The first season of Bernice Summerfield concludes with an adaptation of the second Benny-led New Adventures novel, Dragons' Wrath by Justin Richards. Dragons’ Wrath is a fairly typical story for Benny as it involves her being drawn involuntarily into a web of intrigue surrounding a particular artefact known as the Gamelian Dragon.
With the villain of this story, Nusek, being a power-hungry individual out to consolidate his influence throughout the galaxy, this story is somewhat the archetype for many of the stories that followed its original publication until 1999 and to be honest that’s the main problem with this play - it feels a little over-familiar as it has been done too many times since. However, this release sure has its highlights, especially for some of Benny's characteristics. Just look at her devotion to the preservation of the past, even at the cost of the point she’s trying to make.
My biggest gripe regarding this story is regarding the incidental music provided by Toby Richards and Emily Baker - the infamous Adventure Is My Game theme that would be heard for most of Season 2 and also in Season 3 (plus as an amusing easter egg in one of the recent box sets). Today, some die-hard Benny fans consider it as a mistake best forgotten as it completely sets the wrong tone for Benny’s adventures; especially this adventure. That said, it is funny to hear Benny singing in karaoke style!
Lisa Bowerman’s Bernice continues to delight the listeners, with her quick wit shining through well in her performance, most notably with Nigel Fairs (who plays Dr Nicholas Clyde), giving the scenes they're in together a believability and strength which helps to further the drama. Fairs is quite adept at highlighting Clyde’s suspicious nature of others, but convincing enough so that the listeners don’t become overly suspicious of him until later in the story. Guest star Richard Franklin (Mike Yates) also gives a good performance as Nusek, the actor helping to emphasise the character’s nature as a threat hidden behind mask of respectability. This makes him all the more menacing in the early parts of the story, and even when things go wrong, his anger isn't over the top; just a wee melodramatic.
In a nutshell, Dragons' Wrath isn't a bad story or a great one either. It’s not a brilliant way to end this first season, the adaptation not quite doing justice to the original story that it was based upon.