Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) is back at Big Finish! The Dimension Cannon has been an interesting spinoff, following Rose’s journey between “Doomsday” and her return in Doctor Who Series 4. This third set, entitled Trapped, follows Rose as she gets trapped in a strange parallel world (fitting title, eh?). A structure like this marks a big departure from where the other series has been, where each episode was set in a different world. We hope to get to settle into this dimension more than the others.
The set looks to be doing just that as well! As we can see on the cover, we’ve got a brand new main character. Their name is Danni (Em Thane), and the synopsis teases they will develop a really close connection with Rose. Together, the pair will be battling the evils of the Anti-Life, a destructive force which has turned life on this Earth upside down. Can Rose and Danni survive? Will Rose make it home? Let’s find out in this spoiler-free review of the latest Doctor Who antics.
Sink or Swim
The set opener, entitled “Sink or Swim”, comes from writer Lizzie Hopley. It picks up from the end of the last box set immediately. The answer to “did Rose survive that cliffhanger?” was a resounding yes, obviously. What’s far more interesting is where she’s ended up. Rose is stranded on a boat out at sea. It’s an interesting setting for a monster introduction, setting up the Anti-Life as the big bands of the set. There’s also a lot of tension and helplessness if you’re trapped at sea, something the story leans into to great effect.
Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri) has a role in the set and gives a really powerful performance. We’ve been living through a bit of a Jackie Tyler renaissance over the past few releases. Of all of those performances, this is a real highlight. Within the multiverse, all sorts of things are possible. I’m not exaggerating when I say this is Coduri’s strongest performance in any Doctor Who media. Additionally, the chemistry she shares with Thane’s Danni makes for some of the strongest scenes in the episode.
The Dimension Cannon is a series that relies on intimate character moments. As a bit of a departure, this story’s mostly darker. There are intimate moments, but they feel overshadowed by action scenes and some brutish themes. As a result, a comparison to Hopley’s “The Curse of Lady Macbeth” wouldn’t be totally unfounded. If that sort of stuff is your thing, you’ll have a great time with this. I know I did. Overall, it’s a strong start to the new series, which feels totally revamped with the new structure.
The Lower Road
Tim Foley’s middle part of the set sees Rose and Danni leave the ship behind. The two of them travelling together gives them an almost Doctor/Companion style dynamic, with Rose taking a Doctor-ish role. After trekking through the desolate wasteland that is in this dimension, they take refuge in a community known as The High Road. You can probably guess where this is going if you can make the connection to the story’s title. Basically, things are not what they seem, and the community has a very interesting relationship with the Anti-Life.
This story is much more like a regular Dimension Cannon episode. It’s much more character-driven than the last, with some great moments between Rose and Danni. Thane gives a great performance and has great chemistry with Piper. The story gives them a few quiet moments to really get to know one another, and it only makes me regret that Danni’s story probably won’t continue past the next episode. As a character, they’re genuinely interesting as a “companion” to Rose.
Speaking of characters, the story’s side characters are great in spades. There’s a moral conundrum with Kaitlin (Lorraine Horgan), whose ‘disagreements’ with her daughter Lex (Chelsea Little) make for a strong conflict. I don’t think the story plays with the moral questions as much as it could, but this is really thought-provoking listening. While it probably wasn’t as strong as the opener, it’s a great expansion of this frightening world and the lengths people go to to live in it.
The Good Samaritan
The finale to this set, “The Good Samaritan”, was written by the amazing Helen Goldwyn. It is the finale to the set and potentially the series. All things considered, it wraps up amazingly well. We spend most of it in the extreme society of the Dome. It’s here where everything we’ve learned about Anti-Life and special people that inhabit this world is flipped on its head. I don’t think there was enough to this world to sustain a three-hour story, but it wraps itself up alarmingly well.
Billie Piper gives her best performance of the entire Dimension Cannon saga (so far?) here. The way she works to get home, but also trying to defeat the Anti-Life once and for all, is beyond engaging listening. It returns to the high-action stuff we got in the first story, which definitely belongs in a finale. Goldwyn’s presentation of the Dome is as memorable as it is haunting. It’s probably my favourite story of the set for this.
Also, once again, I must single out Em Thane’s Danni. They really are the best thing about this set. The whole concept of giving Rose a companion was a stroke of genius. In true companion fashion, the farewell was enough to get some tears rolling. It solidifies Rose’s quest to find the Doctor as the story unfolds. Hopefully, in her quest through this world, Rose and Danni managed to improve it. Travelling through the multiverse isn’t something I’m too fond of, especially in a world as broad as Doctor Who, but The Dimension Cannon proves to be a great addition to Rose Tyler’s journey.
If this is the end of Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon, the series has certainly gone out with a bang. I’m not even sure how the series could continue. This feels like a very natural endpoint for the series. That being said, with Billie Piper’s performance still being as strong as it is, I certainly wouldn’t complain if she or the series were to make a return. Although, with Piper as busy as she is and no more confirmed appearances in the pipeline, I’m not getting my hopes up.
Initially, I thought the idea of a Rose Tyler spinoff set between Series 2 and 4 was a little excessive. But the series has really justified itself artistically and effectively covered Rose’s character growth from companion to independent badass. It’s not something I knew I needed or a story that needed three box sets, but it’s been a great ride. I feel like there’s life in Rose’s story yet, though, and I hope that the team at Big Finish, or even Bad Wolf Studios, can find a way to continue it.
Listeners can order their own copy of Rose Tyler – The Dimension Cannon: Trapped exclusively from Big Finish Productions at the link. It’s available to order as a collector’s edition CD boxset for just £19.99 or as a download only for £16.99. For all the latest news, reviews, and discussing all things Doctor Who, be sure to follow the team here at Tardis Central!