Just War

Posted in Audio by - July 23, 2018
Just War

Released August 1999

Concluding the time ring trilogy is ‘Just War,’ the audio adaptation of Lance Parkin’s seminal The New Adventures novel of the same name in which the unforgiving Nazi regime occupies British soil and British citizens are being deported to European concentration camps. Trapped in Guernsey in 1941, Bernice is stranded and alone, subject to the full horror of the situation, and it’s up to her to put history back on course before the Nazis can use their planned weapon that could have a decisive effect on the outcome of the war.

The notion of Jason accidentally mentioning radar while in a bar to a German officer who would go on to create German stealth bombers is an astonishingly simple but effective one and perfectly sets the scene for the version of history on display here in a deeply character-driven story that takes no shortcuts with assumptions of good or evil on either side, with each and every character performing less than honourable acts in the name of his or her own perceived right and good. In particular, each of the Germans presented is immensely well-rounded and developed, and Mark Gatiss gives a profound and menacing performance as Standardtenfuhrer Joachim Wolff that magnificently evokes all of the classic Nazi sentiments. Accompanied by Nicky Golding’s Nurse Rosa Kitzel who is slightly more conscientious but brutally dedicated to her side as Bernice soon finds out, these two form a powerful duo that ensures the dangers of this time and place are ever present, contrasting incredibly effectively with Anthony Keech as Private Franz Hutter and Simon Moore as Private Gerhard Flur who don’t really understand what war entails and what it does to a population until they begin to incur their own losses and tragic experiences that form the emotional core of this staggering production in heartbreaking fashion.

Despite those incredible performances that flesh out the occupied Guernsey so effectively, it’s Michael Wade as Oberst Oskar Steinmann who delivers perhaps the most intense performance. This is a man who initially appears to be a sympathetic figure, and yet his ambition and utter dedication to his cause allow him to justify his actions that he knows are harmful and to rationalize the inherent flaws and dangers of fascism. He is so utterly immersed in his war efforts that he knows Bernice is lying when she says she comes from the future simply because she is not German, and he certainly forms another figurehead for Bernice’s claim that humanity is the greatest evil that she ever has to confront when he attributes Bernice’s diary that speaks of the end of the war to her own madness and then kills Franz and labels him a traitor for reading those same words.

‘Just War’ is an immense experience from beginning to end, and it allows Lisa Bowerman to give unquestionably her strongest performance as Bernice yet as she is subjected to torture and ends up a woman who can no longer feel anything as she wonders if she is still a woman of peace following Jason’s harrowing actions to save the day. For this same reason, Jason comes to life as much more of a dynamic figure than has so far been the case in this series, and his genuine anger at Bernice’s treatment justifies the continued but altered love that Bernice still holds for him. This is a hard-hitting, superbly directed and acted drama that succeeds on all fronts, allowing each character and scene the needed time to breathe to deliver maximum impact. With no shortcuts taken and no easy way out as the leads are tested to their limits and the enemies spring to life as realistic and characters with justified motivations and devastating consequences of their own, this is a perfect piece of drama that boldly shows what the Bernice Summerfield range and Big Finish as a whole are capable of delivering.

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