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Audio Book Review
“By a route obscure and lonely, / Haunted by ill angels only, / Where an Eidolon, named Night, / On a black throne reigns upright, / I have reached these lands but newly / From an ultimate dim Thule - / From a wild clime that lieth, sublime, / Out of Space - out of Time.” (Dream-Land, Edgar Allan Poe, 1844.) The Doctor, Crystal and Jason have survived monsters, Madame Delilah and Mrs T... but then their former enemy Karl calls them back to the Bar Galactica. The mercenary has a cryptic message concerning Ultima Thule, the location of fabled treasure - and a threat to the universe. The journey requires entering another dimension, where old enemies - and a brand-new adversary - lie in wait...
I have something of a fondness for oddities like this: side steps into less commonplace Doctor Who media and continuities. This sequel to the stage show The Ultimate Adventure is written by the same author, Terrance Dicks, uses the same theme tune, and reprises many of the same characters and situations, including the companions Crystal (Claire Huckle) and Jason (Noel Sullivan), the duplicitous Karl and his mercenaries, the Bar Galactica, and the catch phrase “business is business”. This time there are no songs, though, and curiously no sign of the little alien Zog either. The character of Madame Delilah couldn’t make it, obviously, on account of being dead, but her funeral and her last request prove to be pivotal to the plot (what there is of it). Yes, I have a fondness for oddities like this... so much so that I am prepared to be lenient with some of this story’s flaws.
In characteristic style, the writer works in his famous “wheezing, groaning sound” on at least three occasions, and includes a roll call of monsters from his previous serials, such as a Raston Warrior Robot from The Five Doctors. However, I had expected a better “climax” than the cop-out we get, especially since Dicks seems so pleased with it in his sleeve note. I wasn’t too impressed with the end of the first episode either - though it is pointed out, during the six minutes of interviews at the end of the CD, that it is more like the intermission of a stage show (complete with a scenery change) than the cliffhanger ending of a television episode, so fair enough.
Unusually for a Companion Chronicle, Beyond the Ultimate Adventure features the voices of not only two companions, Huckle and Sullivan, who played Crystal and Jason in Big Finish’s audio version of The Ultimate Adventure in 2008, but also Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor. It might have been better if the production team had rehired David Banks too, and made this a full-cast drama, or else used Baker only during the frame story, not during scenes recounted by Crystal and Jason, because the only other major character in the piece is Karl. Dicks betrays his unease with the set-up in his sleeve note, which refers to the “frankly weird format required”. As it is, Karl’s lines are shared out between Huckle and Sullivan, which makes for a rather uneven result, especially since Sullivan’s character retains his French accent even when speaking for Karl.
Talking of Jason, he doesn’t look very French Revolution on the front cover, clad in Sullivan’s jeans and T-shirt - but then Victoria Waterfield didn’t look very Victorian after just one serial, did she?
I do have a fondness for oddities like this, and ultimately it is not intended to be taken too seriously, but next time I’d prefer something a little more adventurous.