Sunday, 21 March 2010

Bernice Summerfield: The Bellotron Incident

Bernice Summerfield and the Bellotron Incident is a surprisingly solid play. Mick Tucker’s script isn’t as clever or witty as some of his predecessors but does hold a tight, well delivered story. The actual plot concerns a planet whose orbit takes it between Sontaran and Rutan lines, which seems a little pedestrian at first but does boast a few genuine surprises throughout. The appearance of Bev Tarrant appears odd on first glance but actually she turns out to be a natural fit, and there’s not a single weak performance from the cast.

The setting is well fleshed out by plenty of military banter between Peter John and Karl Hansen, and although this won’t go down as one of the greatest double acts in history they do convince as nervous peacekeepers. It toes just the right line between political chit chat and constant motion, and the threat of endless bureaucracy dooming a planet is believable enough to get the blood pumping.

Joseph and Brax both make brief appearances but the majority of this play is about the newcomers; Commander Ryan, Captain Quilby and Bev Tarrant. That Commander Ryan knows Brax, quite well by the sound of it, and is able to summon at a moments notice, is quite telling about Irving’s extended sphere of influence.

Knowing that the story is about shape shifting aliens, its no surprise that there are a few twists concerning characters who aren’t who they appear. It’s almost expected. However, even then, right at the end, it has a few surprises. If you’ve heard Nev Fountains Omega, which contains one of the greatest twists in a Big Finish play to date, this play pulls something just as outrageous and it got there first by four months.

Bev looks like a fairly natural fit for the Bernice Summerfield series. The audio gives a hint for potential tension and similarities between her and Bernice. By having a more gung ho, less scrupulous leading female there could be some interesting developments down the line. However the only scene you can really trust is the two of them drinking together at the end, comparing how they both know ‘HIM’.

Seems everyone’s had a trip with the Doctor.

Recommended as a good, solid, solitary adventure. It doesn’t rely on previous knowledge and it won’t leave you wanting more. But what’s here is exactly what needs to be; despite the fairly weak Rutan voice.

9 / 10

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