Big Finish: Doctor Who ROSE TYLER: THE DIMENSION CANNON Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Matthew Kresal crosses dimensions for the first Rose Tyler box-set release from Big Finish.

Since acquiring a license covering much of Modern Doctor Who, Big Finish has been working hard to capitalize upon it. As well as the annual (give or take) Tenth Doctor Adventures, there have also been boxsets featuring a range of characters from Winston Churchill and Lady Christina to the Paternoster Gang. It was perhaps inevitable then, especially after the second set of Tenth Doctor audios, that Billie Piper's Rose Tyler would get a release all her own. Set in the lead up to her return at the end of Series Four, The Dimension Cannon takes listeners on her multi-dimensional journey across apocalypses both worldwide and deeply personal.

It is perhaps worth saying upfront that, as the artwork can attest to, this is a set that is not only Rose-centric but Tyler-centric. In addition to Rose, both Jackie and Pete Tyler appear, both as the TV characters we know and in various parallel universe incarnations. As a result, your enjoyment of the set will likely be in correlation to your feelings about those characters. If you aren't a fan of them, then this set is probably not going to be your cup of tea. If you are a fan, as I must confess I am, then you're going to be in for a treat.

The set opens with Jonathan Morris' The Endless Night, which very much sets up the template for the entire boxset. With the walls between realities breaking down, the alternative Pete we met back in Series Two is sending Rose to different universes, this being the first one. She does what she did in that first episode way back in 2005: she seeks out Clive, played once more by Mark Benton. With Clive at her side, and with a perhaps less than convincing cover story, she seeks out the equivalents of her parents on this Earth, trying to see just how far off it is from "our" world. This moment, naturally, is when the sun goes out, and the end of the world suddenly becomes very, very nigh.

As that description might suggest, The Endless Night follows in that wonderfully British science-fiction tradition of playing the uncanny alongside the mundane, something which was also a hallmark of the TV era from which Rose originated. Morris' script is a full-on pastiche of Russell T Davies writing, capturing emotions running high in a terrible situation with all the good and bad that comes with it. It's a solid opener for the set and one that sets the standard for the three stories that follow.

As good as The Endless Night is, it's the second story, Lisa McMullin's The Flood, where the set hits its stride. Rose, now traveling with a version of Clive, arrives in an alternative world where it's not only raining but has been doing so for years and years. World governments are doing their best to cope, going so far as to outlaw technologies we take for granted in our world, but are they hiding the true scope of the catastrophe? Well, that's what Rose and Clive set out to reveal. Only they run into some faces they hadn't expected, including Caroline (Elli Garnett), the woman Clive married in Rose's world.

McMullin's script is also of interest as it steps away from the imminent apocalypse to explore a society slowly coming apart. Rose meets not only another version of Pete but a young man named Rob, which leads to some minor hilarity thanks in part to the obvious chemistry between Piper and actor Joe Jameson. The three of them get involved in a conspiracy thriller part that leads to Rose having a very-Doctorish confrontation with the Prime Minister (Julia Hills). Clive, meanwhile, gets his own version of Human Nature/Family of Blood, a quick whirlwind romance that everyone knows can only end one way. Listening to Benton and Garnett, reunited for the first time since the making of that first episode fourteen years before, is one of the treats of this release. Add in some Easter eggs for fans of Modern Who, and the result is perhaps the best story of the lot.

AK Benedict's Ghost Machines offers a move away from the apocalyptic for something rather different. Arriving on a very different and quite morbid Earth with very different attitudes toward death, Rose and Pete find themselves face to face with this world's Jackie after Pete gets mistaken for this world's version of himself. The timing couldn't be worse as the technology at the heart of this world, where the downloaded minds of the recently deceased are inside everything from juicers to lawn care robots, starts breaking down. There are some fascinating ideas in this story which, unfortunately, never quite work as well as they should as they find themselves inside a plot that's part soap opera and part base under siege. Adding to matters is a rather confusing post-credits scene that clashes with what came right before it without any real explanation. The result is still an entertaining listen but also a misfire at the same time.

Matt Fitton's The Last Party on Earth rounds off the set with another story that feels very close to Davies' writing. Rose, now with her mother Jackie, drops in on a parallel Powell Estate. Checking on the differences between realities, they discover that not only do they and Kevin Bacon not exist here, but there's an asteroid soon to bring life on Earth to an end. So the Powell Estate is going out in style with the block party to end all block parties. During their time here, Rose and Jackie run into familiar faces (particularly to those who have encountered Davies' recent novelization of the episode Rose), and romance blossoms between two young men as the world stands on the edge of destruction. While on the lower end of the scale for science fiction and even apocalyptic elements, The Last Party on Earth is an effective drama, one that recalls the best of RTD's character writing as well as some of his non-Who work.

As producer David Richardson noted in Vortex, Big Finish's magazine, this is a set that isn't so much about monsters and aliens but characters. In this case, characters fans have come to know and love over the last fifteen years (or versions of them) and how they react to apocalypses both worldwide and deeply personal. As much for those who enjoy good science fiction storytelling as fans of the Tylers, The Dimension Cannon set is proof of just much the company lives up to their mantra "of we love stories."

With stories like these, what’s not to love?

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places. 

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