REVIEW: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF BERNICE SUMMERFIELD / AUTHOR: VARIOUS / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / STARRING: LISA BOWERMAN, SYLVESTER MCCOY, SOPHIE ALDRED, NICHOLAS BRIGGS, TERRY MOLLOY, JOHN FINNEMORE, MILES JUPP, SHEILA REID, AMBER REVAH / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 30TH
For those who don’t know, Professor Bernice Summerfield (Bowerman) is a character in the Doctor Who universe created by Paul Cornell as a companion to the Seventh Doctor. Bernice (or Benny to her friends) has appeared in dozens of Big Finish audios and books since 1998. With the release of The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield, more recent converts to Big Finish now have a chance to enjoy her escapades.
The set consists of four individual one-disc stories which tell how the Doctor asks Benny to find out where Ace has gone and to help her as needed.
Nev Fountain introduces proceedings with The Revolution, an amusing tale of robots, scientists and theme bars. This is solid entertainment blended (not literally) with a plague of frogs, too much drink and temporal shenanigans. This sets Benny on her way to Una McCormack’s Good Night, Sweet Ladies and the moon of Adolin. Here in an ancient maze she encounters Steven Day (Finnemore) and Claire (Reid). Trying to escape, she also finds a deadly foe and in trying to make sense of her situation we learn the story of how her mother died in a Dalek assault.
Guy Adams provides the highly experimental Random Ghosts, set in a Groundhog Day time-loop but one in which it is possible to leave messages for the next repeat. In what could have been a confusing construct we have a love story, an over-eager scientist, a city that needs power to break a time lock and Ace (Aldred) being less than helpful. There are also ghosts; one touch from a ghost erases the individual permanently.
James Goss caps things off with The Lights of Skaro, which outdoes the TV episode Asylum of the Daleks on several counts. It intertwines various key moments of the Doctor Who canon with introspective contributions from McCoy’s Seventh Doctor. Benny also has to face up (again) to her mother’s death and learning the truth about a man she loved. Gripping from start to finish.
Not only does this box set achieve the goal of providing an entry point for new fans, it is also an excellent set of stories. Heartily recommended.