Monday, 1 March 2010

Bernice Summerfield: The Skymines of Karthos

There are lots of things that aren’t wrong about the Skymines of Karthos. Despite being utterly disinterested in the whole adventure aside from the prospect of seeing his wife again, Jimmy Wilson doesn’t put in a bad turn as Michael Peters. His interplay with Lisa Bowerman is certainly one sided in her favour but its nice to see a dynamic where the two leads aren’t colleagues, and it certainly beats Bernice doing it solo as she did in Secret of Cassandra.

Miles Richardson appears right at the beginning as Brax to help set the scene but then remains conspicuously absent throughout the play, marking the ‘isolated’ planet Bernice finds herself on. I like it though, it adds a sense of continuity to the proceedings. In fact the whole introduction scene with the telephone message is an excellent start to what turns out to be a fairly standard play.

In this case, memory certainly does cheat. I was expecting the bad guy banter to be dire but actually it makes sense if you think about it. “The first is in the rock, the second is in the furnace, the third are…” may be grating after a while but it admittedly has a point. And it’s nice to see a villain whom Bernice’s archaeological qualifications actually set her up to face.

If Michael spends the play unenthusiastic about the play, Professor Konstantin played by Johnson Willis seems almost annoyed by his own presence. It’s a fairly stroppy performance that fits the tone of the play perfectly. No one’s here by choice.

It’s hard to sum up my feelings about this story. It doesn’t really have many lows, aside from a few too many pregnancy jokes. Aside from brief quips though it doesn’t really make use of Bernice being pregnant. The fact she is just springs up out of the blue, with a vague reference to the father not being who we’d expect it to be. If you’ve read the books this makes perfect sense but audio only listeners would have a right to be peeved.

And then the only actual consequence of her condition is that Michael insists on lowering her down some rocks, rather than letting her climb down. It adds five minutes of banter which I suppose make up the run time but really?

The fireflies make a somewhat unthreatening monsters, which is a shame because there was potential there. But after you’ve seen Michael clear them away like rodents, and then a couple of them set on Bernice and somehow cause her no damage at all. Mentions are made of the fact they have killed in the past but there’s no reality to it. And swarms of them flocking through the skies would be a brilliant image on film, but this is audio.

There’s a lot of things that aren’t wrong about this play, but it doesn’t have many of the highs the last two have boasted. Bernice’s pregnancy seems foisted on it, the fireflies despite looking threatening don’t actually do anything, and an intriguing concept of warfare comes too late in the day to be explored properly.

7 / 10

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