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“You know the saying, behind every great man…”
“There’s a predator in an evening gown, yes.”

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“The best entertainments conjure horror as well as awe.”

A particularly Lara Croftish archaeological dig into a Martian pyramid uncovers an ancient threat to all life…and he’s inside The Doctor?!?  Or worse…Bernice herself?

A far more traditional take on our loveably sarcastic futuristic time travelling Professor than last Fall’s decidely more questionable New Adventures Vol. 1, this set generally eschews the (much missed) comedy of Nev Fountain’s Revolution or David Llewellyn’s Brimstone Kid (bring back Toothless Bob!) in favor of a more po faced, but still quite familiarly Bernice Summerfield sort of adventure.

Guy Adams’ Pyramid of Sutekh sets things up admirably, with a very Benny-centric, archaeologically inclined tale that still manages to include a cameo by Sylvester McCoy and a whole lot of Gabriel Woolf.  Not a lot actually happens in terms of sheer plot and concerns of action, but it’s a fairly strong solo adventure that includes enough expository pontificating by Woolf to firmly establish the paradigm for the remainder of the set.

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“Ever feel you’ve been used?”
Frequently.”

Justin Richards drops by The Vaults of Horus, which finds Sophie Aldred’s apparently ageless Ace teaming up with Benny for a bit of time travel that turns into a sort of distaff assault team when they join forces with early 21st century Egyptian local Alozza (Diveen Henry) to confront some artifact thieves…and those damn Osirian mummies…

Hearkening more than a little back to the whole Indiana Jones thing that resulted in films like Nico Mastorakis‘ Bloodstone, Antonio Margheriti’s Ark of the Sun God, Ferdinando Baldi’s Treasure of the Four Crowns and the Cannon films pairing of the Richard Chamberlain King Solomon’s Mines and Chuck Norris’ Firewalker, Vaults of Horus is a gender-swapped archaeological adventure story in the best sense, filled with some witty verbal interplay between Aldred and Bowerman and some likeable (if understandably a bit broad) supporting players.

Easily the most entertaining story of the set, albeit likely due more to the lively performances of our two (arguably three) leads than the script itself.  I mean, good God, he even included Nazis in this one…what next, Benny hating snakes?

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“I bring many wonderful things, including, standing next to me, a goddess!
Everyone…the goddess Hathor. The god of hope…and beer!”

“oh. Fair enough…hello, Egypt!”

Next, James Goss gives us The Eye of Horus, which at first retains and enhances the comic feel of the prior episode as Benny meets up with the campily decadent Pharaoh Hatshepsut (Sakuntala Ramanee) and her advisor…The Doctor?

But things turn a sight darker with surprising rapidity as matters shift towards a game of power politics, scheming and betrayal and multiple opposing factions, each with an agenda of their own…

Is it just me, or is this the longest story of the set by far?

I am so sick of the political intrigue thing that shows as seemingly far afield as Alias and Game of Thrones have made their stock in trade.  It’s dry and seems to exult in the very worst of human nature by tapping very deeply into the corridors of power, whether governmental, business or otherwise.

Everything that sucks about the human race can be found herein, come one, come all!  Perhaps you can learn a few tricks to apply to your own Social Darwinist rise to the top of your personal ladder of “success” (never sit back to analyze the cost or the measure thereof)…ugh.

That said, there’s obviously a growing audience for this sort of thing, and they would likely have a very different opinion about this story.  For my part, I thought the earlier Hatshepsut bits with Benny were priceless*…I could easily pass on the rest.

* and the tie-in to historical record (and Thutmose’s attempt to eradicate the lady therefrom) was quite clever.

But hey, it was well acted, and the sound effects were quite nicely done…just pardon me while I swap this particular ancient Egyptian adventure out for the far more entertaining Eye of the Scorpion.  Anyone else out there miss Erimem as much as we do?

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“Typical, though, isn’t it?  The world ends, and somehow the aristocracy survives.  What is it with these people?  Do they have pictures of Sutekh in compromising positions, or do they just manage his hedge funds?”

Finally Una McCormack closes things out with The Tears of Isis, where we pay a visit to a New Age cult whose well off members worship death…

A particularly wry exercise in black humor, McCormack wraps up the set on an appropriately seriocomic note, mercilessly skewering the sort of social climbers and schemers the prior story hung its politicosocial intrigue hat upon by application of a reductio ad absurdam mise en scene.

“Why can’t we just leave?”
“Because I want to give the others a chance.”
“They’ve destroyed the world!
“Yes, but I try not to take that kind of thing personally.”

Yes, we’re talking about you folks…and this is how you’d act in a postapocalyptic situation – the exact same way as you act here and now.

It’s a classic barbecue of acquisitive postmodern yuppie/hipster culture (or lack thereof), delivered with dripping sarcasm and plenty of vinegary comedic assessment…another nicely done installment.

So all in all, we have another set that pairs the intrepid if loveably flawed Bernice Summerfield with the Sylvester McCoy Doctor and Ace.  The Doctor bits are more up front than last time around, if only for the ongoing involvement of Gabriel Woolf’s agelessly stentorian baritone and sheer force of presence as Sutekh.  It says something that his persuasively sinister calm effectively serves to outact everyone surrounding (several much-beloved veterans among them, not least of which our three leads), seemingly without even trying.

It’s like a guitarist jam where everyone’s fluttering around manically trying to pull an Yngwie, but you’ve got that one ringer, that Carlos Santana type who just drops one in low and slow who’s the guy that gives everyone chills.

Sure, they’re all damn good.  But when you walk away, who made the big and lasting impression?

That said, it’s quite nice to hear not only Sophie Aldred (long one of our favorite companions here at Third Eye) getting some serious time in the sun and a little bit of Sylvester McCoy to boot, but Lisa Bowerman being given center stage once again, in a series of adventures that actually feel like the sort of thing longtime listeners have come to expect (as opposed to the non-Fountain stories in the first New Adventures set, which threw the character off her game with some very strange if not inappropriate curveballs).  The manic, somewhat neurotic tonality of character is back, and the incessant stream of under the breath sarcastic bon mots should leave regulars feeling right at home.

Admittedly, there are a few people of my acquaintance (inclusive of respected fellow critics) who find the character offputting to some degree or another, but for those of us who find ourselves hooked by her idiosyncratic charms, this volume of New Adventures marks a welcome and much needed return to form (Fountain’s rather amusing Revolution aside).

http://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-new-adventures-of-bernice-summerfield-volume-02-the-triumph-of-sutekh-1199

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