The Skymines of Karthos

Posted in Audio by - July 26, 2018
The Skymines of Karthos

Released September 2001

When Bernice receives a message form her old friend Caitlin Peters stating that she has found evidence of a ruined civilisation on the mining colony of Karthos that is meant to be barren except for the colonists, she is inherently intrigued. But when Bernice arrives to explore and finds Caitlin missing and the colony under attack from mysterious creatures, she has no choice but to explore the ruins to find why Karthos is suddenly teeming with life once more.

With Big Finish concurrently publishing related audio and novelised adventures featuring Professor Bernice Summerfield, it can be difficult to maintain a sense of continuity within the different mediums, but ‘The Skymines of Karthos’ crucially deals with the fact that Bernice is pregnant as introduced in August 2001’s novel The Infernal Nexus, meaning that she is less keen to haphazardly rush into danger and quite humorously resigns herself to drinking tea when offered something stronger. Strangely, aside from a moment later on when Caitlin’s husband Michael ensures that she does not take risks and offers to lower her down some rocks rather than allowing her to climb down herself, there’s not too much in the way of her condition that sets this adventure apart from any of the preceding ones other than a few too many pregnancy jokes that come at the expense of more meaningful dialogue.

Even with Braxiatel’s involvement limited to a brief cameo at the beginning, ‘The Skymines of Karthos’ actually does a good job of further fleshing out Bernice and her past through her interactions with Michael, revealing that Caitlin punched her in the eye when she learned that Bernice disapproved of their engagement because of her insistence that Caitlin not make the same mistakes as she did with Jason. There’s a mutual distaste between these two that makes for a fascinating dynamic to fuel this story, and the fact that Michael is there only to find his wife rather than to also assist Bernice with her own archaeological exploration only further heightens the disconnect between these two despite their shared overall goal.

Unfortunately, even with an intriguing backstory to the fireflies and this planet’s mysterious past that does make good use of Bernice’s archaeological skill set, the actual plot and conflict fail to fully capture the imagination. With the fireflies that swarm into the storms of fire, there’s an immense visual component to this threat, and the fact that they were originally devised as expendable soldiers in a war that was lost is an interesting development. However, Michael quite easily clears away a group of them and Bernice is uninjured when another group sets upon her, significantly taking away from any sense of menace that was being attempted. Caitlin is found in the heart of the firefly nest, hoping to use these creatures to give Michael a monopoly on the firestorms to help their financial situation, but these creatures that could quite easily use any passing starship to start their rapid spread through the universe overall become no more than a means of moving the plot along without full exploration, leading to a somewhat more subdued resolution relating to semantics and observation.

Though it seems at this point as if Caitlin will be a single-appearance character despite her seeming importance to Bernice, ‘The Skymines of Karthos’ excels with its characterisation and sound design to make an average but entertaining script into something more memorable.

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