Bernice Summerfield â€“ archaeologist, heroine, the original tomb raider and even a Doctor Who companion â€“ has done it all, from appearing as a companion to the Doctor in Virginâ€™s New Adventures, Doctor Who Magazine, her own series of books and most famously a long running series of audio adventures that has established the character as the longest running spinoff from any sci-fi franchise around.
My first encounter with Bernice was in Paul Cornellâ€™s No Future; although she first appeared in Cornellâ€™s Love and War, I tended to buy the Virgin New Adventures as I found them â€“ often in the wrong order. Immediately it seemed to me that this was an interesting character… possibly the first real companion to the Doctor after years of screamers and an Ace that was refusing to accept any form of character development beyond the world of Angst.
Throughout a range of adventures with the Doctor, Ace and future Adjudicators (2000AD-esque Judges) Roz Forrester and Chris Cwej, Bernice Summerfield (Benny to her friends) regular carried the books, whether she was central to the plot or not.
In fact to underline how important she was to the Virgin books range she possibly even slept with the Eighth Doctor in The Dying Days. This event wouldn’t have happened to just any companion. Given the depths and nuances of the character a book dedicated to Bernice has been long overdue, and thanks to the hard work of Simon Guerrier it is finally here â€“ and itâ€™s quite unmissable too.
With a foreword by Berniceâ€™s creator â€“ Paul Cornell himself â€“ and an afterword by Lisa Bowerman, (the lady who has done a superb job in bringing the adventurer to life as a popular element of Big Finishâ€™s range of audio dramas), Bernice Summerfield: The Inside Story is an exhaustive account of the characterâ€™s birth and development since 1991, starting off with the very beginning of Virginâ€™s Doctor Who New Adventures series (which for fans in the early 1990s was the only way to get new Doctor Who) and coming right up to date via DWM and the Bernice starring New Adventures range of books that Virgin continued after the licence reverted to the BBC in 1997.
Breaking down Bernice Summerfieldâ€™s adventures in book, comic and audio form to each title, Guerrier brings in comments and recollections from all of the important people in her development â€“ former Virgin books editors Peter Darvill-Evans and Rebecca Levene, Gary Russell (both as Doctor Who Magazine editor and Big Finish producer) and current Big Finish producer David Richardson as well as writers Lance Parkin, Daniel Blythe, Jim Mortimore, David A McIntee, Justin Richards and many more.
More than just a passionate exploration and history of the characters, Bernice Summerfield: The Inside Story is a resource full of rewarding snippets, locations of Doctor Who and Bernice books online and amusing stories from the big players in the characters long history.
With 320 pages of new information, comments, bad jokes and bitching from the writers and cover art illustrators, this is the ultimate account of how a predecessor of Lara Croft went from Time Lord companion to leading heroine and the star of her own range of books and audio adventures â€“ not to mention a near miss with the video games industry…
At worst an account of a charismatic bit-player in the Doctor Who universe, at best a thorough nostalgia trip to the days without Doctor Who on TV, The Inside Story comes right up to date with Summerfieldâ€™s audio incarnation as played by Lisa Bowerman who has appeared both in her own long running series of adventures as well as the odd appearance with the Doctor and Ace.
Any fan of Benny, the Virgin New Adventures or the Big Finish plays should already have a copy of this â€“ if not then youâ€™re really missing out.
Available from www.bigfinish.com for Â£29.99 Bernice Summerfield: The Inside Story is out now!