Oh No It Isn’t
Lisa Bowerman (Professor Bernice Summerfield), Nicholas Courtney (Wolsey the Cat), Jo Castleton (Jayne Waspo / Bitchy), Jonathan Brüün (Michael Doran / Cute), Colin McIntyre (Captain Balsam / King Rupert), Nicholas Briggs (Lt Prince / Prince Charming), James Campbell (Professor Candy / Dame Candy), Mark Gatiss (The Grand Vizier), Alistair Lock (The Grel Master).
“The King’s balls get bigger every year!”
What could possibly go wrong on Professor Bernice Summerfield’s investigation into the lost civilisation of Perfecton? Nothing, it seems – until they leave the planet and spot a dirty great missile heading towards their ship. But instead of oblivion, Benny finds herself plunged into the strange world of – panto.
Professor Bernice Summerfield leads an archaeological dig on the planet Perfecton, a previously quarantined world. It was previously home to the Perfectons, a technologically advanced race that never developed space travel. It orbits an old red giant star, which is in imminent risk of becoming a supernova. Despite this Lieutenant Prince, the navigator of their ship Winton, is confident that the ship’s sensors will detect the star beginning to collapse, giving them three hours to evacuate. After bathing, Bernice prepares to read a textbook by Professor Archduke on obscure theatrical forms from 20th century Earth, but is interrupted when a missile is detected heading for them from the planet. She rushes out to the bridge as the file is loading. The Grel board the Winton, intending to drain its data before moving onto the planet. Both groups are powerless to prevent the missile striking…
Bernice awakens in a beautiful meadow. She is surprised as she remembers the missile striking and believes she is dead and this is some sort of afterlife. She is even more surprised to find Wolsey is here, as an enormous talking cat in a hat with a penchant for singing who seems to believe she is a boy named Dick Whittington. Her behaviour is also changed, as when they find a small house that is messy, she insists on cleaning the house fully, despite the fact she dislikes tidying. She suspects she might have been slipped a drudgery drug, especially when birds and other forest animals show up to assist with the cleaning. She goes to sleep, hoping she will wake up back on the Winton. When she awakes, she encounters more of her archaeology crew: her students as seven dwarfs and Professor Candy as a Dame who is been pursued by the Grel. She is relieved to see the Grel recognise her but they attack and she is injured. They are saved by Lieutenant Prince, who is known here as Prince Charming.
After Bernice’s wound is healed, Prince Charming invites her to the Ball held by his father, King Rupert (who is Captain Balsam). Bernice begins to convince Wolsey that this world is not making sense: Wolsey believes they are in England, but has knowledge of things that should not exist in this supposed time, like tea, the dwarfs believe they live in the Land of Good King Rupert, the Prince did not recognise her when they met, but the King seems to be her father and the prince her (unrelated) stepbrother. They are interrupted by the Vizier, who is not someone they know from the ship and a hissing sound is heard whenever he enters. The King has decided Bernice should be married and there are several bachelors at tonight’s Ball. In order to reach an “ending” to the multiple stories that seem to be occurring, Bernice decides to accept the marriages of all her prospective suitors, hoping that whatever is controlling these events will become confused and reveal itself. The clock strikes midnight and the Ball fades away. Bernice and her friends are still in this fantasy world, but she is now dressed in rags and forced to clean floors for her two ugly stepsisters. She is visited by her Fairy Godfather who, while talking to Bernice, seems to also be talking to others that only he can see and warns her if she keeps treating this world as a dream or an afterlife, they are all doomed. He also is not someone from the Winton and he grants her three wishes (the first wish had been used to attend the King’s Ball, so two remain). She wishes to see who he is talking to, which he obliges, which is revealed to be an audience. Her third is to join them, so she can find an exit from this world. When she finds herself in the audience, she recognises them all as Perfectons, although they are all asleep. They are also in a 20th century Earth Theatre, but when she tries the exit, she finds herself back in the story. Wolsey, Dame Candy and the dwarfs now realise that none of their stories match and that there is something wrong with this world, particularly Wolsey. Bernice deduces that this is because Wolsey was the only non-sentient lifeform on the ship. In order to try to free his memories, Bernice attempts to hypnotise Wolsey, where he remembers seeing the title English Pantomime: A Critical Study by Professor F. Archduke on the computer screen. Somehow, the matter of the thesis has become the matter of their reality.
they visit the Vizier in the hopes he can help them as he, like the Fairy Godfather, is not a character from the ship. He sends them to collect a lamp in a desert outside the palace. However, the dangers encountered in this place is real, compared to the pantomime fights or the wound Bernice received earlier that healed completely. As they hand the lamp over to the Vizier, the Grel arrive with several pantomime villains they have allied with. They steal the lamp, as they recognise it as a powerful artefact. After rubbing the lamp, a genie (who has the form of a giant Perfecton) appears. The Grel believe that such an ally will help them conquer this world, but the genie attacks the Grel. While it is distracted by the Grel’s ogre ally, the Vizier uses his magic to transport them all away. The genie begins to destroy this world, first by grabbing the sky (the set backdrop), breaking the fourth wall and allowing the Perfectons to enter the pantomime world. The King sends out a call for a hero to come forth to vanquish the genie. Realising that the pantomime army does not stand a chance against the genie and the Perfectons, Bernice examines the plinth the Vizier planned to put the lamp. Pressing on the indentatedition on the plinth, Bernice and the others are temporarily transported back to the Winton. The star is nearly ready to go supernovae and the Perfecton missile had pierced the ships databanks. Unable to keep the pressure on the plinth, they soon return to the pantomime world, each remembering a fraction of how they really are. Wolsey is particularly distraught by this, if they return, he will no longer be self-aware and will lose all memories of how he is now. Bernice recognises the Vizier as part of the computer program and how it is somehow generating this world. The Vizier, acting as an exit command, has been pointing them towards the lamp as a form of escape. Transported back to the front of the army, they confront the Perfecton Genie. It claims that the Perfectons elected not to focus on space travel, but to develop Perfecton into the perfect world, only to discover that their world would soon become uninhabitable. Bernice then deduces that the Perfectons then created a computer matrix, combining all the knowledge of the Perfecton race and their own minds and loaded it onto the missile that was fired at the Winton, enabling the Perfectons to take over the host ship and escape, allowing their race to survive. Unfortunately, as the missile pierced the data core at the precise moment the pantomime thesis was been uploaded, the Perfectons became the audience, rather than taking over the crew. The genie is the master program of the Perfecton’s design, inadvertently released by the Grel and can now directly attack the main computer, deleting them all if successful. Bernice tricks the genie into returning back into the lamp and they escape, but are pursued by the Perfecton army. Wolsey sacrifices himself to buy them the time needed to place the lamp on the plinth, ending the Perfecton program and returning them to the ship. They escape the exploding star with seconds to spare and Wolsey, who was injured, receives medical attention.
Benny is accompanied in the expedition to Perfecton by seven students: Jayne Waspo, Michael Doran, Arex, Pluse, Fuleep, Marjorie and Rose.
Benny thinks that the Dean of St Oscar’s University has a wicked sense of humour.
Professor Archduke asked Bernice to take a look at his recent thesis.
Sentient Wolsey thinks that Bernice, whom he calls”Dick”, is planning to become the Lord Mayor of London. Bernice recalls that Richard Whittington was a historical person, who was Lord Mayor of London three times between 1397 and 1420.
The Fairy Godfather points out that it was he and not Vivienne Westwood who created Bernice’s ballgown.
Arex calls other students”human scum”.
Grellor is the homeworld of the Grel.
The Grel afterlife is called Slawcor.
Wolsey thinks that he and Bernice are on their way to London.
Trying to reconcile Pantoland with his knowledge of England of the 14th-15th century, Wolsey suggests that King Rupert might rule over some small kingdom in Surrey or Kent.
In the Pantoland Bernice meets harmonising bluebirds who help her clean the house and bring their friends mice to help. (This is an allusedition to bluebirds and mice from Cinderella.) Squirrels also participate in the cleaning.
Bernice leaves the ball in a coach driven by a weasel.
In the Pantoland Bernice finds herself dressed in tights, a tunic and tricorn hat.
Bernice is happy that women do not have to wear corsets in the 26th century.
The petticoats that Bernice is wearing belong to the Victorian style, not Medieval one.
Food and beverages
The Vizier uses magic to order curry with paratha, aloo saag, and Peshwari naan. He soon regrets not ordering an extra portion of rice for “Alladin”.
Tea did not yet exist in England in 1420 and certainly not during the times of knights and castles.
Bernice sings”Lullaby of Birdland “.
In the Pantoland, Wolsey attempts to sing”I’d Do Anything” and “There’ll Always Be an England ” but is quickly silenced by Bernice on both occasions.
Benny sings”Row, Row, Row Your Boat “.
Pantomime, theatre and books
Numerous references are made to various fairy tales used in panto including Cinderella, Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots and Snow White, as well as gnomes and elves.
There are yellow brick roads in Pantoland. (This is an allusedition to The Wizard of Oz.)
One of the inhabitants of Pantoland is called Jack from the Village. Wolsey was once offered some magic beans. (These are alluseditions to Jack and the Beanstalk.)
Wolsey thinks that his master is Dick Whittington. (This is in line with the story Dick Whittington and His Cat.)
King Rupert explains that Prince Charming was found near a cottage made entirely of chocolate and other sweets. (This is an allusedition to Hansel and Gretel.)
Many do not like dwarves because of Rumplephobia. (This is an allusedition to Rumpelstiltskin.)
Dame Candy mentions the business with the transvestite wolf. (This is an allusedition to the Big Bad Wolf.)
Wolsey’s tap dancing is described as a”cat on a hot tin roof “. (This is an allusedition to the play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams.)
Wolsey euphemistically states that he”has been to London to see the Queen. (This is a quote from the nursery rhyme Pussy Cat Pussy Cat’.)
Columbine and Harlequin are typical characters in pantomime.
Grel’s allies are the Ogre, Wicked Queen and Rat King.
Genie from the lamp looks like a gigantic Perfecton.
Bernice was planning to read the thesis English Pantomime: A Critical Study by Professor F. Archduke.
This is the first release of Big Finish Productions and, consequently, the directorial debut of Nicholas Briggs for the company.
Jacqueline Rayner was engaged to adapt the novel for audio by suggestion of its author Paul Cornell, who was busy working on the series Wavelength. Cornell dedicated the novel to Rayner.
Jo Castleton auditioned for the role of Bernice Summerfield.
The original theme for the series was composed by Alistair Lock for Paul Cornell’s project Phoenix Ryan.
Gary Russell wanted to start the first season with Dragons’ Wrath, but Cornell persuaded him to use as a pilot the adaption of the novel that was also the pilot for Virgin Bernice Summerfield New Adventures.
Like many early Big Finish releases, this audio story was released on double cassette as well as double CD. The cassette is now discontinued.
This and other early releases have been reissued with a slightly different cover to bring it in line with the later series branding.
The image of Bernice Summerfield on the original cover was drawn by Lee Sullivan to accompany Paul Cornell’s interview about the character in Doctor Who Magazine. A later cover replaced it with Paul Vyse’s”Professor Bernice Summerfield” logo of the series.
The following people and organisations were thanked in the CD booklet: Simon Moore, the IGA, Brenda Smith and everyone at CFP, everyone at Virgin Licensing.
The front of the 2nd edition CD case featured the tagline”Science fiction has never sounded so much fun!”
The back of the 2nd edition CD case featured short introductory blurbs about Professor Bernice Summerfield, Wolsey, pantomime and the Grel.
In the 2nd edition, numbers”1•1″ were added to the CD spine to bring it in line with the enumeratedition of releases: series 1, release 1.
The 2nd edition CD booklet featured photos of Lisa Bowerman and Nicholas Courtney by Stephanie Hornett.
This audio story was recorded on 25 and 26 June 1998 at the Intergalactic Arts in London.
Track listing from the CD
God is an enormous cat in a hat?
Disturbing a beautiful young woman’s underwear.
I am not a ‘small person’. I am a dwarf. And I’m proud.
Do you want your 2:1 or not?
And I’ve seen you poo!
The King’s balls get bigger every year!
Life is but a dream.
He does not want to catch Mad Human Disease.
Soft warn thing that smells of Servant Woman.
C’mon. Let’s get back to the Castle.
The reward will be whopping great riches!
Don’t step on the white tiles.
That’s not something you see everyday, is it?
Give us the lamp!
Jayne refers to the fact that Bernice served in Spacefleet. Bernice clarifies that she was conscripted. (Love and War)
Wolsey was given to the Seventh Doctor by Joan Redfern in April 1914. (Human Nature) The Doctor then gave him to Bernice in May 1997. (The Dying Days)
Bernice refers to the fact that the 20th century is her favourite period of Earth’s history. (The Dying Days)
Bernice refers to her marriage to Jason Kane in Cheldon Bonniface on 24 April 2010 (Happy Endings) and their subsequent divorce. (Eternity Weeps)