Professor Bernice Summerfield
Death and the Daleks

Starring: Lisa Bowerman
Big Finish Productions
RRP 13.99
ISBN 1 84435 043 6
Available now

The Braxiatel Collection has been invaded by the fascistic Fifth Axis, who seem to be led by a figure from Bernice's past. But behind him lies the evil time-travelling power of the Daleks! As Bernice's friends rise up to end the occupation, the Professor embarks upon a desperate rescue mission to a planet she visited a long time ago...

Previously listed in advance information as Axis of Evil, this very special double CD actually features a guest appearance by some popular Doctor Who monsters - the most popular monsters of all, in fact, as the true title reveals.

In addition to the Daleks, who are every bit as cunning and malevolent as they have ever been in their impressive back catalogue of Big Finish releases, writer Paul Cornell throws in other references to Who, in particular the New Adventures novels. As readers of the Benny book Life During Wartime will already know, Bernice bumps into her father Isaac - who is played, in a memorable turn, by Ian (Omega) Collier. She later journeys to the planet Heaven, where she first met the Doctor in the novel Love and War. She also does something that the producers have shied away from until now, by mentioning the Doctor (and Ace) by name.

But aside from all these continuity references, is the story any good? Most assuredly, it is. Having vividly established the Fifth Axis occupation in Life During Wartime, Cornell tells a passionate tale of resistance, triumph and tragedy. The entire extended cast of characters is deployed, including Ms Jones (Beverly Cressman), Mr Crofton (Nicholas Briggs) and Bev Tarrant (Louise Faulkner). It's been a very long time since we had a Bernice audio adventure of this duration and depth - not since Just War in fact. On several occasions I have criticised the relatively shallow natures of the single-CD stories, and so I sincerely hope this isn't the last double-CD release we'll get from this series.

Don't be misled by the inaccurate running time on the back of the CD case. This gripping adventure runs to almost two hours, not 70 minutes as stated.

The second disc also includes a bonus story, Closure. Also written by Cornell, this 30-minute morality tale was originally released as part of the limited edition Buried Treasures CD. An intense narrative concerning a ruthless dictator, this is an appropriate companion piece to Death and the Daleks.

Action, adventure, rousing performances, and stirring music by David Darlington - this double-disc Dalek delight has it all.

Richard McGinlay

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