‘THE NEW ADVENTURES OF BERNICE SUMMERFIELD’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
The Return of Bernice Summerfield
Benny is back in ‘Doctor Who’!
This is a fantastic ‘Doctor Who’ box set starring Lisa Bowerman, Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred!
‘The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield’ is a brand-new chapter in the life of Bernice Summerfield, companion of the Seventh Doctor and archaeologist of the 26th century! Here, Benny sets off on some new adventures of her own with the Seventh Doctor and Ace to join her in them.
I enjoyed these audio adventures of Bernice Summerfield with the Seventh Doctor and Ace in this box set. I’ve not read many of the New Adventures novels of ‘Doctor Who’ with Benny from the 1990s. But I’ve enjoyed some of her Big Finish appearances and Lisa Bowerman is fantastic as Benny.
Benny was created by Paul Cornell for the New Adventures series of ‘Doctor Who’ books, making her first appearance in ‘Love and War’. Since then, Benny has had her own spin-off series of Big Finish audios after she left the Doctor. Now she has some new adventures with the Doctor back in her life.
This first box-set of ‘The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield’ is a 5-disc set. It contains four-linked episodes on the first four discs and a making-of documentary on Disc 5. The four stories in the box-set are ‘The Revolution’, ‘Good Night, Sweet Ladies’, ‘Random Ghosts’ and ‘The Lights of Skaro’.
I’ve had ‘The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield’ box set cover signed by lovely Lisa Bowerman, when I saw her at the ‘Dimensions 2015’ convention in Newcastle, October 2015. I’ve had nice chats with Lisa at conventions and I enjoyed chatting to her about this very special box-set.
1. ‘THE REVOLUTION’
This first episode in the box set, ‘The Revolution’, is by Nev Fountain!
It stars Lisa Bowerman as Bernice Summerfield and Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor. This is a great opening episode as it’s a funny romp throughout and is so engaging with the Doctor and Benny in it.
The story takes place on the planet Arviem 2. There, Benny is at a bar where she gets terribly drunk. Eventually, the Doctor turns up and he’s not himself. Can Benny trust the Doctor in this adventure?
Nev Fountain has a reputation of writing comedic stories in ‘Doctor Who’, particularly ones with the Fifth and Sixth Doctors. I enjoyed this episode of his, as it got my brain ticking about what’s going on.
I found those opening scenes with Benny in the bar very funny to listen to. Lisa Bowerman does well with comedy as Benny when she’s drunk. It’s funny when Benny soon ends up on the floor snoring.
The Doctor soon turns up, and he seems to be forgetful and acting odd to Benny. I like it that Sylvester McCoy gets to do some comedy acting as the Doctor in this as he’s very good in that area.
Sylvester McCoy and Lisa Bowerman work well together as the Doctor and Benny. It feels like they’ve known each other for a long time and they bounce off each other with comedy and drama.
Benny easily gets annoyed when the Doctor seems so silly and unusual. I liked the moments when the Doctor talks randomly and he tries to make sense of something and Benny tells him to shut up.
There’s also tension as at one moment Benny tells the Doctor not to come with her on an adventure. Benny can’t trust the Doctor in the state he is in. This is rather effective as the Doctor is pretty hurt.
Benny gets to use her archaeological skills to good use when she comes to visit the planet Arviem 2. I also liked it when Benny bluffs her way to some robots, as she attempts to escape with the Doctor.
I found the concept of Arviem 2 as a society devoted to science in a religious manner interesting. It’s also very disturbing. Some of their beliefs aren’t agreeable and the Doctor and Benny are in trouble.
I was surprised to find Nicola Bryant make a guest appearance as Dr Geller in this episode. Nicola usually plays Peri in ‘Doctor Who’, so it was nice to hear her as a different character in ‘Doctor Who’.
The guest cast also includes Miles Jupp as Inquisitor Xavier and Alex Jordan as Renk Van Magnastein the barman. There’s also Matthew Woodcock who voices the robots who are silly and subservient.
I enjoyed the twist when it gets revealed who the villain and how the Doctor is acting so strangely. It’s all because of Renk Van Magnastien who named the planet with his initials RVM and Arviem 2.
I thought it was clever when it’s revealed about what happened between Benny losing conscious on the floor to waking up and finding Magnastein the barman with a beard. Very clever, Nev Fountain!
‘The Revolution’ is a superb opening episode in ‘The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield’ box set. I enjoyed this romp by Nev Fountain and Sylvester McCoy and Lisa Bowerman are fantastic here!
The episode ends with the Doctor remembering why he came to see Benny in the first place. He needs her help. Ace has gone missing! What will happen next?! Benny didn’t even have her cocktail!
‘The Revolution’ rating – 8/10
2. ‘GOOD NIGHT, SWEET LADIES’
The second episode in the box set, ‘Good Night, Sweet Ladies’, is by Una McCormack!
It stars Lisa Bowerman as Bernice Summerfield. This is an unusual entry in the box set. The Doctor doesn’t feature in this episode at all. These are ‘The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield’, hey?!
The story takes place on the Moon of Adolin, where Benny is out on a mission to find Ace. Her ship crash-lands on the moon as she finds two strangers there before venturing into a creepy labyrinth.
I’ve not heard many works by Una McCormack as a writer in Big Finish. But I liked her writing for this episode. She’s a big fan of Bernice Summerfield, as she details this in the episode’s CD sleeve notes.
I like the atmosphere of this episode, as Benny has been sent by the Doctor to look for Ace. I wondered how Benny would find her and what she’d find when she crashed on the Moon of Adolin.
The story is pretty self-contained in this episode and features a small cast. Lisa Bowerman as Benny is joined by John Finnemore as Steve Day and Sheila Reid as Claire. The trio give great performances!
Lisa Bowerman maintains her wit and sarcasm as Benny throughout this episode. Benny she tries to understand what’s going on, when she explores the labyrinth and getting to know Steve and Claire.
I found the labyrinth scenes very tense and unnerving to listen to. I like how Benny gets to use her archaeological skills in this episode; find Ace’s explosives and become surprised when finding a tree.
John Finnemore is pretty good as Steve Day. Steve is a panic-stricken man who believes Benny and Claire are ghosts when he sees them. He joins Benny as her companion, but is easily nervous in this.
Sheila Reid is wonderful as Claire. Sheila has been in ‘Doctor Who’ before, guest starring in ‘Vengeance on Varos’ and playing Clara’s gran in the new series. Claire is a very mysterious person.
I liked how this episode explores more of Benny’s background as a character. I was learning new things about Benny, especially as I haven’t read all of the books or audios featuring Benny in them.
I was surprised to hear a Dalek make an appearance in this episode. I wondered whether the Dalek was real or a figment of imagination as it lurks in the labyrinth when Benny and Steve come across it.
The highlight of this episode is the discovery of Claire’s true identity. She is actually Benny’s mother. I liked those scenes where Benny reunites with her mum, as they’re so heart-breaking to listen to.
I was pleased to hear a transmission by Ace in this episode when Benny is inside the ship with her mum. Benny is closer to finding where Ace is. I wondered what Ace had been doing to get missing.
The moment where Benny has to sacrifice her mum in order to go after Ace aboard the ship is very heart-breaking to listen to. Lisa Bowerman and Sheila Reid deliver great performances in that scene.
The episode ends with Benny going after Ace and saying goodbye to her mum. I’m sure I heard Ace say goodbye to her mum too. I definitely heard Sylvester’s Doctor saying, “Good night, sweet ladies”.
‘Good Night, Sweet Ladies’ is a touching and heart-breaking episode for Benny’s character where she reunites with her mum. I wondered what would happen next, as Benny goes on to search for Ace.
‘Good Night, Sweet Ladies’ rating – 7/10
3. ‘RANDOM GHOSTS’
The third episode in the box set, ‘Random Ghosts’, is by Guy Adams.
It stars Lisa Bowerman as Bernice Summerfield and Sophie Aldred as Ace. This is where Benny has found find Ace after she went missing. I was looking forward to finding out what Ace has been up to.
The story takes place on somewhere called the Forbidden World. There Benny and Ace with three other people who are trapped with them in this Forbidden World and where time has been broken.
I found this one a rather confusing and unusual episode in this ‘Bernice Summerfield’ box set of ‘Doctor Who’. This episode does require more than one listen for listeners to gain a grasp of the plot.
Most of the episode is told in flashbacks from various people’s points-of-view. Benny, Ace, Foster, Varna and Klinus have sent themselves messages every day which have been recorded on cameras.
Guy Adams delivers an intriguing episode about memory loss for our characters in this self-contained episode. I don’t think I’ve gained a firm grasp of the whole episode, but it has been very enjoyable.
The highlight of this episode for me is Ace’s first appearance in this ‘Bernice Summerfield’ box set. Sophie Aldred is lovely as Ace and it was interesting how she interacts with Benny and others in this.
This is of course the older Ace from the New Adventures books, where she has become a Dalek fighter and killer. She’s more experience and bitter compared to the younger Ace from the TV series.
Benny is delighted to find Ace again, but it’s not an altogether happy reunion. Ace is frustrated that Benny was sent by the Doctor to find her. Ace knows something the secret of the Forbidden World.
It was nice to hear the contrasts and differences of opinion in both Benny and Ace in this episode. Both are strong women, but the two can never entirely agree on anything when on this adventure.
Ace tries to Benny some vital information and not to trust any of the people she meets including Foster, Varna and Klinus. But Benny doesn’t know why Ace is so jumpy and tends not to listen to her.
Colin McFarlane guest stars as Vince Foster. Colin also appeared in ‘Torchwood: Children of Earth’. Foster is a documentary filmmaker who seems very shifty as he is obsessed with getting to the city.
Amber Revah guest stars as Varna. Varna seems a rather cold; detached and cynical person when Benny meets her. Varna is a dedicated scientist. It turns out that she had an affair with Foster once.
Matthew Gravelle guest stars as Klinus. Klinus happens to Benny’s boyfriend when she meets him. It was interesting when Benny and Klinus have a sort-of romantic relationship in the Forbidden World.
This episode doesn’t feature the Doctor in it. I wondered where the Doctor was and why he wasn’t in every episode of this box set. But both Lisa Bowerman and Sophie Aldred are brilliant in this one!
‘Random Ghosts’ is an interesting instalment in this ‘Bernice Summerfield’ box set. I don’t think I’ve fully grasped the story, but I enjoyed listening to the scenes where Benny manages to find Ace again.
The episode ends on a cliff-hanger. Benny; Ace; Foster; Varna and Klinus manage to get out of the time-loop they’ve been caught in. They soon find out what the Forbidden World is. They’re on Skaro!
‘Random Ghosts’ rating – 6/10
4. ‘THE LIGHTS OF SKARO’
The fourth and final episode in the box set, ‘The Lights of Skaro’, is by James Goss.
It stars Lisa Bowerman as Bernice Summerfield; Sophie Aldred as Ace and Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor. This episode also features the dreaded Daleks and where everything comes together here.
Having discovered that Benny; Ace and the others are on Skaro, they try to make a run for it. But Daleks soon turn up and Klinus gets exterminated. Everyone splits up and escapes from the Daleks.
The theme of the random ghosts from the previous episode of this box set continues in this one. It seems that there are ghosts of the Daleks’ history on Skaro in every corridor wherever Benny runs in.
It also gets revealed why Ace went missing from the first place. It’s established that Ace came from studying on Gallifrey. She attempted to destroy the Daleks forever with the use of an Omega device.
James Goss delivers a chillingly, mind-boggling episode about the Daleks with Benny, Ace and the Doctor in it. I enjoyed how all the threads of this box-set came together and James crafted it so well.
Lisa Bowerman delivers terrific performances in all four episodes of this box-set. But here she stands out, as she releases emotions of remorse and anger when she faces or is get to be killed by Daleks.
It was also interesting to explore more of Benny’s character, as she’s grieving over the loss of Klinus. I felt tense when Benny didn’t free Ace when hearing the truth of her intent to destroy the Daleks.
Sylvester McCoy finally makes a return as the Doctor in this box-set. I liked how the Doctor appears to Benny as a ghost sometimes in this episode, before he eventually arrives in the TARDIS on Skaro.
Terry Molloy makes a cameo appearance as Davros as the beginning of the episode. I was disappointed that Davros didn’t actually make a full appearance as it would have been great to hear.
Nicholas Briggs voices the Daleks exceedingly well in this episode. Each and every Dalek is either mad or in frenzy and that confrontation scene between the Dalek Emperor and Benny was brilliant!
Colin McFarlane returns as Foster in this episode. Foster’s true ambitions get revealed when he tries to make a bargain with one of the Daleks. Foster has a sticky end as he’s exterminated by a Daleks.
Amber Revah returns as Varna. It’s revealed that Varna is a pure Kaled and it was interesting to hear when she doesn’t know that the Daleks were once Kaleds and she thinks they were made by Thals.
Matthew Gravelle returns as Klinus, or a ghost of him. It was interesting and disturbing when Klinus comes back to Benny. He reveals to her that he was already dead before he was shot by the Daleks.
The climax of this episode was exciting to listen to, as Benny, Ace and the Doctor are all in the last scene and facing a Dalek. A Dalek gets to see his own future and it was interesting how it turned out.
‘The Lights of Skaro’ is a brilliant conclusion to this Bernice Summerfield box set in ‘Doctor Who’. I enjoyed the Daleks in it, and it looks like a new beginning for Bernice Summerfield with the Doctor.
‘The Lights of Skaro’ rating – 8/10
THE MAKING OF ‘THE NEW ADVENTURES OF BERNICE SUMMERFIELD’
Disc 5 of this box set contains a making-of documentary looking into behind-the-scenes of the four episodes of ‘The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield’. This was an enjoyable making-of documentary that provides a lot of insight in this box set and into the world of Bernice Summerfield.
Most of the documentary features interviews with Lisa Bowerman and director Scott Handcock. I enjoyed listening to some of their comments about the Bernice Summerfield box set. It was also interesting how they linked previous Bernice Summerfield audio adventures to this special box set.
The documentary also looks into the four episodes each in turn. Firstly ‘The Revolution’ gets focused upon. There are interviews with Sylvester McCoy; Miles Jupp; Alex Jordan and writer Nev Fountain. It did seem to me that ‘The Revolution’ got more attention in this documentary compared to others.
Secondly, ‘Good Night, Sweet Ladies’ gets focused upon. There are interviews with Sheila Reid; John Finnemore and writer Una McCormack. I enjoyed Una’s insight as a writer when she dealt with the character of Benny here and also how it contrasted with Lisa Bowerman’s thoughts on this episode.
I did feel ‘Random Ghosts’ and ‘The Lights of Skaro’ were briefly glanced on in this documentary. It would have been nice to have had writers Guy Adams and James Goss provide their instalments in this documentary, unless I missed it. I’m pleased Colin McFarlane and Amber Revah got interviewed.
I was very disappointed that Sophie Aldred didn’t get interviewed in this documentary. For me, Ace was pivotal character in this box set and it felt like there wasn’t enough time for Sophie to be interviewed. It’s also a shame Nicholas Briggs didn’t get interviewed as he voiced the Daleks in this.
I did like how the documentary ends with Lisa Bowerman and director Scott Handock looking forward to the future with Benny. I’m not so familiar with the ‘Bernice Summerfield’ audio adventures from Big Finish. But this box set certainly has given me more insight in Benny’s character.
‘The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield’ has been an enjoyable box set of audio adventures by Big Finish. I enjoyed Lisa Bowerman’s performances as Benny in all four episodes and especially enjoyed it when Ace and the Doctor popped in. I hope to hear more audio stories with Benny soon!
‘The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield’ box set rating – 8/10
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