Back in 2003, in lieu of any new Doctor Who on the horizon (or so they thought), Big Finish created some original incarnations of the Doctor through their Doctor Who Unbound series - which explored different versions of the Time Lord from parallel universes. The most popular was David Warner, as an alternate Third Doctor. 13 years later, Warner is finally back in the role – and he’s been paired up with Bernice Summerfield. Is it a match made in heaven?
Thankfully, the answer is a resounding yes. Teaming the Warner Doctor up with Benny, a character familiar with various incarnations of the Doctor (an archaeologist who has met lots of Doctors? That sounds familiar), is a very canny move. Through her we get to see just how different but also fundamentally similar this Doctor is to our regular hero.
Unsurprisingly, an accomplished character actor like Warner is brilliant in the part. A much more cautious Doctor than the one we are familiar with, he has been known to flee when there is danger about. Still, this side of him tends to linger in the background and on the surface Warner gets to show off his comic timing with the Doctor’s familiar flippant demeanour. With Warner’s Doctor to explore, it has to be said that Benny somewhat plays second fiddle in her own boxset. Lisa Bowerman is as great as ever though, as actress and character effortlessly settle back into the traditional companion role.
The four stories the boxset comprises are uniformly entertaining with sparkling dialogue to boot. The Library in the Body by James Goss is a bold, fast-paced opener which introduces us to this dying universe. It’s followed by Guy Adams’ Planet X: a classic 1984-esque tale set on a totalitarian planet where any heightened emotions are forbidden. The Very Dark Thing by Una McCormack offers an affecting story about war and peace, while Emma Reeves delivers a terrific finale in The Emporium at the End.
The finale is perhaps the standout episode, as it is lifted by a fascinatingly ambiguous alternate take on the Master – as played by Mark Gatiss (or rather ‘Sam Kisgart’). A hardcore fan and talented actor like Gatiss naturally nails such a juicy role and pitches it somewhere between the urbanity of Roger Delgado and the camp of Anthony Ainley. More of him in the future, please.
All in all, this is another strong boxset from Big Finish’s Doctor Who range - one that proves that good Doctor Who doesn’t have to be bound to the Doctors we all know and love.
THE NEW ADVENTURES OF BERNICE SUMMERFIELD: THE UNBOUND UNIVERSE / DIRECTOR: SCOTT HANDCOCK / WRITER: GUY ADAMS, JAMES GOSS, UNA MCCORMACK / STARRING: LISA BOWERMAN, DAVID WARNER, ZEB SOANES, GUY ADAMS, TOM WEBSTER, EMMA REEVES, ROWENA COOPER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (VIA BIG FINISH), SEPTEMBER 30TH (GENERAL RELEASE)