Bernice Summerfield, Series 4

I’m running out of actual BF Who audios to listen to, but there are still a few spinoff series to get through.

I have enjoyed all of Mike Tucker’s previous audios (The Genocide Machine, which brought back the Daleks; Dust Breeding, which brought back the Master and Caroline John; and The Stone’s Lament, which was the best of the second Benny series), so it’s disappointing to report a relative dud. Bringing Benny to a small world caught between Sontaran and Rutan lines is intrinsically a good idea, but I personally got lost between the real people and Rutans pretending to be Benny and Bev, and also between the various factions of Rutans. A good idea wasted.

Quite a long time back I enjoyed but wasn’t overwhelmed by The Dark Flame, to which this is a sort-of sequel. The Draconian Rage brings Benny to the Draconian emperor in a fairly straighforward story of conspiracies and court politics, with alien civilisation subjected to a different alien threat, and it is told well – though poor Benny is subjected to gruesome torture, from which she bounces back rather unrealistically fast.

For the first time ever, I have to mark a BF audio down quite severely for poor production values. The Poison Seas brings Benny back to the world of The Secret of Cassandra to visit an old friend who happens to be a Sea Devil colonist. Unfortunately the Sea Devil characters are almost incomprehensible thanks to their distorted sibilant voices, and their computer is completely impossible to make out. The plot seemed OK, and Jenny Livsey as human conspirator Carver showed promise, but the annoyance of not being able to hear half the dialogue properly made this in places quite an unpleasant listening experience.

The whole of this series relies pretty heavily on continuity, both with Classic Who and with previous audios. Death and the Daleks is, as I understand it, the audio sequel to a Bernice spinoff short story collection, Life During Wartime, in which the Braxiatel collection has been occupied by a military regime called the Fifth Axis which appears to be led by Benny’s father. It is greatly to Paul Cornell’s credit that despite the fact that the audio starts effectively in the middle of the story, it is pretty easy to pick up what is happening, even with excursions back to Heaven and various nods to Braxiatel continuity. It’s a pretty good account of Daleks, their unwitting human puppets, resistance under occupation, and Benny’s personal history coming back to meet her. I think I would have liked it even more if I had read Life During Wartime, which does make me wonder if it is a good idea to build cross-media continuity so strongly into the narrative.

So in summary, The Draconian Rage is recommended for those with strong stomachs; Death and the Daleks for those who don’t mind catching up with a bit of continuity; and the other two not really recommended at all.

1 thought on “Bernice Summerfield, Series 4

  1. I obviously disagree that Labour is a hard right party similar to the Tories

    I’d say both are similar (at least in macroeconomic policy),b ut not ‘hard right’-they’re both corporatist status quo favouring. The idea of actually trying to break up the big corporations, etc is against both parties dogma.

    Labour is more redistributionary (tax credits &c, good idea badly done), but in terms of actually regulating or breaking up problematically large corps neither is particularly willing to chase off the donors.

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