A remarkable construction once stood on a desert moon between
six colony worlds: an entire city contained in a single vast
tower. In honour of an architectural feat from an earlier
age, the pioneers who built it christened it the Empire State.
The phrase "once stood" implies that the city isn't there
any more, and until yesterday it wasn't, having been destroyed
almost a century ago. Yet now it has reappeared, the members
of Bernice's expedition scattered throughout it. One member
in particular proves difficult to track down, which is awkward
because Bernice believes she may hold the key to what's happening
at the Empire State - and the means to save the Braxiatel
the final story in the seventh season of Professor Summerfield's
audio adventures, I had expected the situation on the Braxiatel
Collection (the threat of being caught in the crossfire of
hostilities between the Draconians and the Mim, as well as
spatial and temporal anomalies within the Collection itself)
to be the focus of events.
Eddie Robson's script feels somewhat distanced from the ongoing
plot arc, despite the back cover blurb telling us that "Bernice
Summerfield has reluctantly left behind a Braxiatel Collection
in turmoil" to launch her expedition to excavate the site
of the Empire State, and a few much-needed reminders presented
to us as recorded messages from Jason (Stephen Fewell). It
doesn't help that Bernice dissociates herself from the Collection,
operating on an officially freelance basis, with initially
no stated motive other than academic prestige, even though
this proves to be a cover story.
As it is, the recent threat of war or occupation by the Draconians
and/or the Mim has remained ill-defined across the series
so far, though the dimensional instabilities affecting the
Collection were comprehensively explored in the short story
Works. However, surprising developments towards
the end of this audio drama promise more of a focus during
developments mean that this tale must take place after all
of the stories in Collected Works, despite it also
following on from The
Oracle of Delphi in terms of Bernice's quest
to find the Stone of Barter. I theorise that it must have
taken some time for her to set up her expedition, especially
since (as we are told) a clean-up operation was necessary
beforehand in order to remove dangerous levels of radioactivity.
It's probably a good thing that (by my reckoning) four short
stories separate Oracle and Empire, because
both dramas concern women in possession of paranormal, if
not godlike, powers.
Empire State is not the earth-shattering big finish to
the season that I had been expecting (though there is plenty
of city-shattering). Nevertheless, the production is in a
reasonably good state.
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