Big Finish: Doctor Who: The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield Vol 06: Lost in Translation, Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Doctor Who: The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield Vol 06: Lost in Translation, Review

Matthew Kresal goes to Gallifrey...

Ever since the first pairing of Lisa Bowerman's Bernice Summerfield with David Warner's Unbound Doctor in 2016, The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield releases have been a highlight of this reviewer's annual Big Finish calendar. After all, it's been something of a renaissance for Big Finish's longest-running characters and a chance to hear more from a favorite alternative Doctor. So it was that I came to the latest box-set, Volume 6: Lost in Translation, and was in for a ride.

The set opens with Tim Foley's Have I Told You Lately? Foley picks up the theme of the box-set, its lost in translation subtitle, and finds a particularly audio-centric way of playing with it. Big Finish has made a name for themselves creating episodes of Doctor Who minus the pictures, in effect, but with this three-hander, Foley and all involved present a tale that could only work in this medium. It's an intriguing science fiction tale built around a big idea, but one that's really about relationships and the things left unsaid between us. With actors like Bowerman and Warner (and eventually Misha Butler), it's everything one could ask for as a fan of this duo.

The set goes from strength to strength with its second story, JA Prentice's The Undying Truth. Prentice, whose pitch won 2019's competition to write for the duo, presents a compelling story that is tailor-made to the Benny/Unbound Doctor duo. In it, the pair land among a group of what seems to be archaeologists after the body of a mythic, but apparently immortal, warrior king. Being Doctor Who, of course, things are a lot more complicated than that, as truth replaces myth and who is funding the hunt becomes known. Prentice's script is full of corporate and information age satire alongside an air of mistrust, doing a mash of genre tropes that Doctor Who excels in at its best. Fingers crossed that this is only the first of many scripts to come from Prentice.

The back half of the set forms a mini-arc, with the Time Lords of the 'normal' Doctor Who universe catching up on this interloper from another dimension. James Goss' Inertia sees the Doctor and Benny trying to evade capture by doing something you wouldn't necessarily expect of a wanderer in space and time: settling down on a backward planet. It's a story that takes both of them very much back to the roots: Benny, the archeologist trying to solve the mystery of the origins of the primitive people nearby, while the Doctor, in an Unbound version of his exiled third incarnation, is right back where he started in one place and time. It's how they each deal with the situation, from board games and hobbies to endless cups of tea alongside bantering and bickering, that gives both Bowerman and Warner some of their best material in these roles. It's also, albeit unintentionally, given the recording dates of the set in Mid-March, a perfect metaphor for the world of lockdowns and quarantines we've been living in. If one inside a Doctor Who/science fiction plotline.

Of course, that leads us to the main selling point of this set: the Doctor and Benny go to Gallifrey. Guy Adams and AK Benedict's script had a lot to live up to, billed in some of Big Finish's publicity pieces for the set as "a little epic," by range producer James Goss, it doesn't quite succeed. Adams and Benedict create a Gallifrey story that plays a little too close to the TV stories set on the Doctor's home planet in the 1980s, especially Arc of Infinity and Trial of a Time Lord, with a callback to another earlier Gallifrey story by the time the hour's over. Though, that isn't to dismiss the episode out of hand, especially with the presence of amoral range-hopping Gallifreyian CIA coordinator Narvin (the ever-dependable Seán Carlsen) present. Or Bowerman and Warner's performances, who are both firing on all cylinders, particularly in the latter half of it as it heads towards its conclusion.

Indeed, as with the previous sets, it's the Bowerman and Warner double act that makes this worth a listen. After twenty years (!) playing the role, Bowerman is still finding new facets of Benny to surprise listeners with, due, in part, to her being with a Doctor that's not her own. Warner, meanwhile, seems to be relishing taking on the role of the Doctor once more, his performance offering up hints of Pertwee and Capaldi, a weariness marked with a sense of the adventurer. Director Scott Handcock surrounds them with some solid supporting casts, including the aforementioned Seán Carlsen and Siân Phillips, while Steven Foxon offers dynamic music and soundscapes around them. It's all built firmly around that central duo, one of the strongest in the company's output.

Even with a tad underwhelming finale, the latest New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield set remains a highlight of the Big Finish year. From three strong scripts to the ongoing chemistry of the Benny/Unbound Doctor duo, it's a showcase for some of the company's most engaging Doctor Who output. And I, for one, can't wait for volume seven.

Doctor Who: The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield Volume 06: Lost in Translation is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until October 31st 2020, and on general sale after this date.

Tony lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at

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