Venus Mantrap

Posted in Audio by - September 06, 2018
Venus Mantrap

Released August 2009

Following the dark and reflective ‘Absence’ that intimately explored the characters of Bernice and Peter as the two struggled through and grew because of their separation, ‘Venus Mantrap’ pursues a more comedic and tongue-in-cheek angle to continuing the many plot threads that have been weaving their way through the past several stories. Finally arriving on Venus’s moon Eros to pursue the financial legacy of Jason Kane accruing from his famed erotic fiction, Bernice is prepared to fight Professor Scoblow, her rival in love and academia, to gain control of the inheritance, but the two suddenly find themselves uneasy allies as Eros’s twin moon Thanatos moves into alignment and war appears imminent with a combination of espionage and dating the only path to peace.

Those listeners with a familiarity of the written Beige Planet Mars will come in with a greater understanding of the background of ‘Venus Mantrap,’ but writers Mark Clapham and Lance Parkin prove remarkably adept at providing all of the requisite information regarding Scoblow and her past with Bernice along with Jason’s business in quite vivid detail laden with innuendo to set the scene more than ably. With Peter spending time with his father on Earth and working on a logic puzzle from Braxiatel, the story captures the spirit of the earlier adventures of this range while still dealing head on with the very real concepts of money, politics, and crime that have slowly been gaining more prominence as the series has progressed, even picking up on the lingering plot thread from ‘The Final Amendment’ to again bring to the forefront the fact that Bernice looks just like the President of Earth.

The events as displayed are unequivocally farcical in nature, and Bernice pretending to be a sex robot while realising how laden in innuendo her normal speech patterns can be quite aptly hints at the tone of the overall story. This leads to Bernice’s first romance since Jason’s death, and though quite humorously the location of Bernice’s pants prove crucial to avoiding war, there is an undoubted element of true human drama in this relationship that lends ‘Venus Mantrap’ a needed emotional core. However, this is a perfect opportunity to truly delve into the emotional hurt that Bernice is still so clearly feeling following Jason’s death, but the story instead chooses to keep those feelings just beneath the surface, meaning that her conflicted thoughts between accepting and avoiding ambassador N’Jok Barnes’s romantic advances amidst his intense scrutiny of her appearance and mannerisms come off as somewhat unbalanced and more like needed plot points rather than true character moments.

This is the second time in this short run of stories that Bernice has pretended to be an artificial version of herself, and though the simmering wartime conflict provides a unique and dangerous backdrop further heightened by a tourist’s hidden agenda and the occasional menace of Vice Chancellor Safton Twisk, the story never manages to make that danger a truly palpable threat. This is in part by design with the focus kept squarely on the small cast of characters, but there’s a much bigger world begging to be explored here that instead draws focus to just how small the cast really is, a fact that most other stories in this range have managed to avoid. Again, ‘Venus Mantrap’ makes no secret of the fact that it is taking a more ridiculous slant on Bernice’s continuing adventures, but despite the usual strong performances, the characterisation and world-building are lacking the franchise’s usual depth and end up resulting in an enjoyable yet superficial escapade that provides truly incredible scenes in a lift, restaurant, and oratory speech but that ultimately proves to be almost all for nought once the revenue service comes comedically calling.

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