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TDAs - Infamy of the Zaross

Big Finish released the second series of the Tenth Doctor Adventures last Thursday with little fanfare, at least on this side of the Atlantic. In fact, it took me totally by surprise: I got the email notification that they had just shipped the collector's edition, but they didn't send out the usual "(title) released today!" email they send for most of their other audios. I mean, come on, the return of Rose on the 54th anniversary? That wasn't worth a huge announcement?

I finally got around to listening to the first one, "Infamy of the Zaross", yesterday. No, I didn't pounce on them immediately. I couldn't wait for the first series - I downloaded the return of the Tenth Doctor as soon as it became available (which was the night before the official release date in the US, due to time zones) and listened to the first episode right away. This was the second series, and this was Rose, so there was no rush.

Spoilerific review:


The tl;dr (posted at the beginning of the review, like it should be, rather than at the end) is that "Infamy of the Zaross" isn't worth it.

It certainly isn't the worst DW story ever, and I wouldn't categorize it as bad, but it's not good. Maybe poor. The main concept of the story, of the aliens invading because they're filming a TV show in which the army invades different planets, is clever and interesting, but the episode fails to capitalize on the opportunity to make interesting observations on reality shows or on the concept of an advanced race treating humans like cattle, and instead focuses on the easiest, most obvious message of "how dare you kill people for entertainment, fame, and fortune".

The form of the story is formulaic and predictable. The aliens invade Norwich, where Jackie happens to be visiting a friend, Marge, and her daughter, Jess. Marge and Jess are only given a few lines of interaction to establish their conflict with each other - Marge thinks Jess, who wants to become an actress, is useless, especially compared to her older sister who is a student at Cambridge - and my immediate thought was, "Oh, now she's going to do something to benefit the aliens, in the mistaken belief that it's going to prove to her mother that she's worth something." (Spoiler: I was right.) Jackie calls Rose and the Doctor, and they figure out that this is a TV show. The Doctor attempts to point out that it's immoral to kill people for money and ratings, but neither the filmmaker race (I don't remember their name) nor the actor race, the Zaross, are buying it, as they're after fame, money, and ratings. The filmmakers, in turn, offer the Doctor and Rose a place on their show, promising money and fame, which of course they turn down. Then, as the two races try to hunt down and kill them, the Doctor learns that the filmmakers are double-crossing the Zaross, and so he tells the Zaross, and the Zaross obliterate the filmmakers.

In the middle of all that, during the negotiations between the Doctor and the filmmakers, Jess suggests to the filmmakers that, since what they're after is ratings, they should shake up their formula of having the army invade a planet, and instead, film an episode of the army hunting down the people trying to stop their show. The episode ends with Rose talking with Jess, to tell her that she's important and that she shouldn't put up with her mother's disparagement. Jess responds that she was happy to die up there, because at least she'd become famous and she'd show the world how good she was, that that was better than living and being useless. So, Rose goes out and tells Marge to start valuing her daughter and tells Jess that if her mother ever puts her down again, to put her foot down about it and leave home.

There really wasn't much for the audience to figure out. The pre-credits teaser showed in no uncertain terms that someone was filming a TV show, so, as the invasion transpired, it was rather obvious that it was a reality show. Events after that revelation were pretty standard. Marge and Jess were entirely unnecessary for the story except to give Rose something to soapbox about, which, admittedly, is a pretty good characterization of Rose.

Beyond the plot itself, the story was just not inspiring. I remember when the first series of the TDAs came out and I sat down to listen to the first one, "Technophobia". It was a decent episode, but the energy of the action and the dialogue immediately sucked me back into the Tenth Doctor era. That didn't happen with "Infamy of the Zaross". The episode plodded along, and the dialogue served to tell the story but not much else.

Performance-wise, DT did a good job, though not as well as he did during the first series, but perhaps that might be because he had less to work with. BP didn't bother to get into character at all; she sounded like a generic thirty-something Brit, not a nineteen-year-old London chav. In fact, I couldn't actually tell the difference between Rose, Marge, and Jess, and had to rely on what was being said to figure out who was speaking. Nicholas Briggs did a better job playing Rose in the Ninth Doctor Chronicles. I am, however, becoming more and more impressed with Camille Coduri with every new audio she's featured in - she was stellar in the Ninth Doctor Chronicles' "Retail Therapy" - and am starting to look forward to the upcoming Short Trips about the Metacrisis Doctor that she's narrating, simply because I'd like to hear more of Jackie.

After this disappointing effort, I'm hoping that the other two stories in TDA Series 2 are better. The last one was written by Mark Fitton, who wrote "Technophobia", so I'm optimistic.

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( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
dm12
Nov. 27th, 2017 10:15 pm (UTC)
All I know is what I heard from the sample, and it was constantly Rose, screeching, "I'm Rose Tyler!"

Sorry, it didn't tempt me to order this one, even with DT. You're right, too, about no one making a huge deal over this one, where the first set was anticipated with much excitement.

This review doesn't help convince me to order, either. The first set, with Catherine Tate, both were totally in character and it seemed as if they were having a blast. You're right, we were immediately taken right back into the best of the Tenth Doctor era.
shivver13
Nov. 28th, 2017 01:17 am (UTC)
Honestly, I bought it because I love both DT and Big Finish and I want to show my support for the TDAs. I don't mind Rose being in these (it goes without saying that I'd prefer Martha or Donna), and I want them to keep making them.

I think you're right that the first series just bubbled with excitement and energy that didn't come across in this episode. I think a good part of that was the uninspired script, but a lot of it has to come from the actors themselves.
tkel_paris
Nov. 28th, 2017 02:25 am (UTC)
This was one of those times where I let reviews reassure me that I was doing the right thing in choosing to NOT buy before they were even available for pre-order. I wasn't even intrigued by DW until CT arrived as the full-time companion and when I finally started watching Series 1 episodes so I could get Nine's voice right for my series "The Noble Girl" I was still unimpressed with Rose. So I love DT, and yet it wasn't enough to get me to buy. *sigh* I made sure to buy Series 1 & 2 on a steep sale, although I wasn't as picky for Series 3 & 4.

I heard a saying that bad acting will ruin good writing, yet great acting can't make up for a bad script. Maybe that's part of why BF isn't making a big deal? Perhaps when all was said and done they knew it wasn't their best effort and that promoting it like they did the last ones would blow up in their faces. I don't mind them making back what they put into it, and given the things I've seen on Twitter they probably will.

Anyway, I spent the rest of my BF money this year on the PM Doctor sale. Was merrily working my way through the rest of the Lucie Miller years until I nearly had a heart attack listening to "Resurrection of Mars". I'm not even sure I got halfway through it before I had to pause because I was driving. Now I have to figure out where I left off, and listen while at home. *sheepish*

Out of curiosity, what difference do you think a different companion might have made on this story-line?
shivver13
Nov. 28th, 2017 08:15 am (UTC)
It's really hard to predict what these stories will earn for BF. On the one hand, Ten's and Rose's popularity should attract new listeners, but on the other hand, I'd think audios wouldn't really attract the hardcore Rose fans, especially since, at least from this first one, BF isn't emphasizing the romance aspect of that TARDIS team. I'm sure they'll make back what they spent in it, but I'm hesitant to say it'll be a wild success.

I think the biggest problem with the storyline is that (and this is pure conjecture) the writer was trying very hard to create a situation in which Rose could give the big "you're important and you should believe in yourself and not mind your mother" speech at the end. Thus, the big parallels between the Zaross' throwing away everything they believed in to become famous and Jess' declaration that she wanted to die so that she'd become famous and show her mother that she was important. (I didn't go into it earlier, but the Zaross were originally a peace-loving race. They decided to do the reality show because other races in the universe always overlooked them and they wanted to become famous. Which is a really stupid concept if you think about how big the universe really is and why a whole race would worry about being famous.)

If the writer hadn't been trying to shoehorn the storyline into that speech, he could have explored far more meaningful themes around reality tv. Or, rather than telling us and Jess that everyone's important, he could have shown it, by either having Martha mention that her mother always like Tish better and then going on to be clever (or something like that) or by delving into Donna's own self-doubts and having her overcome them. Rose, when written true to character, doesn't have the ability to show anyone that. By definition, she's unskilled and not particularly bright, and overcomes obstacles by sheer courage. That's not a bad thing, but she's important only because the Doctor believes she is. The speech is nice but meaningless, as self-confidence and worth isn't something you can learn from a speech.

(Side note: The whole speech thing is one of the things I've disliked most about the recent series of DW. There are a lot of episodes that are basically forced storylines leading to an epic Doctor speech - the Zygon two-parter being the prime example. I really miss when the Doctor was just a guy traveling the universe, and when the stories were just stories and not a moralistic soapbox.)

One other thing that I've been thinking about with regards to this storyline: it's very similar to the end of Journey's End. In this story, Rose tells Marge to start valuing her daughter, and in JE, the Doctor tells Sylvia to tell Donna she's wonderful sometimes. Except, in JE, Donna shows her worth through a whole season of episodes, and Sylvia finds out about all the wonderful things her daughter has done, and this lends force to the Doctor's words. In this story, Jess doesn't do anything worthwhile, and so Rose ordering her mother to value her doesn't mean anything. Rose knows even less about Jess and her mother than the audience does (since Rose doesn't see any of the interactions between the two that happen before the invasion, and is separated from them at various points in the story) - it's presumptuous of her to tell them how they should regard each other. But then, I suppose that's Rose in a nutshell. :)
tkel_paris
Nov. 28th, 2017 05:33 pm (UTC)
In other words... BF die-hards will be disappointed because they're used to actors who can really get into character. New listeners and those who don't listen too intently won't catch on? Because if it doesn't really sound like Rose, shouldn't the approval suffer for it? Does that sound right?

Wow. Yes, Rose would butt her nose into things she doesn't know anything about. I've noticed her actions seem like a big sign of a lack of maturity and willingness to take responsibility for her own life. Let alone improving it. Courage only goes so far. You have to be willing to admit your mistakes and make changes - even if it's hard.
shyfoxling
Nov. 28th, 2017 02:36 am (UTC)
Nicholas Briggs did a better job playing Rose in the Ninth Doctor Chronicles.

... all I can picture is his Dalek voice. What's the context here? Or is it more like narration and he's just slightly doing a voice to differentiate one character from another?
shivver13
Nov. 28th, 2017 08:24 am (UTC)
Yeah, I can see the difficulty. :)

The Ninth Doctor Chronicles is a series of four half-audiobook, half-audio play stories. Basically, picture them as short stories (not scripted plays), with Nick Briggs reading the prose and doing the voices of most of the characters, but with one or two other actors playing important parts - usually just one playing a friendly character, or a second one playing the main villain. There was one story with Bruno Langley reprising Adam Mitchell, and one with Camille Coduri playing Jackie, but in all of them, Nick Briggs did the Ninth Doctor (amazingly well) and Rose.

Now, Nick Briggs' Rose voice sounded nothing like Billie Piper - it was about what you'd expect a deep-voiced guy trying to speak like a girl would sound like. However, he got the Estuary accent and the characterization of Rose down. It was still difficult to get past his fake high voice, but he was a better Rose than BP was in "Infamy of the Zaross".
shyfoxling
Nov. 29th, 2017 03:22 am (UTC)
Ouch! Not a ringing endorsement of BP's performance.
dtstrainers
Nov. 28th, 2017 02:39 am (UTC)
While not a Rose-hater, I’m just not a big fan of her with Ten. I loved her with Nine, but not so much with Ten. I’m also not that impressed with BP’s other work. She just doesn’t seem to have the range necessary to be a versatile performer. I wanted to like her in Penny Dreadful, but I just found her to be completely dreadful. (Yeah, yeah, I know- cheap and obvious shot, but I’m out of practice.). I know I’ll get these eventually, but PB doesn’t make me run out and buy these the way further DT/CT stories would.

Edited at 2017-11-28 02:41 am (UTC)
tkel_paris
Nov. 28th, 2017 03:41 am (UTC)
I admit she's more relatable with Nine, and that's only after seeing three full episodes with him. That said, I was still unimpressed with what I saw of Rose.

(Well, if you thought that she was dreadful in Penny Dreadful it's a fitting comment. I watched her in Mansfield Park, and while the bigger problem was that the script was horrible, she was mis-cast as Fanny Price. Mary Crawford would've been a better role for her.)
shivver13
Nov. 28th, 2017 08:33 am (UTC)
BP played Fanny?? Wow. I knew she'd been in Mansfield Park and seen pictures of it, but I didn't imagine that all of those sultry poses and smoky gazes were Fanny. I agree - a horrible miscast.
tkel_paris
Nov. 28th, 2017 05:21 pm (UTC)
Yep. At first, I was more "huh?" over it, because my attention was more on what AD, the screenwriter, did to the story. He cut out so many important details that it gutted the tale JA told. So the biggest problem remains the script, which is doubly disappointing because after Pride and Prejudice and Emma I expected far more from him.

He messed with Persuasion but there were no horrible mis-castings and the overall spirit of the story was left intact. (Alice Krieg (sp?) played Lady Russell. I called that one as soon as I saw her name on the opening credits; she could not play anyone else, and she was good in the part. :D) Northanger Abby was sadly unmemorable, although I haven't rewatched it since the first airing on PBS over nine years ago.

Sense and Sensibility was also messed with, but the changes were easier to understand. The timeline of Marianne and Brandon's relationship was sped up in relation to the novel, but given how it was done and how the actors played the parts (David Morrisey actually managed to tie Alan Rickman as my favorite Brandon) I approved. They added a scene at the beginning that made Willoughby's character defects stand out sharply later on, and a confrontation scene was altered. Yet I couldn't argue with the changes as a woman.

Put simply, Mansfield Park is even more disappointing if - like me - you've seen the 80s version. Almost 100% faithful, and the castings were almost perfect. The only critique I could make there is that Mary Crawford was a bit too tall for the part. I recall she was supposed to be more on the petite side, which makes sense given her brother isn't tall, either. Oh, and the guy in the 2008 version who played Henry Crawford? Too good-looking. They needed to make him look "absolutely plain".
shivver13
Nov. 28th, 2017 09:25 pm (UTC)
I checked, and AD didn't do Mansfield Park - which I am relieved to hear, because he did such a masterful job with the 1995 Pride and Prejudice. He's also not listed (on IMDB) as having done Persuasion either. The screenwriter for MP was a person named Maggie Wadey.

I haven't actually seen any JA adaptations other than the 1995 P&P and Emma Thompson's S&S, though I love all but one of her novels. I didn't really like S&S, but it had a lot of strikes against it: I don't like the novel, and at the time I saw it, I was really sick and only had the energy to sit in bed and stare at the movie on my iPad. Maybe I might have enjoyed it if I had been able to turn a brain cell toward it. I am thinking, however, that I might like to see the 80s MP, on your recommendation.

My one pet peeve about P&P: no one has ever scripted Mr. Collins like he appears in the book. He's always scripted as a comic bumbler, but the book describes him as tall and haughty, though without any brains, morality, or status to back that up. It seems to me to make Elizabeth's refusal of him more profound if he was portrayed as someone who looks like a good catch on the surface but she sees his obvious deficiencies.
tkel_paris
Nov. 29th, 2017 03:23 am (UTC)
Oh, thank goodness! Which means we could still get an adaptation by him of both! :DDDDDD

There was a collection of JA adaptations from the 70s and 80s released as a bundle. The one thing I have yet to see a P&P get right are Mr and Mrs. Gardner's ages. They're always cast much older than the novel said. Hey, being sick can ruin almost anything for a person so don't feel bad. (I used to absolutely hate "Kiss Me, Kate" and came to like it when I got older.) I recommend it. It was a five-part series (in full, much like the P&P from that era), and has some actors you might recognize from later JA adaptations. Sir Thomas Bertram and Miss Bertram in the 80s version of MP were respectively played by the same actors who played Mr. Woodhouse and Mrs. Weston (nee Tayler) in the 90s version of Emma. And the actor who played Edmund Bertram was also Horatio in KB's massive Hamlet production and Mr. Musgrove in the 2000s version of Persuasion.

True. His comical parts are often overdone, and that takes away from the importance of Elizabeth's refusal. Which reminds me that I still need to see Pride, Prejudice and Zombies if only to see Matt Smith in full as Mr. Collins. The short clip I saw had me in stitches.
shivver13
Nov. 28th, 2017 08:30 am (UTC)
Oh, exactly! I completely agree - Rose was great with Nine, and just nothing with Ten. I don't know if I classify myself as a Rose-hater. I think she's a well-designed character, but not a human I would respect or care to have as an acquaintance. RTD is great at designing such fully-realized, rounded characters. Like Gwen Cooper - a great character and perfect for her role, but a rather reprehensible human being.
tkel_paris
Nov. 28th, 2017 05:27 pm (UTC)
Well-rounded in that you know you've met people like her. And agreed; I've met too many like her, and know too well the consequences of their actions to think her good for the Doctor long-term. What she needed from him was a father figure who would tell her "no" and hold her to it.

Although I'm suddenly imagining Lucie Miller meeting Nine. Which would result in more sass: Nine and Lucie, or Nine and Donna?
romanajo123
Nov. 28th, 2017 01:44 pm (UTC)
Was wondering if you got the new audios!

I didn't order them (and unsure if I'm going to since due to saving money I'm on kind of a break from purchasing any new audios) but I heard the trailer. The third story caught my interest somewhat (YAY ICE WARRIORS) But if that's the plot of the first one...wow, that's underwhelming. Who has kinda already done that. :/

What's your thoughts on Time Reaver/Death and the Queen? Those actually sound cool.
shivver13
Nov. 28th, 2017 03:58 pm (UTC)
My reaction to this audio might be colored a bit by it being the second series. The first series, to me, was the triumphant return of the Tenth Doctor, and with Donna, my favorite companion, so I went into it excited and listened to all three in the course of 48 hours. This one, not so much. I've seen the ratings for this episode on thetimescales.com and people seem to like it a lot, so maybe you might like it better than I did.

Both Time Reaver and Death and the Queen are from the first series. I wasn't fond of Time Reaver - it was okay the first time, but it doesn't hold up on the second listen-through. That said, it's the only one I've written a fanfic for, because one of the characters, Soren, is fascinating. He reminded me a lot of Drax.

Death and the Queen is one of my favorite audios of all time - I've listened it it about 5 or 6 times and I'd rank it up there with The Kingmaker, Peri and the Piscon Paradox, and The Chimes of Midnight. Here are my non-spoilerific reviews from just after listening to each of the first series, and I have complete reviews later in my LJ.

"Technophobia": https://shivver13.livejournal.com/106900.html
"Time Reaver" and "Death and the Queen": https://shivver13.livejournal.com/107399.html

Big Finish did this set right. Technophobia was like a reintroduction of the characters - "Here's Ten and Donna! Remember them? They're fun and cool, and here's why!" Time Reaver was a straightforward adventure. Then Death and the Queen was the meaty, meaningful story.

Edited at 2017-11-28 04:03 pm (UTC)
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