Saturday, 30 July 2011

The Ultimate Adventure written by Terrance Dicks and directed by Jason Haigh-Ellery

What’s it about: The Daleks have allied themselves with the Cybermen and a deadly band of mercenaries. The future of Earth depends upon a vital peace conference. And Mrs T knows that only one Time Lord can save the world. There are epic battles. There are betrayals. There is love, and there are even songs. Take your seat for... Doctor Who – The Ultimate Adventure!

Softer Six: How could Terrance Dicks possibly suggest that the Doctor would go on missions for Margaret Thatcher? The very idea turns my stomach especially when its the raving anarchist sixth Doctor! However if you think that this was originally supposed to be the Third Doctor and suddenly it all makes sense…I can just imagine Pertwee sliding in with anybody who is currently in the seat of power, sipping port in the Club and discussing politics. He can cope with most things in the universe from Daleks to dinosaurs but Mrs Thatcher positively terrifies him! The Doctor’s quirky saying in this stage play seems to be ‘Fortunately I speak the language’ and his hysterical squawking during the conference with the flying insects on Eltair 3 ranks as one of the most pants wettingly funny scenes of any Doctor Who story. After he shows off his fighting expertise Madame Delilah becomes quite enamoured with him and tells him he can have whatever he wants (maybe this is where all that snogging girls business started…). At any other time he would loved to make sweet music with her but he’s too busy with his (oooh-argh!) mercenary band! He enjoys dragging it up a little too much during the Revolutionary scenes…it has been my observation that the Doctor leaps on any opportunity to dress up in women’s clothes! Even a renegade can do some good in the cosmos and Madame Delilah proves that by standing between the Doctor and Dalek extermination blast. The Doctor thoroughly enjoys his Dalek mimicry and proves to be a little better at it than the first Doctor was in The Space Museum. To be strictly accurate Houdini studied from the Doctor. He laughs in the face of adversity and tells the Emperor he isn’t defeated until he’s dead. There’s a genuine moment of character depth when the Doctor mentions that he has had many companions over the years (and even mentions Evelyn), that they travel together for a while and then they head off to find their own happiness. And he misses them every single day. One of things he likes about humans is that they are seldom predictable.

Maquis de Jason: Noel Sullivan has to put on a dreadful cod French accent for this role which is a shame because when you strip away the accent he’s actually a pretty good foil for the sixth Doctor. He was acquired when the Doctor recently visited revolutionary France which was fortunate for Jason because he was about to lose his head! He’s quite an amorous young man, even covering Mrs Thatcher’s arms with kisses. When Crystal follows Jason into the TARDIS the Doctor mistakenly thinks that he is up for a night of rumpy pumpy once they have saved the universe. The Doctor would try and make friends with any new creatures they meet so when Crystal and Jason are beset with giant insects he gives them a friendly wave! By the end of the story he is singing love ballads with Crystal and head over heels in love with her and when she goes back to the nightclub he pines after terribly. Fortunately for him she decides to travel with them so think of the sweet love they could make whilst travelling the time continuum?

Crystal: Claire Huckle has great fun playing up the hysterics of Crystal (what a name!) and if you remember that this was supposed to be a large scale panto rather than an audio play her histrionics probably sounded a lot less shrill from a distance! She barges her way into the TARDIS, demands explanations, moans about how the Doctor has ruined her career…yes that’s right, its an American Tegan! ‘You patronising chauvinist oaf!’ is about as strong as she’s allowed to swear although she does do a rather funny impression of the theatrical, bombastic sixth Doctor showing off! Her main function is to scream (it is a Terrance Dicks script…strapped to the circular saws and all that!), overreact to the simplest of things and prove to be generally a bit useless.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Its liquid dynamite!’ ‘Its probably more of a mans drink…’
‘Please Madame Delilah, I appeal to you!’ ‘You certainly do!’
‘I’ve known lots of darkest hours like this one…but there is always a dawn.’
‘We’ve got a lot to do and very little time to finish it all!’

Great Ideas: Forget the bitching match during Doomsday, this was the first epic coming together of the Daleks and the Cybermen and they are working together for a common cause…the conquest of Earth! This time the Doctor is part of his plans. Nice to see that Uncle Terry hasn’t forgotten any of the old stand bys from the Pertwee era and so we have the most important peace conference ever to be held (since the last one, obviously) in Downing Street. There is the promise of mutual disarmament and lasting world peace and without the American envoy the talks cannot take place. Imagine this dying agent drowning in his own blood but still managing to squeeze out that he had gotten on the track of the plot of the kidnap of the American envoy, that he would be kidnapped, the conference sabotaged (blown to smithereens on the opening night!) and that the danger came from beyond the Earth. Once he had gotten all that exposition out he croaked it. I would have loved to have seen the insects of Eltair 3 (I can’t say that planet name enough) attacking the Cybermen…I bet it was dreadful. Come to Bar Galactica for all star mercenaries…the most notorious pleasure spot in the galaxy but you have to do to get by is snarl and go ‘arggggh!’ and they’ll know you’re a tough sort! The Daleks are a bit fed up with the Doctor constantly getting into the way of his plans and capture the TARDIS to get rid of him once and for all. Fortunately a handy meteor storm confuses them for long enough for them to overpower the Daleks! Daleks should never tinker with the TARDIS but they can totally discombobulate the oojamaflip! Don’t you just love the devious Daleks who don’t want to pay the bounty on the Doctor’s head and so tell Madame Delilah that they will take the credit…just because they feel like being a bit evil!? The we get scenes of the Daleks trying to choose which one of them is the imposter! Rather wonderfully the Doctor knows precisely what the Dalek Emperor’s greatest embarrassment is – his failiure to invade the Earth over and over again! The Cybermen and the mercenaries are the Daleks’ dupes only there to be blamed for the destruction of Earth by the Galactic Council.

Audio Landscape: The first few seconds of this production are pricked with nostalgia from the gorgeous 60s Dalek Emperor voice, the 80s Cybermen deep sea diver voices and the Dalek heartbeat noise. Daleks chant ‘exterminate’ as is their wont, Cybermen blasts, explosions, the lush and verdant planet Eltair 3, chirruping insects, Zog purrs and chirrups, a bar fight of epic proportions, electrifying a Dalek, heads being chopped off very messily.

Musical Cues: Well what can I say about the three songs that pollute this release? They’re fabulous aren’t they? A more horrific pastiche of eighties pop I have never heard in my entire life! As soon as I heard the opening lyrics of Crystal’s ‘Strange Attractor’ I was up and dancing around the flat…wishing that I had some kind of crazily coloured feather boa to shake about as I grooved on! One part Bananarama and two parts Tiffany…it’s a spectacularly catchy and dreadful song that made me laugh my head off. Add this to the list of releases that needs to go on whenever I am down (along with The Chase and Time and the Rani). The lounge style music of ‘Business is Business’ wouldn’t seem out of place in the Chicago musical and is much more subdued, reasonable affair but its just as insanely fun. ‘Sky High’ is such a dreadful Kylie’n’Jason number it can stand tall next to other delights such as ‘Especially for You.’

Isn’t it Odd: It’s a bit shite but for once it doesn’t really matter.

Standout Scene: See Musical Cues!

Notes: You can actually find a badly filmed but vital visual representation of The Ultimate Adventure stage play on You Tube and it is amazing how close to the original they have managed to stick to it in the audio version. Shockingly Colin Baker says the lines with the exact same inflection – its like he hasn’t aged in the last thirty years! Imagine my shock when I saw a Vervoid in the line up in Bar Galactica! I cannot believe that Big Finish have commissioned a further story for the Doctor, Jason and Crystal…I can’t wait to hear it!

Result: How on Earth can you live up to a title like The Ultimate Adventure? Daleks, Cybermen, alien planets, intergalactic mercenaries, evil politicians, dodging asteroids, the French Revolution and preventing an assassination with a pot of tea…that’s how! I’m starting to believe that Colin Baker has the same acting gene as his earlier surnamesake in that he can take any material no matter how insane and make it sound plausible. He trots through this story with a wink at the audience and a smile on his face and it does the sixth incarnation no harm whatsoever to be seen having this much fun. Is The Ultimate Adventure a load of horse shit? Yes it is! Does it matter one jot? Not in the slightest. This is an audio that is perfectly happy with its camp identity and can happily join the legions of doom on my shelf – stories that are so pleasurable to experience that they need to be on standby in case misery strikes. Other stories include The Chase (of which this story resembles with its loose plot hopping from one insane set piece to another) and Time and the Rani (of which this story resembles through its pantomime performances and daft plot devices). On standards of quality writing, characterisation blah blah blah (all the things we fans get ourselves in a tizzy over) it would score very low but simply because I adored every second of this lunacy it cannot get lower than: 8/10

Buy it from Big Finish here:


Govind@wbcom said...
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dicecasden said...

Good review... looking forward to seeing your review of Seven Keys To Doomsday

David Pirtle said...

I heard this wasn't very good, but I just picked it up on Audible because I had a spare credit and nothing better to spend it on. It's absolutely fun! I love that Big Finish has been able to take the franchise to complex and sometimes dark places, but I also appreciate that it can pull of a purely entertaining all ages adventure like this. I agree that a couple of the scenes do sound like they fit better with the Third Doctor; aside from palling around with Thatcher, that little speech about Winnie Churchill sounds very much like a Third Doctor moment. Then again, I have a hard time imagining that incarnation flirting with a mercenary or being paired off with pop songs, whereas Colin Baker can make just about anything work. I was just disappointed that he didn't get a song!