First an apology. Big Finish released Doctor Who: The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield Volume 05: Buried Memories back in September 2019. For no particular reason this collection became trapped in the black hole containing my Big Finish backlog (I have some sale items dating back many years!)
Now I’ve listened this has become one of my favourite releases of 2019. I’ll explain…
There’s something very reassuring about the pairing of Lisa Bowerman’s Bernice Summerfield and David Warner’s unbound Doctor. After the previous two boxsets (here and here) in this New Adventures range I really like having four far less high drama / universe saving / Master /… stories. Instead we are treated to four stories from four new to Big Finish writers. Each story (as the title may suggest) has a link to archaeology. They also explore the dynamic between the characters rather well.
Each writer does a great job and all should be encouraged, no compelled, to produce more stories. And soon!
Alyson Leeds brings us Pride of the Lampian:
Bernice Summerfield finds the last relic of a lost civilisation. One that the Doctor is worried may never have existed.
Starting in a galactic car boot sale, Bernice finds a relic that leads her to obscure records and thence to the discovery of a lost race that may not be lost after all. They may also want a place in history, not to be forgotten.
It’s a great story, putting Bernice centre stage in a way she wasn’t in the more crowded earlier sets. Even if we can see much to the resolution coming, it’s a great listen and balances the Doctor’s role as fact checker with Bernice’s as decision maker.
Doris V Sutherland wrote Clear History:
The people of Civitas-G have retreated into an idyllic recreation of their homeworld. And they’re refusing to believe that it is now breaking down.
Once Bernice wrote a paper about Civitas-G – a world whose inhabitants have migrated to a utopian virtual reality. With the opportunity to visit, surely things will be a perfect as she always thought they would?
Doris brings out great range from her secondary characters. There’s a shopkeeper who starts as a comic turn and a lost soul who is the narrative centre of events. Bernice and the Doctor find themselves trapped and on the run as they pursue the mystery of a forgotten girl, the puzzle of lost history and the matrix like powers of those able to exploit bugs in the system. There are lots of moments raising questions about identity as well as the usual adventuring.
April McCaffrey’s Dead and Breakfast is third:
Bernice and the Doctor are trapped on a planet where people who are unusual have a habit of dying. They’re in trouble.
The synopsis gives nothing away. Visiting a dig (and posing as a married couple), we soon find out about strange deaths. Who gets the blame? Who are the only strangers? Yes, Bernice and the Doctor.
What makes this interesting is not just the usual archaeological myth has grain of truth and mad ancient being at its core story but the intriguing world the story is set on and the landlady of the guest house where they are staying. I’ll just mention war-veteran cyborg and leave it there.
Lani Woodward closes off proceedings with Burrowed Time:
Centuries ago the Byrinthians were wiped out. Apart from one underground train which is still travelling the tunnels of this long-dead world. With a passenger on board.
This is most poignant of all the tales as Bernice finds the lost train, learns some of its secrets and meets the last passenger. There are ghostly figures, stubborn AI and the local archaeologists along with the realisation fate has not been kind to the last people to travel on a Byrinthian train.
Lisa has plenty to do alongside the excellent Anita. In many ways it’s about the important things in life.
I’m not ignoring the fact this is a series with a female lead and all the writers are female but I have no point to make in this context without sounding superficial.
I’m most interested by how good the stories are and these are all good.