Jenny – The Doctor’s Daughter

Posted in Audio by - June 09, 2018
Jenny – The Doctor’s Daughter

Released June 2018
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Georgia Moffett made an instant impact as Jenny in the aptly-titled Tenth Doctor serial ‘The Doctor’s Daughter,’ playing the artificial creation of the progenation machine destined for military achievement with a brilliance, flirtatiousness, and lust for life and adventure that evoked the spirit of her unwitting father, the Doctor, so incredibly well. Originally slated to die at the end of her one televised appearance but reportedly saved from that fate at the request of Steven Moffatt, the door has always been left open for further appearances of this dynamic force of nature, a fact that Doctor Who comics have exploited to a small but successful extent more recently. Over ten years and a marriage to David Tennant later, Georgia Tennant finally has the opportunity to reprise her beloved role in person, however, in Big Finish’s Jenny – The Doctor’s Daughter.

Matt Fitton opens this new series with ‘Stolen Goods’ with Jenny new to the universe and eager to explore. Unfortunately, after avoiding a crash into a moon, Jenny finds herself in a collision with Garundel, the Urodelian who twice crossed paths with the Seventh Doctor in ‘Black and White’ and ‘Starlight Robbery’ and who proved himself to be driven by money and self-preservation above all else as he initially became the inspiration for the monster Grendel in Beowulf and later proved himself capable of murder to avenge his wounded pride. Stuart Milligan steps expertly into the smarmy role once more, and Garundel quickly proves that nothing has changed as he takes Jenny to a nearby emporium repair yard, recording her guilt-ridden admission that this was her fault and using a legal associate to try to strike a deal for compensation and repairs composed of both cash and salvage from her ship. Nobody present anticipates the sharp intellect and keen eye of this seemingly innocent young woman, though, and Jenny realises that this is all a well-rehearsed scam by piecing together visual and auditory cues and utilising an intrinsic understanding of body language.

Realising that escape is her only chance of surviving unscathed, Jenny comes upon a dead ship that has so far defied any flight attempts from Garundel and his cohorts. Trapped on board as Garundel threatens to break through, a strange male figure with no knowledge of who he is or where he comes to makes himself known, one who accepts the name of Noah and forms a quick bond of sorts with Jenny who is so similar in so many ways and who promises to show him the way like the Doctor did to her. Sean Biggerstaff plays Noah with a kind of subdued surprise as he seemingly experiences the world for the first time despite fragments of previous knowledge, and it should be interesting to see how this characterisation and performance progresses. Regardless, Garundel proves to be only part of the problem after he realizes the rarity of these two beings that he should be able to fetch a high price for at auction, and he soon begins contemplating how best to negotiate with a cyborg bounty hunter who is hot on the heels of the Time Lord known to be here as he forms an uneasy alliance with Jenny and Noah as they fight to survive and defy the odds. Unsurprisingly, Garundel’s true colours once more shine through at the expense of an associate’s loyalty, a revelation that will assuredly have lasting ramifications as he promises to provide the bounty hunter with time travel technology after Jenny lashes together a homemade vortex manipulator that takes Noah and her into the space-time vortex about which Noah seems all too knowledgeable. ‘Stolen Goods’ is a fairly light affair overall, but it easily and successfully reintroduces Jenny and sets the scene well for what appears to be a very confident and vibrant set.

New to Leafield Crescent in ‘Prisoner of the Ood’ by John Dorney, Angie Glazebrook is surprised by an unexpected visitor, one who is just as surprised to have been transported to twenty-first century suburban Earth just as aliens begin to appear within a strange force shield that will let nobody enter or depart the designated area. The trapped locals eagerly take to the idea of holding a residents’ meeting after the Council accepts no blame, all except a stubborn local writer who can’t be bothered because he is working at home today and unaffected by whatever is happening. Perhaps he knew best, however, as an onlooking alien being from afar selects him to be the receptive host to continue the hunt for an unknown target and then transforms him into the unmistakable form of an Ood with its tentacled mouth and deadly handheld orb. This is the first appearance of the Ood- those normally benign beings so prone to mental influences- within the Big Finish audio medium, and Silas Carson recaptures their essence wonderfully as the Ood Leader here while the hunt continues and transformations and casualties arise as resistance is met.

Unsurprisingly, the arrival of the Ood sparks Jenny’s memory of how she came to be here, forced to leave Noah behind to escape the prison holding Valdoran the Mind Slaver before he could use her vortex manipulator to escape himself and continue his plans of conquest. Though he must be imprisoned, the Ood that he can influence make the time less onerous, and Valdoran is all too eager to provide all of the necessary information about his past and future plans in one concise speech. With Noah increasingly distraught at what the Ood are doing to the humans during their search for their ordained prisoner, Jenny’s own attempts to avoid capture and scanning allow her the time needed to determine that the term prisoner should not be applied to her and that the hunt must be for someone else. As a hidden layer of memories asserts itself, all previous assumptions are called into question about how she came to be here and what the purpose of the Ood truly is given this recent change, and the plot that seems so committed to following one logical narrative path swerves onto another altogether more satisfying one with confident ease. Again, ‘The Prisoner of the Ood’ may not be the hardest-hitting drama despite some great chemistry between Jenny and her newfound companions, but it represents an excellent introduction for the Ood to Big Finish and has plenty of genuine emotion throughout as Jenny and Noah are reunited and no simple solution or reset presents itself for the lonely human survivor.

‘Neon Reign’ by Christian Brassington opens with Jenny and Noah arriving in the much grittier locale of Kamshassa that the Dragon Lord rules through pure fear and broadcasted messages that the citizenry has no choice but to obey. With the men of the impoverished society living in a drug-addicted stupor and the women forced into service and to work grueling hours to afford the drugs that keep the men in their lives from becoming violent through withdrawal, this is one of the darkest and most oppressive settings that the expanded universe of Doctor Who has ever offered. This is a world where Noah as a healthy young male causes a major scene whenever seen in public, and after inexplicably sharing knowledge about dematerialisation circuits and obscure astronomical data, Noah is taken with Jenny into a small domicile by the local Shoo-Wei who is all too willing to explain about the mighty history of her people who once traveled the stars in mighty terraforming spore ships before the Dragon Lord arrived and instated the current order and state of affairs. Legend speaks of a spore ship still within the heavily-guarded Dragon Lord’s residence, though, and Jenny and Shoo-Wei soon decide to go against the leader’s commands to see if they can find a better way of life for Kamshassa by looking to the past.

Naturally, it’s not long before the COLT-5000 bounty hunter arrives and forces Noah out of his hiding spot, and his earlier knowledge about this race is further developed when the defended residence he has no choice but to head to as well seems to recognise him by referring to him as an elder one and granting him access to all areas. Through much more aggressive means, Jenny reaches the Dragon Lord himself, and unfortunately the story falls apart from there. With another villain giving all of the needed information in one expository segment, ‘Neon Reign’ tries to further develop its oppressed society of gender inequality, but while there is certainly an intriguing story that could be told as a parable for this very real and current societal issue, the backstory intended to flesh out the Dragon Lord and his creation of this version of society is clichéd and built upon a false premise that Jenny sees in an instant, and the true identity of this figure beneath the impressive and fearsome veneer that should add another degree of humanity instead comes off as a misguided attempt at a narrative swerve simply to offer an unexpected surprise rather than true plot and character development given how based in archaic thought processes it is. There’s a strong Asian motif initially with dragons, an opium-like drug, and even citizen’s names, but ‘Neon Reign’ unfortunately does not offer more than window dressing for this intriguing aspect, and a story that becomes something like a dictatorial spin on Mulan with its gender politics seems incredibly ill-timed given real–world events and falls flat when the heroines are themselves strong and proud females lightyears ahead of a flawed and clichéd villain who is only a misguided vestige of a sad past.

Closing out the set is Adrian Poynton’s ‘Zero Space’ with Jenny and Noah landing in an area composed of quite literally nothing but one singular space station that promises safety and answers as the COLT-5000 relentlessly continues its pursuit of its quarry. Following a harrowing crash landing, the two are shocked to find themselves surrounded by one hundred clones of each of two scientific individuals who endlessly continue their deceased progenitors’ research in as close to the perfect environment as possible without ever losing any knowledge along the way. Unfortunately, when Noah is offered the chance to discover the truth behind his forgotten past, Jenny must cut this sequence short when she realises that the COLT-5000 will be all too willing to use the cloning technology here to be able to sell both of them to any and all bidders instead of just the highest. Adèle Anderson and Anthony Calf both give strong performances as the many versions of Dreyda and Cal shown, but a mysterious communication only the clones can see suddenly turns the entire station against them as monitors strangely pick up two unknown life signatures in addition to the fleeing heroes, two hundred clones, and the COLT-5000 who seems to be taking a much less blunt approach to pursuit here.

The revelation behind these two figures isn’t at all surprising given the entire setup of this station and so lacks much of the necessary narrative impact, but the discussions centering on individual identity, heritage, and the fear of truly stepping out into the world on one’s own are certainly handled well while also revealing the surprising truth behind the creation of this pocket of space. Unfortunately, the COLT-5000 never really develops as a character, and with neither success in her pursuit nor redemption after either success or failure, the bounty hunter and her targets are in literally the same position as they were back in the introductory ‘Stolen Goods’ in what looks to be a variation on the Headhunter from The Eighth Doctor Adventures. Rather than the story, it’s the direction, sound design, and performances that carry ‘Zero Space’, and unintentionally the clones here provide an allegory for this entire run of stories: incredibly brilliant and well-intentioned despite some missteps along the way but stuck in the present instead of moving forward. Still, just as the clones are afforded the opportunity to begin anew with all of the knowledge of their past, so, too is Jenny – The Doctor’s Daughter, after unquestionably laying the groundwork for a very successful and enjoyable series even with the second half not quite meeting the expectations of the first. With Tennant and Biggerstaff an immense duo still with so much to learn about themselves and others, the universe undoboutedly holds many more stories and secrets for the two to uncover.

This post was written by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.