Love and War

Posted in Audio by - January 23, 2017
Love and War

Released October 2012

Following the cancellation of Doctor Who in 1989, Virgin Publishing became the go-to source for the ongoing adventures of the Seventh Doctor in the aptly-titled The New Adventures novel range. Just nine entries into the series, Paul Cornell’s ‘Love and War’ introduced the character of archaeologist Professor Bernice Summerfield who would herself go on to become one of the Doctor’s longest-serving companions before highlighting her own series of adventures. Indeed, Big Finish produced several Bernice Summerfield audios before acquiring the rights to Doctor Who, making her an incredibly vital part of Big Finish’s history. Now, to commemorate Bernice Summerfield’s twentieth anniversary of existence, Big Finish has released an audio adaptation of her poignant and strong debut story.

The New Adventures famously treaded into far darker territory than the television series has ever dared explore, exploiting the burgeoning manipulative nature of Sylvester McCoy’s incarnation at the time of cancellation and putting both his companions and himself in the centre of the complex web of deceit and scheming that followed Time’s Champion. ‘Love and War’ does not shy away from that mandate even if it the plot itself is quite light, and it unabashedly brings the machinations, sense of betrayal, close associations with death, and vivid imagery to the forefront. Indeed, ‘Love and War’ is a prime example of the Doctor at his calculating and morally dubious best as he steers events from well behind the scenes and front lines after arriving on Heaven with a general idea of the Hoothi presence and plan and a general notion about how to defeat them. However, with a large supporting cast, the story is only peripherally about the Hoothi threat itself, focusing instead on the tremendous emotional fallout for all of those involved, Ace most squarely suffering the brunt and burden of the Doctor’s actions.

The groundwork is certainly laid here for the characterization of Bernice Surprise Summerfield, and Lisa Bowerman brings the iconic character back to life with her trademark intelligence and wit instantly on full display. However, while she certainly does help to drive the narrative forward at key moments, she by no means is a focal point of ‘Love and War.’ Truthfully, this is Ace’s story much more than anyone else’s as her relationship with Jan takes centre stage. Although the relationship itself progresses far too quickly for the incredible emotional weight afforded it, it forms an undeniably effective anchor point for Ace’s torment, especially when it’s hinted and then confirmed that the Doctor knows about Jan’s doomed fate from the very start. The Doctor does at least half-heartedly try to steer Ace away from Jan, but Ace’s rebellious nature takes hold and effectively leads the narrative to its predestined but exceedingly effective anguished climax.

Twenty years on, the virtual reality ‘Puterspace does stand out as a product of its time of release, but these elements still provide the requisite tension and emotions needed as the characters’ darkest memories are revisited. Though the sort of character drama on display here is quite common in modern Doctor Who in all of its various formats, this was quite revolutionary at the time and was instrumental in solidifying the new trajectory of the franchise. At the same time, the character of the genderless Christopher remains one of the most intriguing and enlightened characters in Doctor Who history, a true testament to the imagination on display throughout this story.

Any full-length novel being condensed to a standard audio running time will, of course, feature necessary omissions and certain rushed plot elements, and it would have been nice to delve further into the ages-old Hoothi threat and their ability to manifest through the dead. Nonetheless, ‘Love and War’ leaps off of the pages and into the audio medium effortlessly and recaptures the magic that made it one of the most beloved and important stories during The New Adventures. This era of novels represents an era hardly touched by Big Finish, but ‘Love and War’ proves that it can also be one of the most exciting, and McCoy, Aldred, and Bowerman once more prove to be an instantly enthralling team.

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1 Comment on "Love and War"

  • Shaddoe

    Very well realized adaptation. Haven’t read the original book this is based on, bit I have a digital copy of it on my laptop.

    I always love exploring the darker aspects of the 7th doctor, the Times Champion element was always fun to explore, it’s just a shame that Big finish tends to shy away from that sort of thing in the main releases, well, most of the time.

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