Welcome back, Professor Bernice Surprise Summerfield. Big Finish’s first range has had some ups and downs over the past dozen years – to be frank, in recent times, more downs than ups, with a highly convoluted back story involving so many different characters that meant that you really couldn’t just dip into the range without some serious research on the internet first to be fully up to speed. The 11th series resolved a great deal of that, and ended with Benny arriving on a planet that she thought would be Earth… but which she was told was Atlantis.
The four-disc story Epoch picks up some time later, and as well as being a fun adventure, it tackles questions of identity, memory and the validity of myths and legends. It feels like one story, rather than four separate tales, although each has its own particular arc – one of them, for reasons that are clear, doesn’t even have the (latest version of the) theme music at the end of the disc. By the end, Benny has been firmly re-established as an archaeologist, with a compassionate streak and a fierce determination, particularly when her family or those she considers family are threatened. It’s a version of Benny that works well, and that Lisa Bowerman sells very convincingly. She’s helped by strong performances from Ayesha Antoine, Marcus Hutton and David Ames – but to say more about their roles would spoil some of the many twists and turns.
The accompanying DVD contains the short film Dead and Buried, which leads into the first story of the previous season, as well as a making-of featurette on that. It’s also got an interesting behind the scenes documentary on Epoch, which explains how the range has been brought back on track, with contributions from Benny’s creator Paul Cornell, and the man who’s probably done more to envisage her world, Gary Russell.
Verdict: If you’ve not tried Benny before, then definitely give this a listen – and there are some intriguing hints about the direction of the follow-ups, Road Trip and Legion. 7/10
Click here to order Epoch from Big Finish