Bernice Summerfield – Epoch Review

Epoch

A few months ago Big Finish had a big sale on and during it I picked up the five Bernice Summerfield boxsets that take place after her 11 series run (that I won’t be picking up without downloads…) but before her New Adventures range (that I brought as they were released a few years ago), so I thought I’d finally get round to listening to them, now we’re currently in between non-currently-released Who marathons. Epoch kicks things off with… a mish-mash of genres and characters that doesn’t fully work, sadly… It’s not all bad though, so let’s press on with the review!

Synopsis:

“Gather round, wretched peoples of Atlantis, for Acanthus the Talesmith has a story to tell! A story of adventure, of courage, of a Winged Goddess searching for truth and sanctuary in a friendless city…

On the streets of this fair city, the Goddess searches for a path to the child of two worlds, but finds instead only questions and danger. Be astonished as she defies the rage of the dreaded Kraken! Wonder as she sups with the tragic Queen in her carved stone palace, high above the city! Marvel at her bravery as she gazes deep into the Further Beyond!

Come one, come all and listen! Listen to Acanthus the Talesmith and let him amaze you with his story… the story of Professor Bernice Summerfield and the Kraken’s Lament!”

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

Epoch P4

Ruth, Benny and Jack, with the Epoch in front of them, very nearly the entire cast on one cover!

Bernice Summerfield (Lisa Bowerman) – Benny remembers very little about her past, or present really, but she’s pretty sure Atlantis isn’t a real place, or at least it shouldn’t be where she is currently living, and she really must find her son, Peter…

Ruth (Ayesha Antoine) – Ruth belongs to a secret order of Atlantians called “Historians” who wish to find out what happened to their society before “Year 0”, the cut-off point thats illegal to look beyond.

Leonidas (Marcus Hutton) – Leonidas is also an “Historian”, though mainly because he can remember having a wife, but if he ever approaches her it’s clear she has no memory of him, and has seemingly lived an entirely different life…

Jack (David Ames) – Jack is an alien passerby who happened to get caught up in the reality altering plans of the Epoch. He knows that Bernice Summerfield, the other alien who happened to be on the planet, is possibly his only method of escaping…

The Epoch (Michael Thomson) – The Epoch are a group of beings from beyond time who wish to alter reality until there no longer exists a possible threat to them, be it in the past, present or future. The first of these reality-altering experiments is happening on the planet formally known as Zordin, now known as Atlantis…

Plus more!

The Good:

Epoch P1

This was certainly an odd story to kick off a “jumping on point” boxset!

Lisa Bowerman is at least still the ever amusing Bernice Summerfield, full of sarcastic quips and deadpan observations, even if she is amnesic for a good chunk of the story. Ruth is a fine, slightly dim companion for her, and the charismatic Jack puts in a good performance in Episode 4, so at least the lead cast is good.

There is some nice imagery, especially in Episode 1 “The Kraken’s Lament, which sees a humanoid version of the mythical beast try to climb a mountain where a waiting Queen is, eventually revealing that it was the old King who had been cursed. It also includes flying horses (Pegasi?) and other Greek mythical references, plus Acanthus was a good narrator, for what it’s worth. It pretty much literally added nothing to the boxset’s story, but it was fine for what it was…

The Bad:

Epoch P2

So much talking, so little achieved…

Sadly the other three episodes don’t stand up as well. Episode 2, “The Temple of Questions”, sees Benny team with Ruth and Leonidas when she begins to wake up to the fact that not only are people seemingly being rewritten, but that the ground only goes so deep before you hit an impenetrable floor. It’s an interesting set up, that only leads to an underground maze and a super computer that asks a series of questions for 40 minutes, before being out-smarted by Benny and destroyed. It just dragged on and on…

Episode 3, “Private Enemy No.1” sees Benny hiding out from a group of people controlled by the Epoch, the mysterious people behind the computer and general reality altering events, until she and her two friends find a modern building in amongst all the Greek architecture and travel to the top floor. I liked the scenes where the future started over-writing the weird Greek mythological setting, so market dealers became stock brokers and such, but that was about it. It was a lot of running and talking about possibilities with much actually happening until the final few minutes.

Then we get the finale, Episode 4 “Judgement Day”, where Benny confronts the Epoch and hears of their vague backstory and power to alter reality, and then has to watch two different versions of herself and Ruth in two different realities, before having to decide which of the three (including the one watching the other two) was real, and which were fake, with the two fake ones being erased. Again, it had its moments, Jack is really comes into his own here during a Victorian London reality, but I did find it hard to care. The Epoch are outsmarted again and destroyed, seemingly, when Benny chooses to destroy the reality they themselves were in.

Overall the villains were dull and the plots just sort of meandered before being settled in extremely uninspired fashion…

The Continuity:

Epoch P3

Get used to Bernice slightly leaning forward with a hand outstretched. That picture gets used a lot…

As this was designed as a jumping on point, there was very little in the way of continuity, which is handy as again, I hadn’t listened to the other 11 series. Benny is looking for her son Peter, and she ended up on the former Zordin at the end of the final episode of her 11th Series. That’s about all you need to know, beyond a few harmless one-liners about ex-husbands and the like.

Irving Braxietal makes a brief cameo in Episode 4. He first appeared in the New Adventures novels that first featured Benny, and has made various appearances throughout the Big Finish run as well, including the Gallifrey series and the 40th Anniversary audio “Zagreus”.

Overall Thoughts:

Epoch was not a good example of Bernice Summerfield, and if weren’t for the fact I brought the five boxes in a cheap job lot, I would have stopped here. Thankfully I can report that the next box, Road Trip, is much, much better, so let’s call this a misfire and move on the next story, shall we?

2 Star Listen

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