Bernice Summerfield is a series that I have been aware of since I first started listening to Big Finish. It was the series that helped Big Finish land the Doctor Who licence so if it impressed the BBC then it should be worth listening to. The only Bernice stories I have listened to are the Doctor Who stories THE SHADOW OF THE SCOURGE (2000), THE DARK FLAME (2003) AND THE CRIMINAL CODE (2010). The story spends the first 10-11 minutes setting up the basics, such as who Bernice is and the crew that she has with her. The first episode ends with the ship that Bernice is on has been attacked and that is when the story goes really bonkers. I think that I was expecting something like THE DARK FLAME but instead I was slightly put off when what we get is a comedy type thing. The feeling that I got as I started to listen to this is that its one of those series where prior knowledge is required. The character was well established in the Virgin Adventure books which I had never read and even if I wanted to I suspect I would find it difficult to find them.
The Grel are the villains of this story who seem quite an amusing menace who tow the fine line between being threatening and being comedic. They are described as Data Pirates who take information from peoples brains. They have found themselves in this ‘afterlife’. Only issue was that they didn’t feature as much as I would have liked because they started off as the main threat but once they had moved into the second part of the story they had fallen off the radar somewhat. There is a lovely sense that Bernice doesn’t know how she is going to get out of the ‘afterlife’. She does know the people that are surrounding her but they aren’t as she knows them. It soon transpires that she is in fact Dick Whittington and so they seem to be in the 14thCentury. It then transpires that the story is essentially in panto. There is some fruitful words which continue to make you understand that you aren’t in a Doctor Who story (which in 1998 they didn’t yet).
Nicholas Courtney plays Wolsey who is Bernice’s cat. It’s hard to imagine that this is the same Courtney who played the Brigadier. I think it’s really funny as Courtney plays it exactly the way that its suppose to be. Every time that Courtney talks its extremely entertaining. One of the first lines that Bernice says is “God is an enourmous cat in a hat” isn’t a line you would not expect to hear. “Hold on to me Dick!” is another line that he wouldn’t have said as the Brigadier. Lisa Bowerman is someone that I know more as a director of Doctor Who Big Finish plays than as Bernice Summerfield but I do like the character as there is a lot of humour mixed in with serious drama. The rest of the cast are all very good and vary in terms of campness
Oh No It Isnt is a bold and ambitious start to the Bernice Summerfield series. I did feel like I was losing track of what was going on towards the end but at the end I felt like I had got to grips with this series and how the structure would be. It was always going to be a bold thing to start a series off with a comedy, especially for those who are new to Bernice. On the whole it’s a gamble that paid off but I expect that there will be better stories in the series. Despite it being made 14 years ago, I think it has aged very well.
Rating – 7/10