The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield Volume Six: Lost in Translation

Posted in Audio by - September 14, 2020
The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield Volume Six: Lost in Translation

Released September 2020

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

As Lisa Bowerman’s Big Finish stalwart Professor Bernice Surprise Summerfield and David Warner’s unbound Doctor return to Bernice’s own universe for the first time together, the nuances of their deepening companionship and their own certainties and insecurities come to the forefront in the four new tales comprising The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield Volume Six: Lost in Translation.

‘Have I Told You Lately?’ by Time Foley opens this set, intriguingly but wisely choosing a much more introspective and open-hearted story to reintroduce this beguiling duo that here is separated and lost in the dark with a mysterious voice the only clue to their surroundings. Granted, the story does open a little awkwardly with an overreliance on asides, but this is a necessary means to an end that not only allows for inner thoughts and turmoil to surface but also for the development of the disembodied speaker that begins as a blank slate but that quickly proves to be a burgeoning conduit for communication between Bernice and the Doctor and beyond. A Doctor and his companion are always interconnected in ways that are not always readily apparent, and that balance and reliance is taken to unexpected levels in this story as the two must learn to genuinely listen to each other while truly communicating for the first time in a long while. This is a surprisingly sentimental affair that certainly works to bring the two closer, and Foley does well to parallel the setting with those internal psyches. Along the way, Misha Butler gives a surprisingly memorable performance as the intermediary which holds its own surprisingly poignant story that causes the Doctor to even more overtly accept his growing cynicism and what that must mean about himself with an entirely new universe to explore unable to evoke real change. This is the rare story that truly enhances the audience’s understanding of the relationship between its established leads with what might normally remain unsaid allowed to be verbalized, and the result is a brilliant start to this pair’s newest set of adventures.

JA Prentice’s debut Big Finish script, ‘The Undying Truth,’ finds Bernice leading the Doctor to uncover the truth behind a legendary figure whose powers of speech and persuasion could bring even warring armies to peace. Mixing in a cynical but humorous prediction for the trajectory of advertising and marketing along the way during the explosive search for this undying figure’s mortal remains and his abilities, Prentice deftly incorporates a corporate structure that is just as heartless behind the scenes as its figurehead Euphemia is in person. Lois Chimimba is wonderfully bold and callous in this role and along with Raj Ghatak and Rosie Day helps to create a dynamic world populated by a much more insidious truth than could be imagined. The dichotomy between what is and is not said again proves to be a major driving force for this story, and the clever twists on classic tropes regarding both the Doctor and legends maintain an air of familiarity that never becomes stagnant or too predictable. And as different people assume that such a monumental power should be used for different things, even the Doctor realizes that there are clues he should have picked up on earlier while even he must unapologetically confront the path of loss, regret, and loneliness he has forged through his many years. Perhaps inevitably, the threat does end up being dealt with fairly quickly and easily once its true nature is understood, but the uncertainty and newfound beliefs it causes along the way are another highlight to the ever-developing relationship between Bernice and this Doctor which continues to be one of Big Finish’s best.

As the Doctor and Bernice attempt to avoid the pursuing Time Lords by completely turning off the TARDIS and living a normal life on a distant planet, James Goss’s ‘Inertia’ allows for another introspective exploration of its two leads. As the two take to playing board games while Bernice reads and the Doctor forms a surprising affinity for sourdough, they fittingly find that they are not as prepared to live without the wealth of resources within the TARDIS as they had initially believed. Yet between clever discoveries about their inner workings made during their games, it’s Bernice’s ever-handy trowel and the Doctor’s ever-present need to bring about change for the better that drive the narrative about a native tribe that seems unwilling or unable to progress beyond its current state. Even with the Doctor seemingly upending the established culture and the cyclical nature of life here involving a sea creature, nothing consequential happens. Instead, it’s Bernice’s further delving while putting together stories from tiles, pictures, and numbers that ultimately reveals the shocking truth about lessons that should and should not be taken from certain events and how history can be remembered and formulated as a result. Bernice’s diary comprising both the mundane and the exciting helps to build the underlying tension of this environment and the constant unease that she feels, and the climax that sees the two heroes again actively listening to each other to put into motion a plan is excellently realized and caps off a truly atmospheric yet more subdued adventure filled with intimate touches that again makes the most of the extreme talents of Bowerman and Warner and the brilliant relationship both actors and characters have developed.

AK Benedict closes out this set in ‘Gallifrey’ as the Doctor’s calls for help are answered and he soon finds himself forced to answer for his very existence when arriving on this universe’s version of his home planet. However, this is a Gallifrey very much unlike one that either Bernice or he has seen before, one that has all but completely stagnated to the extent that some Time Lords have not even moved in years and regeneration is anything but a certainty. The Doctor tasks Bernice with taking up his defence against the crime of simply existing, and when a temporal anomaly that threatens to wipe out all of existence appears to be linked to his presence in this universe, she soon finds that innocent until proven guilty is not necessarily a legal certainty to rely upon in this setting. This is a story peppered with strong visuals and enticing hints to the strange reality that Gallifrey has now become, and it’s fitting that Seán Carlsen’s Narvin is present to lead the charge against this Doctor. Of course, Narvin has become one of the most multilayered Time Lords throughout his long history at Big Finish, and his willingness to point Bernice in the right direction to aid her defence only begins to hint at the complexity of this man and the shocking lengths he is willing to go to in order to achieve his goals. ‘Gallifrey’ is a story that goes in a completely different direction from where it initially seems headed, and the stunning chemistry on display as the characters of Warner, Bowerman, and Carlsen each seek to fight against the seemingly inevitable only further solidifies this atmospheric and well-plotted tale as one of this franchise’s very best.

With any long-standing character such as Bernice Summerfield, the question following every story is what else she can do that is novel and refreshing. Six sets into these new audio adventures that followed dozens of individual releases and their own ensuing box sets, the future is as bright as ever for the archaeologist and the seemingly endless energy of Lisa Bowerman. With David Warner once more the perfect complement to the beloved character and with the direction and sound design perfectly complementing the strong performances and scripts, The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield Volume Six: Lost in Translation is a rousing success on every level that proves to be a truly effective introduction and reintroduction in equal measure.

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