Saturday, 9 April 2011

The Bone of Contention written by Simon A. Forward and directed by Edward Salt

An excellent tale and one that takes full advantage of Bernice's range running side by side with the Doctor Who one. I was absorbed by the story, especially how Simon A Forward managed to explore Bernice's emotional connection to the young without involving Peter at all. Like the best of this range it allows us to see the character in a new light with her burgeoning motherhood coming to the fore.

With so many species in the Clutch and such a rich backstory the Galyari is one of the few alien races created by Big Finish that deserved a return appearance. So who better to stumble across their fleet in the pursuit of a piece of cultural heritage but the eminent Professor Summerfield, desperate for a bit of peace from her hectic life on the Braxiatel collection...

I can fully understand Benny's wish to rush off on some hair-brained mission, risking her life to save some precious artefact. She is a mother now and has responsibilities but to surrender to a domestic lifestyle after such an exciting life would cramp her lifestyle for sure. She does occasionally come across as being selfish given how frequent these trips are (this the next three stories all see Benny off the Collection away from her son) but it is clear he is in safe hands in the Collection. And as if to bring the matter to her attention Benny has something of a revelation during this story, her intimacy with the Galyari child reminding her of how much she loves her own son is and how little time she spends with him. It’s this sort of development that keeps you coming back to these characters.

We get to catch up with Mordecan too, the space gypsy who aided the Doctor in The Sandman. He is as ruggedly humorous as ever; a Del Boy in Space and his interaction with Benny is spiky and fun. It should be too considering he is played by Lisa Bowerman's brother, Robin and they have the sort of chemistry siblings share.

This is another adventure that uses its tighter running time to tell a much simpler, gripping story than its Doctor Who counterparts, that are often cursed with endless padding. It is a very enjoyable story about a unique child being forced into the skin of an alien race to contain the dangerous reality of its birthright. The Galyari are portrayed as the villains at first, perverting Greco's bloodline but it becomes more complicated than that and transpires they are trying to create the ultimate warrior to bring down their Sandman and keep his incredible powers on a leash. It is Benny who ultimately harms the child, thinking she is doing the best thing by running off with it but she is unable to control its natural evolution. The way the story switches viewpoints so suddenly, turning the villains into the heroes and vice-versa is a delight and it is only a lack of communication that causes the problem. If only Benny and the Galyari had been honest with each other then none of the problems here would have arisen.

The ending where Benny is unwilling to let the Galyari kill Greco is striking and lost in a whirlwind of emotions she screams hysterically that she doesn't know what to do or how to save him... Lisa Bowerman remains as good at doing these high emotion scenes as ever and takes you on roller coaster ride of highs and lows, it is real lump in the throat material. Benny's maternal instinct has never felt stronger and Peter is nowhere in sight.

One thing the Doctor Who audios usually achieve better than the Bernice ones is the post production and music but this is obviously a matter of timing and money and the more expensive range is obviously lavished with more of each. Kudos to Simon Robinson then who manages to create a surreal experience with The Bone of Contention, taking us through lots of areas in the Clutch and each one standing out rather well. I loved the bar Benny met Mordecan at with the futuristic club music and there are some wonderful moments when the musical score captures the feelings of the story perfectly, especially the aforementioned scene where Benny realises she is witnessing the birth of a Shadow Swan.

The Bone of Contention is another strong Bernice story, capturing the imagination of the Doctor Who universe but with an atmosphere all of its own. Great stuff: 8/10

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