BIG Big Finish Week: Bernice Summerfield - WALKING TO BABYLON Review

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Andrew East would walk 500 miles...


Walking to Babylon is the first story in the Time Ring trilogy, three of the earliest releases from Big Finish, all the way back in 1998 when Bernice was their only product and the possibility of Doctor Who audios was still a little way off.

It is easy to see from this audio why this series convinced the BBC that Big Finish deserved the licence to produce official Doctor Who audios as it is astonishingly professional in every aspect – scripting, acting, sound design and music.

Lisa Bowerman is note perfect and ably supported by Stephen Fewell as Jason and Elisabeth Sladen as the Babylonian priestess Ninan. The rest of the cast – made up of Big Finish luminaries such as Nigel Fairs and Barnaby Edwards – more than match their performances.

Jac Rayner has adapted Kate Orman’s original novel well and the script includes quite a bit of educational content: Babylon is the largest city in the world of this time; nearby cities such as Ur are mentioned, along with references to Babylon having links to Egypt and Greece. Babylonian rites, such as Ninan’s inability to leave the temple, are discussed and, aside from a slightly heavy-handed polemic from Jason about slavery, flow naturally through the script.

The only aspect of the story which doesn’t seem to quite work out of the novel’s context (and particularly the over-arching storylines of the entire Bernice Summerfield New Adventure book range) is the People. Their war with an unnamed power (clearly the Time Lords) is intriguing but as characters they seem slightly ineffectual and not really alien enough. Lafayette, the Victorian time sensitive, is far more successful and it is odd that Big Finish have never revisited the character.

The sounds of Babylon (bustling markets, lavish feasts, holy temples) – and the more sci-fi elements (time corridors and space ports) – are convincingly presented and the music is suitably ethnic and ancient.

All in all Walking To Babylon is both a fun and educational tale.

A primary school teacher and father of two, Andrew finds respite in the worlds of Doctor Who, Disney and general geekiness. Unhealthily obsessed with Lance Parkin’s A History, his Doctor Who viewing marathon is slowly following Earth history from the Dawn of Time to the End of the World. He would live in a Disney theme park if given half the chance.

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