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 penultimate story, Truant.
The President of the Universe has run away. Bernice has to hunt him down, but he’s too busy having fun. Evil warlords! Impossible escapes! Sinister plans! The Doctor’s on an adventure.
The Doctor is back being “proper” Doctory again. Well, he’s trying his best to be. Being President of the Universe can have some advantages, but the Doctor considers this advantages to be disadvantageous. Every battle can be stopped just by showing up, it’s hardly a challenge for the Time Lord.
Bernice, on the other hand, is trying her best to find the escaped President; and it’s not too long before she’s reunited with the Doctor. Turns out that the Doctor is just bored and stressed about his job. What’s interesting is that the Doctor seems more and more to be using Bernice as an anchor, a moral compass if you will, to bring him back to his dying reality.
What I like most about Truant is that it is totally different from Asking For A Friend; Guy Adams and James Goss both write totally different types of story. It seems that James manages to make an exciting story about emotion and Guy manages to pen emotional stories that are filled with excitement and absurdity. I know these might sound like extremely similar things, but listen to Asking For A Friend and then listen to Truant and tell me they’re thematically similar. They’re not. Yet they compliment one another beautifully.
I love how Guy manages to write the Unbound Doctor, someone who can be so cynical, as so childlike and petty. At his hearts, the Doctor is able to turn on a dime, from being a saviour of the universe to being a child having a tantrum, and with Guy’s writing and David Warner’s performance, we get to see both sides almost in tandem.
The latter half of Truant is an absolute masterpiece, it’s rather upbeat in tone, and even the Doctor seems to be enjoying being himself a bit more than usual. He gets a great, if yet small, speech about what it means to be the Doctor, and his regrets for every time he wasn’t the most Doctorlike.
Guy Adams has a very distinct writing style; this much, I hope, is apparent, if you’ve heard more than one or two of his stories. I don’t know about anybody else, but I really enjoy it. It honestly wouldn’t surprise me if there were people who don’t enjoy it as much as I do, but they have no sense of fun.
When you’re listening to Truant, you may hear another familiar voice in the form of Caitrin Stewart, who most Doctor Who fans will know as Jenny of the Paternoster Gang. She plays a great little character in this story called Killian, she’s nothing too extraordinary, but that’s why the I love the way Guy Adams writes characters. In a universe with huge characters like the Doctor, the Master and the Daleks, Guy likes to focus on the ordinary, which, in comparison to these godlike characters we know and love, makes them look extraordinary.
The conclusion of Truant is a brilliant set up for the next, and last part of this box set, The True Saviour of The Universe. I won’t ruin it, but it certainly adds a twist as to what’s expected from the Doctor, especially as President of the Universe…
Overall, Truant is a fun little story that focusses on the Unbound Doctor being the most Doctorlike we’ve ever heard him. Guy has once again written a great little romp and made the supporting cast equally as engaging and relatable as the main ensemble. If I’m going to be honest, it’s annoying how good Big Finish stories are of late. Will they ever have a release that isn’t stellar? I hope not, because this could really be the golden age for Big Finish.
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.