On a planet called Heaven, all hell is breaking loose.
Heaven is a cemetery for both humans and Draconians - a final place of rest for those lost during wartime. The Doctor arrives on a trivial mission - to find a book, or so he says - and Ace, wandering around Joycetown, becomes involved with a charismatic Traveller called Jan.
But the Doctor is strenuously opposed to the romance. What is he trying to prevent? Is he planning some more deadly game connected with the coffins revered by the mysterious Church of Vacuum and the unusual Arch that marks the location of a secret building below ground?
Archaeologist Bernice Summerfield thinks so. Her destiny is inextricably linked with that of the Doctor, but even she may not be able to save Ace from the Time Lord's plans.
This time, has the Doctor gone too far?
A new adaptation of the Virgin New Adventures novel which introduced Bernice Summerfield; also contains the prelude from Doctor Who Magazine and a behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of the story.
Written By: Paul Cornell, adapted by Jacqueline Rayner Directed By: Gary Russell
Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Lisa Bowerman (Bernice Summerfield), James Redmond (Jan Rydd), Riona O Connor (Máire Mab Finn), Aysha Kala (Roisa McIlnery), Ela Gaworzewska (Christopher), Bernard Holley (Brother Phaedrus), Maggie Ollerenshaw (Audrey McShane), Christopher Allen (Clive Aubrey), James Unsworth (Julian Milton), Scott Handcock (Piers Gavenal), Charlie Hayes (Death), Peter Sheward (Eros)
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
As We are nearly at her 20th Anniversery (and I can't find a prior one), I thought I'd create a Thread for the BF Adaption OF Bernice "Surprise" Summerfield's 1st appearance.
Brilliant story and an equally brilliant adaptation that captures the original almost twenty years(!) on. Much like Remembrance of the Daleks, there's so much here that just sets the stage for future stories to come. The increased focus on the 26th century Earth Empire from Frontier in Space is mixed together with whole cloth of anarchists who use VR instead of narcotics to get high, the Doctor's dance with Death (figurative, this time), Heaven's place as a mausoleum for all dead, the genuinely unpleasant nihilism of the Church of the Vacuum (coming from a frighteningly real place) and the Summerfield archaeological expedition. The amount of worldbuilding Cornell is able to do with just a throwaway line from The Brain of Morbius -- their "gas dirigibles" -- in regards to the Hoothi is equally just as marvellous.
It's so tightly packed with preexisting lore, and yet none of the continuity feels like a cheat. It's a springboard that says "Yes, and," to all that's come before, using it to bolster rather than replace its original content. Speaking of original content... This is the moment where the New Adventures cut the moorings with a hatchet and kicked off its boat to other shores. Nightshade put everything back in the box (gently and quietly with delicate care), Love and War set it back on the shelf (a bit of rough handling because the space is a little smaller now) and Transit will set fire to the cupboard for good measure (so swiftly and artfully you don't even see the firelighter).
It's a tragedy tale that does as tragedies do and doesn't pull its punches. The Doctor's seemingly callous manipulations are uncomfortably sympathetic (choose: your friend or a stranger), Ace's romance and subsequent alienation is believable even without the buildup, Benny is fully formed from her first scene and the tone -- almost a blend of the Cartmel and Holmes eras that manages to be both and neither at the same time -- will carry on in various forms throughout later stories. Big Finish could not have picked better for their first foray (since the Benny series) into Novel Adaptations.
The Ace/Jan love story is, somewhat concisely, well portrayed, the secondary characters all get decent expansion and the performances are very strong. Benny enters, fully formed. The structure is the weakest element, the cliffhanger is really weak. Part 1 took a while to really get going but Part 2 really motors along.
Its interesting contextualising this, having listened to the Hex arc up to A Death in the Family fairly recently and Nightshade immediately prior. This really works as a climax of Ace's characterisation, she's always felt tethered to the Doctor (in Death primarily by grief, Nightshade an inability to really think of herself as doing anything else other than travelling in the TARDIS), but here the tether is finally, rather brutally, severed. Equally this climaxes the Doctor's characterisation, his plans during the Ace/Hex storyline always walked the fine line along the 'ends justify the means' approach, but here he completely crosses the line (not without reason) and faces the consequences. And enter Bernice Summerfield to try to put him back on the straight and narrow.
This was one for which I listened to the audio story first and only read the book later. It's an interesting story in the way it details how Ace moved away from the Doctor and how Benny came into the story and got to know everyone.
"You're all irresponsible fools!" Doctor: "But we're very experienced irresponsible fools." _____________________________________
- I'm always all right. - Is all right special Time Lord code for really not all right at all?
I’ve given Love & War a relisten today, as I’m in the mood to revisit the novel adaptations again. It’s just brilliant, isn’t it? It’s not plot heavy, instead focusing on the characters and it does this to great effect. Sylvester McCoy really gets to grips with the material, in a way he doesn’t always with his stories. Lisa Bowerman is great as Benny, but this is very much Ace’s story and Sophie Aldred is superb. I think it’s definitely one of her best performances as the character, there’s real feeling behind her rant at the Doctor, which, again, isn’t something we always get with the Seventh Doctor stories.
The 2x70 minute format works really well, it’s often much better than the 4x30 format (or thereabouts) when used correctly. There’s no need to keep building up to cliffhangers and you feel like you get more out of the story as a result.
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