was certainly surprising to hear that a sequel was to be made, so long after the original play was written.

Let’s get the good or bad news out of the way first. There are no songs this time round. What is interesting though, is that, unusually for a Companion Chronicle, the Doctor himself is involved in the action as played by the ever reliable Colin Baker.

The play also has the added appeal of Terrance Dicks returning to the same characters, in his Big Finish debut. It is always fun to see Dicks return to writing Doctor Who, as he always manages to pull something interesting from up his sleeve.

Noel Sullivan and Claire Huckle both reprise their roles as Jason and Crystal and they provide the main focus of the play as it unfolds. It is puzzling that this sequel was done the way it has been, as, with the exception of David Banks, the entire main cast has returned. It might’ve made more sense to have done this play as a full cast audio as opposed to a talking book.

Since Banks is not here reprising Karl, his presence is filled in by both Huckle and Sullivan throughout. One of the guilty pleasures is hearing Sullivan deliver Karl’s cockney lines in Jason’s French accent, particularly since that accent is at times perilously close to ‘Allo ‘Allo quality.

That is not to say that the performances are bad. Far from it, for Huckle and Sullivan are engaging narrators and perform the piece in the spirit it was intended.

As the year draws to a close, it seems that after a run of rather thoughtful Companion Chronicles, Big Finish have decided to have a little bit of fun. The play as a whole is very true to the spirit in which its predecessor was written and even has the fun feel of a Choose your own adventure book, where you’re not quite sure what is going to happen next. Despite this, not everything works.

The sudden appearances of various old monsters from Who lore (ones, it should be mentioned, that are famously associated with Dicks) can be quite jarring, and seem to be of little point other than to be yet another obstacle for the Doctor and his friends to get past. When we do meet the villain of the piece, he is a rather simple creation, and dispatched of in an infuriatingly easy manner.

But this is not a play for fans of deep dark storytelling. This is after all a sequel to The Ultimate Adventure. Cynicism must be kept low or completely switched off. This a universe in Doctor Who, where old enemies pop up out of the blue without a second thought and are dispatched just as quickly; A world where an 80s night club singer and a French aristocrat can travel the far corners of space and time together. It is also a world where one can repeat the phrase “murderous mercenaries” at various times and not feel a little silly.

All in all Beyond the Ultimate Adventure is trying to be nothing more than the fun romp it is and it succeeds at that well enough. It sadly it lacks some of the charm that made The Ultimate Adventure such a fun listen, but if you’re looking for different and just plain camp Doctor Who then this release is recommended.

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