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…

Things start fairly slowly with a nice gag about working, or not working, in pyjamas, lots of mud, and a man with a fairly deep Black Country accent. Hmmm…. Seems to be the industry standard so I wont complain specifically about it here. Fortunately things start moving once Miles Richardson’s smooth, commanding voice brings Irving Braxiatel to life. Again, like Adrian Wall, he doesn’t sound quite how the early books have depicted him but once again this is for the better. Given the subject matter it’s appropriate that Irving should have a brisk, businessman’s voice.

The story stands out in particular compared to the other plays of the series. There is no quest here, no grand adventure. Bernice and Brax appear at an auction… After an attempted murder is made on one of the sellers, Braxiatel sidles in for a potential discount bargain whilst Bernice worries about motives.

The main weak point of the play is the hypothetical question ‘why would they do that’, which would be more feasible if the aliens weren’t clearly depicted as being so utterly despicably evil. Whilst Brax is pondering the question, I just kept thinking ‘of course they would, they’re evil scumbags’, and when the revelation comes later that they ‘are’ evil scumbags this listener, unlike Brax and Benny, isn’t surprised at all.

Also why make a point of having Bernice and another woman have the same voice? Nothing is really made of this besides a quick excuse for the two characters to briefly ‘connect’. It just felt a bit… needless.

Fortunately the majority of this story works, and it asks all the right questions about whether justice is justifiable. Brax was a good choice as companion, someone with enough moral ambiguity to make you wonder where he stands, but who ultimately comes through in the end.

And the use the bad guy, despite spending the majority of the play warbling incoherently, when he finally does open his mouth is ‘expletive, expletive, expletive’ brilliant. This is far more threatening and tangible than the last two plays, because for the first time you can see that things aren’t going to be all right after all.

The Halstad’s will be fondly remembered. But why, oh why, did they put the ‘full’ theme at the end of the play? The harp music was a brilliant way to end it, with just the right tone of sadness and hope… Why ruin that?

8 / 10

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