The Ultimate Treasure was the first Past Doctor Adventure I read back in 1998 and in order to write a fair review (and also because I'm reading the all in order) I read it again.
It features the 5th Doctor and Peri and this was the main reason I bought it back in the day. Peri was always my favourite companion and she didn't get much time with the 5th Doctor on screen. The book starts with the Doctor taking Peri shopping to a massive space shopping centre called Astroville. Think Lakeside but even odder. Whilst there they stumble across a dodgy antiques dealer who has given co-ordinates to the location of the Ultimate Treasure to various parties. Unsurprisingly the Doctor and Peri get dragged along for the ride. An exciting premise and it makes you want to read the book.
It is similar to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in places, with rival gangs searching for the treasure/grail going through varying challenges along the way. For the most part this is entertaining, but some bits do drag on a bit too long. The end twist wasn't unexpected as I'd read it before, but even if I hadn't, it's pretty obvious.
Both the Doctor and Peri are written as you'd expect them to be on screen, with Peri getting some pretty good character building as this is her first story after meeting the Doctor in Planet of Fire. The supporting characters are all very well written, and you know exactly who is who and how they are with only the smallest of introductions. For me this is the mark of a good author, so Bulis gets credit for this, despite many characters being stereotypes.
In summary The Ultimate Treasure is an inoffensive 5th Doctor story which remains loyal to the TV era. It breaks no ground but it is entertaining none the less. You could do far worse than this book.
The Doctor takes Peri on a visit to the city of Astroville Seven so that she can experience the ‘joys’ of intergalactic shopping. Of course, it isn’t long before they run into trouble. After becoming involved in an altercation between a shopkeeper and some hoodlums they soon find themselves ‘assisting’ Inspector Jaharnus with her enquiries and unable to leave the planet. It isn’t long before Jaharnus’ investigation results in a visit to the Seers of Gelsandor and the Doctor and Peri find themselves embarking on a quest for the ‘ultimate treasure’.
With the onset of this quest the story takes an interesting turn when it jumps from a very science fiction locale into a fantasy type environment. Things don’t remain that interesting for very long, however. Once the quest gets under way it becomes very formulaic and somewhat clichéd both in the obstacles deliberately set in the path of the questers and with the portrayal of the characters. There are reasons why the quest trials seem so formulaic but these aren’t satisfying enough to justify how tedious they sometimes feel.
Using a stereotypical fantasy quest approach there are several characters who get roped in alongside Peri and the Doctor. These include the ubiquitous treasure hunters, explorers, aristocrats and criminals; all of which bring the relevant skillsets to bear. The bulk of them are pretty standard and not that interesting Strangely, Shakespearian comic relief Falstaff is involved. Again there is a reason for this but his inclusion barely seems justifiable and a bit at odds with various aspects of the story.
One of the more interesting aspects of the novel is the fact that what the ‘ultimate treasure’ actually happens to be is never disclosed within the context of the novel. The purpose of the quest seems to be what the individual learns from the experience rather than what they might gain at its end. Thus what the ultimate treasure is depends upon the individual. The philosophical side of all this isn’t greatly explored within the novel but it certainly contains echoes of ‘Enlightenment’ and ‘The Five Doctors’.
There is also a surprise in the closing stages. Unfortunately it isn’t a particularly good surprise. It isn’t any type of revelation that comes through the procession of the plot but something that seems to have been included for no real reason rather than to try and make an impact. It also devalues aspects of ‘Planet of Fire’. It is a totally unnecessary inclusion that adds nothing to the story.
A charming fantasy quest story, told in a straightforward but interesting way. A fascinating cast of characters compete against a variety of tricks and traps, of varying effectiveness, in pursuit of the 'Ultimate treasure'. Has a thoughtful and intelligent ending, too. Certainly far better than the similar 'Scarlet empress', and remains entertaining throughout. Overall, a great read.
As a young Dr Who fan I consider books to be a great way to carry on the series. I really enjoyed reading this book because it had a lovely mythical feeling to it. I also enjoyed watching the two 5th Dr/Peri stories and to read a great book with that combination was an added bonus. Christopher Bulis has always wrote great Dr Who stories and this is no exception. I would recommend this book to anyone that likes 1: Dr Who (because it's a dr who book!) and 2: Treasure Island type stories (because this book has a strong atmosphere of Treasure Island) If you buy this book you will not be dissapointed!!