‘LOVE AND WAR’ (AUDIO)
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Hello Benny and Goodbye Ace
Here is another Big Finish treat!
‘Love and War’ is a brilliant audio drama adaptation of an original novel by Big Finish. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this! I purchased ‘Love and War’ to celebrate the Sylvester McCoy era of ‘Doctor Who’ for the 50th anniversary. It is an audio drama adaptation notable for two very significant things.
The story features the first appearance and introduction of new companion Bernice Summerfield and the last one to feature Ace. I’m lucky to have the CD sleeve notes of ‘Love and War’ signed by Sylvester McCoy; Sophie Aldred and Lisa Bowerman at ‘Regenerations 2013’, Swansea back in September 2013.
This is a Seventh Doctor audio adventure based on the original novel ‘Love and War’ by Paul Cornell. Paul co-wrote ‘Circular Time’, my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ audio, as well as the new series TV stories ‘Father’s Day’ and ‘Human Nature’/’The Family of Blood’. He’s also written some ‘Doctor Who’ comics.
The book ‘Love and War’ was part of the Virgin ‘New Adventures’ novel series and was published in 1992. Gosh, I would have been 3 years old back then! In 2012, Big Finish decided to adapt Paul Cornell’s original novel into an audio drama in order to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Bernice Summerfield.
The book was adapted by writer Jacqueline Rayner into two hour-long episodes. It makes this audio adventure worthwhile, knowing the book can be enjoyed in audio format with Sylvester, Sophie and Lisa playing their characters. I certainly enjoyed the experience of this exciting audio ‘New Adventure’.
The ‘Love and War’ audio adaptation is a 3-disc CD set with the two episodes on Discs 1 and 2 and special features on Disc 3. The story opens with a prologue. Ace has attended the funeral of her childhood friend Julian Milton. She is feeling melancholy and desires to see Julian again before he died.
But when Ace meets up with the Doctor, she changes her mind and is content to move on and continue travelling in the TARDIS. With that, the Doctor decides to go to a library. The story of ‘Love and War’ has the Doctor taking Ace in the TARDIS to the planet…Heaven. No, really! The planet’s called Heaven.
Heaven is a planet in between the Earth and Draconian Empires in space during the 26th century. The Dalek wars are over and many of the surviving humans are living on the planet Heaven including the Travellers, a group of anarchist neo-pagans. In the community of Joycetown, Ace meets one Traveller.
His name is Jan Rydd and Ace falls in love with him. The Doctor and Ace also meet Professor Bernice Summerfield, an archaeologist who’s studying a giant arch on the planet. But something is wrong. The Doctor knows it as he plans to unravel the mystery by looking for a book to stop the monstrous Hoothi.
There are a lot of interesting ideas and concepts such as the Travellers and Puterspace, which is like a virtual reality similar to computer simulations in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’. It took a while to get my head around these concepts, but they were interesting all the same and made the story juicier.
I’ve had great pleasure meeting Lisa Bowerman, who plays Bernice Summerfield, at conventions and really like her. Lisa’s a friendly person to talk to and is great as Benny in these audio dramas. I think it’s honest to say that without Lisa and Paul Cornell, who created Benny, there’d be no Big Finish today.
No audios with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa; the Sixth Doctor; the Seventh Doctor; the Eighth Doctor; the Fourth Doctor; the Tenth Doctor; etc will be here today without Benny and Lisa. So it’s thanks to Lisa and Paul who began Big Finish. I’m glad Lisa signed the CD sleeves notes of ‘Love and War’ for me.
At the ‘Regenerations 2013’ Swansea convention, I told Lisa Bowerman how much I enjoyed ‘Love and War’ as a story. She suggested that I should have my ‘Love and War’ CD sleeve notes signed by Sylvester and Sophie too at the Swansea convention. I took Lisa’s suggestion and I am so pleased I did.
This is of course Bernice Summerfield’s first appearance in ‘Doctor Who’ in both novel/audio form. When we meet Benny, she’s a professor of archaeology. But it turns out she’s not a real professor at all. She faked her qualifications. She’s an alcoholic and does not like it when claimed as unprofessional.
Benny gets into a fight with Jan Rydd when accused for being unprofessional and gets knocked down by Ace in the process. Benny writes in her diary a lot and is very good at making witty remarks during her adventures. She and her team discover this tall arch and gets to learn some interesting discoveries.
In the story, Benny meets the Doctor and Ace and is fascinated when she discovers they are time-travelers. I like the scenes Benny shares with Ace and liked when Benny works out the Doctor’s charade message in the TARDIS. Benny accompanies the Doctor when they attend to the Hoothi in outer space.
I enjoyed meeting Sylvester McCoy at the ‘Regenerations 2013’ Swansea convention too. I’ve met Sylvester a number of times and enjoy meeting him during signings as well as going to the panels with him there. He’s very funny with his comic routines and I am very glad he signed ‘Love and War’ for me.
It’s great Sylvester’s doing a story based on a novel that was written for his Doctor and he was unaware of it. I asked Sylvester when he signed the CD cover for me whether he found the farewell scenes Ace/Sophie difficult to do. He said on the lines of he didn’t but found it an interesting acting challenge.
I asked a question to Sylvester and Sophie in their panel conducted by Lisa who interviewed them, “What was their first impression of working with Lisa in ‘Doctor Who’?” Sylvester replied all he could remember was a ball of fur. That was funny in reference to Lisa where she played Karra in ‘Survival’. 😀
In this story, the Doctor is the dark, manipulate Seventh Doctor (or Time’s Champion) that was being developed more intensely in the Virgin ‘New Adventures’ novel series following on from the TV series. In the story, the Doctor tells Ace they have come to Heaven to find a book. But there’s more to it here.
The Doctor has a hidden agenda. I love it when Sylvester’s Doctor explains to Ace about Heaven, mentioning the Earth and Draconian Empires from ‘Frontier In Space’ and explaining who the Hoothi are. In Puterspace, he gets to experience his last moments as the Third Doctor in ‘Planet of the Spiders’.
The Doctor also uses his sonic screwdriver in this story. Where did he get that from?! The Doctor and Ace also get to ride on horses in this. The Doctor is opposed to Ace’s romance with Jan. But why? I liked the first meeting that the Doctor has with Benny as he enlists her help in order to stop the Hoothi.
Sophie Aldred is great as Ace too. I enjoy meeting Sophie at conventions as I really like her. She’s lovely and friendly and I enjoy sharing how much I enjoy her stories as Ace in both TV and audio. She greatly welcomes my enthusiasm and I’m so pleased she signed the CD sleeve notes of ‘Love and War’ for me.
I especially enjoyed the panel Sophie did with Sylvester and Lisa at ‘Regenerations 2013’ as well as the signings and the group photo with Sylvester, Sophie and other companions including Sarah Sutton at the event. This is the last story to feature the young Ace and Sophie really puts a lot into the character.
This is definitely one of Sophie Aldred’s stand-out performances as Ace. It’s interesting how this could have been her final story as Ace if the Virgin ‘New Adventures’ novels became the TV stories. It’s great ‘Love and War’ is an audio story with Sophie as Ace. I wish more Virgin ‘New Adventures’ were audios.
Ace is mourning the death of her childhood friend Julian. There’s a sense of sadness to Ace at the start. On Heaven, Ace falls in love with Jan Rydd. I really like Ace falling in love as it was a nice touch in terms of her character. Some say this was rather out of character in connection to the other stories with Ace.
But I’m a sloppy guy and I like it when ‘Doctor Who’ companions fall in love, including Nyssa in ‘Circular Time’. There’s a lot of kissing between Ace and Jan and I assume for Ace it’s love at first sight. We get flashback scenes of Ace and Julian driving in a car heading for nowhere which do get repeated at times.
I liked Ace’s scenes with her mum, Maggie Ollerenshaw as Audrey, in Puterspace and the connections made to ‘The Curse of Fenric’. It was interesting when she berates her mother for not being there for her and I enjoyed the homely feel of fish fingers in the scenes that Ace had with her mum in this story.
Ace wants to be with Jan and she doesn’t understand why the Doctor’s so opposed to their romance. She eventually decides to stay behind and be with Jan, which ends in tragedy in the story. I found it heart-breaking when Ace makes her departure in this adventures and leaves the Doctor on bad terms.
James Redmond guest stars as Jan Rydd, Ace’s lover. This is a nice performance from James as Jan. Jan is one of the Travellers whom Ace meets her. He easily attracts her and they both fall in love. Jan happens to be in a relationship already with Roisa, but gives him up to Ace once infected by the Hoothi.
Jan seems to be the leader of the Travellers, even though he’s reluctant to admit it and has had a military-track history with the Dalek Wars. It all seems lovey-dovey in certain scenes between Ace and Jan, especially when they consider getting married and become engaged. But I really like those scenes.
Sophie Aldred and James Redmond play out the love aspects of their characters really well. Jan happens to be a pyro-kinetic since he can create small fires with his hands. The Doctor manipulates and uses Jan in his plan to stop the Hoothi and to save the universe, but this is not for the right reasons.
Bernard Holley guest stars as Brother Phaedrus. Bernard has done a number of ‘Doctor Who’ stories before including ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’ with Patrick Troughton; ‘The Claws of Axos’ with Jon Pertwee and ‘The Feast of Axos’ with Colin Baker. Phaedrus is this member for the Church of Vacuum.
He’s also a willing servant of the monstrous Hoothi. Phaedrus threatens the Doctor with an offer to ‘simply to die’ and prevent him interfering with the Hoothi’s plans. He’s a nasty piece of work and gets into Puterspace easily. I found those scenes tense as Ace fights with Phaedrus and towards the climax.
The monsters are the Hoothi, either pronounced ‘Hoot-eye’ or ‘Hoo-thee’ according to Benny in ‘The Company of Friends: Benny’s Story’. I prefer the latter. The Hoothi are like giant mushrooms. They are fungoid creatures feeding on flesh and decay and a conglomeration of a group mind working together.
They have a certain history with the Time Lords that the Doctor explains to his friends. The Hoothi want to spread their spores and waken the dead in their plans of conquest. They manipulate the Doctor to manipulate Jan in their plans. I like the monstrous, growling voices of the Hoothi in the story.
The final scenes with Ace and the Doctor are the most grueling and gut-wrenching I’ve ever listened to on a ‘Doctor Who’ audio. The circumstances of Ace’s leaving are tragic. Ace realises what’s the Doctor’s done by sacrificing Jan to save the universe and she’s so livid by how he used her lover in this.
The Doctor realises what he’s done and runs out to Ace. He’s sorry and tries to explain, but she won’t have any of it. She even threatens to kill him at one point. The scenes and dialogue are really heart-breaking as the performances from Sylvester and Sophie are very powerful and emotional to listen to.
Ace: “Were we ever mates?”
The Doctor: “YES!”
Ace: “WE CAN’T HAVE BEEN!!!”
Even with Benny intervening and restraining the Doctor from Ace made the scene more painful to listen to. Ace ends it with the Doctor since she walks out from him and it was such a horrible moment. After all the adventures they have been through together, the Doctor and Ace part on really bad terms.
The scenes where the Doctor has Benny joining him in the TARDIS are beautifully well-handed. Benny isn’t too pleased with what’s the Doctor’s done to hurt Ace and isn’t sure whether to trust him or not. The Doctor doubts himself, especially as he discovers a note left for Benny by Ace on how good he is.
Eventually, Benny decides to join the Doctor and keep him company in the TARDIS. She can’t resist the opportunity of seeing history. She asks the Doctor not to play games with her and he replies he won’t have to. I like those closing scenes between the Doctor and Benny when they agree to travel together.
This is the beginning of a new stage of the Seventh Doctor’s story as he travels with Benny. I like the last scene where they return to Earth in the 1980s to release some owls brought from Heaven. In the distance, they see a younger Ace with Julian in the car heading for nowhere which was pretty moving.
The CD extras are as follows. On Disc 3, there’s a Prelude to ‘Love and War’ which was written in the pages of ‘Doctor Who Magazine’ by Paul Cornell in 1992 before the original book release. It has Sophie Aldred narrating and features Lisa Bowerman; James Redford and other ‘Love and War’ cast members.
There’s also a behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of ‘Love and War’. It contains cast and crew interviews with original ‘Love and War’ author Paul Cornell; Sylvester McCoy; Sophie Aldred; Lisa Bowerman; Bernard Holley; James Redmond and many others who were involved in making this audio.
I’m so glad Big Finish adapted ‘Love and War’ into an audio drama. I’m glad to have listened to it and have the CD sleeve notes signed by Sylvester, Sophie and Lisa. It features some great performances by all three leading actors and is a good story by Paul Cornell that’s well adapted by Jacqueline Rayner.
This started a trend of exciting audio adaptations of both Virgin ‘New Adventures’ and ‘Missing Adventures’ by Big Finish. I hope ‘Goth Opera’ will one day be an audio drama as I would like to hear Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding in it. ‘Love and War’ has been a worthwhile experience!
‘Love and War’ (Audio) rating – 9/10
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