Friday, 5 March 2010

Bernice Summerfield: The Greatest Shop in the Galaxy

Series three of Bernice Summerfield starts bolder than any before it. With a return to the old theme tune, Joseph now established as her defacto travelling companion and an all around tighter sound design, she’s ready to face anything. And in this rip roaring adventure which is half comedy, half action thriller, she gets straight to it.

Around half of the jokes in this story surround women and the love of shopping, particularly for shoes. Having seen Bernice as the most down to earth practical girl around, her newfound obsession here seems like a sudden departure. That said, when she cracks down and starts justifying herself at the end, it is a particularly brilliant scene. Given her ‘recent’ experiences in the Glass Prison this is understandable.

The Gigamart is definitely an interesting idea, although the shear scale depicted is hard to envisage. It explains clearly that it is a superstore designed to cater for the entire universe, yet neglects to mention that the storeowners share the planet with a group of carnivorous human hungry aliens, until after they have already started to appear in the store. The plot, made deliberately complicated to make use of Bernice’s previous experience with time travel, works well enough. After a promising morning shop she finds herself in the middle of a slaughter, and in true Bernice mode she keeps her head and searches for a solution.

The thing that lifts this story up is the passion of the cast, who obviously enjoying the material. It’s not an out and out comedy, it’s played fairly straight, it just depicts situations that are patently absurd. It does however star a very ‘EVIL’ villain, the epitome of capitalism, a squelching, spitting, creature who literally gets his rocks off on the stock exchange. What better motive than money?

And the dilemma of the grandfather paradox is well presented, providing an interesting solution to the situation. Everything ties together neatly, Bernice’s shoes playing a vital role in the survival of the planet. Throughout the play never stops throwing new ideas at you, but always linking it in clearly to whats come before.

The Greatest Shop in the Galaxy isn’t the greatest play Big Finish have ever commissioned, but it can hold its head fairly high. It has a cohesion and sense of purpose lacking in the previous series, the cast doesn’t seem quite so limited and the actors are clearly having a whale of a time.

8 / 10

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