Negotiations have failed and the Braxiatel Collection now
sits within a war zone, caught in the crossfire as the reptilian
Draconians spar with the sponge-like Mim. Bernice Summerfield
and Maggie Matsumoto are racing back there with something
that might just end the war - or at least help the Collection
to survive it. That something is Irving Braxiatel, Maggie's
sort-of dad, Benny's sort-of boss and the would-be killer
of Benny's sort-of husband, Jason Kane. But the Collection
is on the far side of the Mim blockade, and there's no possible
way they can get through it. They'll just have to do something
up where The
Empire State left off, Season 8 of Professor
Summerfield's exploits kicks off with a decidedly bizarre
journey back to the Collection. But then what else would you
expect from writer Daniel O'Mahony and with a title like The
Tub Full of Cats?
Yes, the ship in which Benny travels really is filled with
felines. The vessel also boasts a faster-than-light drive
whose wild hallucinogenic trips make The
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy's Infinite
Improbability Drive seem like a sedate and relaxing cruise.
Then there's the ship's steward, Chanticleer (Diane Fletcher),
who might be a man or a woman.
trouble with the latter story element is that Diane Fletcher's
voice sounds thoroughly masculine to me, so we only have the
dialogue of Bernice (Lisa Bowerman) and Maggie (Sophie Louise
Dann) to tell us there is any gender confusion. On the subject
of misleading voices, Dann (reprising her role from The
Empire State) sounds unfortunately very similar to semi-regular
cast member Louise Faulkner (alias Bev Tarrant).
And talking of confusion, I've been trying to make sense of
the chronology of Irving Braxiatel's (Miles Richardson) recent
appearances in Big Finish's Bernice Summerfield and
Gallifrey series. Cardinal Braxiatel's appearances
Who: Zagreus and the Gallifrey series
up to and including Chapter
Seven - Pandora clearly take place before his
encounters with the Doctor and Bernice in numerous Virgin
Books novels and Big Finish releases. At the end of Pandora,
infected by the Pandora virus, he is forced to leave Gallifrey.
After years of adventures with Bernice, Braxiatel once again
finds that he must make himself scarce, this time from the
Collection that he himself founded, because of his regrettable
actions (possibly motivated by the Pandora virus) in The
Crystal of Cantus. But what happens next...?
I theorise that Brax's next adventure is his return appearance
at the end of the Gallifrey series. In Chapter
Fourteen - Panacea, his attempt to save Gallifrey
from destruction in a forthcoming conflict could be a conscious
or subconscious attempt to make amends for his misguided attempts
to protect the Collection from outside aggressors. He appears
to predict the coming Time
War, possibly informed by his recent experience
of battling the Daleks in Death
and the Daleks.
We next meet Brax at the end of The Empire State, when
Bernice realises where and how he has been hiding out - for
centuries, as it turns out - and releases him. His transformation
into the Stone of Barter might have enabled him to survive
the Time War, and would certainly explain why, in the Doctor
Who episode Dalek, the Doctor is unable to sense
Brax's existence, even though he claims that he would be able
to telepathically detect any other Time Lord survivors. Therefore,
Bernice's adventures could now be taking place post-Time War.
Further comparison with Doctor Who is invited when
Brax plays down his fatherhood - rather like the Doctor's
relationship with his granddaughter Susan has sometimes been
swept under the carpet by fans and writers over the years.
This audio drama shouldn't be swept under the carpet, though.
It may be rather spaced out, but it's an all-the-more memorable
trip for it.
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