Welcome to DoWntime’s new, not-too-regular column, Assessing Stress. That’s where we assess … stress. Or more accurately, talk and debate about the newest episodes to hit the television screen, the new releases from Big Finish, and all these good things.
And today, Tibère and Scribbles discuss the debut of Jenny, the Doctor’s daughter, in audio format! Prepare yourself for loads of running (also, politics), and beware spoilers after the “read more” tag.
TIBERE: Oh boy, this is going to be a complicated one. It’s a tale of two sides, really. In a way, the set works: the objective here is clearly to “rescue” Jenny’s character, who, from Georgia Tennant’s own mouth, really wasn’t developed or interesting enough to warrant a set of her own. That is a success. An impressive one, even – Jenny is a delight to follow, and the writers find some really compelling emotional and thematic angles to explore her. I absolutely believe she can be a good series lead now – and I came in with a lot of skepticism. The problem is … Once you’ve established solid bases on which to build a show, what kind of show do you build? And the narrative of this set goes in some really unfortunate directions. Not all the time – there are interesting and intelligent elements, but, especially in the truly woeful third story, you also get a faceful of some of the most virulent orientalism Big Finish has ever managed. It’s all fine and good to be feminist, but Jenny, as a show, has to prove its feminism can be intersectional and efficient. Because so far … This is the kind of problematic fun that is ripe in some corners of the Davies era, which, for all that I love it, had its fair share of issues there, from the character of Cassandra to the Gareth Roberts episodes, but that is not really acceptable in 2018, no matter how fun it is. And it is fun, that’s the worst thing. It’s a well-crafted, solid set that could give birth to a great series, but not before some serious political editing and soul-searching.
SCRIBBLES: This set exceeded expectations. Not all of those expectations are good. Overall, I think it’s safe to say this is a very enjoyable set. There’s clearly an effort made here to engage with feminist storytelling, which is always welcome, and Georgia Tennant bursts onto the scene with an immense amount of energy and personality that makes her a joy to follow, and the stories overall hit a very strong baseline of quality. Unfortunately, as a story that demands to be read on feminist terms, not all of its storytelling succeeds. For the second time this year, we unfortunately must extensively criticize a story from a box set for political, social justice-oriented reasons, as this set unfortunately has one story that hamfistedly bungles its attempts at feminism and veers into some very objectionable orientalism in the process. Furthermore, while I form my criticisms, I have to note my distaste with Joe Kraemer’s score, which consists of a number of recycled tracks from his main range work that often entirely fails to mesh with the tone of a scene, a problem that is rarely solved by the few new tracks contributed here, such as an overdone lighthearted, comedic track playing over a massacre by Ood. On the other hand, though, there’s a lot to love. There’s some brilliant commentary on feminism and family legacy elsewhere, an awful lot of good humor, and a really sweet coda for the fans. And much as I criticise Kraemer’s work, the theme tune is quite catchy. It’s not a perfect set, and given the arc it seems to be building, it’s very likely future sets could go very, very wrong in the vein of this set’s weak installment. But overall, this is a pleasant experience.