Welcome to DoWntime’s 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 tackle the return of Rose Tyler and the Tenth Doctor on audio formats! Featuring warthogs from space, Ice Warrior terrorists, non-binary swashbucklers, and spoilers after the “read more” tag.
TIBERE: Well, it does what is says on the tin. There’s not a tremendous lot of observations to add to that – it’s a release whose primary goal is to give people more Ten and Rose stories, and it does that. With efficiency and competency. It’s not a must-listen by any means – and its lack of ambition beyond being a series of pleasant adventure vignettes is noticeable, especially after a first set that may have tripped more along the way, but tried, in its two final stories at least, to offer new and original angles on the characters and their life. But that could have been expected – what’s more surprising is how little they actually do with that TARDIS team. Rose feels more nondescript here that she has ever been in the show – she is given some good material, don’t get me wrong, but there’s no justification as to why exactly the narrative requires her presence. I wasn’t a fan of the first set’s opener, “Technophobia”, but it did rely on Donna’s own quirks and specificities as a character in a way this set never really achieves. The romance between Rose and Ten is a fascinating ground to explore thematically – series 2 gestures in that direction in really interesting way, but there’s plenty of space left – so it’s equally surprising to see how little they lean into it. It’s not that the set is full of fanservice – it’s not character-specific enough to achieve that. Really, the best way to describe it is as a product. It’s a good product, in the sense that it is well put-together, with solid acting, productions, and quite decent scripts. But it’s hard to shake the lack of ambition you feel throughout the set. Nothing shameful or outright bad, but it could – and maybe should? It’s not my place to say – have been better.
SCRIBBLES: It’s hard to praise this set, and equally hard to criticize it. It does with it does with a typical exuberance and energy that keeps things ticking along, and it’s all quite competent, but it feels a bit too safe. Tennant and Piper bring plenty of energy to the proceedings, but the stories aren’t as crafted to their dynamic as they were in the previous volume with Tate and Tennant, and things here are a bit less delightful as a result. Like you say, the romance isn’t pursued as much. It feels crafted to please everyone. There’s just enough chemistry shining through to please shippers, and I’ve seen plenty of enthusiasm from those circles, but equally, there’s little enough that those who can’t stand the pairing to pretend the love story never existed. It’s safe and nice. There’s glimmers of more ambition and character-driven darkness, particularly, surprisingly, from the Ice Warrior romp that closes the set, but overall, it’s just a delivery mechanism for a few more hours of the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler. It works at that, and given their iconic power, maybe that is enough.