Reviewed By: newt5996
Review Date: 2/24/19 3:47 am
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Christopher Bulis’ past work on Doctor Who novels is a stripe of traditional Doctor Who during an era where boundaries were pushed. Bulis as a writer handled his characters well and gave fun plots, if at worst nothing special. With BBC Books starting two book lines that specialized in traditional Who novels there would not be a doubt Bulis would make the leap into that line, and in fact he was given the third novel in the Past Doctor Adventures line, The Ultimate Treasure. The Ultimate Treasure is the first novel in the Past Doctor Adventures line to feature the Fifth Doctor and pairs him up with Peri Brown, taking place shortly after “Planet of Fire”. This is also Bulis’ first novel to feature the Fifth Doctor, and only his second real foray into the eras of 1980s Doctor Who. Yet, if a comparison could be made between The Ultimate Treasure and a different era of Doctor Who, the Hartnell era. As the title implies, The Ultimate Treasure is a treasure hunt novel akin to serials like The Keys of Marinus or The Chase. The Doctor and Peri become embroiled in a treasure hunt for Rovan’s treasure, the ‘ultimate’ treasure, the treasure seekers haven’t been able to find. What is interesting is that while this is a solid premise for the book, and there are definite sections of this book which are great, Bulis doesn’t maintain a fast enough pace to pull off the treasure hunting format.
The biggest issue in terms of pacing is that the first 77 pages are a mix of exposition and character introductions. The issue here is that Bulis writes these scenes to be quite short which should keep the pace up, but it makes it difficult to really understand these characters with a few exceptions. The idea behind the Doctor and Peri arriving at the space station to unwind because of the events of “Planet of Fire” works for the most part, though during the shopping segments Peri feels a bit stereotypical valley girl. After this she improves to have a character closer to her television version, and the resolution Bulis provides for Kamelion at the end is quite good. There’s also Sir John Falstaff, a wealthy man taking Shakespeare’s character’s name and actions in an attempt to become popular. Falstaff is a nicely comic character and Bulis knows exactly when to use him and when to keep him off-screen, something that many authors often over or underuse. There’s also a nice little ending to the book where comparison’s are made between the Doctor and Rovan, who had similar motivations to their actions. The rest of the characters however, all blend into their characteristics. There’s the space cop verses the space mafioso, there’s a unicorn who Peri spends quite a bit of time with a la Ace in Cat’s Cradle: Witch Mark, though the unicorn here is actually a better character than most of the characters in Cat’s Cradle: Witch Mark. The actual quest for Rovan’s treasure takes quite a bit of time and several missteps, the biggest of which being Bulis deciding to use the damsel in distress trope on Peri, putting her offscreen for quite a bit of the runtime as well. Bulis attempts to create fun and hazardous traps, some of which are nice, but they almost go by so quickly and are dealing with weaker characters, there just isn’t a lot of them. There’s also just an underwhelming nature for Rovan’s treasure that the journey and destination aren’t anything to write home about. That isn’t to say that this is the worst book ever, but there just isn’t enough to keep my interest for 280 pages. A rare disappointment from Bulis.