What's it about: Bernice is lost in the ruins of an alien world. Long ago, something arrived there. Something arrived and found an idyllic civilisation: a city of wonders full of artists and scientists and poets… Something came to this world and destroyed it. Wandering the ruins, Bernice tries to solve the mystery. What came to this planet? What wiped out its people? Was it a plague? An alien invasion? Bernice Summerfield explores all that remains of paradise. And she discovers the name of the creature that came and wiped it out...
Archaeological Adventuress: Trapped on a world with no supplies and barely any water, close to exhaustion and de-hydration, Bernice stumbles across the ruins of an ancient city. It is the sort of thing that under any other circumstances she would be incredibly excited. Unfortunately she cannot remember any of the events depicted in the carvings, it is almost as if it happened to somebody else. She cannot remember being the woman who destroyed the world. They called Bernice the Sky Witch because she literally fell from the heavens into their laps. It has been a while since Bernice has fallen head over heels in love with somebody on their looks alone - her role as a mother has changed her in that respect - and Theon's stunning beauty turns her head and tickles her fancy. He seems to have sent out a whole flotilla of stone masons out to depict their athletic activities - how humiliating. Theon declares Benny the most amazing woman he has ever met...and he offers her his hand in marriage. The relationship between Benny and Theon is very believably written and played, the pair of them in love but joking about her supernatural ability to crush him and destroy his city. Benny thinks she is doing the right by using the ship and it's weapons as a deterrent but forgetting that these are desperate people who will go to any lengths to destroy their enemies. She is appalled that he killed all of the retreating Garren, not even giving them a chance to surrender. Indirectly she is responsible and she knows that. In the most dramatic way you can imagine, Bernice gets to experience the Rapunzel life. Stuck at the top of a tower to 'celebrate her achievements', she is forgotten and has a birds eye view of the city going to wrack and ruin as the people of this world misuse the technology she brought with her.
Sparkling Dialogue: 'Here I am now dying of thirst first, dying of hunger with sunburn coming a poor third and I'm reading fruity postcard from a holiday romance that I can't even remember!'
'Oh drop dead!' - not the best of retorts when you are accused of being a supernatural being capable of cursing the populace.
'Take me to your bleeder!'
'The truth is there are no heroes or villains. We're all on the grubby side of in between. And sometimes our behaviour tips us one way or the other because we're striving to be better or just because we're afraid.'
'You have helped bring us to a golden age...'
'You are the only unhappy person in this world!' 'That's because you slaughtered all the unhappy people!'
Audio Landscape: Screaming wind, chatter on the streets, Bernice falling from the sky screaming, chants of 'Burn her!', birds singing, coughing, crickets humming at night, screaming, flames raging, stabbing, growls, firing the weapons on the ship, laser pistols, flames crackling, the radiation burning bright, screams of 'Free the Sky Witch!', screaming, the Epoch ship descending.
Standout Scene: Lisa Bowerman's final, powerful monologue. Unforgettable.
Result: 'You have to know how to use these things...and no-one asked me!' Stunningly good, the Russell/Handcock period of the Bernice Summerfield range delivers its strongest story as the penultimate adventure. The Winning Side is a staggeringly powerful story, beautifully written and performed and strong enough to stand up there with the other greats of this series. Bernice is trapped and alone on a world that initially appears to be like any other in this series (complete with a King to shag her and a Courtier to distrust her) which slowly and dangerously turns into a nightmare as they greedily rape the transport she arrived in of technology they are not ready for. Lisa Bowerman delivers her strongest performance for many a season (and she is always excellent) and she is backed up by a pair of awesome guest turns from Geoffrey Beevers and Hugh Skinner. Like The Big Dig, Scott Handcock proves why he is the best in the business in the directors chair, giving the story an incredible pace but allow us to take the time to savour the nuances in the script and performances. I've been singing James Goss' praises for some time now (ever since his stunning pair of companion chronicles The Scorchies and The Last Post) but this is his finest achievement to date, a script that genuinely innovates this series - not an easy thing to accomplish given it's longevity. The dialogue is sharp, the story continually surprises and it affords the actors some incredible opportunities. It is a very generous script. What else is there to say? Even if you're not sure about Bernice Summerfield and her whacky world you need to check this story out. Like Just War, Absence and Year Zero, they deserve to be ripped out of the range they are a part of and made available to a wider audience. Sublime: 10/10