Switching over to Bernice Summerfield as the protagonist for the Virgin New Adventures is perhaps not the most accurate description of just what the books become. The first five books, certainly, Benny is the driving force and main character, but with the sixth book, Deadfall by Gary Russell, the protagonist moves away from Benny and onto Jason Kane, who nicks a data crystal right from Benny’s nose to what may be the mythical planet of Ardethe. On the way to the planet is an amnesiac Christopher Rodonte Cwej while stowing away with Jason is Emile Mars-Smith, determined to get Jason and Benny back together. Irving Braxiatel also has a small part to play, mainly as Benny’s confidant in her little interludes. The cover of this book is perhaps one of the most B-movie covers any of the Virgin New Adventures have had with Chris Cwej surrounded by two beautiful women, convicts of a prison, and a cat, who isn’t Wolsey, Wolsey stays on Dellah. This is also another adaptation of one of the Audio Visuals Doctor Who audios which were made by him and Nicholas Briggs in the 1980s, and this book actually lends itself really well for not being a Doctor Who story. Any Doctor Who references directly have to have the serial numbers filed off and it makes for some interesting speculation as the implication clearly is that the myth of Ardethe is actually the planet of Gallifrey (there is a clear degradation of the Shobogans, the setting is the constellation of Kastoborous, and it is protected by the Knights of Jeneve).
Switching things to Jason Kane as the main character for this one book also isn’t the most accurate, even if it is brilliant. Emile is the character who gets much more of the spotlight here in his naïve quest to get Benny and Jason back together. He has come to terms with his sexuality and has an impending visit from Scott while Tameka has had Scott’s child, Scott being perfectly fine with polyamory while Emile kind of has that tension. Unlike Beyond the Sun, Deadfall sees Emile immediately recognizing his feelings are actually his own and not him projecting his insecurities onto others. He is still having issues with his father, but has realized just how toxic that relationship was and how Tameka was genuinely just trying to help with him. Jock, Tameka and Scott’s child, is almost a source of pride for Emile, he finishes the book seeing the child and loving the child like a father. It makes for a nice little arc for Emile which is great. Chris on the other hand has to figure out just who he is and what his purpose is in this post-Lungbarrow world. He doesn’t even remember who Roz was and is integral in the resolution of the book, which draws on ideas present in the Psi-Powers arc of the Virgin New Adventures, as this wouldn’t be a Gary Russell book without references to other stories. Jason rounds out our trio of protagonists, and there is still this lovesick nature to him as while he distracts himself with other women and even gets a fiancé at the end (ending the book at a reference to Death and Diplomacy and Happy Endings), he clearly is still in love with Benny.
Benny and Braxiatel have their own little subplot on Dellah as things are going awry at St. Oscar’s with the discovery of the coordinates. Brax being Benny’s person to complain to about Jason here is excellent as he is right there with a drink and ready to hear whatever insanity Jason is about to have. He’s clearly planning something in the background as Russell drops hints here which are a lot of fun, and Benny’s outbursts against Jason are also way too fun. Overall, Deadfall is perhaps the best Gary Russell Doctor Who book and it’s not even a Doctor Who book. It gives some brilliant insight into where Jason is post Eternity Weeps and post-Beyond the Sun which makes for a great protagonist and rounds out essentially what is the first big grouping of the Bernice Summerfield VNAs. It is a roller coaster with brilliant implications for the series as a whole and what has happened to Gallifrey and how this series connects with the Eighth Doctor Adventures. 10/10.