Professor Bernice Surprise Summerfield has led an extraordinary
life - you might even say several lives - and she still has
an exciting future ahead of her...
hardback collection of short stories commemorates the tenth
anniversary of Benny's debut in print, in the Doctor Who
novel Love and War.
stories herein span her entire lifetime, but they are arranged
in no particular order, which certainly helps to keep the
emphasis on "surprise". Several entries refer back to her
travels in the TARDIS, including Paul Cornell's The Shape
of the Hole, in which Bernice attempts to locate the Doctor's
final resting place. Jim Sangster's Dear Friend takes
the form of a letter to the Time Lord, while Might
by Neil Corry is a partial sequel to the Who novel
Return of the Living Dad. There are several other allusions
to Benny's adventures with the Doctor, but it would spoil
the impact of the stories themselves if I were to reveal which
ones they are.
Shape of the Hole also looks forward to the future of
Bernice and her descendants, as do Mark Stevens' Setting
Stone and Lance Parkin's Paydirt. Curiously only
one story, Jonathan Morris' witty yet profound The Spartacus
Syndrome, is set during the Professor's residency on Dellah.
plays a major part in many of the more enjoyable entries.
In Alien Planets and You, a narrative written as an
account by Bernice herself, Dave Stone spoofs the conventions
of adventure stories in general and the Professor's exploits
in particular. Steve Lyons' Taken by the Muses is similarly
conveyed in the diarist's style, complete with her characteristic
deletions after the fact (although the idea of rhyming dialogue
has been done before). The Collection, by Peter Anghelides,
is an amusingly complex time-travel tale. Channel 4's Time
Team programme provides inspiration for sitcom-style shenanigans
and complications in David A McIntee's Time's Team.
Television also provides the source material for Nev Fountain's
Beedlemania, which features a planet of irritating
pranksters, a member of the Beta Centauran race - the second
finest arbiters in the galaxy, after Doctor Who's Alpha
Centaurans, we are told - and a troublesome game of Twister.
favourite story of all is of a more serious nature, though.
Penned by Stephen Fewell, who plays Jason Kane in Benny's
audio adventures, Cuckoo shows the Professor coming
to terms with becoming a mother whilst making a fascinating
archaeological and xenobiological discovery. Neil Corry's
Might is similarly exhilarating and moving.
As is often the case with anthologies of this nature, some
of the stories leave you wondering exactly what they are trying
to say. Such is the case with Kill the Mouse! by Daniel
O'Mahony, a seriously strange story featuring a monster that
steals people's faces. Robert Shearman's And Then Again
is only slightly less weird.
the standard of the writing is generally very high and this
collection is sufficiently full of life and surprises.