Bernice Summerfield and the Criminal Code reviewed

bernice summerfield and the criminal codeAs the Companion Chronicles approach their conclusion I have been picking up various titles in the odd weekend sale. I have penned some thoughts on Bernice Summerfield and the Criminal CodeSeventh Doctor tale with Lisa Bowerman as the eponymous lead in and Eddie Robson story. The cast is rounded off by Charlie Hayes [Wendy Padbury’s daughter who has appeared in other Companion Chronicles] and the direction was by John Ainsworth.

The story

Lots on the product page:

The Doctor and Bernice Summerfield are on the planet Shanquis, where the Doctor is trying to negotiate a peace settlement between this world and the neighbouring world of Esoria. The Doctor should be in his element, in an arena where the fighting is done with words, not weapons.

Yet after days of talks, the situation is getting worse. The planets are on a war footing and the Doctor cannot break the deadlock. He’d planned to join Bernice at an archaeology conference on the planet, but she ends up going on her own in an effort to distract herself from the increasingly dismal situation.

Whilst there, Bernice learns of the Shanquin ‘forbidden language’, which it is illegal to read, speak or even think. As Bernice pursues the root of this obscure, archaic law, she finds herself obstructed and threatened – and realises that her investigations may have given her the only hope of stopping this war…

As synopses go this is a complete one – the twist at the heart of the forbidden language is solid and the connection to magic and power I found convincing. Story wise I have few observations apart from a slight sense of similarity to Max Warp though only because both have interstellar war and yet an amusing plot. I am clutching at straws.

The storytelling

For me this is where the meat is – the extras cover the ground well: this is a plot based story so there is lots and lots of narrative. Lisa’s vocal talents are focussed only on being Sylvester McCoy – the only other part falls to Charlie Hays. There is a gently amusing tone throughout and a big technology based story tucked away into a fairly vanilla seeming set-up. Well done Mr Robson.

[pullquote]Bernice…doesn’t need to prove herself[/pullquote]

More personally I didn’t come to Big Finish in its early days and the only Bernice Summerfield I have heard is with Paul McGann in Company of Friends and with Ace and the Seventh Doctor in Shadow of the Scourge, Love and War and Dark Flame. I have also thought that Bernice + Ace in the TARDIS feels crowded as they are both strong characters. The Bernice in this story doesn’t need to prove herself in comparison to Ace and I much prefer this treatment – this is not a comment on either Lisa or Sophie except as a complement to the quality of their renditions of their respective characters.

Anyway, in a nutshell this was fun, well made and a good example of why the Companion Chronicles will be missed.

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