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Audio Drama Review
The future of Earth depends upon a vital peace conference, but the Daleks have allied themselves with the Cybermen and a deadly band of mercenaries to kidnap the American envoy. Mrs T knows that only one Time Lord can save the world. The Doctor and his companion, a Frenchman nicknamed Jason, are joined by a nightclub singer named Crystal and a small furry creature called Zog. There are epic battles, there are betrayals, there is love, and there are even songs...
Here’s something a little different. Big Finish has produced audio versions of all three official Doctor Who stageplays: The Curse of the Daleks from 1965; Seven Keys to Doomsday from 1974; and, from 1989, The Ultimate Adventure. The first one to be released is the one based on the most recent play, possibly because the stage production is the most well known and features a familiar Doctor (Colin Baker, who took over from the late Jon Pertwee for the latter part of the original production’s run).
The aim of these audio versions is to remain as close to the original scripts as possible, and so The Ultimate Adventure remains as silly as it ever was, complete with jabbering aliens, an insubordinate Dalek, Cybermen reduced to lackeys, the Doctor chatting to Margaret Thatcher - sorry, Mrs T (not a great impersonation by Nadine Cox, who is much better as Delilah) - and even songs! The latter aspect is the most controversial with fans, though to be fair the first two of the three songs in the play do at least have a valid context, in that they are performed by characters who are singers (Claire Huckle’s Crystal and Delilah) in bars. The final number, a duet between Crystal and Jason (Noel Sullivan of Hear’Say fame), would have worked better as an end credits song in my opinion.
Terrance Dicks’s script borrows plot elements from several previous Dalek stories, most notably Day of the Daleks, in which the creatures similarly attempted to derail a present-day peace conference. One of the heroes hides inside a Dalek casing, as TARDIS crewmembers have done before in The Daleks, Planet of the Daleks and even the previous stageplay (also written by Dicks).
In its favour, though, The Ultimate Adventure boasts a number of firsts. It was the first theatrical production to feature an incarnation of the Doctor from the television series, the first story ever to feature the Daleks and Cybermen together, and also the first to show a Dalek inside the TARDIS. The latter two feats would not be achieved on the television show until 2006 and 2005 respectively.
For some reason, Baker’s Doctor retains Pertwee’s sonic screwdriver, which seems a little anachronistic given that the Doctor doesn’t otherwise appear to rebuild the device (which was destroyed in The Visitation) until his seventh incarnation. A sonic lance (as used in Attack of the Cybermen) or some other gadget might have been more suitable. Continuity guides have always been uncertain as to which Doctor’s era this story belongs in, but Baker’s participation in this recording should help to resolve the matter.
Some of the dialogue is overly explanatory, in a “quick - let’s hide behind this rock” kind of way, but this is largely unavoidable given that the aim is to transfer a stage production, in which visual spectacle played a major part, to a sound-only medium.
This double CD also contains a copious amount of interview material featuring the cast, writer and musicians, who discuss both the original stage production and this audio remake of it.
Doctor Who: The Stageplays - The Ultimate Adventure is an exercise in nostalgia, and in that respect it is a great success.