Jenny – The Doctor’s Daughter Series 2: Still Running (Big Finish Review)

It’s been over three years since the first series of Jenny – The Doctor’s Daughter. In the meantime, the character has featured in The Legacy of TimeBig Finish’s celebration of twenty years of Doctor Who audio drama – opposite the Fifth Doctor in a nice little family reunion for Georgia Tennant and Peter Davison, but since then there’s been a dearth of Jenny content – until now.

There was a refreshing lightness to the first set of solo Jenny adventures, and Still Running picks up on that theme and, ahem, runs with it. Alongside her companion Noah (Sean Biggerstaff), Jenny continues to explore the universe while pondering the mystery of Noah’s backstory and heritage, and evading the clutches of the hunter cyborg COLT-5000 (Siân Phillips).

Tennant, who associate produces Still Running as she did on series one, clearly cares deeply about the character, displaying a passion both in performance and production. Still Running also marks the Big Finish directing debut – in release order, at least – of Barnaby Kay, whose past work for the company saw him act in stories with a number of Doctors. But now he’s in the director’s chair, taking the reins from Barnaby Edwards, and the result is a sequence of four varied and funny adventure tales.

Inside the Maldovarium

After popping up in volume one of The Eleventh Doctor Chronicles, Simon Fisher-Becker is back again as Dorium Maldovar in Inside the Maldovarium. As the title suggests, this episode provides a deeper look inside Dorium’s lair than we’d previously seen, while also touching on his ambition and duplicitousness when conducting business.

Some months after leaving the cloning station in the previous set’s Zero Space – also written by Adrian Poynton – Jenny and Noah are still on the run and looking for spaceship parts. Their crash landing on the asteroid playing host to the Maldovarium bar turns out not to be so accidental, however, as Jenny’s heard there might be a TARDIS for sale at a black-market auction. And Dorium, ever the kleptomaniac, smells a profit to be made by selling off the TARDIS to the highest bidder.

Although the character has been written as an ally of the Doctor, there’s something intrinsically untrustworthy about the way Dorium conducts his business, which this story doesn’t shy away from. Yet as we discover, he has such a history – and indeed accrued such a debt with the Doctor – that he could never harm the Time Lord’s daughter; as Jenny says at one point, in spite of his apparent selfishness there is good in Dorium’s heart.

Inside the Maldovarium gives some welcome backstory to the titular bar, which plays host to a menagerie of weird and wonderful alien creatures here just as it did onscreen. But the episode’s key function is to afford Jenny and Noah a functional TARDIS; it’s a moment of pure joy and self-affirmation for Jenny as she pilots away from the Maldovarium in a ship that has great significance for this pseudo-Time Lord.

Altered Status

Christian Brassington’s instalment in the first Jenny release, Neon Reign, was probably the most detailed in terms of the story world and mythology. In Altered Status, he teams up with script editor Matt Fitton to pen an episode somewhat reminiscent of an older Big Finish tale, Human Resources, with its satirical depiction of a hyper-commercialised, corporate world where the Cybermen (Nicholas Briggs) co-opt a human labour force to fuel cyber-conversion.

Trouble seems to follow Jenny and Noah wherever they go – or rather, they pursue trouble wherever they can find it. Following a suggestion from Dorium to visit the New Damson spaceport, they are quickly roped into manual labour within a strict caste system: those with a certain quotient of potential are put to use in a certain area, with others segregated in different zones.

Owing to the Cybermen’s presence pulling the strings, of the four stories in this set Altered Status is probably the one with the most overt threat. The Cybermen don’t lend themselves easily towards levity, after all, and although that’s no bad thing, it does make their presence here slightly jarring in the context of a light comedy series like Jenny – The Doctor’s Daughter. Still, something different is always appreciated.

And there are solid character moments against the backdrop of quashed individualism and hyper-productivity: Noah’s endearing naivete contrasts well with Jenny’s abiding passion for snarky comebacks and adrenaline; there are some gentler scenes between Jenny and her fellow workers toiling away at lower levels of the company; and Jonathan Aris’ Department Head – a classic example of senior management – is a serviceable, although underused, antagonist.

Calamity Jenny

Calamity Jenny is a lot of fun. Every episode of Jenny has humour, but this one doubles down on the wit and comedy that this series does so well, in an Old West pastiche that never lets up on the laughs. It also features some of the best music from Joe Kraemer of these four stories.

Jenny and Noah are still jumping here and there across the universe; the rationale for why they move from location to location is merely a crux to place them in new and different scenarios. This time, it’s the Wild West, a land of outlaws and prospectors, stick-ups and saloon piano tunes, and of course characters chasing down a train on horseback. Throw in some evocative narration, old-timey accents and an Ennio Morricone-inspired rendition of the main theme tune, and you’ve got an old-fashioned Western tale with a Jenny spin.

John Dorney’s metafictional script – the narrator (Michael Brandon) speaks directly to the listener and frequently pokes fun at narrative conventions – is where much of the episode’s humour stems from. Yet more comedy derives from a case of mistaken identity, as Jenny is confused with Calamity Jenny (also voiced by Tennant) a notorious outlaw who’s made a name for herself locally for all the wrong reasons. Plus, there’s some good old slapstick comedy in the third act to top it all off.

Calamity Jenny is twisty-turny, partly non-linear and potentially confusing if you aren’t paying attention – but as the unnamed narrator says, things do make sense eventually, so just sit back and trust in the clever writing and exaggerated performances. Because it does all come together in a satisfying way, making for a breezy and earnest adventure in between two more plot-centric episodes.

Her Own Worst Enemy

As a series, Jenny never rests for long on its laurels; we’re always pushing on to the next escapade, the next dangerous situation. True to form, Her Own Worst Enemy begins with a bang. After three standalone escapades across discrete periods of space-time, this episode jumps about through time, and also brings back Siân Phillips as COLT-5000, the cyborg who’s been on their tail since the early days. In attempt to get the hunter of their backs, the pair travel into the past to save a woman named Geraldine from becoming the COLT-5000 in the first place – and avoid being converted into cyborg form themselves.

Geraldine – a kindly and innocent art teacher who doesn’t at all deserve her eventual fate of cyberisation – is a sizeable role, and one very different from the COLT-5000, for Phillips, who brings all her charm and grace. The ideas at play here are interesting too, this being a colony where cybernetic enhancements are deemed a day-to-day exercise, and an individual’s judgement of their own self-worth is the metric by which people are deemed viable to undergo cyberisation. And if this all seems familiar given the Cybermen’s presence in Altered Status, then you won’t be surprised to hear how the back half of the story plays out.

Full of time jumps and more witty humour, and with undertones of It’s a Wonderful Life, Her Own Worst Enemy has a little bit of everything. The ending promises something very different for a potential third series; hopefully the wait between this instalment and the next isn’t as long as last time!

Some Big Finish ranges are more comedy-centric than others – the raucousness of Missy springs to mind – and Jenny – The Doctor’s Daughter is one of them. Tennant is on record saying she wanted this series to be funny and accessible for all ages; Still Running is all that and more. There’s heart, action, humour, excitement and usually a happy ending – or at least a hopeful one – which makes these stories a diverting way to spend a few hours.

Jenny – The Doctor’s Daughter Series 2: Still Running was released in November 2021. It will be exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until 31 January 2021, and on general sale after this date.

Extras

In the extras, Georgia Tennant explains her joy at having a distraction from childrearing for a day while Sean Biggerstaff shares his nerves at the prospect of working again post-lockdown. We also hear from writers Adrian Poynton, John Dorney and Lisa McMullin, who give insights into how plot and character beats came together. Barnaby Kay discusses the privilege of directing such talented actors, while composer Joe Kraemer adds his thoughts about writing music for the series, the interplay between music with dialogue within scenes, and the pleasure of creating the sound design alongside his own son.

Synopsis

Jenny was made as a soldier but has a Time Lord’s heritage – and that Time Lord is the Doctor. Exploring the universe, Jenny found a friend – Noah, a mystery boy from nowhere.

Together they’re ready to save planets, fight monsters, and save the day with nothing but wit and instinct – and an awful lot of running.

Inside the Maldovarium by Adrian Poynton

Jenny and Noah find a priceless item up for auction at a disreputable venue – with an even less trustworthy owner. Dorium Maldovar might seem pleased to see them, but what’s his real agenda? Is Jenny here by chance, or is someone spinning a web…?

Altered Status by Christian Brassington and Matt Fitton

On a utopian world, the perfect society toils towards its worthy ‘Cause’. But the hard-working Suits are more than they seem, and the Department Head is something else altogether. And when Jenny and Noah scratch the surface, they find silver underneath. The Cybermen are coming…

Calamity Jenny by John Dorney

When Noah and Jenny mosey on into the Old West, it’s surely a coincidence that Jenny looks exactly like the town’s most notorious outlaw. But as they’ll discover, anyone who crosses ‘Calamity Jenny’ suffers an unlucky fate – and it’s usually fatal.

Her Own Worst Enemy by Lisa McMullin

Jenny wants bounty hunter cyborg Colt-5000 off their trail once and for all. Her plan involves cybertech founder Seavus Colt, time travel, and showing somebody the true value of their life. But the web of time can’t be pulled apart without a cost…

Cast

Georgia Tennant (Jenny)
Jonathan Aris (Department Head)
Sean Biggerstaff (Noah)
Michael Brandon (Narrator / Train Driver)
Nicholas Briggs (Cyberleader / Suits)
Jana Carpenter (Marion ‘Momma’ Stokes)
Okorie Chukwu (Mike / Cyborg Auditor Mike / Henry)
Cavin Cornwall (Seavus Colt)
Simon Fisher-Becker (Dorium Maldovar)
James Goode (Sheriff Sparrow / Virgil)
Lara Lemon (Young Geraldine / Jimmins / Benni)
Deeivya Meir (Sogo / Justine)
Rhoda Ofori-Attah (Jodi / Lifeguide)
Siân Phillips (Colt-5000)
Sara Powell (Andros Fax / Bar Person)
Michael Wildman (Mr Probos)

Production Credits

Written by John Dorney, Lisa McMullin, Christian Brassington, Matt Fitton & Adrian Poynton
Associate Producer Georgia Tennant
Cover Art by Oliver Chenery
Director Barnaby Kay
Executive Producer Jason Haigh-Ellery & Nicholas Briggs
Music by Joe Kraemer
Producer Emma Haigh
Script Editor Matt Fitton
Sound Design by Joe Kraemer
Senior Producer David Richardson

Suggested Listening

Jenny – The Doctor’s Daughter Series 1
Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor Chronicles Volume 1
Doctor Who: The Legacy of Time

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