Review by Jacob Licklider
Before we continue with this review for The Two Jasons, a little warning. This book deals with the fallout of the events of Series 8 of the Bernice Summerfield single releases and as such those spoilers must be discussed as well as certain plot threads from the Virgin New Adventures, mainly Death and Diplomacy and Happy Endings. If you have not listened to or read those stories, please be careful reading ahead as there will be spoilers in this review for those story arcs. It’s also a release with adult themes as it is a Benny book outside of her Doctor Who Big Finish audios so isn’t quite as family friendly.Dave Stone may be an author who often gets a bad rap, mainly due to a lot of his generally ‘out-there’ ideas. The Two Jasons was originally released in 2007 with Series 8 of Bernice Summerfield, concurrent with The End of the World and The Final Amendment, as a reflection on Stone’s most important contribution to Doctor Who and Bernice Summerfield, Jason Kane. Jason was originally conceived as a love interest for Bernice whom she would meet in Death and Diplomacy and marry in Happy Endings. Return of the Living Dad prophesied that they would have two children and live happily ever after, but Eternity Weeps saw the characters divorce and that divorce was something that undercut their relationship throughout future books. It’s incredibly important to note that Benny and Jason were still madly in love with one another, and The Two Jasons is a book which explores that right at the point where Jason Kane is murdered, just before Benny is to discover his death. Despite being a Benny book, stone is putting the reader in the head of Jason Kane, or rather a clone of Jason Kane, which is an important device as it makes this entire book (and audiobook) a reflection on Jason. It also takes the opportunity to retell Death and Diplomacy, Jason’s first appearance from his perspective.
At the beginning of the book and audiobook is a reprinting of “Sex Secrets of the Robot Replicants” by Philip Purser-Hallard, originally published in A Life Worth Living in 2004. This is the story that establishes the clones and is one that discussion is much less important for the actual audiobook. It’s a great little short story, don’t get me wrong, though it’s more of a comedy than the rest of the book, full of bawdy jokes and Jason having one of his schemes this time to be taken seriously as an academic, which is different enough from his usual themes and is one of those little different things that makes the short story stand out. Jason has essentially cloned himself to allow his pornography to be seen through an academic lens, each of the clones essentially being given sexual pseudonyms, making this be the more adult short story than the rest of the book (Stone’s book actually censors much of the cursing in a humorous way). It’s also a short story from Benny’s perspective and Purser-Hallard clearly loves writing for the character, though it feels a little weird being out of the short story anthology which was tied into what had been going on in the Benny audios at the time, mainly the Fifth Axis story arc and its fallout.
The Two Jasons proper is some of Stone’s most reflective work, the half retelling Death and Diplomacy being from Jason’s perspective gives the reader much more to sympathise with Jason. Jason as a character, if we’re being totally honest, while a lot of fun didn’t have the most depth until after the divorce and Benny became the sole character during the Virgin New Adventures, and The Two Jasons really explores his abusive childhood while looking at what it means to be a clone. Stone comes to the conclusion and is excellent at arguing that the clones of Jason are not Jason, because there is something more than just memory of Jason. Benny doesn’t know that Jason is dead yet in her minor appearances in this book which is important, as Stone is essentially saying that Jason’s death is a death. Jason Kane will not be returning which is brilliantly done. This also means there are plenty of characters from the Benny range and the Virgin New Adventures, with Chris Cwej and Roz Forrestor appearing in their capacity (and a very sneaky Seventh Doctor cameo).
Overall, this is a very melancholic book, but it is a brilliant one from Stone. Despite the divisiveness in a lot of his stories, the more he wrote, the better Stone became at understanding characters and it is only fitting that a book ending Jason Kane is from the man who created Jason Kane. Yes, this isn’t a Benny heavy book, but it isn’t meant to be, and like many Doctor-lite stories are among the best, The Two Jasons is one of the best and the audiobook being back available means a whole new slew of listeners can hear it. 9/10.
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