Bernice Summerfield – the Seventh Doctor’s companion created by Paul Cornell and designed by Lee Sullivan, who made her debut in the Doctor Who: The New Adventures novels and the Doctor Who Magazine‘s comic strip – will return in new audio adventures from Big Finish this year. And this time Benny (played by Lisa Bowerman) isn’t travelling alone – she’s joined by the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace (Sophie Aldred).
Doctor Who: The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield will see Benny reunited with the Doctor. He’s come looking for her, as he has a very important assignment for everyone’s favourite time-hopping archaeologist.
“Benny is one of my favourite companions. The Seventh Doctor, Benny and Ace were a wonderful TARDIS team – and there had to be a pretty big reason to reunite them,” explains producer James Goss. “Something’s happened, something that’s very important to the Doctor, to Benny and Ace. And Benny, who already has plenty on her plate, finds herself having to make some tough choices. If you’ve ever wondered who Benny is and why people go all misty-eyed at the mention of her, then this box set is the perfect chance to find out.”
As well as Lisa Bowerman as Benny, director Scott Handcock has assembled an impressive cast, including John Finnemore (Cabin Pressure, Miranda), Matt Gravelle (Broadchurch), Miles Jupp (Rev,Balamory), Colin McFarlane (The Dark Knight, Torchwood and The Voice of The Cube) and Sheila Reid (Doctor Who, Benidorm).
Doctor Who: The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield will be released in June 2014, although Benny’s adventures with the Seventh Doctor don’t stop there as October sees Big Finish release a full-cast adaptation of Gareth Roberts’ classic Virgin New Adventure, The Highest Science.
For producer Cavan Scott, there was really only one choice when it came to following Big Finish’s previous venture into Virgin territory. “When 2012’s Love and War [by Paul Cornell] proved to be such a success, our attention naturally turned to The Highest Science,” Scott reveals. “The original novel was an instant classic, thanks to its surreal mix of temporal disturbances, warmongering commuters and murderous cybernetic tortoises. Jacqueline Rayner has done a wonderful job adapting Gareth’s wonderfully insane adventure for audio, taking Benny back to her roots.”
Originally published in 1993, Gareth Roberts’ debut novel was only Benny’s third outing as a companion and introduced the New Adventures’ most iconic monsters as the fearsome Chelonians marched on the legendary planet of Sakkrat.
With a cast that includes Sinead Keenan (Doctor Who, Being Human), Daniel Brocklebank (Shakespeare in Love, The Hole), James Baxter (Still Open All Hours) and Tom Bell (Wizard vs Aliens), The Highest Science will be released in December 2014.
“In late 1991 I was asked by Virgin Books’ New Adventures editor Peter Darvill-Evans to provide designs for the character of Bernice Summerfield, created by writer Paul Cornell,” artist Lee Sullivan recalls of the character’s origins. “I suppose that Virgin already knew they would feature the character strongly in the rest of the NA series. Certainly Doctor Who Magazine editor John Freeman also wanted a tie-in between the NAs, the show and the comic strip.
“Benny was described to me by Paul as rather like actress Emma Thompson, who at that time was just coming to prominence in movies like The Tall Guy and Dead Again. I think the resemblance is fairly clear, though I think I didn’t actually reference Thompson, just used my memory of what she looked like and the impression she gave.
“… I watched from a distance over the years as Benny continued her journey through various adventures. I didn’t really like the redesigned look she acquired some years later, partly as I felt proprietorial about my design and partly that it didn’t match the character I saw in the first novel, or how Paul had described her to me, instead making her look like an X–Men character. Still, times and editorial decisions change.”