Rose Tyler is one of the most popular characters in the new Doctor Who. She was the entry point for an audience discovering the show for the first time. You could say she was the face of the new show, bringing in a female Billie Piper played her with an unforced warmth and kindness that won everyone over. You love the Doctor because Rose loves the Doctor. Russell T. Davies knew what he was doing when he created Rose, her mother Jackie and Pete. She was a working class girl from a London council estate who became an epic Science Fiction heroine who saves the universe. What’s not to love?
Billie Piper had played Rose Tyler previously in new stories with David Tennant as the 10th Doctor in some Big Finish audio productions. It was only a matter of time before they decided to give her a solo series and this is it. Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon takes place after Rose was lost to another universe at the end of Season 2 of the new show. It’s about the time she spent traveling between dimensions trying to find her own universe and reunite with The Doctor. That reached a climax at the finale of Season 3 in “Journey’s End”. Davies apparently helped develop these new stories, so you can feel like they’re canon.
1.1 “The Endless Night” by Jonathan Morris
The first episode is a kind of set-up, easing us into the idea of Rose traveling across dimensions on her own. She’s testing out the transporter dial to make sure it works properly while searching for the Doctor.
She decides to test how different this universe is by looking up people she knows. She finds a version of Clive Finch, who was researching conspiracy theories about The Doctor in the first episode of the new TV show. In this world, he’s alive, but is a UFO nut who never heard of The Doctor at all. Clive is thrilled about the idea of parallel worlds and the Doctor and agrees to help her.
Then she looks up her mother Jackie and father Pete Tyler, but finds they never married and she was never born on this world. Then the sun blinks out and the world starts to end. London is thrown into wintry night and there’s nothing Rose can do. She could leave, but she has to try to save her parents and Clive. Things don’t go as planned and Rose has to suffer the heartbreak of leaving people to their deaths.
1.2 “The Flood” by Lisa McMullin
Rose and Clive, who’s now a part of her team, arrive on an Earth stuck in endless rain due to climate change. The government is keeping secrets as protesters and activists fight to uncover exactly what those secrets are. Rose meets this world’s version of Pete, still a tinkerer and techie, but now part of The Resistance. She also discovers that his wife Jackie was killed by armed police at a protest. Jackie and Pete don’t have a daughter, but instead a son named Robbie.
Rose and Clive decide to help The Resistance expose the secret behind the endless rain. Clive meets this world’s version of Carole, who was his wife in “Rose”, and falls in love with her. Rose and Robbie sneak into No. 10 Downing Street to bug the Prime Minister.
Once again, Rose is confronted with a world without a Doctor and how dire things get.
1.3 “Ghost Machines” by AK Benedict
This time Pete decides to join Rose on her mission to see what it’s like. They end up on a world with mass automation. All the work is done by machines driven by AIs. Cars are self-driven. And the tech genius who made this all possible? This world’s Pete Tyler. Pete here has made his tinkering and tech savvy into a global tech industry that’s changed the world.
But there’s always something wrong in techno-paradise.
This world’s Pete has disappeared, and Rose and Pete decide to investigate why cars are malfunctioning and killing their passengers. This turns out to be more than a “rise of the machine revolution” story. In a world where everything is recycled, including the dead, the AIs that run the machines are all dead people! They’re pissed off! And they want to die!
That’s a cool Science Fictional dystopian concept.
Once again, Rose and Pete discover how alternate versions of the people they know are still fundamentally the same, for better or worse. This story is the closest to a traditional Doctor Who story, but again with a tinge of pessimism from the Doctor’s absence.
1.4 “The Last Party on Earth” by Matt Fitton
Jackie joins Rose on a mission to another Earth where they decide to check out the Powell Estate where they lived on their world. There they find an endless series of house parties as they search for signs of The Doctor. They find that they don’t exist in this world, nor does Mickey, but his grandmother and some other friends do. Rose and Jackie discover the reason everyone is partying is because the world is going to end in 8 days. With nothing else to do, everyone on the estate finds their own way to pass the time. Some choose to party. Some choose to stay indoors and wait for the end. Rose and Jackie become catalysts to bring families back together. They can’t save the world, so the least they can do is bring together two boys who are in love but separated by homophobia.
This story feels the closest to a Davies story. The Science Fiction takes a backseat in a tale about a community of people who pull together in the face of adversity.
Less Fan Service, More Drama This Time
This spinoff is more character-driven than the other Doctor Who spinoffs. It explores the theme of identity and whether people are always the same under different circumstances. Rose Tyler always works best as the audience stand-in as she encounters different versions of Pete and Jackie. It also deals with Rose’s ambivalence with her relationship with the Pete who adopted her, since they both know he’s not technically her father.
Piper, Shaun Dingwall, Camille Coduri and Mark Benton are all at the top of their game here. Their performances effortlessly convey the charisma and lovability of the characters that we remember from the TV series. Of course, the excellent scripts are a big help. The quality of the writing is as good as anything on British television. It’s not about superheroes or cops but ordinary people trying to do the right thing. They feel like character dramas that that are commonplace on the BBC without any sense of inferiority. This is a mark of Big Finish’s increasing confidence and evolution since they started in 1999.
Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon is available now at £24.99 on CD or £19.99 on download. Don’t forget that every CD purchase from bigfinish.com unlocks a download exclusive via the Big Finish app and the Big Finish website.