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on 11 December 2011
Bernice Summerfield was not a television Doctor Who companion but was introduced in post-1989 novels, and has had a range of her own Big Finish audios some of which have featured Doctor Who television monsters. She has appeared as the Doctor's companion in a few Big Finish monthly Doctor Who audios. For those that have not followed her range, this story might be a good place to start.

The Companion Chronicle range is occasionally brilliant. Three things need to be in place. Appropriate Doctor Who companions, a decent/clever/fresh story and a suitable story pace to engage the listener when there is mostly only one narrative voice. The story is in keeping with other Big Finish featuring Bernice Summerfield, but is a far cry from anything 1987-1989 and more in keeping with the evolution of the post 1989 Doctor and events. Lisa Bowerman is a good narrator playing a likeable character and one builds up a good mental picture of the seventh Doctor at times. The plot is good with two separate story threads (Summerfield's being the heavier) joining in the second episode for quite a climax as it is a very strong and memorable idea.

I always go into seventh Doctor stories with some apprehension but have to say that this story had me growing my interest throughout and I was captivated towards the end even on just one listen. Some stories take a relisten to an episode to follow events fully (The Suffering), and the occasional one, after 3-4 listens (The Drowned World) I have just lost interest. This story gets so good when it is running out of time; it is a huge risk writing/editing a story this way, but I actually feel on this occasion it pays off.
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Sixth in the latest series of doctor who companion chronicles talking books. These usually feature an actor who played a companion in the show reading a new story for the character that is complete in two thirty minute episodes on one disc. They will do all the voices save for one guest actor voicing one character.

Mind you this one slightly breaks the format because the companion here is bernice summerfield, free spirited archaeologist who featured in a lot of the novels featuring the seventh doctor that appeared from 1997-1997 and has since been spun off into her own book and then audio series.

For those who did read the novels, this story is set in between the books infinite requiem and sanctuary.

It sees bernice and the doctor visiting a planet where the doctor is trying to act as negotiator to stop an impending war between it and another planet. Things are not going well and the doctor is getting frustrated. Benny then happens to find out about a forbidden language that used to be spoken on the planet. But now you can't speak, read, write or even think it without breaking the law. It could though be the only hope of stopping war....

Lisa Bowerman proves a very amiable reader and is very pleasant to listen to as the first part positively flies by. Most of this part is set up for the storyline, but its involving because bernice's investigations are quite intriguing and seeing the seventh doctor entirely through her eyes makes him an interestying enigma. Just the way the character should be presented.

Part two is stronger because the nature of the language is quite a clever plot development. Things develop in standard doctor who style afterwards, in the way that the main situation is dealt with. But again it's all a good listen. And the last scene is very good. It's not in every one of these stories when you find who the main character is talking to. But you do here. And why. It makes very good sense.

Theres a trailer for the next release in the range at ths start of the disc, and a nine minute long interview with cast and crew at the end. A very lively one and well worth a listen.

Not the strongest story in this range but not a bad listen.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 11 November 2015
This is one of the Companion Chronicles range by Big Finish, and features the intrepid archaeologist (among other things) Bernice Summerfield. In this story, Benny narrates and performs the majority of the story, with a small part played by Charlie Hayes (interestingly, the daughter of Wendy Padbury, who played the Second Doctor’s companion Zoe).

Lisa Bowerman really ‘is’ Benny Summerfield, and she has inhabited the character for so long you can’t imagine anyone else ever attempting it. And she plays Benny perfectly in this story, which features the Seventh Doctor attempting to broker a peace settlement on the planet Shanquis. The Doctor is feeling the stress of the situation, and Benny finds something to entertain herself at an archaeology conference; the story of a Shanquin ‘forbidden language’ intrigues her greatly …

This is a story which seems to start off as one thing, and somewhere towards the end it morphed into something quite different; unfortunately, it didn’t do it totally satisfactorily for my liking, and ended up being a bit of a muddle – too many things in too short a space. The story itself therefore is not great; but it stays relatively high in my overall enjoyment levels because of the great performance of Lisa Bowerman, and the totally in-character portrayal of Benny. The cd is rounded off with an interesting talk with Lisa Bowerman and Charlie Hayes, talking with John Ainsworth, the Director.
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on 15 August 2015
Much as I liked the character of Bernice Summerfield when she first appeared in the New Adventures novels way back in the Nineties, and much as I admire Lisa Bowerman as an actor, a director and a photographer, I have to say I find the "Benny" audios and novels very disappointing, and this is no exception.
It's set in the period of her life when Benny was travelling with the Seventh Doctor, Ace had taken herself off (as she tended to do) and there was a calmer, more companionable ethos in the TARDIS. This one-disc audio play recaptures that era well, and the story is consistent with the sort of tale we came to expect from the publishers Virgin.

These tended to be long, convoluted, technical & scientific. Trying to tell that sort of story in an hour is asking too much, and Lisa Bowerman spends much of that hour in unvarnished, rather brisk narrative mode. Where there's dialogue, she and Charlie Hayes sparkle and the drama comes to life, but frankly, half way through, I lost the plot completely. What seemed to be a tale about ancient manuscripts in a forgotten (and outlawed) language somehow mutates into something else completely.

Thinking it was me, I tried again, but the same thing happened.

So I have to conclude I am not the target audience for this one.

There's a nice interview with the two actresses at the end, and I'll keep the disc for that alone, as Lisa's enthusiasm for what she's doing is delightful.
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on 20 October 2013
I didn't know the character of Bernice before listening to this companion chronicle but I feel in love with her and am now listening to more of her big finish stuff.
Well done big finish for giving us another brilliant story
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on 18 July 2011
I have a few general comments about the current series of Companion Chronicles and a few specific to this release. Bernice Summerfield and the Criminal Code has a great central idea that is ruined by the sloppiness of the execution. Big Finish are now churning these stories out at such a rate they appear to have forgotten to make sure everything is in place before they release it. Case in point: this story leaves in a passage read by Charlie Hayes where the name of the neighbouring planet (which is important, particularly when the entire story concerns language!) is muddled up and mis-pronounced. The sound design is barely adequate, the music leaves much to be desired and the overall effect is that of something too shoddy to have been put on the shelves for sale.

Lisa Bowerman reads the story well but is stymied by a ponderous part one and a turgid part two. The snag is that all the revelations are left until the last five minutes of reading time which leaves the listener metaphorically gasping for breath after the terribly slow burn of the build up. This is where a script editor needs to have been more on the ball. The Companion Chronicles are an adjunct (an extremely lucrative one) to the main range of audio plays but it needs a deal of tightening up and a producer who is much more hands on, paying attention, than the current crop seem to be. I hope there is better to come.
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