The Dead Men Diaries

Professor Bernice Summerfield and the Dead Men Diaries is the first Bernice Summerfield short story collection released by Big Finish Productions, and contains the first original Bernice Summerfield fiction published by them (their previous releases - the first season of audios - were adaptations of some of the novels published by Virgin books).

The Dead Men Diaries

The Dead Men Diaries
Author(s): Paul Cornell
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Roots: There are references to Aladdin and Jane Austen.

Continuity: Benny is now the Archaeologist in Residence at the Braxiatel Collection. She signed a contract to deliver the sequel to Down Among the Dead Men with her publisher James at least eight years earlier [she has invited him to at least eight of her birthday parties]. She is eventually persuaded to compile the sequel, entitled The Dead Men Diaries, by the presence of two bounty hunters, Mr Plurk and Mr Scozz, hired by James. This sequel consists of short accounts written about her exploits by other people. Her other book, Incredibly Bad Jokes of the Twentieth Century, is also mentioned.

It is noted that she is former Head of the Archaeology Department at the University of Vremnya, but it is not explained how she came to leave that job (Twilight of the Gods (NA)) [however, it is later stated that her last university appointment ended with the destruction of the planet - this doesn't technically describe the events of Twilight of the Gods (NA), so perhaps Vremnya was destroyed]. She is worshipped as a deity by a cult based in a deserted aircraft hanger on an island at the centre of the Medelein Sea on Phraxa, which once instigated a galaxy-wide campaign to bring about her death because she didn't live up to their expectations. She notes that she has died at least twice (Head Games and The Sword of Forever).

Her life is still being adapted for novels, with Professor Bernice Summerfield and the Doomsday Manuscript forthcoming from the same publisher as The Dead Men Diaries (Professor Bernice Summerfield and the Doomsday Manuscript, obviously). Braxiatel has reconstructed Joseph for Benny (see Tears of the Oracle) [this places the writing of The Dead Men Diaries after Professor Bernice Summerfield and the Doomsday Manuscript]. There are references to Jason and Benny recalling the Oracle's prediction that they would have children together (Tears of the Oracle). Braxiatel gives Benny a dictation bracelet. Benny has considered published her Collected Diaries, but doubts now that she ever will. She claims to have started writing an encyclopedia of archaeology, entitled A Brief History of Time, most of the manuscript of which was destroyed in a fire. She still has a dwindling supply of patches designed to remove alcohol from the system, given to her by "an old associate" (the Doctor).

Wolsey has been neutered. Despite this, he can breed with some of the more exotic hybrid fauna of KS-159 [which has been imported or has otherwise arrived on board spacecraft].

The Braxiatel Collection staff has four new members, although none are actually seen here. They are Ms Jones, who is in charge of administration and is a six-foot tall formidable woman of uncertain age; Mister Crofton, the gardener, who doesn't get on well with Ms Jones; Adrian Wall, the construction manager, who is a Killoran, a race described as being seven feet tall and a cross between a wolf and an ape, complete with snout, fangs and claws; and Broderick Naismith, the Chief Public Relations Officer, whom nobody except for Braxiatel has actually met. Anderson (Step Back in Time), Gully (Digging Up the Past), Gavin (The Least Important Man), and Guy (A Question of Identity) are all present at the first function Benny attends after finishing The Dead Men Diaries. Mr Plurk becomes Professor Plurk, inaugurator of the Plurk Chair of Bounty Hunter Studies at the Braxiatel Collection. Mr Scozz attempts to start a related course, but is killed in a gunfight during his first tutorial.

Abrucksan condoms are large enough to be used as hot air balloons.

Location: KS-159, 2600AD.

Future History: By 2599 there is a Galaxy Wide Web. The cryogenic technology required in order to make good vodka ice cream was developed during a vast interplanetary war in the Carnexti system. The music career of the Wee Papa Girl Rappers is well-documented by the twenty-sixth century, but almost nothing is known of the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Steps. Two episodes of Blake's 7 on the original videotape survive in the Braxiatel Collection [whatever this series is, it is not the Blake's 7 we know - see Corpse Marker and Kaldor City].

The Bottom Line: "Oh, and please take care to detach this note from the rest of the manuscript. I wouldn't want it ending up as the introduction or something." Highly effective first-person linking material that introduces Bernice to new readers, and reintroduces her to old readers equally well. Cornell makes a fine job of writing filler, providing humour and drama even between the actual stories.

A Question of Identity

A Question of Identity
Author(s): Caroline Symcox
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Roots: There is a reference to Cinderella.

Continuity: Benny is the author of a paper entitled The Traxian Paradox: A New Perspective. She kisses Guy, a student who has a crush on her.

There is a shopping centre on KS-159, which includes a dress shop.

Location: KS-159, c2599AD [prior to the linking story].

Future History: An expedition to Traxis Six in 2205 unearthed ten artifacts, many of which now reside in the Braxiatel Collection. The Comparative Religion Society of the Delvian Academy is working on relics from a dig on Traxis Four and has been systematically stealing artifacts from the Traxis Six dig.

The Bottom Line: "The old Benny is gone! I'm a sober, serious academic now! I don't get involved in... Ooof!" With the relatively mild threat of religious fundamentalist academics trying to nick artifacts from the Braxiatel Collection, A Question of Identity nicely reintroduces us to Benny's unorthodox lifestyle, as well as reminding us just how manipulative and all-seeing Brax can be. A charming start.

Steal From the World

Steal from the World
Author(s): Kate Orman
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Roots: The story opens with a quotation from Alexander Pope's Ode on Solitude.

Continuity: Benny first visited Capella Four twenty years earlier (see Walking to Babylon), on a solo mission to prove herself; she fell down and cliff and broke both legs. Her military training helped her to survive. The younger Benny smoked cigarettes and was a fan of Jeffrey Mqhayi, star of Danger on the Frontier.

The Aurigans are an apparently vanished species that left virtually no trace of their civilisation behind. They apparently lived on Capella Four, which is where their rock paintings remain; in fact, the rock paintings are much more than that - the stone is a storage medium and the paintings an interface, hence the pictures change shape and location. The Aurigan that appears to Benny is a shadowy humanoid, somewhat ethereal - it may be an image of some kind. The Aurigans set Benny's broken legs twenty years earlier, thus saving her life.

Capella Four has two suns, called Capella A and B. The planet has twenty-six species of plant analogous to bracken fern, and various fat spherical fungi. The only animal life is the nightcrawlers, arachnoids that range in size from tiny to the size of a Volkswagen car.

The Iq-Qaba are a vanished species that left traces of their civilisation behind.

Location: Capella Four, 2563 (Walking to Babylon) and c2599AD.

The Bottom Line: "Why didn't you help me? Why did you leave me to crawl up the side of a mountain?" Inspired by a throwaway line in Parasite, Steal From the World is a beautifully written tale of Benny surviving more or less alone against the odds.

The Light That Never Dies

The Light that Never Dies
Author(s): Eddie Robson
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Roots: There is a reference to Wacky Races. Benny's office contains the original of The Hay Wain.

Continuity: The planet Callicial neighbours Delcanto. One of the diplomats executed on film was a Brv'clinz, whose planet is located a couple of systems from Delcanto. The Brv'clinz are an image-driven culture and forbid any visual record to be made of anything on their planet. The reason for this is that they are actually image based and can be literally captured on film, due to the way they are perceived by other races. The Brv'clintz diplomat to Delcanto called Mrrct'llz became trapped in the film of And the Sky Turned Blood Red at the point of his death, and consequently experiences the agony of dying again whenever the film is watched. Braxiatel removes and destroys the sequence featuring Mrrct'llz from the film, which is located in the Braxiatel Collection, thus freeing him. The Brv'clintz are technologically advanced. They do not understand how other races' existence functions.

Benny tends to sit slightly slumped in her chair.

Location: KS-159, c2599.

Future History: And the Sky Turned Blood Red was filmed in 2156 and was titled after a poem by Emelia Madison. It is a documentary concerning the civil war on Delcanto. Very few filmmakers used celluloid after the 2040s, although some still prefer it.

The Bottom Line: "I think we've got a ghost in the machine." A fascinating idea, well executed.

Heart of Glass

Heart of Glass
Author(s): Daniel O'Mahony
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Continuity: The Exhalation is a [artificial] glass world, where COMBINE has its headquarters. Braxiatel is trying to negotiate access to the records and collections of the Ganesh system, which COMBINE controls. COMBINE use metal and glass automatons as servants. Any visitors to COMBINE headquarters have a DNA sample taken whilst they sleep, as company policy; these may be used in COMBINE's technology.

Location: The Exhalation, the Ganesh system, c2599.

The Bottom Line: "COMBINE won't do anything with your DNA or my DNA or anyone's DNA. It's acquisition. Policy. I'm worried about who they might sell it on to." A simple tale of small print and corporate disregard for privacy, which works largely because of O'Mahony's usual fine prose.

The Monster and the Archaeologists

The Monster and the Archaeologists
Author(s): Kathryn Sullivan
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Continuity: The Gandagums are large armadillo-like aliens, with long snouts, and alternating bands of fur and armour. Jindah, and Gandagum archaeologist, discovered the space tomb of Rhinsel.

The Wyzyna allow access to their archaeological sites, on the condition that tourists can visit the sites. The Zulawy civilization existed on Wyzyn at least twenty centuries ago. The Book of Stepping Forth is an ancient Zulawy text.

The Mtongl were giant and savage alien slave traders that conquered areas of the Hodge cluster. A Mtongl crashed on Wyzyn over twenty centuries earlier.

Location: Wyzyn, c2599.

The Bottom Line: My discovery. My precious discovery!" A cautionary tale about the politics of Archaeology might seem perfectly at home in a Benny short story anthology, but unfortunately The Monster and the Archaeologists is about twice as long as its simple plot can sustain.

Step Back in Time

Step Back in Time
Author(s): Matt Jones
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Continuity: Benny has a good-looking promiscuous gay friend named Anderson who works at the Braxiatel Collection. He has slept with half of the male staff of the Collection. The Collection has an overweight fifty-year-old Senior Geography Fellow named Eleanor.

Porl Tomas is a Jeillo, a pale-skinned humanoid alien. He tricks Benny into falling in love with him in order to acquire the bracelet. Before discovering his true motive, which is to use the bracelet to save his relationship with an ex-lover, she has sex with him.

The Braxiatel Collection [Mansion house] features a bar. The Collection has an observatory, a kilometre-wide transparent dome on the surface of KS-159. Braxiatel has a private kitchen, from which Benny steals chocolate fudge. Braxiatel has a private collection situated in a wing of the house some distance from the Great Library, in which he keeps dangerous relics, forbidden texts, and forgotten weapons.

The alien bracelet was developed by an alien race, who used them after marriage - the newly wed couple would use the bracelets to travel back along their personal time-lines whenever they learnt something new about each other, and lived their relationship over again, benefiting from their new knowledge. Braxiatel has such a bracelet in the Collection, but Benny smashes it after discovering that Porl has manipulated her in order to get hold of it.

Location: KS-159, c2599.

The Bottom Line: "I wish I'd never met you!" Emotionally manipulative, although it's virtually impossible not to feel shocked by Porl's actions.

Christmas Spirit

Christmas Spirit
Author(s): Cavan Scott and Mark Wright
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Roots: Benny says of Christmas "Humbug!" in a nod to Scrooge from A Christmas Carol. Dickens himself is also mentioned. There are references to Val Doonican, Glasst's Requiem, and Freud.

Continuity: According to legend, the Anibusians used to control dreams. They used Memory Stones in their funeral ceremonies - the mourner and the corpse both wore one. The stones are psionically resonant and attuned to the mind of the wearer and project a perfect image of the deceased to the mourner; as the mourner eventually comes to terms with the death, the resonance dissipates along with the image, leaving only the stone behind as a piece of jewelry.

Bernice hates Christmas. She recently went on a dig on Anibus as a favour to Braxiatel, during which student Steven died. She watches Alistair Sim movies.

A clock tower has been built in the Collection's gardens overlooking a newly constructed lake. The Collection also has a chapel. Dr Yakkle is a psychiatrist who works in the Grand Trianon.

Location: KS-159, Christmas 2598.

Future History: By 2598 there is a Central Treasury Asteroid [established from Earth].

The Bottom Line: "These kids mean nothing to you and yet here you are, sticking your oh-so-cute little nose in, trying to sort out the problem." A touching and poignant tale, with a wistful, melancholy ending that avoids the usual seasonal schmaltz.

The Door into Bedlam

The Door into Bedlam
Author(s): Dave Stone
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Roots: There are references to da Vinci, Paul Daniels, and Road Runner.

Dialogue Triumphs: "I wouldn't know anything about mind-blowing sex. I'm a famous astrophysicist."

Continuity: Benny's interdimensional collision with Jason renews her desire to be reunited with him and also reassures her that he is still alive.

The Braxiatel Collection includes the Pyrite Chambers, the Topological Vivaria, the Skin Arboretum, and the Repository of the Improbable. The Curator of Repository of the Improbable is one R. F. Wilburton, who is caught up in a Markov Chain of events that makes it impossible for anyone to look directly at him. The Repository stores items of dubious historical value, which nevertheless just might be important or valuable. Items in the Repository include the Magnificent Patent Prestidigitator manufactured by Messrs Babbage and Rosenblatt c1841, a first-folio edition of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shaxberd and featuring the additional character Julius, and a Rembrandt portrait of a master weaver's wife holding a Sloathe (Sky Pirates!). Braxiatel owns a number of hugely expensive deep-range transport ships.

Since the events of Twilight of the Gods (NA), Jason has escaped from the Ferutu's universe and is now trapped in a universe, which instead of planets has bubbles in an infinity of rock, with tunnels between them instead of space lanes. Vehicles used to travel between bubbles include Behemoth-class Moles, which tunnel through the rock. This universe is inhabited by demons, which are apparently immortal, regenerating from any injury (including dismemberment) almost instantly. Native demon species in this dimension include the Azreae, the Shaberabereth, and the Yoshoth. They refer to our universe as the Phantasmagorical Regions, and sometimes travel there for holidays via Station Control (see Professor Bernice Summerfield and the Infernal Nexus). Touching Cloths, fabricated by the Weavers of Skund, are maps of the Phantasmagorical Regions, but are in some way connected to them, allowing things to pass through. Flatchlock hopes that by sending Jason through, because he hails from the Phantasmagorical Regions, this might open a stable conduit that can then be used as a holiday and trade route. Jason almost succeeds, but by unfortunate coincidence, Benny at that exact same moment is travelling the other way thanks to a Goronian joining stone, and they "collide", knocking each back the way they came and sealing off the conduit. The geographical features of this universe switch themselves around on a daily basis. The laws of reality in this dimension appear to be magic-based.

The flora of Goron IV is fungus-based. The Fungus Tribes of Goron IV use joining stones in their shamanistic rituals, which are capable of opening inter-dimensional bridges. The Goronians are squat orange skinned humanoids approximately three-feet tall, with green hair.

Location: KS-159 and Goron IV, c2599 (it is several years since Jason was lost).

Future History: The Earth Federation, or EarthFed, is a jingoistic collection of human-settled planets (not including Earth) that bears a strong and unpleasant resemblance to the nineteenth-century British Empire. One of their colonies is New Terra.

The Bottom Line: "I just wish things had worked out better." Stone reigns in some of his excesses for the short story format and delivers a lean and witty tale that serves as a reminder that nobody writes for Jason as well as he.

The Least Important Man

The Least Important Man
Author(s): Steven Moffat
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Roots: There are references to Scalextrix, Dostoyevski, Tolstoy, and Blake's 7.

Continuity: Gavin Oliver Scott was born in the twentieth century, but at the age of 21 was preserved in mud and believed dead - his "corpse" was preserved until the twenty-sixth century, and was stored in the Braxiatel Collection. It is the only perfectly preserved corpse of the twentieth century, although in fact he isn't dead, but is in suspended animation. The mud that preserved him is extra-terrestrial in origin and is apparently stasis gel - he awakes c2599 in the Braxiatel Collection. Benny uses a Quantum Imager to study Gavin prior to his "death" - this allows the user to model the past, if they have a direct link to it, such as Gavin's body. Benny inadvertently manages to appear to Gavin in the past, since the Quantum Imager can theoretically affect the past to a limited degree, with the intervention of a living mind.

Location: Nottingham, during the 1990s, and KS-159, c2599.

The Bottom Line: "Medicine has advanced a lot since you've been in the mud." An amusing, if slightly daft, concept that Moffat uses extremely well.

Digging Up the Past

Digging Up the Past
Author(s): Mark Michalowski
Recurring Characters: Bernice Summerfield
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Roots: There are references to The Hobbit, Marilyn Monroe, Pamela Anderson, Joanna Lumley-Pryce [implying of course, that Joanna Lumley will marry Jonathon Pryce at some point!], "President" Hilary Clinton, and Margaret Thatcher.

Continuity: Benny agrees to let InterMedia make a docudrama about her, provisionally titled Digging Up the Past. She asks to be played by a synthespian Emma Thompson [see The Dying Days]. Benny keeps a metal box of mementoes under her bed, including toy cars, key rings, novelty letters and other bric-a-brac.

InterMedia is the biggest production company in the sector. Ms Layla Field, an artificial intelligence who dates back from the twenty-second century and was one of the first synthespians, runs it. She was originally a Lara Croft character, a fact that she keeps well hidden. The major shareholder in InterMedia is the Army of Heavenly Light, which Benn describes as a non-liberal, non-modern thinking religious organization.

Gully is a staff member at the Braxiatel Collection and has a crush on Benny. He has exposed himself to her on a previous occasion. He is from Koben. Heggerty is another staff member, and apparently an archaeologist.

Future History: Twentieth century artifacts have recently been squirted out of a "time sphincter" on Dali Prime. The planets Cene and Sapice are mentioned. After the Great Cock Up of 2107, humanity lost most of Western literature, but managed to retain a complete set of X-Men comics.

The Bottom Line: "You know what TV companies are like." Michalowski attempts satire, although the result at times borders on farce; nonetheless, it's a highly entertaining and suitably light-hearted end to the anthology.

Discontinuity Guide by Paul Clarke

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