Wednesday, April 9, 2014

We'll Need a Bigger Boat: Bernice Summerfield - The Secret of Cassandra Review

After the success of the first season, Big Finish Productions decided to develop some ongoing character arcs that had alternated between their audio plays and original novels. Three months before this release, Big Finish had begun publishing original Bernice Summerfield novels and short story collections, beginning with The Dead Men Diaries anthology and The Doomsday Manuscript. Unfortunately, the rights to some elements of the New Adventures' universe (i.e. Emile, Clarence, Dellah, etc) were not obtained, but that did not stop Big Finish from developing a new background and character ensemble which they introduced in The Dead Men Diaries and developed over the initial run of paperbacks.

David Bailey's Secret of Cassandra begins with Benny's plans for a restful vacation being upset by a minor planetary war, her yacht being shot down and leaving her shipwrecked. She's rescued by a passing ship called The Cassandra, but the paying passenger doesn't like having a stranger in the middle of her mission. The captain of the ship treats Benny like a spy which leads her to actually do some snooping around the ship, however she doesn't know who to trust, and she can no longer be sure if anyone is who they claim to be...

Lisa Bowerman is on top form as Bernice throughout the story, happily insulting the General and chatting with the computer, and other times a little slow on the uptake. Lennox Greaves' Captain Colley initially appears strangely ambivalent to the implications of his actions. His daughter, a researcher, was killed in a Calabraxian attack upon the Pevenan scientific research station (prompting him to name his ship after her), following which his wife faded away emotionally and eventually physically, leaving him bitter and tired of warfare and loss; the exact opposite of Sally Faulkner's General Brennan. Helen Goldwyn voices the ship's computer, and while it's rather a redundant role she performs it adequately, matching her voice to Greaves' northern tones very well whilst still giving it a flat, emotionless quality that is of course appropriate for a machine. Robert Curbishley's Sheen also delivers some much needed dramatic impact during the climax to the story.

Toby Richards and Emily Baker's post production work and incidental music is generally good, yet the infamous Adventure is My Game theme is used here and would remain until the next season (including both acoustic closing and instrumental versions).

As Big Finish’s first full-length original Benny story, The Secret of Cassandra is a very good way to start off the second season of audio adventures. The next release might have you confused, though…

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