For the 60th Anniversary of Doctor Who we revisit the story of Doctor Who, the occasional series written for the 50th Anniversary, explaining the origins of the programme.

Episode 31 - An Unearthly Series - The Origins of a TV Legend: First published 23 Nov 2013

The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield Volume 3: The Unbound Universe (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 9 September 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Bernice Summerfield: Volume Three - The Unbound Universe (Credit: Big Finish)Written by James Goss, Guy Adams, Una McCormack, Emma Reeves
Directed by Scott Handcock

Cast: Lisa Bowerman (Professor Bernice Summerfield), David Warner (The Doctor), Zeb Soanes (The Librarian), Guy Adams (The Sage of Sardner), Tom Webster (Acolyte Farnsworth), Rowena Cooper (Mother Superior), Alex Jordan (Mandeville/Kareem Chief/Acolyte), Sophie Wu (Millie), Julie Graham (Prime Minister 470), Damian Lynch (Ego), Kerry Gooderson (Megatz), Deirdre Mullins (Fleet Admiral Effenish), George Blagden (Colonel Neave), Richard Earl (Gallario), Aaron Neil (Aramatz), Laura Doddington (Idratz), Lizzie Hopley (Sister Christie), Shvorne Marls (Ampz), Gus Brown (Forz), Scott Handcock (Elevator) and Sam Kisgart as the Master

Big Finish Productions – Released August 2016 

The concept of teaming up Big Finish’s longest serving lead character Bernice Summerfield withDavid Warner’s alternative Third Doctor (first introduced the 2003 Unbound story Sympathy for the Devil and last heard in the 2008 sequel MastersofWar) sounds like the sort of idea that the Big Finish execs might have come up with out of desperation to think of something “new” to do with Benny. However, with the news that Warner’s Doctor would be coming out of retirement alongside the infamous ‘Sam Kisgart’* reprising his rather unique take on The Master, this box set has become one of the most eagerly anticipated releases of the year, even with the ongoing excitement of Big Finish’s new series tie-ins. This reviewer is therefore pleased to say that for the most part, this box set does not disappoint. Teaming upLisa Bowerman’s universe-weary Bernice with David Warner's Doctor and a different universe where she’s completely cut off from everything familiar proves to be just the innovation this range needed and definitely an improvement over the previous two volumes of “New Adventures”.


The box set opens with Bernice being totally unsurprised by the TARDIS’ appearance and commenting that the Doctor’s frequent reappearances in her life are like a “lazy Suzy” before realising that she’s facing an unfamiliar Doctor who has used her as part of a failed attempt to escape from his own dying universe. There is an instant chemistry between the two leads with Warner's Doctor showing a twinkle in his grumpiness that occasionally reminds of CapaldiJames Goss’ opening story The Library In The Body takes a concept from the early 1970s and puts a wholly unique twist on it, although the constantly singing nuns are a bit irritating. There are however nice turns from Radio 4 announcer Zeb Soanes as the Librarian and Rowena Cooper as the Mother Superior.

Planet X by Guy Adams sees the Doctor and Bernice arrive on a planet supposedly so boring that no one could be bothered to name it properly. What they instead discover is a totalitarian society ruled over by none other than Julie Graham in wonderfully sinister form as Prime Minister 470. As the Doctor takes it upon himself to bring the Prime Minister’s regime to an end, Bernice is teamed up with ‘Millie’, an ordinary citizen who learns to experience genuine emotions for the first time, very believably played by Sophie Wu.

Una McCormack’s The Very Dark Thing picks up the story sometime later with the Doctor apparently sat by a river doing nothing on the idyllic world of Tramatz which is apparently being terrorised by unicorns. At the heart of this story is the revelation that the unbound universe is suffering from the aftermath of a cataclysmic event not entirely dissimilar to the Time War, except this time there are no Daleks involved.

This box set concludes with Emma ReevesThe Emporium At The End, in which Bernice and the Doctor find themselves apparently facing the very end of existence as everyone attempts to escape with the apparent help of a sinister individual known only as “the manager”. Rather frustratingly, the Doctor never quite manages to fully recognise his old enemy and as Bernice has never encountered the Master before she is unable to provide enlightenment. However, it is to be hoped that we’ve not heard the last of Sam Kisgart’s memorable incarnation. Bernice shares some great scenes with the manager and the Mother Superior returning from the first story in this set.

This is a very enjoyable box set with excellent music composed by Jamie Robertson. Particular kudos should also go to Blair Mowat for his unique arrangement of the Doctor Who theme tune which genuinely sounds as if it might have been composed in an alternative version of the 1970s. Lisa Bowerman and David Warner make a fun team and it is rather pleasing that the door has been left open for them to have more adventures in the unbound universe before Bernice returns home. Yet another reason to look forward with eager anticipation to Big Finish’s output for 2017.


*The behind the scenes disc includes a lengthy discussion on Kisgart's career, for listeners who haven't tired of the joke by this stage an extended version of the interview with Kisgart was featured in a recent Big Finish podcast. 

FILTER: - Big Finish - Audio - Bernice Summerfield - Doctor Who Unbound

NightshadeBookmark and Share

Sunday, 4 September 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Nightshade (Credit: Big Finish / Lee Binding)

 Written By: Mark Gatiss,

Adapted By: Kyle C Szikora,

Directed By: Scott Handcock


CAST: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), 
John Castle (Edmund Trevithick), 
Samuel Barnett (Robin), Katherine Jakeways (Jill), 
Edward Harrison (Dr Hawthorne), 
Jonny Magnanti (Lawrence), Tom Price (Sgt Barclay)
and Carole Ann Ford (Susan)

Sound Design: Iain Meadow

Music: Blair Mowat

Cover Art: Lee Binding

Released: April 2016


The Doctor and Ace arrive in Crook Marsham, in northern England, in the mid 20th Century. In normal circumstances they would be getting a feel for what trouble is in wait, and how to counter it. But the objective for the diminutive man, who has lived many lives and saved countless more, is to abdicate from the role of Time's Champion. His energetic and sometimes volatile female assistant cannot believe how withdrawn he has suddenly becomes, and how he desires to simply travel and be an observer. But he seems adamant, and his TARDIS seems to have purposely found the ideal place for relaxation: a 'sleepy' English village.

Yet business unusual typically rears its head. People are rendered powerless, as their most intense and personal memories are overriding all of their senses. And then bodies start to be deposited, left in a truly gruesome state of decay, and attracting swarms of insects.

Amidst this wave of nostalgia and death, is the real life appearance of creatures from the 'Professor Nightshade' show. Edmund Trevithick who played the title role is suddenly having to do more than relive his past acting duties through interviews. He must actually show true fortitude, and true heroics. His fellow villagers need help, and the two odd strangers calling themselves 'Doctor' and 'Ace' would seem to hold the answers to the multitude of questions.


As with Shakedown, reviewed on this site a few months back, the source material was an original novel featuring the Seventh Doctor, and published by Virgin during the 1990s. This particular audio release is a full cast dramatisation, and follows in the footsteps of other adaptations such as Love and War, and Damaged Goods. Those two novels, along with Nightshade, were written by men who would later have a major say in the direction of the 21st century brand of TV Doctor Who. 

Given the original book being of quite significant length, and having a number of deft subplots, what transpires here is a distinct pruning. This does work, though, in giving the two hour drama some urgency. Mark Gatiss provided a fundamentally straightforward core story, which made it accessible to virtually any given reader, and which was made memorable through strong characterisation and atmospheric suspense. Boiling down the original material to an entity that is more condensed is to admired, especially given the limited track record (in terms of official commercially released books/radio) by Kyle C Szikora.


Nightshade succeeds also in making the most of this particular incarnation of the main hero. The Seventh Doctor, as portrayed by Sylvester McCoy, is notable for his self-awareness and his depressive bouts of melancholy, as well as the other extremes of excitability, contempt and fury. The peaks and troughs, in terms of how different supporting characters fare in this story, match up well with our main protagonist's weary and deeply informed responses to the various events.

It is also laudable that this play does such a fine job of having a central romance, when much of the core elements of the production are pure 'Hammer Horror'. Ace is still very much the teenager full of powerful emotions that she has yet to fully harness, and she must try and make a choice over who to commit to when things hopefully are resolved - a fellow human being, or her alien confidante. In having such a down-to-earth and normal love interest for her in Robin (unlike, for example, Mike Smith or Captain Sorin) there is an added dimension of intrigue and engagement with the fates of the main players.

Also notable, is the effort to try and be realistic and show that those threatened by the Sentience are by no means purest of heart and soul. Dr Hawthorne in particular shows little regard for those that are below him in the career ladder, and has a rather bitter air of entitlement. But thanks to his engagement with the Doctor and Trevithick, there is something to be salvaged. Consequently, the overall impact of the play's events are that much more real and engaging, and not simply escapism. Additionally, later on in proceedings, the Doctor feels for the insect-like Sentience in a way, respecting its right to survive, but still knows he carries a responsibility to the rest of universe too.


A merely good adventure is usually made strong or outstanding by having a satisfying climax. In this adaptation, I am happy to say that the dénouement has plenty of time to play itself out. It is also given some real clout by having a nicely judged cameo with Susan, the Doctor's beloved grand-daughter, and how his anxiety over deciding to leave her on Earth still resonates six regenerations down the line.

With vibrant music, authentic sound effects, and a decisive director who knows how to harness his small but capable cast, Nightshade is a nice little treat from the spring of 2016. It shows the Sophie Aldred/ McCoy chemistry of yesteryear is every bit as strong and relevant as ever. In short: one to savour more than just once or twice for any fan of the Doctor Who universe.