Georgia Tennant returns as the Doctor’s daughter in her second series of audio adventures! Still Running follows the continuing adventures of Jenny and Noah (Sean Biggerstaff), as they continue to flee from the terrifying COLT-5000 and in so doing encounter the likes of Dorium Maldovar and the Cybermen! The general consensus on the first Jenny boxset, I think, was that it was a collection of four strong, if a little superficial stories, focusing more on fun romps than anything serious. It’ll be interesting to see if, like with the Lady Christina series, things take a bit of a darker turn in this sophomore effort from Big Finish, or if we’re in for four more slices of fun. Read on for our thoughts on each story!
1. “Inside the Maldovarium” by Adrian Poynton
Jenny and Noah have come to the Maldovarium to find parts for their broken spaceship, but stumble upon an ancient and powerful artifact which is about to go up for auction. Jenny knows that, in the wrong hands, this artifact could wreak havoc, so sets out to stop the auction before it’s too late. But the Maldovarium’s wily proprietor, Dorium Maldovar (Simon Fisher-Becker) is two steps ahead of her, and won’t let his plans be ruined by her meddling…
This is a difficult story to talk about without veering into spoilery territory, but what I can say is that it’s a fairly strong script from Adrian Poynton. The plot is very simplistic, with just one storyline throughout the entire play, which is both a blessing and a curse. What’s there is great stuff, very pacy and exciting, but it does leave the listener wanting a little bit more. Overall, though, the central concept is a great one and, while the ending might prove divisive, it’s a strong character moment for Jenny.
Georgia Tennant is excellent as usual in the role, and it’s nice to have a story with some more personal stakes for her character, which really allows her to get her teeth into the material. Sean Biggerstaff‘s Noah, on the other hand, is well-performed, but remains somewhat of a non-entity; we never really get a sense for what this character wants or how he operates. I know the whole point of Noah is that nobody (not even himself) knows who he is, but it would be nice for a little more exploration now that we’re five episodes into the series.
Simon Fisher-Becker is back as Dorium Maldovar in this one, and puts in a good performance as usual, showing off his character’s slightly shady, frenemy traits well. There’s a good reason for this particular character to be in this story, and, while he’s never explored in too much detail, I came away from Inside the Maldovarium wanting to hear more of his interactions with Jenny, which is always a good sign.
Overall, this is an above average story elevated by its interesting plot and some strong performances from all involved. A solid if unremarkable opener.
2. “Altered Status” by Matt Fitton and Christian Brassington
New Damson is a utopian paradise… or so it seems. When Jenny and Noah arrive, they inadvertently kick off a chain of events with disastrous consequences. The secret of New Damson is about to be revealed… and the Cybermen are rising.
Jenny VS the Cybermen: what an irresistible concept! After facing off against the Ood in the last boxset, Georgia Tennant goes up against Doctor Who‘s famous race of silver giants, as they try to take over a planet from behind the scenes. It’s a great concept for a story, with more than a shade of Nineteen Eighty Four and Zamyatin’s We, and probably the darkest direction this series has yet taken us in, which makes for some nice tonal variation.
Tennant is excellent as usual as Jenny, proving more than a match for her Cyber foes, while Biggerstaff finally gets some interesting material to play with, as Noah appears to side with the enemy! Of course, everything is all sorted out by the story’s close, but this is a great look at how Jenny and Noah’s worldviews differ.
While Tennant largely plays off against Deeivya Meir as belligerent DemiQueen Sogo and Rhoda Ofori-Attah as Jodi, Biggerstaff gets most of the Cyber action, doing battle with Nicholas Briggs as the Cyberleader and Jonathan Aris as its sinister human disguise, the Department Head. All are well-performed, and have strong chemistry with the regulars.
Overall, this is a solid Cyberman story, and a nice showcase for both Jenny and Noah, with some great worldbuilding to boot. Good stuff.
3. “Calamity Jenny” by John Dorney
Arriving in the Wild West, Jenny and Noah become caught up in a case of mistaken identity, as they encounter the delightfully-named Calamity Jenny- Jenny’s doppelgänger- a murderous criminal on the run from the authorities. As Jenny is taken into custody, and Calamity claims her freedom, Noah must fight to save his friend from wrongful justice, before it’s too late.
This is, like the story before it, a nice change from the more space-opera elements we’re used to in the Jenny series, taking us back to Earth and throwing the listener into a fun-filled, almost farcical adventure featuring cowboys, sheriffs and train heists. There’s even a little timey-wimeyness, which makes things interesting, if a little overcomplicated.
Michael Brandon is great as the narrator, while Jana Carpenter does a good job as Marion “Momma” Stokes, Calamity Jenny’s partner in crime. The standout, however, has to be Georgia Tennant in her dual role as Jenny and Calamity; while her Southern accent isn’t necessarily the best, she throws herself into playing both characters, and does an impressive job at differentiating the two.
Overall, this is a pretty good story with some nice ideas, but lacks depth. A fun runaround, but nothing much more.
4. “Her Own Worst Enemy” by Lisa McMullin
As another Jenny boxset ends, our heroes encounter the villainous COLT-5000 once again. This time, however, they’re curious as to just who this robotic foe is, and travel back in time to find out. There, they encounter an artist by the name of Geraldine, who feels her life has gone nowhere. Might she hold the key to uncovering the COLT-5000’s origins?
Siân Philips returns as the COLT-5000 from the first Jenny boxset, and does a good job at bringing to life the slightly surreal notion that she’s a killer cyborg from the future. Where she really shines, however, is as Geraldine, who appears to have ties to Jenny’s arch enemy. She’s an instantly warm and likable character, thanks to Lisa McMullin‘s writing, and her interactions with Jenny make for a good pairing.
Overall, this is a strong, creative conclusion to the boxset, with a cracker of a cliffhanger that ensures the next Jenny series, whenever that may be, will definitely be something to look forward to.
Like Lady Christina: Series Two before it, Jenny: Still Running takes a fun-but-shallow first boxset and takes the series in exciting new directions, adding in layers of darkness and overarching plot points. While none of these four stories necessarily blew this listener away, none of them were bad either and, bolstered by a captivating central performance from Georgia Tennant, their sense of fun and variety make this set, overall, a success. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait three more years to see where Jenny and Noah go next, particularly after that cliffhanger! Recommended.
Jenny: The Doctor’s Daughter – Still Running is available on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com