Back in 1992, Doctor Who had been off-air for three years. The only new stories were coming from Virgin Book’s licenced series (DWM notwithstanding) – and they decided to introduce a new companion into the Doctor’s life. Enter Professor Bernice Summerfield…
The New Adventures took the Doctor to adult and (debatably) more realistic times and places than when he was able to offer us on our small screens. As television audiences began to demand more realistic characters and situations to relate to, the good Doctor was doing what he could to indulge the masses albeit in print format. While he was away from our screens going off and becoming Time’s Champion and fighting Time Wars in his world, authors were keeping his message alive: fight the good fight.
Love and War was one such Doctor Who novel that managed to fulfil exactly what everyone was looking for, an adult novel with adult themes and relationships. It happens to be one of the better New Adventures, It was originally Paul Cornell’s debut novel and it introduced the wonderful companion that we never saw on screen, Bernice Summerfield. It also introduced the world to Paul Cornell, who went on to write Father’s Day and Human Nature, blessings in the Doctor Who world.
So it’s fitting that Big Finish have decided to celebrate twenty years of Bernice travelling with the Doctor in the New Adventures as well as having a very successful ongoing audio series of her own with an audio adaptation of Love and War.
Okay, now that the history behind this story (one of the most popular Doctor Who New Adventures ever written you know?) is explained to all of you new Doctor Who fans, let’s answer the main question: Is the audio adaptation of Love and War any good? The answer is a very firm yes, with a few minor grumbles along the way.
Jacqueline Rayner’s adaption is very true to the book that it comes from but obviously tweaks have been made to let the story unfold as an audio play, whilst this all work well there are certain elements left over from the book that leave one feeling slightly cold towards the good Doctor. His treatment of Ace, whilst in the early 90’s and alongside the story arc that was running through the New Adventures at the time would have been easy to understand, is somewhat lost here. He’s manipulative, needy and at times, self serving. Whilst some may argue that that encapsulates the character of the Seventh Doctor precisely, it feels out of place next to the warmer and more agreeable model that we’ve got used to in other Big Finish stories. Many, including this reviewer, have been hoping for audio adaptations of the Virgin New Adventures from Big finish for some time but are the novels best left in the pocket Universe that they come from? There were earlier attempts from Big Finish to convert novels to audio, such as Lance Parkin’s excellent Just War, but they only took plot ideas and cut the Doctor out of the story, this worked very well but when you include the Doctor with his 90’s agenda it does seem to show its age somewhat.
However, with all that said and done there’s plenty to enjoy with Love and War. Fleeting mentions of the Doctor being Time’s Champion or journey’s into the realms of Puterspace will get old fans smirking. Lisa Bowerman as Bernice Summerfield is, as ever, perfect and her first meeting with the Doctor is still as strong as it was in the novel. There’s a reason that the Seventh Doctor took Summerfield along in the TARDIS to see the Universe and hearing McCoy and Bowerman finally act out that first encounter with each other is brilliant.
Love and War will tickle fans of Doctor Who that have been along for the ride since the early nineties but it will also introduce newer listeners to a Doctor Who world they may not have known existed.
Enjoy the birthday celebrations of Professor Bernice Summerfield and through Love and War discover how she’s maintained her successful solo adventures over the last twenty years.
Love and War is available from www.bigfinish.com now on CD and download.