The nerds are in power! At least, they are at Big Finish, where people with a love of geeky minutia have got the skill and drive to put together things like these: full cast audios re-creating three nigh-mythical Doctor Who-themed stageplays, all of which were produced during the series’ original run. The stated goal of this project was to bring the stage plays back to life as accurate to their original idiosyncrasies as possible, and the results are…bizarre, to say the least.
The first of these stageplay audios is based on the last one to be produced: The Ultimate Adventure, which came to life for about five months in 1989. Third Doctor Jon Pertwee played the role for the first ten weeks, followed by Sixth Doctor Colin Baker. As Jon Pertwee died years ago, Colin Baker takes the role for the audio version, accompanied by original actor David Banks (best known as the Cyberleader during the 1980’s, but here playing a chief mercenary) and Big Finish producer Nicholas Briggs as the Daleks.
The Ultimate Adventure is by far the strangest of the three stories, coming across with all the shallow glitz of the 6th Doctor’s television run, but with original showtunes thrown into the mix. The story features the Doctor being summoned to earth by Prime Ministry Margaret Thatcher because of an alien threat against an American envoy who is a key figure at an international peace conference. The Doctor is traveling at the time with a young French aristocrat from the 1700’s named, of all things, Jason. They are are soon joined Crystal, an up-and-coming singer at a nightclub that the envoy is visiting when he’s kidnapped, and together the three face a consortium of baddies including Daleks, Cybermen and low-life mercenaries.
The whole thing just feels like an exercise in 1980’s glitzy nostalgia, which is fine for what it is but means the results are a chore to get through for those of us who aren’t actually nostalgic about the experience. The performances are fine and the songs are genuinely catchy, but the drama itself feels like something that maybe would have been exciting to see on stage for the novelty of it all, but in this setting just seems silly, at best.
The Daleks betray the other baddies because of course they do. The Doctor chasing after the American envoy turns out to be part of the Dalek’s plan after all, because they’ve actually brainwashed the guy to blowing up the peace conference for them…even though it’s clear that his mere absence should be enough to cause the problems they want. There is an astonishing array of little episodic diversions to places like the French revolution and a low-gravity / high-romance planet are simply that: diversions to make room for more spectacle. And the story features an incredibly obvious fake-out “twist” where one of the companions (a nondescript squeaking animalistic liberated slave named Zog) hides in a Dalek casing, but is discovered and blown up…only to have it revealed that he had already left the casing and is still alive. Not only is this a prime example of false and predictuable suspense, but it turns out to be almost directly lifted from an earlier stage production, which we’ll cover soon.
The Ultimate Adventure, really, is best suited for filling in a gap in Doctor Who history that you may be curious about, but it doesn’t do a whole lot else to make it something one can recommend.