Franchise: Bernice Summerfield
Lisa Bowerman as Benny.Bernice Summerfield
is a long-running franchise about the titular interstellar archaeologist from 2540, whose adventures take place across hundreds of books, audio plays and other media. Though it originated in the Doctor Who Expanded Universe
and still takes place in the world of Doctor Who
, the Bernice Summerfield line spun off into its own continuity over a decade ago.
Benny was originally created by Paul Cornell
(known best for "Human Nature"
/"The Family of Blood"
) in 1992, as a companion to the Seventh and Eighth Doctors in the Doctor Who New Adventures
novels. When Virgin Publishing lost their license to release Doctor Who
novels, they continued their line (now called just New Adventures
) around Benny's solo career.
The series focuses on classic adventure as well as the relationships between its characters. Benny travels across the universe to right wrongs, explore new planets, and prevent the end of the world on many occasions. Joining her are her ex-husband Jason Kane
, her friend Bev
, her son Peter
, a Time Lord named Irving Braxiatel
, and many other friends and adversaries. And unlike the Classic Doctor Who
TV series, the Bernice Summerfield
range tends to deal with very mature themes. The stories don't shy away from war, torture and death, but also celebrate love and sex (Benny being from an almost Free-Love Future
) and show relationships in a realistic way.
In addition to the New Adventures
novels, Bernice has an audio series produced by Big Finish
. The Audio Play
canon consists of adaptations of Benny's novels (sometimes directly, sometimes loosely) as well as original stories, frequently intersecting with other Big Finish ranges set in the world of Doctor Who
. With some stories labeled as a "Side Step" to canon, some being released as standalone specials and others referring to the events of the novels as taking place in the same continuity, the canon is all in all one hell of a tangled mess. This is made even more complicated by the fact that Braxiatel, Benny's employer, also appears prominently in the Gallifrey
audios, where one or more versions of him may or may not exist at the same time and loop back in on their own timelines, crossing over with Benny's plot. Because of all that, the Bernice Summerfield canon has quite a few Broad Strokes
, and can be approached from a wide variety of starting points.
It is one of the Expanded Universe
's most successful spinoffs, and celebrated its 22nd anniversary in 2014.
For recaps of the audio episodes, see the Big Finish Doctor Who page
.Big Finish Bernice Summerfield page is here.
Bernice Summerfield provides examples of the following tropes:
- Action Girl / Action Mom
- Acting for Two: Often. Prominently in The Mirror Effect, but also the clones (and robots!) in Glory Days, The Grel Escape and The Final Ammendment.
- Adapted Out: Two of the early audio dramas (Birthright and Just War) were based on novels that originally featured the Doctor and his companions (Ace in both, Roz nad Chris in the latter). In the audio versions, they are dropped, and their roles are mostly taken by Jason.
- Adventurer Archaeologist... in space!
- All Just a Dream: The Masquerade Of Death.
- Aloof Big Brother: A bit. Braxiatel is kind of this to the Doctor, although it never really comes up in the Big Finish series, due to Writing Around Trademarks.
- Ancient Astronauts: Very common, and also the subject of Benny's doctoral dissertation.
- And I Must Scream: all too often. The fate of the Monoids in The Kingdom of the Blind, for one, and the nature of the hyperdrive in A Tub Full of Cats for another.
- Artifact Collection Agency: The Braxiatel Collection
- Big Damn Kiss: Benny tackles the Eighth Doctor to the bed during their goodbye, after their first adventure together.
- Canon Immigrant: The Cwejen, originally from Faction Paradox, appear in The Adventure of the Diogenes Damsel.
- Character Name and the Noun Phrase: "Professor Bernice Summerfield and the..."
- Classy Cat-Burglar: Beverly
- Comically Missing the Point: Brax: "And that's another thing you're misremembering! I spent the last cosmic cycle as a rock, not under one!"
- Continuity Nod: "You know, Braxiatel... that thing in your head... it's still there."
- Creator Cameo: Being audio, there've been quite a few. Director Gary Russell in The Crystal of Cantus (although fans love to try and spot Russell's cameos, there's so many), writer Joseph Lidster in The Summer of Love, writer Mathew Sweet in Diet of Worms and writer Scott Handcock as Plato(!) in The Oracle of Delphi. Actually, from Epoch onwards, most of the bit parts are played by Gary Russell's co-director/producer/writer Scott Handcock, who seems to have taken over the role of being Big Finish's Alfred Hitchcock.
- Crossover: Frequently. Benny's sometime boss, Braxiatel, is the same character that appears in Gallifrey; Ace occasionally visits; and Iris Wildthyme has popped up a time or two. The Daleks showed up in Death and the Daleks. The Doctor himself appears in 'The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield' box-set.
- Does Not Know His Own Strength: Peter. Braxiatel manipulates him into killing Jason due to this.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: A couple of characters, notably...
- Miss Jones (repeatedly!)
- The Jason Clones.
- Everybody is Single: Thanks, in part, to Executive Meddling. Benny marrying Jason really was going to be her happy ending and departure from the New Adventures. Then the editors lost their license to Doctor Who, and decided to re-launch it around Benny. Since she'd have to be single for romantic subplots, Benny and Jason's marriage was deep-sixed. They still love each other deeply, though, frequently have sex, and genuinely look out for each other throughout their adventures.
- Face-Heel Turn: Robyn, in Resurrecting the Past.
- Fantastic Racism: During the Fifth Axis occupation especially.
- Final Solution: Hass's extermination of the Mim.
- Free-Love Future: Almost, but not quite. Benny is an Ethical Slut, as is Jason, but both can get very jealous and value some level of monogamy. And people from Benny's university may be more enlightened about sexual matters than kids from our time, but there's still the occasional character who's in the closet, or ashamed of their sexual preferences.
- Future Imperfect: Benny catches people out on their knowledge of history, and is not infrequently caught out herself. (She thought Star Trek was a documentary.)
- Half-Human Hybrid: Benny's son, Peter; a case of Human Mom, Non-Human Dad.
- Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Loves — loves — beer, and has long since given up on the idea of ever having slim thighs.
- Ink-Suit Actor:
- Actress Lisa Bowerman has been the voice of Benny since the first audio dramas featuring the character were produced in 1998. She coincidentally resembled the artistic rendering of Benny dating back to the character's first appearance on the cover of the novel Love and War in 1992. As Bowerman became more identified in the role, artistic renderings of Benny began to resemble her more. The 2010 CGI animated short Dead and Buried based Benny's appearance on that of Bowerman (with elements from earlier renderings tossed in). Beginning with the September 2011 release Epoch, Big Finish begins using straight photographs of Bowerman for the cover art.
- The same goes for most of the cast. In The novels, Jason was short-haired and blond◊ and then Stephen Fewell◊ was cast. The changes in illustrations that have resulted are obvious◊. Bev Tarrant was sketched to resemble Louise Faulkner and Peter looked a little like Thomas Grant (until they started using photographs on the covers, from which we can conclude that Peter looks exactly like Grant but with dog-ears-and-nose).
- The only cast members that have escaped it are those playing non-human characters such as Harry Myers (Adrian/Hass), Stephen Wickham (Joseph/Doggles) and Miles Richardson (Braxiatel), although Richardson escaped it for different reasons: nearly a decade before Big Finish was founded Brax made his first appearence in the novels, described by Benny as "slightly older than her with angular but still attractive features". Now look at who they cast◊. It is uncanny. So they didn't bother to change the artistic renderings beyond his suit. (N.B. There is a joke amongst fans that Miles Richardson is the alias for Braxiatel's human self, just waiting to open a fob-watch). Even more spookily, the first illustration depicting Braxiatel◊ (from the cover for the 1997 Virgin New Adventures novel Happy Endings) bears a startling resemblance to Miles Richardson (or a younger version of the actor's father).
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo
- Little Old Lady Investigates: Parodied in Ship of Fools with the character of Agatha Magpole.
- Manipulative Bastard: Braxiatel, from The Crystal of Cantus onwards. And earlier than that — he's been one that since at least The Mirror Effect.
- Musical Episode: The Worst Thing in the World, said "worst thing" being Bernice Summerfield singing an obnoxiously cheerful, obnoxiously catchy musical number to save the day.
- Nonindicative Name: The People. They're made up of several races, none of which are human beings.
- Not as You Know Them: Chris Cwej, although not as much as in Faction Paradox stories.
- Out with a Bang: The Greatest Shop in the Galaxy
- Opposite-Sex Clone: Maggie to Braxiatel.
- Oh No It Isn't!, both pantomime and deconstruction of pantomime.
- The same goes for The Masquerade Of Death.
- Petting Zoo People: And how. Benny's babydaddy is a wolf/ape alien, one of her close friends is an enormous sentient hamster, and another is a squid-headed humanoid.
- Put on a Bus: Parasiel, at the end of Collected Works. Also several of the minor characters.
- Robot Buddy: Joseph
- Single-Biome Planet: The water planet Maximediras. It's also a complete hole.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: Benny and Jason
- Snark Knight: Benny
- Space Opera
- Spaceship Girl: The Secret of Cassandra
- Stupid Jetpack Hitler: Just War
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Hass's threat to nuke Braxiatel.
- The Time Traveller's Dilemma: Return of the Living Dad.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: As its name suggests, Timeless Passages.
- Veganopia: Benny's home society ate engineered meats only. Benny views food derived from an actual animal with vague distaste.
- Vichy Earth: The Braxiatel Collection, during its occupation by the Fifth Axis.
- Wham Episode: Several:
- Where Angels Fear... The planet Dellah gets invaded by the Gods. Everyone evacuates. Clarence dies, and Emile becomes possessed by a demon.
- The Mirror Effect: Everyone tries to kill each other. And Brax is revealed to be a really evil bastard.
- Life During Wartime: The Collection is invaded. By Benny's dad. And the Daleks.
- Resurrecting the Past: Braxiatel's plans come together. Robyn tries to kill Bernice, but Hass kills Robyn first and accidentally starts a trans-temporal war.
- Escaping the Future: Everybody dies. But that's okay, because all of history (and established continuity) is completely rewritten.
- Writing Around Trademarks: Not so much this as keeping distance from the parent series — Daleks and Cybermen can appear, but nobody goes any further than occasional accidental references to the "Doct..." before stopping themselves.
- You Cloned Hitler!: There's a Hitler clone working at the university library. He's a very nice chap with a keen interest in Jewish studies, which Benny thinks might be a case of overcompensating.