Back when the original run of Lost Stories came out “The Ultimate Evil” was notable by its absence, especially given it was so far along back in the day that it had a Target novel adaptation, something most of the other releases in this audio range didn’t have. So rights issues have apparently been sorted and The Ultimate Evil finally gets a dramatized adaptation and… yeah… erm, it’s not good. Very of its time, no doubt, but … Yeah. Let’s take a look!
With the TARDIS working perfectly, the Doctor and Peri decide to take a holiday. But where? A long-forgotten piece of equipment in the TARDIS storage locker sends them to the peaceful and idyllic continent of Tranquela – home of the Doctor’s old friend Ravlos.
But the land where they emerge is far from peaceful. A hate ray is regularly sweeping Tranquela, turning its inhabitants into savage beasts, and there is only one place it can originate – the planet’s other continent, home of Tranquela’s old enemies, the Amelierans.
Or is that the only place? Because somewhere far above the planet events are watched by the slimy super-salesman, Mordant, who has his own unscrupulous plans.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
The setting of the story is a planet split in two but at peace, each side having no real idea of what the other is like due to the 100+ year peace treaty meant that anyone appearing on the other’s continent is immediately put to death. It’s an interesting setting, sadly it goes a bit weird as the Tranquelan people (who we follow for most of the story) have the ability to teleport via thought (some anyway) and there is talk of bubbles they once used to get around using nothing but thought to move it… Interesting, but not really used beyond two characters (or in the case of the bubbles, never used) Still, I do like a good bit of imagination in my alien cultures.
The only other thing I’ll say about it is that in being a bit crap, it felt very of its time. There are a couple of standouts in the Sixth Doctor’s TV run, but a lot of them were more like this, in their cheesy campiness. Again, not sure if that’s praise, but it’s what I’m going with! Also it features the Sixth Doctor TV classic of “The Doctor meets an old friend that he’s never mentioned before”, just for that extra authenticity…
The cover is actually good, but I put it here because its closer to the centre of the review thanks to … well, a heavy Bad side…
The main bad revolves around a travelling merchant named Mordant and his “Hate Ray”. You see, he orbits around the planet and bathes people in a ray that makes them feel nothing but hatred, leading to violence and such. It’s an odd concept, but sadly instead of being potentially interesting, it just reduces several characters to walk around going “Raarrr!” and “Grrr!” and generally sounding comically stupid. There is also a traitorous character who is given a gun with a “hypno-ray” in it, which is so 50s science fiction that I kind of liked it, but also cringed a fair amount. It was also a lazy way of having the bad guy trick the higher-ups with ease, just zap people and get them to confess something…
Speaking of Mordant, he’s extra scenery-chewy in his line delivery and dialogue in general, and while I do like a good bit of moustache-twirling villainy, even I found it too much in the end. The mental image of him orbiting around the planet in what equates to a small metal ball spying on people and firing “Hate Rays” all because he’s greedy and wants profit is quite the sight to imagine, that’s for sure…
There is quite a bit of The Doctor describing what he’s seeing to himself for no reason at certain parts, a real audio drama no-no, so that was a shame to hear. The Doctor of course also tries to kill people under the influence of the ray, a callback to the awful Twin Dilemma, which is always good… *ahem* Peri befriends the son of the Tranquelan leader who had just recently killed the love of his life because instead to shackling themselves during an on-coming Hate Ray blast, they remained unshackled because he was convinced his love was stronger than hate… What a twat. It’s revealed at the end that the woman in question is alive after all, so that was a bit of a cop out to a storyline I didn’t give a crap about… hooray?
Throw in a person trying to overthrow the current leader of Tranquela so he can rule and go to war with their old rivals, and a quick visit to said rivals by The Doctor where we see they’re just cold and emotionless people thanks to being ran by an A.I. (catches breath) and in general there is quite a lot going on, but no of it is either interesting, or the interest is ruined by awful, awful dialogue or acting… or people going “I’m going to kill you! RARRRR!!”
No much to say here, really. The Doctor visiting an old friend is a cliché in his TV stories, and him turning evil happens a few times too, most famously in his debut story “The Twin Dilemma”, but also in stories like the Trial of a Time Lord chunk “Mindwarp”. In general though, this story is pretty stand-alone.
The Ultimate Evil completes the set of Sixth Doctor Lost Stories that were far enough along to be adapted, and being so far along it’s one of the more authentic Sixth Doctor audio stories, but that’s not a good thing. Big Finish have spent the last two decades turning the Sixth Doctor into an era filled with better quality stories (for the most part, not always!) with less cheese, so hearing this is both authentic, and inauthentic. It’s also a bit shit, so… Yeah, interesting to listen to historical context-wise, but not good to listen to quality-wise…