The Grel Escape

Posted in Audio by - August 10, 2018
The Grel Escape

Released July 2004

Following the harrowing events featuring the Daleks and the Fifth Axis, the fifth series of Big Finish’s Bernice Summerfield audio range begins with a much more light-hearted affair that sees the return of the ever-intriguing Grel and their eternal search for facts in a parody of 1965’s ‘The Chase.’ The Grel are pursuing Bernice and her friends throughout time and space just as Jason is hoping to use the time rings to get Peter to visit twentieth century childhood staples like zoos and funfairs, hoping to obtain as many facts about Bernice’s unique son as possible while he is, in fact, still a child.

It is, of course, a bit odd for ‘The Grel Escape’ to satirise a story that itself is already a comedy, and though the basics of several of the scenes are lifted almost directly from the ‘The Chase,’ the humour for the most part delivers and the Grel are used to spectacular effect in each of the many scenes without ever overstaying their welcome. Their demonstratively emphatic and literal means of speaking is incredibly refreshing, and proudly figuring out why the fair has been evacuated as they head into the darkness to meet the cause and others later coming out of the sand in Egypt due to misjudged coordinates are particular highlights that exemplify their unique presence. Even featuring a sendup of ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’ when the travelers and then the Grel appear on a football pitch and receive spirited commentary, no comic stone is left unturned in this prolonged chase in which boundaries are nonexistent, perhaps best highlighted by the beguiling Bennybot.

Still, though the story is fairly light on plot as humour and spectacle instead come to the forefront, some of the foundations for ‘The Grel Escape’ are a bit suspect. Exactly how the time rings have returned to the custody of Bernice and Jason here given that Braxiatel took them away in A Life of Surprises is never explained, and their power seems somewhat more limited than in early stories since here there is a threat of them losing power by moving this small group of people through time and space. At the same time, Bernice and Jason seemed to be on mutually understanding grounds following ‘Death and the Daleks’ in which Bernice boldly proclaimed that she wanted to be with Jason once again. Unfortunately, Bernice is just as mistrustful of him as always, and she’s actually quite cruel at some points that seems out of character for her, again with no explanation in the story before the two finally share a touching moment in which they fear the responsibility of parenthood as the time rings go amok with Peter at the centre. The tension between these two is key to their continuing dynamic, but neither is written as definitively as in earlier stories even as they come to discuss their thoughts about Peter and the future.

Within this story of Jason trying to make Peter into his version of a normal child, the inclusion of Sophia the Grel who was last seen and expertly characterised in The Glass Prison is unquestionably one of the more satisfying aspects. While the character herself doesn’t have a tremendous amount to do in this story aside from fulfilling a fairly typical companion role, her insight into the Grel race and her involvement in a wholly surprising plot twist near the story’s end prove vital to the story and allow it proceed with a semblance of narrative structure rather than as isolated vignettes. Still, ‘The Grel Escape’ is very much meant to be escapist fun rather than hard-hitting drama, and it succeeds admirably in providing pure entertainment with one-off and running gags alike without ever attempting to delve too deeply into the overall mythology of this franchise despite Peter’s central involvement in all of the affairs and Bernice’s dream that the Egyptian gods have deemed him unworthy.

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