Year Zero

Posted in Audio by - September 09, 2018
Year Zero

Released November 2010

Arriving on the planet Raster in the year 54, Bernice Summerfield quickly finds herself under arrest for simply following her natural instincts, her own recordings incriminating her for the crimes of archaeology and looking into this world’s history. Faced with only an hour during which the inquisitors will decide if she poses a revolutionary threat to their society, Bernice must determine just when and where she is in the universe, even if she must illicitly investigate the mystery surrounding year zero.

Jonathan Clements’s ‘Year Zero’ is, of course, the first story to delve into the aftermath of the monumental events of ‘Escaping the Future’ that saw history being rewritten, and thrusting both Bernice and the audience into a completely unknown location with only a specifically defined period of history to draw upon injects a genuinely engaging air of mystery into events while making the most of Bernice’s unique skill set as an archaeologist. Indeed, with only a few dozen stars in the sky and no knowledge of Earth or the Collection, it seems as though the ramifications of Bernice’s actions may be incredibly profound, and not revealing the fate of her friends and family ensures that there is never an irrevocable sense of conclusiveness about where Bernice finds herself as she tries to return to anywhere she can call home and just what could have caused such a profound impact on this world that recorded history needed to be started afresh with all older knowledge and recordings destroyed.

Yet just as Bernice is trying to learn about this culture, her captors are trying to learn about her, and Bernice quickly proves to Pallis how good she is at her chosen profession when she deduces an incredible amount of information about Raster from a simple can of fizzy. After such incredible focus on the vast ensemble of friends and acquaintances Bernice had accrued over the many preceding years, it’s refreshing to have Bernice so brilliantly in the spotlight once again, and Lisa Bowerman exudes a fierce intelligence and charisma even with her beloved character on such uneven footing right from the start. Discovering that all known books have been burnt, that songs have been altered, and that even individuals’ names and associations with others are routinely changed to ensure there is no dwelling on the past, it’s only the light of the stars themselves and the implicit knowledge and foundations that languages draw upon that Bernice can use to begin to formulate a context for her surroundings and the actions of the mysterious Great Leader while Gormune channels the paranoia of this society and becomes increasingly afraid that even brief exposure to Bernice will lead to his own interrogation.

It’s all but inevitable that Bernice should influence Pallis as she systematically deconstructs the world around her with her immense skills of observation and deduction and that she should then eventually find herself in the presence of a furtive group of historians she knew had to exist given the prospect of this crime existing, but this story that relies solely on the performances of its limited cast with intelligent dialogue and plot setup rather than flashy action sequences is a tense and evocative affair from beginning to end. The prospect of essentially resetting the entire franchise was assuredly a daunting one, but by taking storytelling back to its basics with everything except Bernice an unknown, Clements has masterfully succeeded in presenting a fresh avenue for her adventures to continue down while only further amplifying the intrigue of just what her previous actions actually did.

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