An adventurer in her own right before and after her years in the TARDIS, Bernice was destined to make choices that would decide the fate of the universe and to be worshipped in some cultures as a minor goddess of inebriation.
Dating Bernice's early life is difficult. Some dates given for her birth would place it a century too early for her to have lived through her formative events (PROSE: Falls the Shadow) and others would mean that she was only three years old when she was depicted as being seven. (PROSE: Return of the Living Dad) These discrepancies were due to Irving Braxiatel meddling with her timeline. (AUDIO: The Wake et al)
Birth and childhood
A child of the Second Dalek War, (PROSE: Love and War) Benny moved from school to school too often to settle in anywhere. She appears to have acquired a reputation as a disciplinary problem at an early age. It was at a boarding school on Mal Oreille that she had her first recorded adventure; she discovered the Matron was a giant toad feeding on the pupils. She was duly expelled. (PROSE: Biology Lesson on Mal Oreille)
By the time she was seven, (PROSE: Return of the Living Dad) Bernice and her parents were living in the town of Vandor Prime on the planet Beta Caprisis. Despite her father's time-consuming job as an admiral in Spacefleet in wartime, she saw him regularly. He filled her head with pearls of military wisdom, (PROSE: The Evacuation of Bernice Summerfield Considered as a Short Film by Terry Gilliam) took her fishing and read her fairy stories. (PROSE: The Pit) Bernice had already begun to keep a diary — she continued to keep diaries her entire life. She evinced some interest in archaeology by this point: she sent off for a badge that read "I Dig Archaeology". (PROSE: Oh No It Isn't!)
Bernice later recalled waving goodbye to her father's battleship, (PROSE: Shadowmind) the Tisiphone, as it departed to fight the Daleks near Bellatrix. (PROSE: Return of the Living Dad) The ship went missing and Bernice's father was thought dead. (PROSE: Love and War) Worse, the reports of the Tisiphone's final minutes made it appear it had fled the battle. Admiral Summerfield was deemed a deserter. Benny never gave up hope she would discover what had become of her father; the search for him was one reason for her early wanderings around the galaxy.
Within six months of Admiral Summerfield's disappearance (PROSE: The Evacuation of Bernice Summerfield Considered as a Short Film by Terry Gilliam) and some time after Benny's eighth birthday, (AUDIO: The Extinction Event) the Daleks attacked Beta Caprisis. In the havoc of the attack, Claire Summerfield got Bernice to the safety of a shelter — but was exterminated by a Dalek ray while trying to retrieve her daughter's favourite doll. (PROSE: Love and War, Return of the Living Dad) This was how Bernice recalled it; it is possible Claire met her end simply stumbling around dazed from the first wave of plasma fire. (PROSE: Lucifer Rising) If the story of the favourite doll arose from Bernice's survivor's guilt, it may explain her later inconsistency whether the doll was called "Rebecca" or "Molly". (PROSE: Love and War, Parasite)
Teenage life and young adulthood
She declined the hospitality of her foster parents by running away; (PROSE: Parasite) by thirteen (PROSE: The Tunnels to Heaven) she found herself in a Spacefleet military academy. (PROSE: Love and War) She showed aptitude for soldiering, but treated the whole ethos with disdain. She was considered for Section Leader among the cadets, but her disciplinary record prohibited this. (PROSE: The Tunnels to Heaven) She was involved with extracurriculars in her time at the Academy; she was one of its better tennis players, (PROSE: Thirty Love) and she sang in its production of Carousel. (PROSE: No Future)
By sixteen, Bernice had run away from the Academy and was living in the nearby woods. She had become a guru to the girls who came to her for advice. (PROSE: Love and War) It was they who first gave her the nickname "Professor". (PROSE: Blood Harvest) Benny was not alone in the woods; fellow student runaway Simon Kyle had built a shelter for his illicitly reconstituted Galapagos tortoises. He became her first lover, but betrayed her to the Academy when they were discovered by a patrol. (PROSE: Love and War, Return of the Living Dad)
At some point after — possibly immediately afterwards, as she later recalled being the youngest private in the corps, (PROSE: Dry Pilgrimage) Benny left the Academy and was conscripted into Spacefleet. There was, at this point, a draft. (PROSE: Oh No It Isn't!) She deserted in an escape pod from a troop ship en route to the planet Capella.
Not quite twenty-two, Bernice faked her archaeological qualifications and bluffed her way onto digs. She doctored her passport with the notation TMF (Too Mad to Fight) to avoid the draft. (PROSE: Beyond the Sun, PROSE: Genius Loci) She was exposed as a fraud by the leader of a dig on the planet Jaiwan, but was offered genuine academic credentials (an MA in archaeology) in exchange for her help on the dig. (PROSE: Genius Loci) On one dig in her early career, she learned there was only a subtle difference between a knife used for cutting and a spear or hunting knife. (PROSE: Just War)
Still aged twenty-four, presumably, not long after parting ways with Louise, Benny excavated a Martian site, Mare Silenium. This dig established her reputation as an archaeologist and formed the basis for her bestselling book Down Among the Dead Men, published when she was twenty-six.
Travels with the Doctor
Benny met Ace, whom Benny learnt could travel in time. Beneath the arch, Benny's student, Clive Aubrey, discovered a passageway leading to a door. With the help of the Seventh Doctor, with whom Ace travelled in time and space, Benny opened the way, discovering a Heavenite observatory that could detect Hoothi spheres. By making psychic contact with Benny's mind, the Doctor tricked the Hoothi into assuming they infected Benny when they hadn't, saving her life. Ace's new love, Jan Rydd, sacrificed himself by igniting the sphere that was over Heaven with his pyrokinesis, saving the people on Heaven and billions of others.
Ace was upset with the Doctor for allowing Jan to die and left in disgust. Benny agreed to travel in time and space with the Doctor — but only after he had promised not to play games with her life. (PROSE: Love and War, AUDIO: Love and War)
Marriage and divorce
Towards the end of Benny's travels with the Doctor, she met her future husband, Jason Kane. The two sparred and their relationship continued to be antagonistic until Shug, a mutual acquaintance, pointed out they had fallen in love. According to Shug, Jason's bad childhood made him equate love with violence; he sought only sexual encounters with no emotional involvement. Benny, on the other hand, had given her absent father god-like attributes to which no one could measure up; she manoeuvred men into betraying her, re-enacting her father's perceived betrayal. They fell in love because they were both trying to sabotage their relationship. (PROSE: Death and Diplomacy)
Not long after, Benny finally found her father, who had been pulled backwards through time. He was running a bookshop/coffee shop/safe house for aliens and the temporally stranded, in Little Caldwell, England, in 1983. (PROSE: Return of the Living Dad) She believed herself about thirty-five at this time. Shortly after the adventure with her father — which interrupted her research for her dissertation — she completed her doctorate in archaeology.
The St Oscar's years
Shortly after her divorce, Bernice received an invitation to take up the Edward Watkinson Chair of Archaeology at St. Oscar's University on the planet Dellah at a time some years in her own future (2593). She accepted, and was taken to Dellah by the Eighth Doctor. He also gave her Wolsey. By this point, the Doctor stated she was his longest-serving companion. (PROSE: The Dying Days)
Whilst at St Oscar's, she met Irving Braxiatel, who was then head of St Oscar's theatre department. This meeting was their first from Braxiatel's perspective, but subsequent to their earlier encounters from Bernice's. (PROSE: Dragons' Wrath)
Following the evacuation of Dellah (2595) during its occupation by the All-High Gods, Bernice learned she was dying of an incurable condition. (PROSE: Tears of the Oracle) She was, however, cured (PROSE: Return to the Fractured Planet) and instrumental in the destruction of the gods. (PROSE: Twilight of the Gods)
The Braxiatel Collection years
Following Dellah's destruction/removal from normal space, Irving Braxiatel asked for her to come to the Braxiatel Collection. (PROSE: Twilight of the Gods) She became the newly-formed Collection's staff archaeologist; she took up her post as the year 2600 dawned, when she was still in her thirties (she had regressed in age at one point in her travels). (PROSE: The Doomsday Manuscript)
Benny fell pregnant when an alien sorceress possessed her body and seduced Killoran Adrian Wall. (PROSE: The Squire's Crystal) The result was Peter Summerfield, a half-human half-Killoran child, who was born via c-section, since he was too large to be delivered normally, on the planet Deirbhile. Benny was imprisoned there by the Fifth Axis. (PROSE: The Glass Prison) Benny was adamant that she raise her son by herself as a single mother, despite Jason and Adrian each wanting to play a role. (AUDIO: The Green-Eyed Monsters) She later softened her stance, though, and both men were involved in Peter's upbringing.
Iris Wildthyme smuggled Benny on board the space liner the Empress while Iris continued on her own, telling Benny to act like she owned the place and she'd get home. The partner-in-crime of the thief, Karter, hacked into the Empress' systems to put Karter on the staff. The partner intended to set off a small explosion to damage just one floor and quickly steal from them, but mistimed the explosives and damaged the entire hull. While trying to steal the jewels of two dead Kolgarian delegates, Asnarbi and Musjarna, the jewels shattered and emitted a gas that brought the memories and emotions of Asnarbi and Musjarna into Benny and the Ice Warrior Grand Marshall Sstac of New Mars.
While trying to save themselves from the collapsing ship, the memories of the dead Kolgarians and their quarrelling surfaced in Benny and Sstac. Meanwhile, General Azzar, deciding that the explosion was the result of Queen Bastrovan's retaliation against the Empress, set the ship on a collision course for Ronos Minor, faking a distress call so that armies could start a war against her. Azzar electrocuted herself on the flight controls, while Karter, after being discovered, escaped in the last shuttle. With little oxygen left, the last traces of Asnarbi and Musjarna left Benny and Sstac's minds while they clung to life. A group of Ice Warriors, answering Azzar's distress call, rescued the survivors on the ship. Benny wrote to Sstac that she would visit the delgates' next of kin on Kolgar and invited him to come along. (AUDIO: The Dance of the Dead)
A clone of Bernice was created as part of a plot to take over the Earth government, and was sent to kill her, but thanks to Bernice herself and Kadiatu Lethbridge-Stewart, she was able to overcome her programming and gain independence. She was eventually elected President of Earth. (AUDIO: The Final Amendment)
The freelance years
After Jason's death and the revelation that Braxiatel had manipulated events towards that end, Benny left the Braxiatel Collection permanently. (AUDIO: The Wake, Beyond the Sea) With Peter, who, though still a child, was already stronger than all but the most augmented humans, in tow, Benny roamed the galaxy, chasing freelance jobs and searching for a place to settle down. She struggled to find steady work, possibly due to a galactic depression, (AUDIO: The Diet of Worms, Absence) unaware that Braxiatel was spying on her. (AUDIO: Escaping the Future) She decided finally to contact her friends from the Collection after meeting Robyn and thwarting Braxiatel's plot to prevent the creation of a new alien species. (AUDIO: Secret Origins)
The identity of this species and the entire reason Irving Braxiatel had been so interested in Bernice in the first place was revealed when she stumbled upon Doggles' research facility on the moon. A new alien species with the potential to replace the Time Lords were to be created, and Bernice's DNA would be instrumental to these species. However, in a cock up, Hass prevented Bernice sacrificing herself, resulting in the formation of a more aggressive time-travelling species. (AUDIO: Resurrecting the Past)
When the Deindum declared war, Bernice joined against the future aggressors. (PROSE: Present Danger) Peter and she travelled through time to discover a weakness in the Deindum and concluded she would require Braxiatel's help to defeat them. She finally confronted him on the death of Jason Kane. Although she was not satisfied by his reasons, she agreed to fight the Deindum together. They waged their own personal time war against the Deindum and in their victory she was lost in a dissipating nexus of causality, separated from her own time. (AUDIO: Escaping the Future)
Benny found herself on a planet with no history beyond the last fifty years, where anything predating the date year zero was forbidden. (AUDIO: Year Zero) Her status as an archaeologist had her arrested and nearly executed. In captivity she discovered this was one of a small cluster of planets, all governed by the same entity, existing with the same rules, and that beyond them space was empty. She escaped, and after an encounter with "nothingness" (which threatened to destroy what little of space was left) she crossed space to the home planet of the system where she hoped to find out what happened in Year Zero. (AUDIO: Dead Man's Switch) Upon arrival, however, the planet re-named itself Atlantis, and the moment Bernice stepped out of the spaceport, she was caught up in the world re-writing itself and stranded in what appeared to be the lost, ancient city of Atlantis. (AUDIO: The Kraken's Lament) After confronting the Epoch, she sealed herself in a stasis capsule in the hope of being reunited with her friends back in her own time. (AUDIO: Judgement Day)
Bernice was released from the capsule to find a message left for her by Irving Braxiatel, claiming he was not the same man who she knew and that he had her son and they were both on Legion. She rejoined Ruth who had escaped the Epoch but still had no memory of her past life (AUDIO: Brand Management) and the two set out for Legion. Upon arrival, she was reunited with Peter, Irving (who claimed he had never met her before) and also Jack. Bernice was heartbroken to discover Peter was now fully grown and made a living as a thug, and that he wanted nothing to do with her. Bernice found employment on Legion and set about putting her life back in order. (AUDIO: Paradise Frost)
Different accounts were held of her death by the 46th century, confusing later archaeologists and making many of them believe her to be naught but a myth. A popular version was that she died in the catacombs of a cathedral on Vremnya on 31 October 2599. Even her tomb there was not valid evidence, though, as there were similar tombs both on Mars and in the Kalkravian asteroid belt. (PROSE: Paydirt)
In an alternative timeline where the Epoch captured and repeatedly remapped her she turned into a man who called himself Dr Bernard Springmoore and believed that he was in charge of the Epoch. (AUDIO: In Living Memory)
Benny was intelligent and observant, with a well-deserved reputation for thinking on her feet. (PROSE: Ship of Fools) Her intellectual gifts had less to do with straightforward, logical intelligence (she did not enjoy logic puzzles) (PROSE: The Infernal Nexus) and more to do with seeing disparate parts of a problem and correctly inferring the connections between them — and therefore, the solution.
She tended to eschew the detached, purely analytical approach of academia (PROSE: Dragons' Wrath) in favour of reconstructing history from primary sources. Though she loved getting her hands dirty and the thrill of discovery, she appreciated creature comforts, particularly baths, and didn't particularly enjoy the tedious, day-to-day grind of archaeological fieldwork. (PROSE: The Dead Men Diaries, AUDIO: The Extinction Event)
Bernice's living quarters were perpetually disorganised. She had several organisers, but rarely used them except to reset her watch to the current local time. She was also habitually tardy (PROSE: Dragons' Wrath) and absent-minded, frequently mislaying her Braxiatel Collection identity card. (PROSE: The Dead Men Diaries)
Benny prided herself on her tolerance and open-mindedness. (PROSE: Dry Pilgrimage) Though her mother was Catholic, (PROSE: Love and War) Bernice was a lifelong atheist. (PROSE: Oh No It Isn't!, Dry Pilgrimage)
Bernice kept a diary from her childhood. (PROSE: Oh No It Isn't!) She wrote longhand in a notebook she kept with her at all times — if she forgot, she would try to go back for it. (PROSE: Falls the Shadow) Benny frequently "corrected" diary entries with sticky notes, correcting fluid, or crossing out the old entry after it was written. (PROSE: Human Nature) She published at least one compilation of her diary entries. (PROSE: The Doomsday Manuscript)
Benny was an expert in Martian language and culture, particularly that of the Ice Warriors. It was her excavation of a Martian site at age twenty-four that cemented her reputation as an archaeologist. (PROSE: The Dying Days, Transit, Legacy, AUDIO: Benny's Story) She was also an expert on 20th century Earth history, especially the period she called the "early Space Age", (1963-1989) (PROSE: The Dying Days) but admitted her knowledge was a bit hazy on Earth history before about 1900. (PROSE: Walking to Babylon)
- M.A. in Archaeology (University of Jaiwan) - awarded 2562 (PROSE: Genius Loci, Old Friends)
- Ph.D. in Archaeology - awarded 2587 (PROSE: Return of the Living Dad)
Benny seemed to enjoy inventing impressive-sounding titles to append to her name. Some common ones included:
- F.R.A.S. - Fairly Rotten At Scrabble (PROSE: Human Nature)
- F.G.A.S. - Fairly Good At Scrabble
- Holder of the Martian Gallantry Medal (she found it and felt she had earned it) (PROSE: Human Nature)
- Down Among the Dead Men (2566, revised edition published 2593) (PROSE: Oh No It Isn't!)
- The Dead Men Diaries, Bernice's autobiography (PROSE: The Dead Men Diaries)
- Devil Gate Drive: The Influence of The Descent of Inanna on Twentieth Century Popular Culture (2594) (PROSE: Walking to Babylon)
- A Practical Guide to Archaeology for Beginners (2594) [source needed]
- An Eye for Wisdom: Repetitive poems of the Early Ikkaban Period (2595) (PROSE: Sleepy, Walking to Babylon)
- S for Surprise: Memoirs of an Unorthodox Archaeologist (after 2595) (PROSE: Walking to Babylon)
- Halstad Musical Notation: Initial Thoughts and Questions (before 2600) (AUDIO: The Extinction Event)
- The Traxian Paradox: A New Perspective (before 2600) (PROSE: A Question of Identity)
- Incredibly Bad Jokes of the Twentieth Century (before 2600) (PROSE: A Question of Identity)
- Dead Man Running (2600) [source needed]
- Little Archaeologist's Primer: A Storybook (2605) (AUDIO: Timeless Passages)
- The Doctor Who Makes Planet Calls (2606) [source needed]
- The Collected Benny Summerfield (2617) [source needed]
- Head Invaders: Asinine Quasi-Psychological Old Toot of Your Times (2619) (PROSE: Sky Pirates)
- 45 Second Piglet (a comic book only commissioned as Bernice was passing through an American publishing house and had an English accent) (PROSE: Oblivion)
- Similarities in Proto-Cultural Artifacts of the Second Dynasty of the Zyrs (in print in the 60th century) (PROSE: Zamper)
- Man, Two Hearts in One Mind (AUDIO: Master)
In general though, Bernice's timeline was not fundamentally unknowable or non-linear like Iris Wildthyme's, but was repeatedly diverted from what it should have been. Bernice and Jason's divorce was never meant to occur and by the time of the Mim-Draconian War, itself an alteration to history, they should have had two children together. Key moments from her relationship with Jason Kane were removed from the timeline, making it as if they had never happened. (AUDIO: The End of the World)
Behind the scenes
- Paul Cornell created the personality and biography of Bernice Summerfield with assistance of the then-editor of the Virgin New Adventures range of novels, Peter Darvill-Evans, with artist Lee Sullivan "designing" her visually. Initially, Cornell had visualised her as resembling a short-haired version of actress Emma Thompson.
- Bernice first appeared in the Virgin New Adventures series, heralded by an illustrated two page introduction in Doctor Who Magazine. Later, she crossed over into comics in Doctor Who Magazine. Since her creation, she had a series of books of her own, and would later appeared in audio dramas and new novels and short fiction from Big Finish Productions. Records regarding the unproduced thirtieth anniversary special, The Dark Dimension, suggest that a character called Summerfield would have appeared, though it's not known whether this would have been the same character. Lisa Bowerman acts as Benny's voice in audio plays as well as serving as the model for publicity photos and illustrations of the character.
- In terms of continuity, early novels placed Bernice Summerfield as living in the 25th century when she first met the Doctor. Later books changed this to the 26th century, to better fit in with continuity established in the Doctor Who television story Frontier in Space, which took place in the year 2540.
- Extract From 'Practical Archaeology For Beginners' by Prof. B. S. Summerfield PhD, FGAS. (First Draft). Editor: Paul Cornell