Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon

Posted in Audio by - September 09, 2019
Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon

Released September 2019

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Rose Tyler’s quest across dimensions to find the Doctor and save all of reality in the process allowed for a brilliant culmination to the fourth series of the relaunched Doctor Who that simultaneously provided an intriguing coda to her dramatic departure at the end of series two. With Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon, Big Finish further fleshes out this search and the importance behind it as Rose quickly discovers that every Earth in every universe is under threat.

Jonathan Morris opens this set with ‘The Endless Night’ in which Pete Tyler has found a chance at survival by punching a hole through dimensions and sending someone through to the other side in hopes of finding the Doctor. Remaining in contact with her father who insists on being called Control, Rose deftly puts into practice her plan to determine which universe she is in by finding her parents and determining where established paths diverged. First meeting up with Clive Finch, the conspiracy theorist and resident expert on the Doctor in the relaunched series’s debut episode, Billie Piper and Mark Benton form a natural chemistry that make this unlikely duo wholly believable, and Benton in particular does superb work as a man who remains just as interested in otherworldly events but who must also come to terms with the fact that he does not have the beloved wife and children that he always dreamed of having and that his version in Rose’s universe had. Clive absolutely served his purpose to introduce the mystery behind the Doctor and to progress the plot of ‘Rose,’ but it’s here that Clive truly develops with emotional definition, and his continued inclusion in the set going forward is a surprisingly welcome development.

‘The Endless Night’ isn’t necessarily revolutionary, but it’s a strong reintroduction to these well-known characters even within this divergent context and provides a sturdy foundation upon which this set can build. Accordingly, it’s unsurprising that it should follow the television series’s lead and focus on an alternate version of the Tylers, the Pete here being a widower who at one time was happily married to but unable to have children with a woman who passed from a degenerative disease. Through an unconvincing ploy, Rose learns that he did for a time date a woman named Jackie Prentiss before Jackie’s jealousy apparently ended things, and she inadvertently brings the two together once more with Pete sure that Rose must be his daughter that Jackie never mentioned. Shaun Dingwall and Camille Coduri perfectly and instantly recapture their characters’ somewhat tumultuous relationship on screen as past transgressions in this universe are quickly aired, but as the Sun goes permanently dark and governments across the world declare states of emergency while the power supplies continue to dwindle and fires roar in the intensifying cold, emotions understandably turn much more personal. While Rose begs her own Pete to allow her to return with more people alongside her, the alternate Pete and Jackie each take more drastic actions that are both surprising and understandable in equal measure to end a surprisingly intimate story on this dying world that has seen stars disappearing for so long on a note filled with both despair and a glimmer of hope.

In Lisa McMullin’s ‘The Flood,’ Rose and Clive arrive on a world suffering from the devastating effects of climate change. But with almost every country bound by an accord to stem technological development since the Second World War with the express intent to curb humanity’s impact, the persistently worsening conditions bring Rose into contact with a group determined to discover the truth they are sure the government is not revealing. Following a young man named Rob to his widowed father and technological wizard, Pete Tyler, Rose must quickly adjust to the obvious deviations this world and her family have followed, using her own technology to rather easily and without suspicion sneak into Parliament and gain a heartbreaking confession from the Prime Minister about the impending and inevitable end of the human race in just seventy years. There’s something to be said about ignorance being bliss in certain situations, and Julia Hills as Prime Minister Margot Kinnear gives an effective performance as a tortured woman trying her best to assuage an increasingly restless population through platitudes and bluster, her haunting revelation once more allowing for a newfound hope to break through the glumness as versions of the Doctor’s friends in this universe without a Doctor continue to intersect and work together.

Arguably more effective in this story, however, is Clive’s journey for answers that offers a chance meeting with Caroline, the woman of his dreams who gave him two children in Rose’s universe and with whom he forms an instant connection here. Elli Garnett returns to the role of Caroline, and in one afternoon the story of two star-crossed lovers develops with a touching depth and nuance that shows a hidden depth to these characters not seen on television that makes them all the more believable and tragic in the process. Benton and Garnett are absolutely superb in their scenes together, and the life that they find and hope for even as the world around them continues on its doomed path is a strong symbol for humanity as a whole that provides a stirring and emotional foundation for this visually stark setting and the determination and persistence of a select few. In a series of alternate universes bound together by an unending quest, this is a series that needs its characters to stand out to carry plots that are variations on a template, and ‘The Flood’ unabashedly excels in that regard with Clive and his personal world the absolute and enthralling standout.

In the set’s third story, ‘Ghost Machines’ by AK Benedict, Pete joins Rose on her latest dimensional jump and finds himself squarely in the middle of a bizarre technological divergence at the worst possible time. Pete, almost universally, is an inventor and innovator at heart, and in this world his success is based upon giving people a purpose even after their deaths. But with this world’s Pete dying under mysterious circumstances as machines continue to go haywire and act against safety protocols, Rose and her Pete soon uncover the shocking and dangerous truth at the heart of this society that squarely calls into question the sanctity of life. Unfortunately, set within the context of this series of vignettes, there can’t be a truly meaningful and impactful exploration of what this technology does physically and psychologically to those taking part in as well as those using it, but the repercussions that become immediately apparent are nonetheless fascinating and brimming with untold potential and could easily serve as a dystopic template for a more harrowing and engrossing look at the human psyche under these heightened circumstances.

Instead, as contrasting ideologies behind the scenes of corporate power and genuine concern for individuals compete, ‘Ghost Machines’ tells the story of the recently-widowed Jackie who seems all too cognizant of alternate realities and the potential they contain. Though she was never intimately involved with Pete’s work, the vestiges of her life with him in this world that may or may not know the Doctor test her genuine and compassionate nature to create an intriguing personal narrative that again reinforces how steadfast and sturdy Rose’s own foundation through Jackie is throughout the multiverse. The flaw in the format of this set is that each story must necessarily spend a good deal of time building up the lead characters’ and settings’ backgrounds that don’t necessarily change the core essence or characterisation of those characters, but ironically this is a story in which that background information could have easily been expanded upon without sacrificing any of the character work. As it is, ‘Ghost Machines’ ably fits in the as-yet-formulaic pattern of the set, but it’s the performances of Piper, Dingwall, and Coduri together that stand out the most in this world that faces a most unique threat of its own making.

To finish this set, Rose and Jackie visit a world very similar to the one they left behind in Matt Fitton’s ‘The Last Party on Earth,’ awash in familiar faces but all too aware of the few that are unexpectedly missing or present. Strangely, this is the story that most captures the Russell T Davies feel as its characters very much come to the forefront against the backdrop of impending Armageddon with an asteroid due to strike in eight days, and it’s precisely the type of character study that the audio medium can so brilliantly allow to unfold without expectations for grand science fiction visuals and rapid pacing. While there are certainly the expected groups of looters and those looking to cause trouble without consequences, the Powell Estate community as a whole is closer than ever before, its people looking past the barriers that doors represented previously and generally making the most of their remaining time together. In a world without Mickey, Odessa Smith is still present on the Estate, and she poignantly expresses that, while everyone has always known that their time on Earth is limited in some capacity, the definitiveness that the asteroid presents and the resulting shutting down of public services have taken the pressure off of everyone and allowed them the opportunity to look beyond social customs and norms to truly live for the first time. While not every person is so open-minded and suicidal thoughts do overtake some, the melancholy yet strangely optimistic tone of the revelry comes to life brilliantly in the background and serves to underscore the human spirit as a whole even on a world without the Doctor to save it.

Without question, Elizabeth Uter and Camille Coduri are the standout stars of this story, their scenes together as Jackie reconnects with this woman from her past and tries to console her with tales of their lives and children in another dimension emotionally resonating with the power of so much being understood without being spoken. And against such dark circumstances, the indomitable human spirit as well as just how deeply ingrained certain beliefs are come boldly to the forefront as Mook and Patrice come to understand just who they could truly be to each other in this world like they are in Rose’s. The brief running time of one story obviously doesn’t allow for a thoroughly intimate exploration of each of these characters and facets of humanity that reflect differing shades of forlornness and hope, but ‘The Last Party on Earth’ is a strong example of characters coming first with the intense setting used solely as a device through which to amplify emotions and convictions. This is not a format that every story could follow, but it’s a deliberate and intimate piece of reflection that ends this set on an undoubted high.

Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon will likely be something of a divisive release. The performances are uniformly excellent throughout, and the direction and sound design wonderfully accentuate these doomed worlds to breathe a familiar yet distinct life into each. However, as Rose continues to jump throughout dimensions, there cannot possibly be any resolution to the immense issues confronting these versions of Earth which results in a sense of work undone that the Doctor rarely leaves so overtly in his wake. This is no fault of Rose, of course, and it does serve to exemplify just why the Doctor is so important, but as the stories establish and re-establish variations on the same relationships that transcend universal differences, there’s also quite a formulaic feel to this set that only the final story truly breaks. While it’s unclear if Rose is also a wholly unique entity like the Doctor given that no universe portrayed to date has her in it, the inherent danger of seeking out her own family given the events of “Father’s Day” must not be disregarded; yet even with this in mind, this is a reunion that is sure to please fans of the Tyler family and their undoubted importance to Doctor Who lore even if it doesn’t necessarily deepen listeners’ understanding of them.

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