Friday, 26 February 2010

Bernice Summerfield: The Infernal Nexus

After three novels that are each entertaining in their own way, the Bernice Summerfield book range has appeared both strong and consistent, but broken very few boundaries. That changes with the introduction of Dave Stone and his creation Jason Kane, in the de facto sequel to the oddball short story from the collection ‘The Door Into Bedlam’. For the first time in the range everything, literally, is up in the air. Dave Stone has created a world within which anything can happen.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Bernice Summerfield: The Extinction Event

I got mixed feelings right off the bat. They dropped the singer from the intro titles, which is a great idea, but it leaves the music feeling empty. It’s true, I’m glad she’s gone, the vocals were awkward and intrusive in Dragon’s Wrath and since then been entirely inappropriate, but you can tell that something’s missing. It doesn’t’ feel complete…

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Bernice Summerfield: The Stone's Lament

The Stone’s Lament is a small play. Really small. If you count Bernice and Adrian as regulars, then the only additional member of the cast is James Lailey as the elusive, lovestruck, refined gentleman Bratheen Traloor. Usually we get at least a few extra actors to fill out roles but here the small cast suits the enclosed, isolated location, which is definitely the star of the play. Scenes with Adrian wandering around, worrying about his equipment being left out in the rain, instantly give you a natural sense of place and a perfect introduction to the character.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Bernice Summerfield: The Squire's Crystal

Having accused ‘The Gods of the Underworld’ of having very few highly original ideas, and just mashing together well known themes of Science Fiction to create something new, I ought to balk at sight of a ‘woman becomes man’ story.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Bernice Summerfield: The Gods of the Underworld

After Bernice Summerfield and the Doomsday Manuscript took us on an Adventure with a capital A, Stephen Cole introduces a much grittier, more visceral tale that is more akin to an action/horror movie like Rambo, than the petty highs and thrills of the Indiana Jones. Fortunately it features some characters just strong enough to stop this novel descending into an all out action fest.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Bernice Summerfield: The Secret of Cassandra

If there’s one complaint I have about this release it’s the start… Not the strange, actually oddly effective introduction scene with Bernice stranded helpless on a desert island, but the light throwaway backstory that explains how she got there. Holiday cruising on a planet torn apart by bloody war? After her previous experiences in similar situations, really? Either she didn’t do any homework at all and walked into it completely blind or she really, really was drunk. It’s a small complaint, with no significant baring on the actual content of the play, but as a reason for Bernice being where she is I find it annoyingly out of character.
Whilst we’re discussing the start also of annoyance is the ‘Bondesque’ theme song, which makes an unwelcome return from Dragon’s Wrath. It made sense for that story, it was misplaced but at least you could see the ambition. Here its overly bombastic, clichéd, unashamedly crass tone is really, really off-putting if not slightly inappropriate.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Bernice Summerfield and the Doomsday Manuscript

Bernice Summerfield and the Doomsday Manuscript feels like the archetypal template for a new series of Bernice Summerfield adventures, it lays down a new innovative, yet deeply traditional format and sticks to its guns through and through. And that format is, without a doubt, heavily Indiana Jones inspired.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Bernice Summerfield and the Dead Men Diaries

Reading Paul Cornell’s first anthology of short stories for Bernice feels slightly strange, and now that ten series have passed and the characters have developed it presents a very raw and unexploited origin of the Braxiatel Collection. In one respect it’s a very competent selection, but in another it feels more like a showcase of intention and facts. It’s almost too obvious in the way it sets out to announce ‘This is Bernice Summerfield, this is how sarcastic yet serious she is, this is how she drinks and cavorts yet gets the job done when it matters’. Yet when we really got to know her almost none of it was relevant…

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Bernice Summerfield: Buried Treasures

Buried Treasures is a duo of two stories given as a limited released to subscribers of Bernice's first series. Although not available any more both stories are now obtainaible by various means on the Big Finish's website, one via a podcast and the other included with later Bernice releases.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Bernice Summerfield: Dragon's Wrath

The first series of Bernice Summerfield suffers its ups and downs, but even at its blandest it is at least admirable. Unfortunately Dragon’s Wrath ends the series on a particularly sour note… And that could be directly due to the fact it is cut down to one disk of audio. For the first time the story desperately suffers in the transition to audio. Bernice’s first series up to now has explored big themes like pantomime, sexuality, time travel and war… This time it explores Bernice pretending to be James Bond only without the budget.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Bernice Summerfield: Just War

There are some who say this could be the best production Big Finish have, and will ever, make. I hope that’s not true. It would be a shame if it was all downhill from the millennium onwards, but I can see where they’re coming from. Lisa Bowerman is on top form, Stephen Fewell actually gets something meaty to throw Jason at and, my most common gripe with this series, the bad guys are spot on.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Bernice Summerfield: Birthright

Stumbling straight out of the thrilling conclusion to ‘Walking to Babylon’, Bernice and Jason each arrive in two separate, terrifying worlds. The first scene stumbles between horror and melodrama, with the almost clichéd ‘terror stalking the streets of Victorian London’ once again with horrendously overplayed accents. Jason then finds himself in a bleak post-apocalypse world with some very unhappy insects. And for reasons that initially seem incredibly clear but later become rather confusing both parties need to recover the Time Ring still held by ‘John Lafayette’ of the previous novel.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Bernice Summerfield: Walking to Babylon

After ‘Beyond the Sun’ introduced Jason Kane and then gave him hardly anything to do, this adaptation of Walking to Babylon gives him exactly twice as much material, and a far better script to work with. Unfortunately there’s an almost exact repetition of the ‘Jason in trouble, gets mixed in with wrong people, kidnapped, Bernice must rescue’ story. However whereas the alien ‘Sunless’ were hardly explored in the previous novel, here his captors and their motives are essential.