Ten years after she was last seen in Doctor Who, Billie Piper returns as Rose Tyler for a boxset of audio adventures set in between series 2 and 4 of the show. Following the titular character as she travels parallel universes in search of the Doctor, Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon is one of my most-anticipated releases this year. But did it live up to my expectations? Read on to find out!
1. “The Endless Night” by Jonathan Morris
The first story in the set, Jonathan Morris‘s The Endless Night, sees Rose arrive on a parallel Earth where the sun is going out. In an attempt to find out how close this world is to her own, she roots out her family, and a man named Clive Finch…
Rose herself is wonderfully written throughout, with Morris recapturing her voice and energy perfectly. Billie Piper effortlessly reprises the role. Joining Piper throughout the set is Mark Benton as Clive, last seen in 2005’s Rose. He’s a great character who gets some fantastic development in both this story and throughout the boxset, with Benton returning to the part 15 years later as if no time has passed.
Set in a world where Jackie and Pete never got together, and therefore never had Rose, The Endless Night gives Camille Coduri and Shaun Dingwall the chance to play slightly different versions of their characters than usual. I particularly enjoyed the nastier Jackie that we got to see in this episode, as it’s so far removed from Coduri’s normal performance.
All in all, a great start to the set, full of real, human drama and great performances.
2. “The Flood” by Lisa McMullin
The Flood sees Rose and Clive travel to a version of Earth suffering from environmental change. Splitting up, they each stumble upon people familiar to them, and become involved in a conspiracy led by Prime Minister Margot Kinnear (Julia Hills) to hide what’s really happening to Earth.
Joe Jameson features here as Rob Tyler: a parallel version of Rose. He brings much the same energy to Rob as Piper herself does to her character, and this really helps drive home that they are, in essence, playing the same person. Together, Rob and Rose infiltrate the government, seeking to get to the bottom of the heavy rainfall plaguing Earth. This leads to a very James Bond-esque storyline, with secret agents, listening devices and government insiders. There are also a couple of name drops that tie the set into the overarching storyline of Series Four, so listen out for those!
Elli Garnett reprises her role as Caroline from the TV story Rose, albeit a version of the character who isn’t married to Clive (yet). This leads to some further development for Clive, who must choose between following his heart and staying with Caroline in a dying world, or leaving with Rose. Both Garnett and Benton’s performances are the highlight of the story.
Overall, a thrilling, emotional and politically-pertinent story with a particularly strong performance from Mark Benton as Clive.
3. “Ghost Machines” by AK Benedict
Ghost Machines by AK Benedict follows Rose and Pete as they arrive on a parallel Earth whose own version of Pete has just been killed. Visiting his widow, they soon discover that, due to technological advances, people don’t really stay dead in this iteration of Earth… and now the dead are rebelling against the living.
Camille Coduri again features as a parallel version of Jackie Tyler, again exhibiting a darker side to the character that we don’t often see. Her rapport with Alistair Petrie‘s villainous Wallace Richards is well-written and performed, but her interactions with Rose and Pete are the highlight of the episode.
These small character moments are what makes Ghost Machines so successful. Coming to a world whose Pete died in the same way as the real Pete has quite an impact on Rose, and this leads to some tearjerking scenes between Piper and both Dingwall and Coduri.
All in all, another great story. And be sure to stay until after the closing theme to hear the aftermath of Rose and Pete’s visit to this world- you won’t want to miss it!
4. “The Last Party on Earth” by Matt Fitton
In the final story in the set, Matt Fitton‘s The Last Party on Earth, Rose and Jackie arrive on a world very similar to their own, but with one vital difference: there’s no Mickey Smith. This means that the characters of Mook and Patrice, introduced in the Target novelisation of Rose, never got together; something which, with the end of the world fast approaching, Rose and Jackie know needs to be put right.
Mook and Patrice are played by Waleed Akhtar and Syrus Lowe, both of whom give touching and accessible performances. I’d really love to hear these characters again in the future, as they’re so well-written and acted, and have great backgrounds stemming from Russell T Davies‘ incredible novel.
While I enjoyed her playing alternate versions of Jackie in the other stories, Camille Coduri‘s performance as the real Jackie in this story is her best work in the set. The emotion in her conversations with Odessa Smith (played wonderfully by Elizabeth Uter) is palpable, and the dialogue heartbreaking.
My favourite of the set, The Last Party on Earth is a story all about its characters. Set at the end of the world, and focussing on suicide and mob violence, it can be dark at times, but, just like in Doctor Who itself, there’s an overarching sense of hope in Fitton exploration of love, friendship and acceptance. Sublime!
With its character-focused narrative, and dichotomy of unflinching darkness and witty humour, Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon perfectly recaptures the 2005-2010 era of Doctor Who. Billie Piper gives a great performance, all the stories are incredibly unique and director Helen Goldwyn brings her A game. My only qualm about the set is that there isn’t really a resolution to Rose’s journey… so here’s hoping for a follow-up soon!
Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon can be purchased on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com
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