Writer: Jonathan Morris, Lisa McMullin, AK Benedict, Matt Fitton
Director: Helen Goldwyn
Starring: Billie Piper, Camille Coduri,Shaun Dingwall, Mark Benton
Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)
Released: June 2018
Running Time: 5 hours
Billie Piper was a key ingredient in the success of the Doctor Who revival. Her portrayal as Rose was the audience's way into a world that had been closed up for many years. Through Rose, the audience was discovering the many layers of this universe...the Doctor, the TARDIS, Daleks, Cybermen, and so many new corners of the universe. Despite only appearing on the show for 2 series, each with a different Doctor, Rose made a lasting impression. Even after she left Rose's absence was felt until the end of the Tenth Doctor's run.
Despite all that...I'm not the biggest Rose Tyler fan. Don't get me wrong, she was the companion when I discovered my love for the show, and I was really sad to see her go. She was so integral to my love of the show, that at the time I didn't know how the show could go on without her. Obviously it did, and as I then went back and discovered more companions, my love, slowly faded for Rose. These days, I find her adventures with the Ninth Doctor to be top-notch, but I don't really dig the rapport she developed with the Tenth Doctor. Her return in Series 4 marked the moment I began to sour on the character. They first re-introduced her as a more mature version of the character. The moment she finally reunites with the Tenth Doctor, however, she reverts back to a whiny teenager with a super crush. And then rewatching the Second series only reinforced how clingy she was.
At any rate, Big Finish's latest spin-off series focuses in on Rose and her adventures leading up to her return in Series 4. Using a device called the "Dimension Cannon" she is jumping to various different realities, trying to find her original home and find the Doctor before the universe ends. It's a decent premise, but some details were majorly flawed which hurt my enjoyment of the set.
In the opening episode (The Endless Night), Rose arrives in a version of Earth and meets a new version of Clive (a character only seen in her debut appearance, who first tells her about the Doctor), and versions of her parents who only dated a year, never married and never had Rose. But when their sun goes out, Rose is left with the decision of having to save herself but leave them all behind to die. At least in this episode, she has this moral dilemma and then is taken hostage when this version of Pete discovers her way out. Unfortunately, the reason for getting caught up in events falls apart in subsequent episodes.
For some reason that I genuinely couldn't wrap my head around, when Rose lands in a new reality, her first order of business is to find her parents and figure out how they are different. For some reason knowing how they are different will tell her how this version of universe diverged. This is pretty narcissistic. I suppose she is looking for clues to the Doctor in each reality, but she seems to just always focus in on her parents. In the second episode (The Flood) she lands in a version of Earth that has been raining for 30 years and instead of Pete and Jackie having Rose, they had a boy named Rob. Why Rose gets so hyper-focused on her parents when her mission is to find the Doctor doesn't really gel for me. Clive has joined her this time and he seems to be actually trying to look for clues to the Doctor, but he falls in love with someone instead. Eventually, they leave with no headway truly made.
On her third outing, Ghost Machines, Rose is joined by Pete and they immediately recognize this as not Rose's original Earth and likely not to have a Doctor. They then don't immediately leave. Rose claims that if they can figure out how the reality changed they can use it as a "signpost" to her reality. How? That part is skimmed over as if it doesn't matter...but it is the only reason they are apparently hanging around universes in which the Doctor doesn't exist. Oh but also they are on a major time crunch...they need the Doctor now...but why not look around a place he clearly is not? This simple flaw really disrupted my enjoyment of the set. It could have been as simple as a line about how they can only use the Cannon once a day, so they are trapped in each reality for at least a day. But they can come and go whenever they like as far as they are concerned. There is no reason to stay around a version of Earth which seems to be overflowing with graves.
The set closes out with Jackie joining Rose on an adventure...for some reason. They end up in a world where another planet is going to crash into Earth, and everyone in Rose and Jackie's old stomping grounds is throwing The Last Party on Earth. It's fine, but despite initially deciding to leave immediately because it is the wrong place, they stick around to get to know everyone they know's alternate versions anyhow. I'm not sure I see the point in sticking around if they never help, they just feel worse about having to jump universes again.
I was indifferent to this set. Huge fans of Rose may enjoy hearing some of the old gang (though Mickey is notably absent), but really I had trouble getting into the premise. Rose gets caught up in the events of these different realities like the Doctor would, but she never really helps things or solves any problems. She just gets emotionally attached to different versions of her family before leaving them to die on their world and start it all over again. It felt repetitive, and maybe just one Big Finish Spin-off too far.