Bernice Summerfield is still trapped in a dying universe with the wrong Doctor. Things have taken a turn for the worse – the Doctor has become President Of The Universe and, it turns out, he’s a controversial choice for the job. While Bernice works to unearth the mythical Apocalypse Clock, the Doctor’s immersed in the murky world of politics and the dark forces that are working against him… Today I’ll be reviewing the first story, The City and The Clock.
Bernice is on an archaeological dig for the mythical Apocalypse Clock. Can it really be the key to saving the universe? The ghosts of the planet have other ideas.
Who would have thought that the Doctor would have become the President of the Universe? It’s clear that this Doctor isn’t the one from our universe after hearing the events of Time In Office but someone’s got to do the job, right? It’s clear from the opening thirty seconds that this universe is much more fanciful than ours. The first few characters you hear are almost like caricatures, and I for one love it.
If you’re new to the Unbound Doctor and Bernice Summerfield, I think that the opening scene between the two will firmly cement in your mind their relationship. It’s clear that the Doctor of this universe isn’t the one we’re used to. He’s such a curmudgeon. (Nice new word for some of you, I’ll bet. Look it up.) Personally, I love the way David Warner portrays a curmudgeonly character, and I think it suits this incarnation of the Doctor nicely.
The main crux of this story seems to be that Benny is doing archeological things, almost as if she’s an archeologist, and she’s upsetting the locals. It seems that she’s been told to go on this expedition as part of a wild goose chase that the Doctor has sent her on. A quest to find an infamous fabled Apocalypse Clock. Nothing like an understated title, right?
Benny quickly becomes annoyed with the Doctor’s antics and lack of giving a damn, and storms off. Of course, with this being a Doctor Who story, that storming off meant Bernice Summerfield was walking right into danger. So called hallucinations of the dead begin to plague the professor, and she has no idea what it is she’s seeing.
What I love about this story is how human Bernice is. Guy Adams has a knack for writing really human characters and placing them amongst the most absurd beings, whether they be an indigenous people or the Doctor. The juxtaposition between the grounded reality of Benny and the whimsical lives of everyone else is extremely entertaining to listen to.
After spending an entire boxset with the Unbound Doctor, it’s really intriguing that the writers of Big Finish have decided that Benny still shouldn’t be entirely sure about this version of her favourite Time Lord. It makes sense, if you think about it, if you met a different version of a person you admired, and they were the complete opposite, it would probably take a considerable chunk of your time before you decided that you could trust them. I love the fact that the guys over at Big Finish have decided to take their time on this aspect of Benny and the Unbound Doctor’s relationship, as it really hammers home how important it is.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, it seems as if the Apocalypse Clock is a real thing, even though the Doctor was initially hesitant; and it’s times like this, times of crisis and dismay, that the Doctor shows his true colours. The Doctor gets Bernice by his side and runs to the centre of the chaos. It may have taken him 80% of the story, but the Doctor always becomes the Doctor in the end.
The conclusion to The City and The Clock leaves the Doctor and Bernice in a bit of a pickle. It seems as if this first story in this new box set may be the set up for the main themes in the following three stories. I for one, cannot wait,
Overall, The City and The Clock is a solid story that mainly focusses on re-establishing the dynamic between Bernice and the Unbound Doctor. What interested me most though, was the fact that in the middle of the absurdist romp, there were a few moments of genuinely good and proper, bloodcurdling horror. I think it’s a testament to Guy Adams that he’s managed to pen a script with such a wide range of tones and make it seem coherent. One minute you’ll be laughing, the next you’re shivering in a corner, gently rocking back and forth. Personally, this is the first time I’ve experienced Adams’ interpretation of horror, and I for one really hope we get to hear a full on horror story from him in the future.
Should you want to purchase The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield 4: The Ruler of The Universe , it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £23 on CD or £20 for a digital download for a limited time.