Buried Treasures

Posted in Audio by - July 24, 2018
Buried Treasures

Released September 1999

Accompanying the release of the time ring trilogy, Buried Treasures is a subscriber-exclusive audio anthology that represented the first original Big Finish stories featuring Professor Bernice Summerfield. Including an interview with the original creator of Bernice, Paul Cornell, this disc provides the perfect insight into where the character has come from and hints at just where she may be going within the audio medium.

Jacqueline Rayner’s ‘Making Myths’ begins this brief two-story collection, a light-hearted affair that seems designed to bring the more flippant and humorous side of Bernice to the forefront as she takes part in a walking interview with a three-foot hamster-like Pakhar named Ker’a’nol focused on her discovery of the Lost Mud Fields of Atraban. As tensions start to rise when the two fall into an underground tunnel after Benny insists that the myths surrounding the mud fields are simply myths with no foundation for the tales of a submerged city at their heart, even the presence of wooden shovels and carts that prove the myths to be true cannot keep the pair from continuing to verbally spar with each other in what amounts to a surprising amount of hamster and ape jokes. There’s truthfully not too much more to the plot that that other than the two using their attributes and stereotypes that have led to the jokes to allow their escape, their exploits leading to a humorous resurgence in Pakhar tourism for the planet, meaning that even its brief running time still sometimes seems a little bit too padded to naturally flow through to the end. Still, Lisa Bowerman and Sarah Mowat have an immense chemistry that makes even the more tedious jokes and barbs pass by enjoyably enough.

Paul Cornell takes Bernice down a much darker route with ‘Closure,’ exemplifying the intrinsic range of tones available in this range as Bernice uses the time rings to travel fifty years into the past to visit a very particular mother and child duo. This story is predicated upon the oft-cited moral conundrum about whether a person with time travel abilities would be willing and able to kill a child that is known to become an evil dictator. Coming on the heels of the magnificent ‘Just War’ and with some striking parallels to Earth history, it’s no secret that Hitler is certainly weighing on Bernice’s mind at this time, but the complicating factors of nurture versus nature prove even to the emotion-laden Bernice that such an action is never quite as straightforward as it may initially seem. Sara Mowat again guests as the mother Isabel, and the emotions of both leading women are wonderful as Bernice gruesomely describes the horrors that the boy will be responsible for in the future without shying away from any details. The fact that Bernice reveals that she is not here to kill Isabel’s son but instead to save Isabel from the death history originally had planned for her is a strong twist that helps further develop Bernice’s humanity and morality in these tough circumstances, and the unanswered question about whether history was thus changed or not leaves hope as the only lasting sentiment following this harrowing tale.

The two stories comprising Buried Treasures could not be more distinct in content or tone, but each offers a unique snippet highlighting the distinct perils and decisions that this time traveling archaeologist could confront on her many journeys, a fitting freebie that wisely leaves the listener wanting more.

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