Still stranded in a dying universe with a man who couldn’t be further from the Doctor she knows, things aren’t looking great for Bernice Summerfield.
The Unbound universe’s last hope is the mythical Apocalypse Clock. But the Doctor doesn’t seem so convinced that he can pull one of his trademark miracles this time. The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield continues with four brand new adventures. Giving the Doctor three things he should never ever have: power, responsibility and a full-time job.
The Unbound Doctor
Despite Bernice Summerfield getting top billing here, this set of stories seems to push her into a supporting role. But it does mean that David Warner’s Unbound Doctor gets a new lease on life. Warner debuted his version of the Doctor in 2003’s Sympathy for the Devil as part of Big Finish’s ‘Unbound’ series. To celebrate the 40th anniversary, this series posited a number of “What if…” scenarios. In this outing, Warner plays a newly-regenerated Third Doctor in an alternate universe where he arrived for his exiled to Earth twenty years too late. He never worked for UNIT and so all the Pertwee-era alien invasion stories had a very different outcome.
Warner’s Doctor proved popular enough for a 2005 reprise in Masters of War which saw him travel to Skaro with a retired alt-Brigadier. Last year, he invaded the Bernice Summerfield series and trapped Benny in the dying Unbound universe. Trying to find a way home and/or avert the demise of this universe, Professor Bernice Summerfield has to deal with a Doctor totally alien to her.
The City and the Clock by Guy Adams
Kicking things off is The City and the Clock, a rather small-scale adventure that establishes the strange new dynamic. It’s fascinating to see what the Doctor is like when he has to accept a position of power rather than simply flee from it. It doesn’t take long to realise why “our” Doctor has always skirted responsibility. The Unbound Doctor is a shell of his former self – weighed down by popularity polls, meetings and endless paperwork. This creates a strain between him and Benny, who, at his behest, has been searching for the mythical Apocalypse Clock. While the Doctor has always had a childish streak to him, here Bernie is the one that has to take the reins. She coaxes him in the right direction while trying to hold onto hope that he’s still the same man she knew. Against this backdrop of archaeological ruins and ethereal creatures, she may just have to accept that he isn’t.
Asking for a Friend by James Goss
The main highlight of this set comes early on as James Goss asks the question we’ve been afraid to ask. What would it be like to give the Doctor therapy? The end result is the truly brilliant Asking For a Friend, which switches between the Doctor’s therapy sessions and flashbacks to earlier events with Bernice. Annette Badland excels as therapist Guilana, one of the few people who’s ever been able to convincingly talk down to the Doctor. But beyond their usually cheery relationship lies something far darker and a sinister twist awaits as the story progresses. For all the good the Doctor does in the world, there are times when his meddling is both unwarranted and unwanted. Asking For a Friend attempts to fully unravel the Doctor’s god complex. Examining him in a way that leaves you feeling unsure about both his motives and whether his actions were justified.
Truant by Guy Adams
After the unusual format of the previous segment, Truant is a back to basics approach as the Doctor goes “on holiday” the only way he knows how. By running away from his duties and going on a good old fashioned planetary adventure. As enticing as this may seem, in reality the story actually feels like the weakest in the set. Whereas the other parts work together to explore the Doctor in a way never really done before this takes a step back. It does less to stand out among the myriad of similar Doctor Who adventures that have been produced over the years.
However that doesn’t mean the episode isn’t without its highlights. Truant presents an opportunity to explore a Doctor/Benny relationship in a traditional setting. The story itself comes with some interest debate on whether or not the situation truly constitutes invasion. Also putting in a fantastic performance is Hattie Hayridge, who many will fondly remember as the second Holly in Red Dwarf. Her knack for comic delivery lends itself brilliantly not just to the Doctor’s overworked press secretary, but also an alien who’s the last of her kind and even grumpier than the Doctor is.
The True Saviour of the Universe by James Goss
Everything culminates in this final chapter as the quality of the Doctor’s leadership is called into doubt. Meanwhile, a new candidate makes his presence known. The True Saviour of the Universe marks the return of Sam Kisgart’s Unbound universe version of The Master (listen out for his fantastic interview on the BTS disc). Kisgart’s suave Master feels the closest anyone has come to matching Delgado’s charm. While at the same time he injects his own personal idiosyncrasies into the mix. The real-world political parallels here are far from subtle but give the narrative an added prescience that emphasises the situation.
This endgame brings everything together as the mystery behind the Apocalypse Clock is revealed. The Unbound universe attempts its final gamble, with our lead trio all putting in stellar performances. Bowerman acts as the perfect straight-man to both the Doctor and the Master. The latter’s predictable motives allows for Warner’s Doctor to reveal himself as the master strategist everyone hoped he still is.
The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield, Volume Four is another joyous return for Warner’s incarnation. The Unbound Doctor is a brilliant creation who still feels like he has so many stories left to tell. Bernice may be the one in the driving seat but there’s no doubt that he’s the one that truly owns this set. Even a slightly weaker third quarter isn’t enough to stop this emerging as an engaging set of adventures. The relationship between Bernice and the Unbound Doctor is quite unlike anything that’s come before. It’s a fresh examination of the Doctor and everything he could have been. The Unbound series may have been short-lived, but its spirit couldn’t be more than alive here.
Blogtor Rating – 8/10
This title was released in September 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until October 31st 2017, and on general sale after this date.
Bernice Summerfield is still trapped in a dying universe with the wrong Doctor. Things have taken a turn for the worse – the Doctor has become President Of The Universe and, it turns out, he’s a controversial choice for the job. While Bernice works to unearth the mythical Apocalypse Clock, the Doctor’s immersed in the murky world of politics and the dark forces that are working against him. As battlefleets fight and terrible deals are done, the peoples of the universe wonder if they’ve made a terrible decision. Is the Doctor up to ruling the universe? Watching from the sidelines, the Master is quick to reassure everyone that he has no ambitions in that direction. And, meanwhile, the stars are going out…
1) The City And The Clock by Guy Adams
Bernice is on an archaeological dig for the mythical Apocalypse Clock. Can it really be the key to saving the universe? The ghosts of the planet have other ideas.
2) Asking For A Friend by James Goss
Vast wars are raging across the stars, planets are dying, and the Doctor is sat on a psychiatrist’s couch. What’s it like to be the Doctor’s therapist?
3) Truant by Guy Adams
The President of the Universe has run away. Bernice has to hunt him down, but he’s too busy having fun. Evil warlords! Impossible escapes! Sinister plans! The Doctor’s on an adventure.
4) The True Saviour Of The Universe by James Goss
Bernice finds that time has run out for the Doctor and the universe. Is this really the end of everything? Help is on hand from an unlikely quarter.
Written By: Guy Adams, James Goss
Directed By: Scott Handcock
Lisa Bowerman (Professor Bernice Summerfield), David Warner (The Doctor), Sam Kisgart (The Master), Samantha Beárt (Chamu), Ben Arogundade (Joto), Stephen Critchlow (Leonard), Ben Crystal (Hood), Guy Adams (Host), Annette Badland(Guilana), Wilf Scolding (Radio / Mogron), Catrin Stewart (Killian), Jonathan Bailey (Lakis), Rhys Jennings (Slaygar), Oliver Mason (Sordo), Rowena Cooper(Mother Superior), and Hattie Hayridge (Ebbis / Morlick)
Producer and Script Editor James Goss
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs