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Audio Drama Review


Bernice Summerfield
Year Zero


Starring: Lisa Bowerman
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £10.99
ISBN: 978 1 84435 528 0
Available 30 November 2010

The planet Raster, Year 54: Professor Bernice Summerfield is arrested on suspicion of Archaeology. She immediately admits that she is a Historian. Is she a dangerous revolutionary, or simply mad? The Inquisitors have an hour to decide, before she is terminated to prevent the spread of the contagion. Bernice is lost in time and lost in space. All she wants is to get back home to her friends and her son. But first she must discover where and when she really is, and that means illegal investigations into the past… into whatever happened at the beginning… in Year Zero...

Following the high-incident, whiz-bang excitement of Resurrecting the Past and Escaping the Future, Year Zero is a smaller-scale, more tightly focused drama. There’s a cast of just four, including Lisa Bowerman as Bernice, and virtually no continuity references. OK, so the Collection and Bernice’s son Peter are mentioned, but only fleetingly and you don’t need to know their back-stories. The point of these references is simply to demonstrate that Bernice is far from her home. You can enjoy Jonathan Clements’s story without any foreknowledge of the adventures that have gone before - which is exactly how the production team want it, in order to encourage new listeners.

I was reminded of the Babylon 5 episode Intersections in Real Time, in that following a series of high-octane action episodes, it features just one member of the regular cast, in a fascinating psychological drama. Bernice isn’t subjected to the tortures that Sheridan endured, but the regime that her interrogators (Chris Porter and Evie Dawnay) represent is just as horrifying. In an extreme form of Stalinist revisionism, all references to the culture’s past more than 54 years ago - before Year Zero - have been outlawed and carefully airbrushed from history and the collective consciousness.

However, history is very difficult to suppress, as Bernice’s intelligent discussion with Inquisitor Pallis proves. History isn’t just in documents and memories. It’s in the genealogy of names and the etymology of words. It’s even on drinks cans.

Unlike Intersections in Real Time, this tale represents a new beginning rather than a standalone episode - the story continues next month in Dead Man’s Switch. This exciting new direction gets far more than zero from me:


Richard McGinlay

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