To my knowledge the fan response to Theatre of War was mixed to positive, but yet it is almost a perfect candidate to adapt to audio as Justin Richards’ writing used a lot of descriptions of the settings in his prose. There are also a lot of descriptive passages whenever the pacing in the novel was taken to a grinding halt where Richards tried to create suspense which was one example of the story working better on audio than it ever could in novel form.
First and foremost as with any adaptation of a novel into an acted medium it becomes very easy for the characterization to change. The best place to begin with these changes is with the archeological team sent to investigate Menaxus. A story change from novel to audio is that Benny met Gilmanuk not just before the expedition but five years before she met the Doctor in basically the same situation. So she doesn’t actually go on the expedition as in this version she never left after the events of Legacy. So there is a bit more time to develop the characters as they are introduced. Fortalexa and Gilmanuk in particular get more characterization as they have their own character arcs which weren’t as explored in the novel. Now taking a look at the Doctor and Ace who both get better treatment then they did in the novel. The Doctor gets moody at the end as he is out-manipulated by Irving Braxiatel. The Doctor’s acting Tomb of the Cybermen style as he manipulates events and even gets Ace to do what he wants her to do without her knowing it. Sylvester McCoy is always great as the Doctor and loves to flex his manipulative side. Ace is also treated a lot better here than in the novel. According to the extras when adapting this Richards went off his original outline instead of the published novel and I think that’s why Ace has a much better character than she did in the novel. She isn’t nearly as harsh here and feels a lot more like the Ace we know. That is also down to Sophie Aldred just maturing as an actress. Yes she was great on TV, but she was also an amateur actor so has completely improved her set of skills.
Finally there is the subplot involving Benny and the Braxiatel Collection. Now with all the clunky descriptions cut out Benny gets into the collection and meets Braxiatel a lot sooner as he helps with the exposition. The scenes at the Collection are still the best but everything is heightened by Lisa Bowerman’s amazing performance as Bernice Summerfield. Miles Richardson is almost exactly how I imagined Braxiatel to be, an older, more British version of the Seventh Doctor. Sadly the problems of the original novel are still present, mainly how traditional the story is, but by the medium switch they are minimized.
To summarize, the adaptation of Theatre of War heightens everything from the original novel, yet still has a few problems from the original storyline that couldn’t be fixed. 90/100