Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Wake written by Simon Guerrier and directed by Gary Russell

What’s it about: "What else could you have done?" "Taken more note of the warnings, I guess. We saw a future Peter once, and he'd become a killer. Ms Jones told me I was doing a lousy job as a mother, and when I didn't listen she stole him from me. Then there was how he was on Montevadros. Even the Oracle of flipping Delphi warned me to be on the look out. And if I'd spent less time knocking about with monsters and magic artefacts, and more time here with him…This is where you're meant to tell me that I mustn't blame myself." "You mustn't blame yourself." "Yeah thanks. I feel so much better now.”

Archeological Adventuress: Simon Guerrier beautifully takes us for a little journey around Bernice’s relationship with Brax, explaining the history that the two characters have and how he has been slowly drawing her closer for so many years. A nice guy called Gilmanuk was showing Benny the Garden of Whispers when Benny first met Irving Braxiatel and it is a delight to see snippets of her life in the New Adventures coming to life. She was travelling a lot in those days and not a lot of people made an impression on her but Irving Braxiatel definitely did. When he turned up at her wedding she knew he would be there and Brax asks Benny during the reception if she really knows who Jason is and she admits she doesn’t. After the divorce and what happened on Dellah Brax was waiting like the spider tempting the fly into his web, offering her a chance to lose herself in archaeology and forget her recent heartache. And after Jason’s death he is there to comfort her, to stroke her hair like a cat in his lap. It really does feel as though he has been grooming her life to lead to the point where she relies on him utterly. Shame he forgot to mention that he was the one that killed Jason. People think that Benny is finally starting to look her age as the truth of the situation dawns on her. Benny blames herself because she has had countless warnings of Peter’s bestial behaviour – she saw a brutish grown up version of him in The Grel Escape, Ms Jones told her she was doing a lousy job as a mother and stole him and even the Oracle of Delphi warned her to be on the lookout. She believes if she had spent less time gadding about on adventures and more time being a mother things would have been very different. Benny doesn’t know what she wants but she knows she never wanted it to end up like this. Whilst Brax thinks that Bernice is too grief stricken to see straight she is actually seeing everything for the first time. She can see through his attempts to get Doggles to bed her, she figures out that Hass was the only one who could have wiped out the Mim Sphere and she has been under the thrall of Brax for long enough to understand that he was the one that had Jason killed. When she calls him on all of these things Brax admits that he needs Bernice, that she understands how history works. Bernice heads off into the universe with her son but she knows that one day she will head back to the Collection and finish Brax off.

Jason (bloody) Kane: Its nice to see that after his death Jason is not treated with any kind of reverence – those who didn’t like him still say so and those who got to know him and were surprised at his chivalry (Adrian) also comment. He’s not elevated to a saint by his death which makes him feel more real than ever.

Insane Genius: When she first met Irving Braxiatel he was swarve and smart and he appreciated archaeology. Even then he was like a spider with feet in half a dozen pies and playing them all off against each other. Its true, go and read Theatre of War and you will see what a wily genius this man is – you can’t say that Bernice wasn’t warned of his manipulative nature from the off. Brax seems to have found his way back in a position of power with Bev gone (his doing) and Benny grief stricken (his doing) and the Collection once again in a safe part of space (his doing) people just seem to accept that he is in charge again, even Adrian. He still has the ability to give a charismatic speech and he welcomes new arrivals to the Collection like moulding putty in his hands. Benny can see right through Braxiatel’s protestations of humility with regards to being considered back in charge of his Collection – it was bollocks when Napoleon said and its even more bollocks now. Wonderfully Bernice throws Brax’s jealousy of her travelling with the Doctor right in his face.

Food Stains: Doggles has always walked the fine line between hero and villain and here he takes a definite lurch into the latter as his amorous affections for Benny see him behaving in a thoroughly despicable way. I have always found the idea of rape scenes repugnant and when one appeared in the fifth Doctor audio Nekromenteia and brushed over casually it felt like an insult to the character of Erimem and an unnecessary stab of real life horror that perverted the story. The near rape of Benny at the hands of Doggles whilst still being excruciatingly uncomfortable to listen to did not feel as incongruous in this series which has strayed quite often into some pretty adult territory. Doggles has always been a creature that craves the pleasures of the flesh, he’s always been fairly misogynistic and he has always sought after Benny. It pains me to say it but his reprehensible behaviour here isn’t out of character. Its just disgusting and even more reason why Benny has to leave. When all of your friends have become monsters (and Hass and Brax have done equally appalling acts) its time to leave. Doggles wants to stop feeling as though he is somebody’s puppet and yet he is making an alliance with Brax – nice one. The War with the Axis, the Daleks and the Draconians is over but he still doesn’t feel safe. I wouldn’t either if I was him because when Benny catches up with him he’ll more than likely lose his bollocks. His scars from the Fifth Axis torture always itch when he first wakes up and even he admits he has been damaged by the events in his life. You know, you just know that Brax has somehow riled up Doggles to get him to attack Benny in the way he does just so he can waltz in and rescue her. I’m not saying that those violent feelings aren’t there in Doggles but I bet Brax has given them a little stir.

Hairy Hero: To give him his credit Adrian has been the one constant in Benny’s life ever since she stepped foot on the Collection. The father of her child through a farcical body swapping incident, he fell in love with Benny and only backed off when she clearly chose Jason over him. He finally found love with Bev but remained a strong father for Peter and a good friend to Bernice and of everybody that is left he is pretty much the only person she can still trust (including her son). Benny doesn’t want to be alone and for one mad second she tries to take advantage of him but as a good friend he knows it wouldn’t be right and makes her come to her senses. Adrian worries that Peter got his homicidal tendencies from picking up his ill feeling towards Jason.

Unknown Alien: Hass has played a massive part in Brax’s plans this year and he wonders if he isn’t indirectly responsible for Peter’s bestial behaviour. To save his life when the gasses from his environment surrounded the child, Hass let him into his encounter suit and exposed him to the radiation that keeps him alive. He wonders if that exposure could explain why he turned on Jason which Benny dismisses but thanks him for trying to put some science behind the shocking change of character. Bev always used to come a swim in his environment when she was stressed out, which was pretty much all the time. Brax showed Hass the future and the human race colonising Yesodi in their millions and used his fear of that event to convince him to wipe out the Mim. He knows what he did was wrong, he feels it and whilst he tries to excuse his actions for a moment he quietly admits ‘I killed them’ under Bernice’s fierce scrutiny.

Shaggy Dog Child: The word is out that Peter couldn’t control his anger and murdered his father and the rumour is that the kid is a psychopath.

Standout Performance: Whilst Lisa Bowerman is breaking your heart it is Thomas Grant who slowly reveals himself as the new kid on the block as Peter Summerfield. He will take on a much greater role over the next three seasons and we will witness some extremely mature audio performances.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Trust me. I’ll take care of you now…’
‘Bad of course. No biscuit.’
‘You wanna know what’s inside my head? Absolute bloody terror! I’m terrified I spent most of my life fighting monsters and now I’ve got one for a son!’
‘One day she’ll have to come back…’

Great Ideas: They needed to test the defences of the Collection against an alien invasion and stage one…trouble is nobody remembered to tell Bernice who thought it was the real thing. Whoopsie. There is a secret backdoor in Hass’ pocket universe that Bev never got around to telling anyone about.

Audio Landscape: Winds blowing, fountain bubbling, the builders at work hammering, whooping as she flies around inside Hass’ environment, the anticipatory gasps of a classroom full of children, marching metallic men, gunfire.

Musical Cues: The music takes on a surprisingly emotive quality in the face of Jason’s death and the poignant undertones as all manner of characters reveals what they really thought of him had me reaching for a hanky.

Isn’t it Odd: Its that man Gary Russell again! See my theory about the insane geniuses Russell and Briggs has come true…they have seeded the universe with their DNA! And Briggs shows up! They’re everywhere!

Standout Scene: The Wake is full of standout scenes but the climax that sees Bernice and Peter out exploring the universe is full of optimism for the future and by golly did we need it after this season.

Notes: Who is Adrian talking to when Bernice leaves his rooms? The cover is one of Adrian Salmon’s best, capturing the mood of the piece perfectly and giving us one last glimpse of the Masionhouse.

Result: What a fantastic job Simon Guerrier has done of whipping this range into shape, kicking off some dramatic storylines and bringing the tangled web of Braxiatel’s manipulations into a cohesive whole. Fans of the range have much to thank this incredible writer for, not least for giving us two of its strongest seasons to date. It seems very appropriate that he gets to write the final piece of his story and kick start a whole new chapter in Benny’s life. The Wake isn’t so much a story in its own right but a culmination of all of Bernice’s adventures (be it the Virgin New Adventures or Big Finish’s own spin on the character) to this point and taking the time to explore these characters one last time before she leaves the Braxiatel Collection forever. There is some stunning character work on display as everybody blames themselves for what happened to Jason except for the one man who truly is responsible. I was gripped throughout and as Bernice comes to terms with her need to leave we watch her family get torn apart knowing that this ending was always coming. Drunk on power, back in charge, Braxiatel has fulfilled his ambitions and it has never been more exciting to see the bad guy win. Bring on season nine! Triumphant: 9/10

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