As we finished listening to The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield Volume 6: Lost in Translation, the equinox happened. Appropriately enough, there’s an autumnal feel to this latest set of adventures for Bernice Summerfield (Benny to her friends) as played by Lisa Bowerman, and the Unbound Doctor from another universe, played by David Warner. There’s death, ruins and danger — and that’s just on Gallifrey! The previous set of stories had a theme of Buried Memories, now it’s all about communication — some stories more than others.
Tim Foley takes Benny and the Doctor to a dark, desolate (?) spaceship in Have I told you Lately? They get separated in the dark but find another presence on the ship — one that communicates via the ship’s intercom. The problem? It can’t speak English and has to learn from Benny and the Doctor. This leads to a claustrophobic feel as they grapple with finding each other through the limited, but growing, vocabulary of an AI. If that wasn’t hard enough, can it be relied on? What might be lost in translation?! It all leads to a sense of unease, exacerbated by the inevitable pending disaster. There’s a nice ending and this story starts the set well.
The Business of Archaeology
It’s not just about digging with trowels and painstaking effort; in the JA Prentice story The Undying Truth archaeology is big business. There are no prizes for coming second. Benny learns there are quicker ways of uncovering the past than digging and more important things than history to some people. What makes The Undying Truth stand out is its other characters, in particular Arn (Rosie Day) a wide-eyed inhabitant of the planet where the action starts. We get a few classic undying mummy tropes, but really this is all about character and viewing Benny and the Doctor from a new angle.
Busy doing nothing
For a change the Doctor needs to lay low. What better than a planet in the backend of nowhere on which nothing ever happens? Enter the world of Inertia by James Goss. Like Tim Foley’s story, this is mostly a two-hander for Benny and the Doctor, interrupted by a bit of digging and some sourdough. Oh, and natives, a sea-monster and a mystery. As we learn, it is as difficult for the Doctor to do nothing as it is for him not to cheat at every game they play to while away dull evenings. It’s less insanely amusing (in a good way) than a lot of James’s other recent Benny stories, but no less welcome.
We are still learning about Benny and this Doctor, with their relationship revealed to be ever more complex and endearing. They are very much the married couple constantly bickering, but always at their best together. There are no high stakes and it’s a very welcome relief from the slew of universe saving we are often exposed to.
(Un)welcome home, Doctor
Guy Adams and AK Benedict bring things to a close in Gallifrey. Seán Carlsen is back as Narvin, CIA mastermind alongside Siân Phillips as The Inquisitor. It’s a Doctor on trial story, and a lot of time is spent on very little. Something is wrong with Gallifrey and this Doctor is the fall guy. Being from another universe has its drawbacks. It’s an interesting idea, but to make it work on audio took a lot of time away from action and investigation.
Of all the stories, this needed seemed to take the longest to get to the point. Of course something else is going on, but even knowing what, is the Doctor justified in taking the ultimate step to save the Time Lords? Is there another way?
In the midst of Time Lord trickery and deception, Lisa Bowerman covers great emotional range, and if the story lacked a little in pacing, it more than compensated in emotion.
These New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield stories tend to be hugely entertaining and Lost in Translation keeps up the good work. There is a feeling of autumn, and at times it felt like maybe this Doctor needed to move on, or to another universe. No fear though, it seems to be a stylistic choice for this set to mislead the listener for the Doctor’s courtroom appearances. This is as good as set as any and we recommend it.