She’s a little bit River Song, a little bit Lara Croft, but predates either.  She’s worshiped on some planets as a minor goddess of inebriation.  She’s interstellar archaeologist Bernice Summerfield, one of the Whoniverse’s most successful spinoffs, and she’s just hit YouTube in her first animated adventure, a prequel for season 11 (yes–eleven) of her audio adventures.

 

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwbWpBxosvo]

 

Several months back, I wrote a piece on femme Doctors.  It subsequently got linked to from a couple of places (including here, in French!); where, oddly enough, one throwaway detail got picked up on: that I, personally, don’t particularly want to see a female Doctor.  People seemed to think that that implied I didn’t see women seeing themselves in the lead roles; in fact, I’d stated that it was because I thought the Whoniverse has plenty of kickass female characters already.*

 

Front and center of these is Professor Bernice Summerfield, interstellar archaeologist and action heroine.  Why Benny Is Awesome is a long and complex topic, and better writers than me have had a go.  But let’s say that any random Doctor Who companion discovered that the Doctor had lied to them, by omission or not, and/or tinkered with their destinies.

  • Probable Rose reaction: None, too busy making googly eyes at Doctor.
  • Probable Martha reaction: Expression on face indicates that she’s hurt and disappointed.
  • Actual Benny reaction: “Git! Git! Git!

 

For everyone who’s complained that the Doctor’s companions are wide-eyed teenyboppers with supermodel bodies, Benny is the tonic.  She’s over 30, ex-military, smart and focused, with a career and a backstory and (you may wish to sit down for this) regular-sized boobs.  And that was just when she was introduced, in 1992.  Since then, she’s acquired an ex-husband, a half-human son (long story), an implacable nemesis or two, a best-selling book or three, and has died at least twice.  Think Martha kicked ass in “Human Nature / The Family of Blood“?  She did–but the original companion for that story (in the Virgin New Adventures novel “Human Nature”, whose author, Paul Cornell, adapted it for TV) was Benny.

 

Find out more about Benny at the TARDIS Wiki, or check out the Big Finish page.  You can start from the beginning with the audios; or, if you’re into books, I suggest you start with The Dead Men Diaries, a collection of short stories that picks up Benny’s life as she starts work at the Braxiatel Collection.

 

* In fact, of the many spinoffs, no fewer than seven have or have had female leads (The Sarah Jane Adventures, K9 & Company, the Sarah Jane Smith audios, Virgin New Adventures, Bernice Summerfield, Gallifrey) and one has two female co-leads (Gallifrey). This is a quick-and-dirty count; I’m probably undercounting. I defy anyone to compare this gender balance to the Star Wars and Star Trek universes and their associated spinoffs.