Sunday, December 13, 2015

Probably Not the One You Were Expecting #2: The Highest Science by: Gareth Roberts adapted by: Jacqueline Rayner directed by: Scott Handcock

The Highest Science stars Sylvester McCoy as The Doctor, Lisa Bowerman as Bernice Summerfield with Sineed Keenan as Rosheen, Daniel Brotlebank as Sheldukher, and Tom Bell as Fakrid and Jinkwa.  It was written by Gareth Roberts, adapted for audio by Jacqueline Rayner, and directed by Scott Handcock.  It was released in November 2014 by Big Finish.


While for one I’m glad that Big Finish decided to continue to adapt the Virgin New Adventures and Missing Adventures into audio dramas and The Highest Science is a great candidate.  This is mainly due to the amount of comedic elements in the novel that translate extremely well into audio.  While reading the novel you can get a sense for how the one-liners are meant to be delivered, but the audio adaptation allows for the comedy to really shine through and you can really get a sense for how absurd the Chelonians are as a concept.  You also get a better feel for how evil Sheldukher, the most evil person in the universe, actually is.  Daniel Brotlebank’s voice alone fleshes out the rather one note villain into a more vibrant personality.


The actual adaptation does a lot of the same things that the Love and War adaptation did, by slimming down the cast and nearly cutting out one of the subplots with the humans from 1990s Earth.  It really helps keep the story’s pace work in the audio medium by not trying to shove everything into the adaptation.  Rayner also does a bit of combining on characters which helps with the sheer number of characters in the original story.  I have to mention Lisa Bowerman in particular as she puts in a great performance as Bernice Summerfield even if her opening scenes were cut from the story, which works considering they were disjointed to begin with and didn’t really fit in with the end of Transit.


There are a few problems that come with the adaptation however, mainly coming over from the original novel.  The same ending is present with all of its problems of ripping off the end of The Hand of Fear.  The jumbled mess of a climax is still present in the adaptation but some of the elements are taken out.  Benny is no longer drugged during the end of the story which cuts out the Epilogue at the cost of some of the novel’s best comedic bits even if it wouldn’t have been the most appropriate for the listeners of Big Finish.  The Cell also has some changes as it is feminine and a bit less Marvin the Paranoid Android and much more sympathetic.  This isn’t really a bad change and actually works quite well.  Still as an adaptation it heavily improves upon the original novel and really is the definitive version of the story.  It gets an 80/100.

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