Following on from last year’s boxset, the fourth volume of The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield continues the archaeologist’s exploits in the dying “Unbound” universe alongside a very different version of the Doctor. As played by David Warner, this Doctor has been appointed the president of the universe!
With writing duties shared between James Goss and Guy Adams, the four stories that comprise the boxset are uniformly full of intelligence, wit and humour and are bolstered by the brilliant chemistry between Lisa Bowerman and Warner, who each rise to the challenge of taking their characters in fresh directions.
‘The City and the Clock’ from Adams begins things on a strong footing, as the boxset’s McGuffin – the Apocalypse Clock, that could either save or destroy the universe – is introduced. It’s fascinating to see the Doctor struggling to fill a diplomatic, bureaucratic position while Benny is attempting to get him to act like his old self again.
Goss’ ‘Asking For A Friend’ is a particular highlight, as it features an interesting framing device – the Doctor visits his therapist (TV Doctor Who’s Annette Badland) and recounts his recent experiences – which provides an illuminating look at his psychology. In particular, there is an amazing speech that sees the Doctor at the rawest and most exposed we have ever seen him.
Adam’s ‘Truant’ begins as a fun romp as the Doctor plays hookie from his responsibilities and utterly fails to find himself a challenge (even the bad guys are happy to accommodate the president). However, the second half then morphs into a clever twist on Invasion of the Body Snatchers that is thick with social commentary.
Finally, ‘The True Saviour of the Universe’ brings everything to a head as the Doctor’s hold on the presidency is threatened by the schemes of - who else? – The Master. Once again, Mark Gatiss… er, we mean Sam Kisgart clearly has a blast in the role. Goss’ script also has a lot of fun ramping up the contemporary political satire about the rejection of experts and fake news.
If you have never listened to any Bernice Summerfield audios or never had the pleasure of Warner’s Doctor, then I urge you to break the habit with this boxset. The central premise is a brilliant subversion of the usual Doctor Who format, it has a great Doctor/companion pairing at its heart and, most impressively, it’s a brilliant character study of the Time Lord. Yes, he might be from a different universe, but David Warner is the Doctor.
THE NEW ADVENTURES OF BERNICE SUMMERFIELD VOL. 4 – THE RULER OF THE UNIVERSE / WRITERS: GUY ADAMS, JAMES GOSS / DIRECTOR: SCOTT HANDCOCK / STARRING: LISA BOWERMAN, DAVID WARNER, SAM KISGART, SAMANTHA BEÁRT, BEN AROGUNDADE, STEPHEN CRITCHLOW, BEN CRYSTAL / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW