Sunday, 9 October 2011

Beginning Benny - Intermission

Before there was the annual “Subscriber Bonus” story from Big Finish’s Doctor Who range…. Well actually before there was a Big Finish Doctor Who range at all…. There was a bonus CD.  If you demonstrated that you had faith in the fledgling company and were willing to pre-order the Time Ring Trilogy that formed half of the first season then you got an extra CD called “Buried Treasures”.  At this stage it offered people something that there hadn’t been before in the form of original audio material for Benny that wasn’t adapted from a book. Admittedly it was two short stories (and a collection of music and interviews) but still, brand new Benny material that showcased the extreme ends of the Benny range, fun science fiction comedy and heart wrenching drama.  Plus, and whether this was the intention or not I have no idea, it also offered a get out clause that essentially allowed them to reboot the range and move on…

Comedy first and a story called “Making Myths” which takes the form of a “live” broadcast where Benny and a Pakhar called Keri take us back through one of Benny’s most important archaeological finds.  Only Benny doesn’t really remember the full details.  Or know if they’re actually in the right spot.  Or on the right planet… This is very much “science fiction has never been so much fun” territory.  Lisa Bowerman playfully skips her way through the banter between Benny and a giant hamster (lifted from the Virgin novels but works oh so well in audio) and there’s bitching about Jason Kane (which feels very real, not that I’ve ever had ex’s to bitch about of course) and a lot of mud.  The mud actually plays a surprisingly large part in the story and the ending is so daft that it’s brilliant.  It has the same atmosphere as “Oh No It Isn’t” and it just rattled by leaving me with a massive smile on my face.

“Closure”, on the other hand, is the short story equivalent of “Just War”.  Emotional, difficult to listen to at times (at one point the description of torture sailed very close to the line) and giving Benny some very difficult decisions to make, the story sees Benny setting out to change time.  Yes, Benny has both the time rings again, and has gone back to the start of a huge war to try and put things right… It’s hard to say how I feel about this one as the central story and the performances are outstanding but the concept just feels very strange.  It’s written by Paul “Creator of Benny” Cornell, so therefore you can’t really say that it’s out of character for her but having listened to everything else since, it’s something of a weird one.  Is Benny really the sort of person who’d nip back to try and completely change a war?  She didn’t go back and stop WWII (surely that must have been tempting) or any number of other wars so why this one?  What really pushed Benny to do it?  It’s superbly acted, very well written but it’s an uncomfortable one to think about.  Though it does allow something rather cunning.

We don’t know if Benny succeeded at the end of “Closure”, the ending hangs ambiguously and you could interpret her success or failure in any number of ways.  However, taken in the bigger picture, “Closure” does serve a potentially useful role.  Two of the season one stories weren’t really Benny stories, they were Doctor Who ones that Big Finish made “slight” modifications to so that they could be released (removing the Doctor, Ace and other companions for starters) which means that Benny couldn’t, up to to this point, have one coherent timeline.  She’d remember being tortured by the Nazis and spot that ancient London had already been menaced by alien killers before.  So “Closure”, as an ending to season one, could be seen as an “Okay, let’s reboot things now before they get too difficult” statement.  Suppose Benny does succeed.  Suppose that time has now been changed and Benny’s time with the Doctor somehow bypassed that trip to Germany.  It means that the Benny universe is free to start things again with their own rules and their own take on things.  It’s been great hearing some of the early books again but it’s time to move on and season two is probably the start of what we now see as Benny.  She’s got her own audio life ahead of her, with a few books thrown in to bugger things up, and a chance to set sail into new waters…

No comments:

Post a Comment