Click here to return to the main site.

Audio Drama Review


Bernice Summerfield
The Story So Far
Volume Two


Starring: Lisa Bowerman
Publisher: Big Finish Productions
RRP: £25.00 (CD), £20.00 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78703 588 1 (CD), 978 1 78703 589 8 (download)
Release Date: 31 October 2018

One remarkable archaeologist. Three remarkable adventures. The Valeyard! The Drahvins! The Doctor! Celebrating 20 years of Bernice Summerfield at Big Finish with three new full-cast dramas from different periods of her life…

The story so far: two box sets have been released to mark two decades of audio adventures with the historian and occasional TARDIS traveller, Professor Bernice Summerfield. I’ve reviewed one volume already. Now for the other one…

In the interviews on the final disc of this collection, a light-hearted remark is made about the fact that when Doctor Who was 20 years old, the cast were dispatched to a freezing cold quarry in Wales, a fate that Lisa Bowerman and her co-stars have been mercifully spared! Still, these box sets do have something in common with The Five Doctors, in that they bring together the main character’s various incarnations from throughout time. Yes, I know Benny hasn’t regenerated in the same way that the Doctor has done, but her series has gone through a continual process of change and renewal, passing through numerous distinct phases. Three of those eras are revisited here – two of which feature the Doctor himself.

The previous volume of The Story So Far playfully toyed with the Doctor Who universe, alluding to elements such as the Doctor and the Daleks without directly mentioning them. This one dives in head first. Though you will find no conventional incarnations of the Time Lord here, there are two alternate versions. The first of them is encountered in Every Dark Thought, written by Eddie Robson…

The Doctor has asked for Benny’s help digging up some mysterious ruins. He claims they hold the key to defeating his enemies, but they contain the secret of eternal life. Why would the Doctor want that…?

Robson’s story is set during an unspecified point in Benny’s life. We cannot use the theme music as a clue for placement, as we can with certain other entries, because what follows the cold open is the Doctor Who signature tune from 1986. What is clear is that the archaeologist already knows the Doctor, is aware of his ability to regenerate, and has briefly resumed her association with him. What she doesn’t know is that this Doctor is the evil version from The Trial of the Time Lord – that’s not a spoiler, as the presence of the Valeyard (Michael Jayston) is made apparent by this product’s blurb and cover illustration. That Benny is initially fooled is made believable by the fact that both she and we have met similarly grumpy old Doctors in other adventures, as portrayed by Peter Capaldi and David Warner (more from him later)… so come to think of it, maybe Every Dark Thought takes place after Benny has met those chaps, despite this story’s position at the beginning of the box set.

On screen, the Valeyard was described to the Doctor as “the distillation of all that’s evil in you, untainted by virtue, a composite of your every dark thought” – hence the title of this piece. Since the Valeyard was supposed to be “an amalgamation of the darker sides of your nature, somewhere between your twelfth and final incarnation”, one would be forgiven for wondering whether the Valeyard should still exist. After all, we are now way past the Doctor’s twelfth incarnation and what should have been his final one. Fortunately, the villain explains, in nicely psychological terms, that he is always in the Doctor’s future: “I cannot be averted, only postponed.”

This is not the first time that Jayston has reprised his role for Big Finish, but it’s always good to have him back. He sounds noticeably older now, but that actually suits Robson’s plot, in which the Valeyard is desperate to extend his life.

Though the Seventh Doctor does not appear in this collection, this dark tale of a manipulative incarnation has a very New Adventures flavour to it. Benny has even more reason to question the Time Lord’s ruthless tactics here. Add to this a bunch of revolting cybernetic gastropods called the Caragot (slurpingly voiced by Ross Ford), and I am left with positive feelings about Every Dark Thought.



Benny and her friend Ruth honestly don’t mean to cause a revolution. When they crash land on the planet Drahva, they just want to get off it immediately. But the fearsome matriarchy has other ideas for Benny and Ruth. For one thing, they need a new empress...

In contrast to the darkness of the preceding tale, and indeed the next one, Empress of the Drahvins is a lighter and jollier affair. David Llewellyn’s script takes us back to Benny’s travels with Ruth Leonidas (Ayesha Antoine). Jack McSpringheel is not present, so this is probably set around the time of their Road Trip. There’s an entertaining rapport between the two ladies, the latter of whom briefly allows privilege to go to her head.

And in a refreshing change from surrounding adventures in which Benny is partnered with men, here it’s all girls together, as we have the return of not only Ruth, but also the Drahvins from Galaxy 4. Reviving a Doctor Who adversary from a partially missing serial from 1965 is a tad niche, but then this range has a knack for resurrecting obscure, one-off foes from the Time Lord’s past – see also the Monoids in The Kingdom of the Blind and the K1 robot in The Relics of Jegg-Sau.

This is not a sequel but a prequel to Galaxy 4, set at an earlier point in the Drahvins’ history, before they had achieved interstellar travel. Because of this difference the story could, to an extent, have involved any old sci-fi matriarchy (one aspect of the plot reminded me of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Angel One), but in common with the Drahvins of Doctor Who’s third season, their society makes use of cloning technology.

Far from being a clone of Galaxy 4, Empress of the Drahvins recaptures the era (I’d better not say epoch) of the Road Trip two.



Annis is an archaeology lecturer at a university, under fire from friends, students and the police for holding entirely the wrong view of history. The only person who seems to believe her is a mysterious professor…

The two volumes of The Story So Far end as they began, on the campus of an academy. The final tale, by Una McCormack, takes place during Benny’s most recent phase, when she was partnered with David Warner’s Doctor in an alternate ‘Unbound’ universe for the last two New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield box sets.

As The Angel of History begins, though, it doesn’t seem to be an adventure of Bernice Summerfield at all. We find Lisa Bowerman playing an archaeology tutor at a university (so far so good), but people keep calling her Annis, and she doesn’t see anything unusual in this. Indeed, she is more concerned about why a curmudgeonly professor insists upon addressing her as Summerfield. To say much more would spoil the plot for you, but this is a highly untypical example of Benny’s exploits with the Doctor and a decidedly peculiar way to round off an anniversary celebration.

However, the events that unfold are undeniably moving and tragic. They reflect many real-life injustices from history and the present day, and are made all the more powerful by the fact that there is no obvious means of escape for Bowerman’s character – this time, she cannot simply repair a spaceship or board the TARDIS and get the hell out of there.

Ultimately, this is a lesson from history, which is surely what a story involving an archaeologist should be. Let’s hope that Professor Summerfield will continue to teach us for many more years to come.


Richard McGinlay

Buy this item online

Each of the store links below opens in a new window, allowing you to compare the price of this product from various online stores.