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Audio Drama Review


Bernice Summerfield


Starring: Lisa Bowerman
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £25.00 (CD), £20.00 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 600 3
Available 30 September 2012

Things aren’t going great for Bernice Summerfield. Her one-time comrade-cum-adversary, Irving Braxiatel, isn’t the man she knew; her long-lost teenage son, Peter, isn’t exactly pleased to see her; and she’s woken up with one hell of a hangover. But when an ancient and dormant spacecraft threatens the safety of Legion City, Bernice and Peter have to put their differences aside in order to investigate an inexplicable mystery involving time-travelling scientists, corporate espionage and simple, cold-blooded murder. Can Benny discover the true killer before a warp core breach destroys them all? Can a five thousand-year-old body solve a murder yet to happen? And will the Vesuvius fall to the planet below...?

The third Bernice Summerfield box set sees the Professor (Lisa Bowerman) struggling to settle in on the galactic backwater world of Legion. In a sense, things are back the way they used to be: Bernice has a home of sorts, a base of operations from which she can occasionally depart on archaeological missions accompanied by various accomplices, and she has been reunited with Peter (Thomas Grant) and Braxiatel (Miles Richardson). However, the difference now is that Peter and Brax’s roles have been somewhat reversed: Peter is adversarial, wanting nothing to do with the mother who, as he sees it, abandoned him for four years, whereas Brax - a different and younger Brax - just wants to be Bernice’s friend.

We don’t hear much from Brax - or Irving as he now prefers to be called - during the first couple of discs in this three-CD collection, but Bernice and Ruth (Ayesha Antoine) get plenty of interaction with Peter in Vesuvius Falling, as the young security chief requires their assistance aboard a five thousand-year-old spaceship.

Tony Lee’s script is an intriguing whodunit, combining the mysteries of how a vessel that was launched just days earlier can be thousands of years old, and which of two equally accusatory crewmembers killed their shipmate, with the danger posed by said vessel crashing into Legion. Rickard Karne (Kai Owen, better known as Rhys Williams in Torchwood) and Mortan Hardak (Andrew Hayden-Smith, who played Jake Simmonds in three episodes of Doctor Who in 2006) seem as potentially guilty as each other.

The conclusion is slightly marred by the fact that some of the clues that alert our heroes to exactly what is going on are visual ones, which we are only told about after the fact. That aside, Vesuvius Falling rises to the occasion.



They used to say this house attracts nothing but evil… What are we all doing here, I wonder?” Many years ago, in an old and dilapidated house, a priceless and powerful artefact was hidden: an item that has long since been forgotten... at least until Bernice, Ruth and Jack were sent to collect it. In the depths of Triptic House, Bernice and her friends find themselves at the mercy of an ancient and ruthless entity, one that has been yearning for escape, biding its time and going mad. It has lived so very long, with so many stories to share - tales of haunted mental institutions; tormented tapestries; living nightmares. Through each of them now, its stories shall be told, lived, suffered, shared... and ultimately concluded...


We get to hear more from the relatively new character of Jack (David Ames) during the second adventure, Shades of Gray, a decidedly ghostly affair written and directed by Scott Handcock.

However, the real focus of Handcock’s story is a character who isn’t even part of this series, but rather another one: Big Finish’s new download-only range The Confessions of Dorian Gray, which is based on Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Antoine, Bowerman and Ames take on multiple roles as Ruth, Bernice and Jack relive supernatural events extending progressively farther and farther back into the past. Richard Franklin (who played Mike Yates in Doctor Who) and Alexander Vlahos (the star of The Confessions of Dorian Gray) play other roles. With the most recent flashbacks taking place not long before our heroes’ present time and the earliest events set around the turn of the 20th century, this is at once a sequel, a prequel, a crossover and a pilot episode for Big Finish’s Confessions series.

From the title of the piece and the inclusion of a strange and revoltingly ugly painting, I soon cottoned on to the fact that this is a spin on Wilde’s novel, though I cannot honestly say that I fully understood the convoluted chain of events the first time around, especially the scenes in the mental institution. However, the play benefits from repeated listening, and perhaps hearing Confessions will put me even further in the picture...



Bernice and Braxiatel have never quite seen eye-to-eye... but now he wants to make amends. He’s taking her on a leisure drive across Legion’s deadly surface to an Ikerian settlement not far from Legion City. Their mission: shopping. The Ikerians are renowned traders, dealing in everything from the finest art to cut-price battlecruisers. They’re willing to do a good deal too. After all, they know Irving Braxiatel of old - better than this Brax knows himself. But there is no guarantee of safe passage, because nothing is ever safe on Legion. Everywhere they go and everyone they deal with, Braxiatel’s reputation precedes him. He has good friends and even better enemies... but one thing’s for certain. Everybody loves Irving...

Braxiatel finally comes to the fore in the third and final story, as is obvious from its title: Everybody Loves Irving. And who better to write this tale than the man who plays him, Miles Richardson?

This adventure is generally an easy-going, light-hearted affair, featuring comical alien traders of restricted height with accents similar to those of New York or New Jersey, and disagreements between Bernice and various artificial intelligences, including the habitation computer E.O.I.N. (Andrew Macklin). In fact, both this story and Vesuvius Falling do a nice line in memorable onboard computers: a sardonic sounding one (played by Jennie Stoller) in Vesuvius Falling and a flirtatious autopilot (Lizzie Hopley) here.

A few more serious storyline seeds are sown along the way, but nothing like the end-of-season cliffhangers that we have grown used to. All in all, Everybody Loves Irving makes a leisurely and enjoyable end to an entertaining box set, in which you will find that there is something for everybody to love.


Richard McGinlay

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