Big Finish: Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon 2: Other Worlds, Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon 2: Other Worlds, Review

Matthew Kresal is exploring strange new worlds... wait, wrong franchise!
When Billie Piper's Rose Tyler dramatically exited Doctor Who in 2006's Doomsday, taken into a parallel universe, it seemed unlikely the character would reappear just two years later. That she did, of course, having crossed dimensions to find the Doctor in the Series 4 finale that marked the beginning of the end of Russell T Davies's first tenure as Modern Who's showrunner. A journey only vaguely hinted at on-screen, but Big Finish, those great purveyors of Doctor Who audio dramas, began filling in the void with the 2019 release of The Dimension Cannon. A second set has, at long last, followed with a trilogy of alternate Earths for the Tylers to explore in Other Worlds.

Alison Winter opens the set with Saltwater. Quickly reestablishing the premise of the series in its opening minutes, Winter wastes little time dropping Rose and the listener into one heck of a thriller. One that combines Cold War tensions with a hint of John Wyndham's The Kraken Wakes with a series of incidents leading to sinking ships and a missile crisis threatening two different kinds of disaster. Much like Lisa McMullin's The Flood in the earlier set, Winter puts Rose into something akin to the Doctor's shoes as she sets about making sense of this world, trying to save it while seeking out any opportunity to try contacting the Doctor. Winter crafts an intriguing thriller and some strong world-building, including a moment that should make fans of the series smile with a knowing twist on a series icon.

AK Benedict, who contributed Ghost Machines to the first Dimension Cannon set, returns with an engaging whodunit for the middle episode. With Now is the New Dark, Benedict takes Rose and Mark Benton's Clive (or, rather, his alternate self from the first story in the range) to a London where progress ceased half a millennium before. Stuck on an Earth where very old-fashioned views of medicine and psychology reign supreme, they meet a familiar face, a man with a familiar name, and get caught amid a set of gruesome murders. As someone with a background in alternate history, it's often struck me that the mystery and thriller genres lend themselves well to that genre and versions of it, such as the stories in Dimension Cannon. Benedict makes the most of that here, with suspects and references to the larger city that make this perpetual Dark Ages London come alive.

Emily Cook (who produced the set and much of the Doctor Who: Lockdown materials) makes her Big Finish writing debut here with the set's finale, The Rogue Planet. Cook's script is interesting, as what starts as a comedy of errors escalates into personal drama and, inevitably, high-stakes SF. It's a mix of tones and plot twists that would have been too easy to either get lost within or not find the right balance. Cook, to her credit, crafts a strong script while finding that balance, taking on themes of guilt, nostalgia for what might have been, and asking how we might act if we suddenly discovered the world might end. All this gives Billie Piper some of her best work in the franchise, showing off her dramatic range and helping end Other Worlds on a high note.

Piper isn't the only one on fine form here, either. Camille Coduri and Mark Benton offer solid performances, playing both familiar and new versions of their characters, sometimes to comedic effect and other times for dramatic ones. The supporting casts are solid across the trilogy of episodes, from Nicola Blackman and Robert Cavanah in Saltwater to Hywel Morgan and Victoria Jeffrey's Dark Ages characters. The sound design of Joe and Aiden Van Lier Kraemer wonderfully brings these three very different worlds to life, with Joe Kraemer offering music scoring for each episode while also hinting at Murray Gold's Modern Who TV stylings. Brought together under the thoughtful and watchful direction of Helen Goldwyn, it's a superb set of stories.

From Cold War thrillers to a Dark Ages whodunit, Other Worlds is a worthy follow-up to 2019's original Dimension Cannon outing. It's a set highlighting the variety of the range and the talents of those involved. With a third set announced for 2023, more strange worlds await the Tylers.

Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon 2: Other Worlds is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until 30 November 2022, and on general sale after this date.

Matthew Kresal is a writer, critic, and podcaster with many and varying interests. His prose includes the non-fiction The Silver Archive: Dark Skies from Obverse Books, the Cold War alternate history spy thriller Our Man on the Hill, and the Sidewise Award winning short story Moonshot in Sea Lion Press' Alternate Australias anthology. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, or follow him on Twitter @KresalWritesHe was born, raised, and lives in North Alabama where he never developed a southern accent.

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