Beyond the Sea

Posted in Audio by - September 01, 2018
Beyond the Sea

Released June 2008

At least temporarily free of the bevy of continuity and characters that made the ongoing written and audio adventures of Bernice Summerfield such a deep and engrossing affair for so many years following the death of Jason Kane and the momentous fallout aboard the Collection, ‘Beyond the Sea’ represents something of a return to basics for the franchise as Bernice simply tries to make a living for Peter and her as a freelance archaeologist. Landing on the water-filled human colony world of Maximediras, Bernice is tasked with undertaking a survey to investigate newly-discovered relics of an until-now unknown civilisation, but she’s suspicious from the start of her employer’s motivations and just what trouble her own reputation may be causing her, and she can’t help but notice that her cruise ship features an abnormally high suicide rate.

The inclusion of IMC is a nice nod to the overall world of Doctor Who, and basing this story around sudden claims of an alien culture having inhabited Maximediras and needing protection and study now that the planet is scheduled to be gutted is an intriguing concept that draws into focus the fact that Bernice is regarded as something of a hokey academic who is willing to accentuate the truth and pedal deceptions and deceits. With those in power trying to sell the mystery of the sea and looking for any association with famous individuals to help sell it as a tourist destination, ‘Beyond the Sea’ effectively captures the plight of this fringe planet while also providing a suitably engaging jumping-on point for listeners unfamiliar with the heavily serialised exploits of previous seasons as Bernice effectively sets the scene by discussing how the Collection was caught in the middle of too many wars and the actions of Braxiatel to ensure safety and peace that also drove her away from him.

The image of the bioluminescent sea being churned beneath the glass of the boat proves again just how evocative this range can be even in its more standalone adventures, and it should come as no surprise that on this watery world the water itself proves to be the singular most important aspect of this world which also calls into question the shortcomings of the previous colonisation surveys and actions. In fact, the politics of a wholly unexpected government and rogue faction play out quite effectively on a much larger and more ominous scale. Indeed, the fear of the unknown ties in quite effectively with the fear that Bernice seems to hold for her son given what she implicitly knows he is capable of in certain circumstances. There is an undoubted feeling of love for Peter, and it is refreshing to see that he is able to diplomatically and calmly resolve a situation, but he again shows his violent nature- albeit in an appropriate moment of danger- that seems sure to show up at the wrong time once again as his adventures with his mother continue. The naivety and innocence of childhood can only be used as a shield for so long, and Bernice fears that even if he doesn’t completely understand what he did to Jason that he may be losing an internal battle with himself when he blatantly disregards her pleas, and this heightened mother-son dynamic should continue to pay dividends in emotional fashion.

‘Beyond the Sea’ is not without its faults, however, and despite its extreme overall confidence in its portrayal of events, Thomas Grant hasn’t quite yet mastered the nuance that a character like Peter so necessitates. He is the crux of so much drama in this story, but the delivery of key moments seems tepid and timid, a fact that will hopefully be resolved as the actor grows into this role. In fact, his crucial violent scene is somewhat haphazard as a whole, and while the story’s heart is certainly in the right place with many enjoyable moments, it never quite achieves the sense of urgency it so desperately needs to effectively and vividly bring its threat and characters to life. This is a throwback story to the earliest days of the Bernice Summerfield audios in almost every way good and bad, and it will be intriguing to see if this style remains the new norm or if it remains a one-off to reintroduce the two leads in their new dynamic.

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