Secret Origins

Posted in Audio by - September 07, 2018
Secret Origins

Released September 2009

The tenth series of Big Finish’s Bernice Summerfield range draws to a close with Eddie Robson’s ‘Secret Origins,’ a tale that plays with perceptions and assumptions as Bernice awakens in the ruined city of Buenos Aires after rescuing Peter with the help of her long-time associate Robyn from the clutches of her nemesis Mr Frost who has for so long been thought to be immortal. Yet as Bernice begins to tell Peter the story of how she came to his rescue and continues to recuperate, new memories start to come back to her, and the origin of her feud with Frost holds all the answers.

Inserting a new character into the established conventions of a franchise as if that person has always been there is hardly a novel concept, but Robson offers an intriguing twist by making Bernice perfectly aware that these two figures who have supposedly played such key roles in her life don’t seem right. Yet given the need to rescue her son, she hardly has the desire to question what is happening around her, a fact made all the more confusing by her beginning to remember previous adventures as Robyn recounts them. The leaping back and forth between the present and this past that Bernice initially cannot remember is a format that demands its listeners’ attention, but the amusing array of takes on familiar archaeological and adventure sequences- highlighted by the supreme Amulet of Irony- is nonetheless an engaging progression that helps to flesh out the dynamic these three characters allegedly hold that has now advanced to Frost killing the President of Earth who bears Bernice’s likeness simply to get her attention.

Sadly, the ultimate plot doesn’t quite reach the same heights as parts of this series of vignettes, and its explanations offered at the climax and resolution are laid out a bit too confusingly to match the tight pacing and voice of what preceded them. Still, that Robyn is an android from the future that experiences time backwards and who has been sent to help Bernice avert the destruction of this city is an incredible idea bolstered by Robyn’s juggling of the future that is in her past with what is currently happening and changing. And although it likely comes as no surprise that Braxiatel is at least partially to blame for this convoluted plot, his forward thinking to find an agent who could destroy the city so as to avoid hundreds of people disappearing into a time fissure that will appear in the twenty-fifth century in order to advance his own plans is nonetheless impressive and showcases the brilliance of Miles Richardson in even the briefest of cameo appearances.

‘Secret Origins’ is a story that succeeds as a whole more than any of its individual parts manage, but its bold experimentalism fails to fully capitalise on the drama of its intriguing premise. That the all-powerful Frost is dead within the first few minutes of the story creates an undeniably anticlimactic feeling that even the characters make note of, and though Frost does become a more humanised character at the climax, the overall threat that this story needs is instead minimised right from the start. Still, each snippet of adventure offers intriguing details about what is occurring and just who Robyn is, and the continual teases do eventually pay off satisfyingly with fallout that seems sure to continue into future stories as well. With the World War II sequences playing out like traditional adventures in this range, ‘Secret Origins’ deftly mixes familiar with unfamiliar, but its somewhat confusing path suggests that a more overt presence of Braxiatel is exactly what this range requires after two series away from the Collection.

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