Big Finish Productions
The Companion Chronicles
Bernice Summerfield and the Criminal Code

Written by Eddie Robson Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Released 2010

Starring Lisa Bowerman

Synopsis: The Doctor and Bernice Summerfield are on the planet Shanquis, where the Doctor is trying to negotiate a peace settlement between this world and the neighbouring world of Esoria. The Doctor should be in his element, in an arena where the fighting is done with words, not weapons. Yet after days of talks, the situation is getting worse. The planets are on a war footing and the Doctor cannot break the deadlock. He'd planned to join Bernice at an archaeology conference on the planet, but she ends up going on her own in an effort to distract herself from the increasingly dismal situation. Whilst there, Bernice learns of the Shanquin "forbidden language", which it is illegal to read, speak or even think. As Bernice pursues the root of this obscure, archaic law, she finds herself obstructed and threatened - and realises that her investigations may have given her the only hope of stopping this war.


Noe Geric and the Average Story by Noe Geric 30/6/21

I think Bernice Summerfield should've stayed away from the Companion Chronicles. Lisa Bowerman isn't a very good narrator, and her only story is an average ''Hulan Colony'' sci-fi episode. Nothing is particularly interesting in that one: we learn nothing about the regulars, it's the sort of story we've seen hundreds of times and it doesn't even have the Virgin New Adventures feeling.

The Doctor, as in nearly every companion chronicles, is put in the background. He's trying to work peace between two worlds, but he fails. Bowerman's impression of McCoy's voice is terrible. Her impression of everyone's voice is terrible. I'm not a big fan of her as Benny, but I find her particularly irritating when she imitates other characters' voice. The biggest problem is that she rushes the story. She reads as if she were going to miss her train. I didn't have the time to understand what was going on or that something else was happening because Bowerman read too fast. I think I've missed some bits of the plot because of that.

As in most companion chronicles (if not in every one of them) the narrator is accompanied by another actor. It's interesting when there's a story in the narration itself and that the second character is inside that narration: when Steven tells his friend a story about his travels with the Doctor, when Ian is interrogated during the Cold War... But here, it's just Bernice talking to a machine, and the character of Gatlin occasionally speaking with nothing to do with narration. She was the chosen one, the only character that was allowed to speak among all the others. While Charlie Hayes plays the character as bad as she can, I can't see what is the point of this character? Why make her speak? Why put her in this story where she doesn't do anything special?

The final twist is a bit predictable, the story unimpressive, the setting is a futuristic city we've seen everywhere else... But it's enjoyable! Eddie Robson wrote a nice little story that you can like, even if it's full of ideas we've already seen and badly acted. Sadly, there isn't the Virgin feel that this sort of story (featuring Benny!) needs in order to be more interesting. It's just one hour of Bernice trying to find a criminal code and being kidnapped.

Conclusion: Nothing incredible here, just an average story with an average plot and nearly average acting. This is Robson writing in his sleep, and if it wasn't for Bernice Summerfield appearance, I wouldn't even have noticed this audio in the vast Big Finish catalogue. The Criminal Code is just a story, and nothing more. 7/10