Big Finish Review – Bernice Summerfield, New Frontiers Box Set


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As the Advent season approaches, Bernice finds herself faced with the prospect of an old-fashioned family holiday, surrounded by her loved ones on a world they now call home… a time to forge new memories, together… and for a bitter enemy to claim what is rightfully hers.

Life is never straightforward, however. The most haunted planet in the galaxy is requesting an archaeologist, and something very peculiar is happening at the last manned shipyard in the cosmos.

But ghostly planets and waterlogged zombies are the least of Bernice’s worries. Because her friends have been hiding secrets – about who they are and where they’ve come from… and as Bernice will soon discover, the truth will out.

Lisa Bowerman (Bernice Summerfield), David Ames (Jack), Ayesha Antoine (Ruth), Thomas Grant (Peter Summerfield), Miles Richardson (Irving Braxiatel), Charlie Hayes (Bel), Ellen Salisbury (Vonna Byzantium), Peter Sheward (Lud), Scott Handcock (Captain Secker), Tony Coburn (Crewman), Dolly Oladini (Dinner Lady), Geoffrey Breton (Lucas Catch), David Benson (Captain Kinkade), Thomas Rees-Kaye (Mobile News Droid/Clerk/Guardbot/Nik), Georgia Moffett (Avril Fenman), Sean Biggerstaff (Antonio Tulloch), Mark Oliver (Newsreader)

Well, Bernice and friends are back in this, the latest box set from Big Finish. This story follows up on the events of the previous set, and concludes some long-running arcs. As with that set, there are three stories to this one, and I shall cover them individually.

1. A HANDFUL OF DUST

Written by Xanna Eve Chown

“S.O.S. Emergency. Please send… an archaeologist?”

On a routine postal mission for a deranged millionaire, Bernice, Ruth and Jack intercept a distress signal from the most haunted planet in the galaxy: Nemeqit.

Taking their newly-christened shuttle – The Irverfield – down to investigate, the trio soon find themselves confronted with a pair of childlike extra-terrestrials; Vonna Byzantium, presenter of Paranormal Planets and part-time diva… and an awful lot of dust.

But something else is going on beneath the surface of Nemeqit, something none of them ever imagined. And this time, Bernice really can’t save everyone…

So we’re off to an odd start, but a likeable one. While this story doesn’t seem to fit in with the larger scheme of things, it was a fun little tale about a strangely Eden-esque sort of place gone wrong. Not horribly wrong, just wrong. It was a decent, light bit of fluff, with no real substance, but that’s ok. I have a feeling that the pitch for this was something like, “a distress call looking for an archaeologist”, and I’m ok with that. It’s just a decent, stand alone story.

2. HMS SURPRISE

Written by Alexander Vlahos

Mortis Dock: the last manned shipyard in the cosmos…

Population: six thousand and two…

And now, not a soul in sight… at least, until Bernice, Peter and Jack are drawn off-course.

Where have all the workers disappeared to? Why is Jack behaving oddly? And what is the secret of the HMS Surprise?

Only a stranger in a lighthouse holds the key… but can he be trusted?

This story was a bit more interesting to me, if for no other reason than the fact that we get to see that certain people are getting concerned about Peter’s relationship to Antonio. It was very well written; tense, atmospheric, with plenty of action. At no point was I bored and at no point did I have a problem following what was happening.

3. THE CURSE OF FENMAN

Written by Gary Russell

It’s Advent Day on Legion: a time that traditionally calls for celebration; a day spent with the people you love, when all the family come together, setting aside their differences… or when they bring old scores to settle.

An old foe has been biding her time, manipulating the people and events around Bernice Summerfield for as long as any of them can remember… She knows so many secrets – the secrets they’ve all been hiding – but not everybody wants to learn the truth.

Today is the day Avril Fenman comes to Legion. She comes to claim her son… and to set Bernice on her final, lonely battle. But will her friends stand by her, one last time?

And then we have a very slight stumbling block. This was a decent and entertaining enough story, but I know that I was missing a lot. There’s a lot of continuity follow-ups here, and if you don’t know, for example, why there’s a couple different versions of Irving Braxiatel running around, or exactly how Peter was conceived, you might be lost. I didn’t, still don’t completely, and was therefore a bit lost.

Despite that, though, I was able to very much enjoy this story. It provided a satisfactory conclusion to the Antonio story line, built up the back stories of all the characters, and was very engaging and enjoyable, even if I did feel a bit lost more often than not. I’m still not entirely sure who Avril was, or what her story was.

So all that done, can I recommend this set? More than the other stuff I’ve heard, this one, I feel, really does require a bit more knowledge of Bernice and her stories. So if you’re well familiar with those, go for it. Otherwise…you might be better served if you begin at the beginning.

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