Bernice Summerfield – Road Trip Review

Benny Road Trip

Benny’s second boxset release, Road Trip, actually feels more like it was created after the run of boxes and just set “during the time Bernice was on her way to Legion”, as that plot thread from the end of Epoch doesn’t arrive until a 10-minute post credit sequence. That being said, for three stand-alone stories, it’s actually a good bunch of audio dramas, so I’m certainly not complaining after the far more dull start to this run… so let’s take a closer look!

Synopsis (of Part 1 “Brand Management”):

“You’re listening to Live Audio Stream G371, the only official source of government approved easy listening entertainment, as sponsored by the Dominicci Corporation. It’s the thirteenth day of the thirteenth month, and that means just one thing, people — it’s time to PARTAYYY…!”

Bernice Summerfield needs a job. Professor Harry Burtenshaw thinks she’s just the ticket. But with the people of Lyndyaz celebrating their most important festival, and the ruling Dominicci Corporation maintaining control with draconian glee, has Bernice turned up in the wrong place at the wrong time?

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

Benny Road Trip Cover

The overall boxset cover, with our lead duo! (Yep, nothing else to say really…)

Bernice Summerfield (Lisa Bowerman) – Benny is on the trail of the allusive planet known only as Legion, where she wishes to reunite with her son Peter. Sadly getting to a planet  you have no idea where it is can prove rather tricky…

Ruth (Ayesha Antoine) – Ruth thought she was dead after the events with The Epoch, instead she woke up on an alien world in the future. She soon made her way to Lyndyaz and hoped that by becoming an archeologist herself and spreading the right rumours, she might reunite with Benny again…

Gabriella and Federico Dominicci (Anjli Mohindra and Robbie Webster) – The two heads of the Dominicci Corporation, who just can’t get along despite all the wealth and power they have…

Mother Aurelia (Jacqueline King) – Aurelia is a bit of a mystery to a lot of people, and when a bunch of dead bodies start appearing, she seems surprisingly nonplussed about it all…

Sister Marianne (Charlie Langdell) – Sister Marianne is a nun of Saint Celestion, where she has had the displeasure of discovering a body, her first of many…

Professor Melville Trout (Ian H Watkins) – Professor Melville is a mole-like creature with a nose for sniffing out long-buried artefacts and ruins, making him a very good archeologist, even if others in the field think he’s “cheating”.

Dr. Carol Bauer (India Fisher) – Dr. Bauer is one of the few survivors left alive on the holiday world of Kaff Zarnak, and she wishes nothing more than to escape the hell that she’s living in… or maybe get back at the one responsible…

Yukon 9 (Scott Arthur) – Yukon 9 is a Killoran, a wolf-like humanoid race, who is also one of the few survivors left on Kaff Zarnak. He likes to recite poetry in times of high stress (a.k.a. all times at the moment…)

Dr. Jared Jones(Arthur Darvill) – Dr. Jared Jones was a geneticist and a billionaire who build the resort on Kaff Zarnak and made his big tower in the shape of a double helix. It was all going so well… Then the planet fell into an apocalypse. Whoops!

Ray (Alan Ruscoe) – Ray is an intergalactic cabbie who has the displeasure of carting Benny and Ruth towards Legion, and getting dragged down to Kaff Zarnak along the way…

Plus more!

The Good:

Benny Road Trip P3

Wait a minute, what’s Charley Pollard doing here?!

All three stories had their good points, but my favourite of the bunch was Episode 3, “Paradise Frost”, as it was just a good old-fashioned sci-fi survival horror story. Benny and Ruth (with cabbie Ray) are pulled down onto a once idyllic planet named Kaff Zarnak and soon make their way to a tower where two surviving people inform them that the only other race on the planet was a group of large killer “Sandroaches”. As the cab was out of action, the five hatch a plan to escape using the former boss’s private ship at the top of the tower, leading to that classic “make it to this location using a path filled with danger, peril and jump scares” formula, but it’s done really well. There is some good plot teasing as well, with Dr. Bauer clearly hiding some big secret, and eventually the former owner Dr. Jones being half Sandroach and revealing it was Bauer who poisoned the water the mutated all the residents. In general it was just a really good survival horror side-step.

Episode 1, “Brand Management” had some fun ideas in it, including a corporation buying a bunch of religions and using them as marketing tools, to the point where there was a new celebration every week, or day sometimes. Benny arrives and eventually pieces together that the “Day of the Beneficiary” was actually about her, and that somehow a religion had started up while she was frozen in a pod on Mars. It’s here she meets back up with Ruth, who serves well as a companion asking Benny questions so some exposition can be dropped without too much awkwardness. Anyway, Benny and Ruth (and Ruth’s older archeologist teacher) eventually bring down the Dominicci Corporation on their way off towards Legion (well, Benny and Ruth are off to Legion, less the professor).

Episode 2, “Bad Habbits”, has Benny and Ruth go undercover as Nuns so they can find a holy artefact that has coordinates that point towards Legion. During their escapades there are several murders, an amusing mole-like rival archeologist, and a general murder mystery plot that was ironically egged on by Mother Aurelia, who is an amateur crime novelist and was using the experience as inspiration for her next book. It actually turned out that way-to-innocent Sister Marianne was behind it, as she was a member of a shadowy cult known as “The Council of Ten”. Lots of laughs, some good bursts of action, and generally a blast to listen to.

The Bad:

Benny Road Trip P1

The covers are certainly a step up from the last set too…

While it did do a good job of setting up the next boxset, I can’t help but feel that a small sting at the end of Episode 3 of Benny meeting Braxietel and then her son would have been better than a 10-minute sketch with the three (and Jack, returning from the last set). It’s not that it was bad, but it seemed overly long for a post-credit teaser, to the point where I was wondering if this was actually a four-story set after all…

Also, although it worked out well given the story quality, it seems odd to side track Benny in some stand-alone stories the second box into a story arc…

The Continuity:

Benny Road Trip P2

I forgot about the dinosaur in the catacombs… is a sentence not very often written…

Benny on the hunt for the planet Legion, Ruth and a few other bits are all continuations of the previous box set, “Epoch”. Unsurprisingly the cliffhanger will lead directly into the next set…

Yukon 9 is a Killoran, a species that had previously been heard in two Sixth Doctor audio stories, “Arrangements for War” and “Thicker Than Water”.

Overall Thoughts:

Road Trip feels most inconsequential, which is odd given it’s only set two, but at the same time it led to three really good stand alone stories, so I can’t really complain! Hopefully as we rejoin the main storyline next set, it keeps the quality but adds some deeper narrative…

4 Star Listen

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