As part of the superb twentieth anniversary The Legacy of Time, we are being treated to several intriguing tales. Of these, perhaps the most fascinating (and I may change my mind when more details are revealed) is the meeting of two legendary Professors of Archaeology: Bernice Summerfield and River Song as played by Alex Kingston and Lisa Bowerman.
Benny meets River
I’m fascinated to find out what Big Finish has in mind for their meeting. I suspect (and it may be too obvious) they won’t like each other at first. In my head I’ve imagined (several times) how I would write such a scene…
INT: A bar on an alien world. Benny is part-drunk, River less so.
Hi. The name’s Bernice Summerfield. My friends call me Benny. [PAUSE] You can call me Professor Summerfield.
Nice to finally make your acquaintance. I’ve heard almost nothing about you. River Song. My friends call me River. You can call me Professor Song.
And what are you a Professor of? I’m an archaeologist. I’ve travelled to more places and seen more strange things than you’ve had glasses of champagne.
You’d be surprised
Bernice (Slurring slightly)
And I know people. [FX: Sound of a glass being drained then banged on a bar surface] (CALLING) You. Bar droid. Another of these. Make it a large one. Lager even. Just the one. My friend’s not staying
There’s people and there’s people. Now sweetie, do pay attention. I’m on your side. The Doctor sent me.
Doctor? Which one?
All of them…
Anyway, daydream aside this is an interesting event. There will be those who feel River Song was just Bernice updated to new Who by Steven Moffat. There may be more than a germ of truth in that, but also bear in mind the introduction of Bernice might have been problematic. Licence aside (and Big Finish has sorted that for this release), could the BBC introduce a major character from a non-Television source? I believe the BBC Charter implies that it be possible to make sense of any TV episode without needing to buy anything to make sense of it. This doesn’t prohibit spin-off media, but a major character from a lot of books (and audios) might be more difficult. Sarah Jane Smith has reappeared in so-called new-Who (as has Alpha Centauri) but she was a TV series character already established.
Why then make River an archaeologist at all? Why a Professor? Well, maybe it’s because it’s a good idea for a character as has been demonstrated by both Lisa and Alex many times.
Whatever the history, this story will either ignore it or reconcile it. Either way it’s a must listen!