Saturday, 23 July 2011

The Summer of Love written by Simon Guerrier and directed by Ed Salt

What’s it about: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the hottest summer on record and the last summer before the war. It was the one time Bernice Summerfield had a use for her otherwise useless boyfriend. But Jason Kane is away on the far side of the galaxy. The Braxiatel Collection has always been an odd place to live. A perfect replica of the Palace of Versailles, stuck on a smallish planetoid, hanging in a much disputed sort of space. The weather's all over the place, the neighbours gathering armaments… And now everyone's shagging like rabbits. Everyone except for Bernice

Archeological Adventuress: Peter is living with his father and Bev now because Bernice thought that he could do with the stability considering the hectic nature of her life. When Doggles suggests that he and Benny have a racy night in she thinks that he is taking the piss! He doesn’t wash, he’s insufferably rude and he spills things down his top all the time…and she was supposed to be flattered? He didn’t even offer dinner! She’s been thinking about the last year (Brax, Clarissa and Wolsey all gone) and the future too and she is starting to think that things didn’t work out the way they should. The first time she drank champagne was in the middle of a riot. When Bev tries to take charge Bernice reminds her that they got shot of Brax because he was manipulating them all and they don’t need anyone else doing it. Bernice can offer some rare and beautiful and much more exciting than a gangbang – the truth!

Jason (bloody) Kane: Jason and Benny are monogamous when they can be but they have been through too much in the past to take a totally pragmatic approach and she knows that if he plays away (which he inevitably will) he still loves her and will be coming home to her. Poor Jason, the one time when a sex virus hits the Collection and he is off world! Then when he does turn up all he wants to do is curl up with her and cuddle because he’s tired. I often forget that Jason is bisexual and he has apparently visited Hass in the past and tickled his fancy bits in some research for his alien pornography!

Brilliant Bev: She cannot recall a time when she was happier. She’s running the Collection now and in a relationship with Adrian – it’s the most stable she has been for a long time. When Adrian makes Bernice promises not to tell Bev that he has been shagging Doggles naturally the first thing she does is pop over for a gossip! Adrian’s is tearing himself up because it is Bev that he wants and having to resist other women is the hardest thing he has ever had to do. Adrian tries to tell Bev gently that despite her public persona they don’t want another Braxiatel.

Standout Performance: I was rather impressed by Sam Stevens’ handling of Doggles because the character as written is thoroughly unlikable and he doesn’t really do anything to change that. This is exactly how I would expect the dirty, slimy, horndog to sound like.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Whatever you were talking about you can share with the class. Come on, out with it!’ and Minko unzips his flies!
Adrian: ‘I don’t know what’s got into me Benny!’ Doggles: ‘I do!’
‘Watch out for the Gell Guards!’ is the end of a dream Bernice is having!

Great Ideas: Bernice gets to fly about inside one of Brax’s pocket universes where Hass goes to escape from everybody when he’s not tending to the gardens. The Draconians have put on their fighting shoes which is a very important mention for the next season. Even poor Joseph is infected with this amorous virus and tries to give Bernice a sensual massage in exactly the same method Jason uses (rubs your shoulders for five seconds before going exploring). Joseph and his drone mates have been recording all the sex and passing it on to the men folk of the Collection (don’t worry Bernice gives him a thorough purging!). Time jumps are buggering up the spread of the virus (‘Oh great I was nearly finished!” cries one person when his companion vanishes ‘Can someone finish me off?’). Unsurprisingly as soon as people start having it off with each other like rabbits the applications to leave the Collection (which were starting to worry Bev) cease. The Collection is pining without Brax and falling about at the seams – that’s what the time jumps are all about. Hass told Bev that the ground is literally breaking up beneath them and advised planting Simpson’s thinweed all over the place so it can tangle through the soil and keep them together. Hass accelerated the growth cycle because he didn’t know how long they had and the pollen that has been released in the air has made everybody as randy as rabbits!

Audio Landscape: Crickets, taking a shower, birdsong, heaving breathing with two students in the missionary position, fizzing champagne and tinkling glasses, lots of groaning and kissy noises, Joseph communicating with his fellows.

Isn’t it Odd: With Doggles and Adrian trying it on with Benny and the good Professor herself suggesting that she and Jason aren’t always faithful I started to wonder if I had stumbled into an episode of Torchwood – home of loose morality! Listening to Benny and Bev getting down to some heavy snogging really doesn’t appeal (don’t get too PC on me – the thought of Doggles and Adrian doesn’t exactly float my boat either!).

Standout Scene: Bernice finally gives in when she realises the antidote is going to take so long…and she chooses Doggles!

Notes: This is the first appearance of Doggles and Hass in the audio series. Doggles first appeared in the anthology Something Changed where he caused some damage to the timeline with history machine. He is a brilliant man but lacks social graces and has a particular penchant for a certain Professor Summerfield… Hass is the Martian gardener who has taken over from Mr Crofton who died during the Axis Occupation. In one of the alternative realities created by Doggles’ history machine he was turned into a Yesodi and when things returned to normal he retained that appearance. He now has to wear a pressure suit at all times but can come out of it in Brax’s secreted pocket universes. Bernice is still singing ‘butterflies and cake’ from the last story.

Result: Gay sex, straight sex, lesbian sex, alien sex, multi-generational sex…there’s certainly plenty of sex in The Summer of Love! Its odd that I have been clamouring for a story on the Collection and as soon as I get one it happens to be the weakest of the season. This is like an episode of Are Being Served where the staff of the Ladies and Gents Departments actually are talking about sex and wind up having an orgy in the Grace Brothers canteen! Its all a bit sleazy and puerile and like deciding to swallow leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I can understand what Simon Guerrier was getting at in penning this script; he’s trying to make the Collection a fun place to be but I’m not sure if adopting the lowest possible tone was the best idea. What really works is the emergence of ongoing regular characters from the novels that have been completely ignored in the audios so it is terrific to see Bev and Adrian’s relationship brought to light and Doggles and Hass make memorable first appearances. And once again Guerrier characterises Benny herself really well. The Summer of Love is a tawdry affair but it does have its moments. Lets have something with a bit more depth next time: 5/10

But it from Big Finish here:

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