Professor Bernice Summerfield and the Skymines of Karthos

Starring: Lisa Bowerman
Big Finish Productions
ISBN 1 903654 14 9, BFPCD10
Available now

Bernice receives a message from her old friend Caitlin, saying that she has found evidence of an ancient civilisation on the mining colony of Karthos. The Professor is intrigued, because apart from the colonists the planet is supposed to be lifeless. When she arrives on Karthos, Bernice discovers that Caitlin has gone missing...

There are shades of the Doctor Who serial The Mutants and the Star Trek episode The Devil in the Dark in this lively story by David Bailey. The activities of the human colonists, who have been mining a valuable element from Karthos' rich atmosphere, have somehow awakened dangerous bat-like creatures that seem to be appearing from nowhere. However, the creatures, dubbed Fireflies, prove to be a far less sympathetic threat to humanity than the victimised Mutts or Horta.

In her search for Caitlin, Bernice is joined by Caitlin's husband Michael (Jimmy Wilson). It is made clear from the beginning, thanks to a message that Benny leaves on Irving Braxiatel's answer-phone (a useful story-telling device) that she does not approve of Caitlin's choice of husband. Consequently, she and Michael endure a grudging partnership of necessity.

Picking up an ongoing plot line from the most recent Bernice Summerfield novel, Dave Stone's Infernal Nexus, a great deal of attention is paid to Benny's current "condition". However, the writer doesn't allow this to get in the way of his story.

The deliberately premature cueing in of the closing theme tune makes for an effective red herring towards to end - you'll hear what I mean when you get there.

It does appear that these single-CD adventures have shaken off their earlier inertia, are becoming more exciting, and are now truly mining the series' potential.

Richard McGinlay