Friday, March 28, 2014

Babylon Boogaloo: Bernice Summerfield - Walking to Babylon Review

With Kate Orman's early 1998 novel Walking to Babylon adapted for audio, Big Finish had apparently decided to change direction with the Bernice Summerfield range as this story involves time travel and a throwback to Benny's days as the seventh Doctor's companion. Since most of the Benny-led New Adventures were set during the same time frame (the late twenty-sixth century), this opened up the possibility to adapt other Doctor Who novels
without using the Doctor with the historical settings still intact. And with this, the loosely linked Time Ring Trilogy was born.

The audio adaptation remains largely faithful to the source material, though there were changes made relating to how the story starts with the involvement of the People - the very same People who first appeared in Ben Aaronovitch's New Adventures novel The Also People. It would've been interesting and amazing to hear a representation of the World-sphere as originally introduced in The Also People but instead, we have a silver path which the characters transverse to get to Babylon, created through the use of Benny and Jason’s wedding rings (Time-Rings!) which were a wedding present from the Doctor. Jacqueline Rayner, who adapted this novel for audio, uses this device to insert Jason into this story and the next two parts of the trilogy, Birthright and Just War, which are both based on Doctor Who novels of the same names.

The plot behind Walking to Babylon sees two rough People, WiRgo!xu and !Ci!ci-tel, voiced by Nigel Fairs and Anthony Keetch respectively, enlisting Jason's help to use the Time Rings to create a path back to Babylon in the year 570BC. This causes trouble for the People as they are not allowed any form of time travel due to their peace treaty with their main rivals (presumably the Time Lords).

As for the cast, Lisa Bowerman gives a fantastic performance as Benny (especially in the scenes featuring the psi-powered Edwardian linguist John Lafayette) and Stephen Fewell really shines in the first part of the trilogy as Jason who was largely sidelined in Beyond the Sun. The special guest star of this story is Elisabeth Sladen (The Sarah Jane Adventures) who plays the Lady Ninan-ashtammu. Although this is a small role, Sladen really brings out the character's delight at hearing tales of other's exploits and expeditions in a wonderful way as she conveys her own grief that she cannot leave the Temple due to her religious beliefs.

Alterations aside, Walking To Babylon is rather a good way to begin the Time Ring Trilogy. Bring on Birthright!

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