Jenny is back, and she’s going out to explore the universe. As someone who’s about a day old, how will she see the cosmos? With wonder, trepidation, or panic? There’s only one way to find out. Today, I’m reviewing the penultimate story in this Jenny box set, Neon Reign by Christian Brassington.
The Dragon Lord rules Kamshassa with fear. Half the oppressed population live in an addicted stupor, while the other half are forced into service. Factories belch poisonous smoke, and Dragon Guards patrol the streets, condemning dissenters to the Eternal Fire.
When Jenny and Noah arrive, it’s only a matter of time before they start a revolution.
First of all, what an amazing cover. Purple. Dragon. Jenny. Old lady. What’s not to love?
The opening music to Neon Reign is so evocative of Classic Who, with an amazing synth score, on it’s own, for 20 seconds, really taking you back there. If this motif is anything to go by, this is going to be a retro style tale. Also, and I know I don’t say this often, listen to this release on the best pair of headphones you have. There’s a thunderstorm and my goodness it sounds incredible being blasted directly into your ears.
It’s not long till Jenny and Noah arrive on a new world via vortex manipulator, one with dark and dingy weather. The gaps in Jenny and Noah’s knowledge also really seem to compliment one another; they’re almost like two halves of a whole. Jenny is good at quips and “normal” things, whereas Noah appears to be some kind of astrophysicist by design.
Once Jenny and Noah find civilisation, it’s not long before the population seems extremely enamoured by the two new arrivals, and Noah in particular. It seems that their coming was foretold… by a dragon.
I have to admit, I’m surprised at some of the darker themes that have been brought to the fore of Neon Reign; there’s a drug called Chup which is really addictive and seemingly pacifies the taker, there’s also the hint of a tyrannical ruler in the Dragon Lord, who is running the planet like a dictatorship. I’m getting some serious political dystopia vibes from this story.
Again, there’s another flashback, this time told from a different characters perspective, but it still sounds incredible; the sound design of this box set is some of the best I’ve heard from Big Finish, and that’s an extremely high compliment.
There’s the first real exposition dump scene in the box set, and, whilst it flows really well, and more or less makes sense within the narrative, sometimes it can feel slightly jarring. There are a few coincidences that makes everything appear to be a little too easy for Jenny and her gang to make a stand.
I do like the fact that this story is more of a continuation from Stolen Goods in terms of characters, plot developments and box set arcs, even if, at it’s core, it’s boiled down to a game of cat and mouse, with Jenny and Noah attempting to do covert undercover work.
I’m surprised that it takes until the third act for the Dragon Lord, which has been referred to throughout the story, to make an appearance. The conversation that Jenny and the Dragon Lord has felt somewhat stilted, especially given the fact that the Dragon Lord was, until they actually met, trying to eradicate Jenny and Noah off the face of his planet. It feels a bit too James Bond villain-y for me, with unnecessary conversation being the villains inevitable downfall.
The scene in which we as the listener, and Jenny, learn the motivations behind the Dragon Lord’s treatment of his people is also rather cliche if I’m being honest. I suppose it could be argued that it’s trying to humanise the character of the Dragon Lord, and make him more relatable as a character, but it just feels out of place to me.
The revelation near the end of the story really feels as if it comes out of nowhere, and I don’t know if it really impacted the story in the way that it intended to. There’s a lot of commentary on gender perception in this story, and a lot of rather archaic sexist viewpoints which are explored, with women being treated as the lower species, and men being superior in every way.
The conclusion of Neon Reign seemingly links right into Zero Space, with the COLT-5000 following the trail of change and optimism that Jenny and Noah are leaving behind.
Overall, Neon Reign isn’t the strongest story in the box set so far, but considering this is seemingly Christian Brassington’s first script, which has been put after the Big Finish veterans that are John Dorney and Matt Fitton, it’s no real surprise that it doesn’t hit the notes quite as well. What I love about this story is that it tackles some great themes, and shows off Brassington’s promise as a writer. With time and experience, I’m sure that he’ll gain more confidence in his writing and really find his own unique voice, as I felt that it was somewhat lacking here.
I’m not intending to come across harshly at all; I’m sure that should I ever get the chance to write a story for Big Finish myself (call me, guys), that I would still be finding my feet at the beginning of my journey. I just hope that Brassington is given the chance to grow and evolve at Big Finish, as I’m sure he’ll become one of the greats.
Should you want to purchase Jenny: The Doctor’s Daughter, it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £23 on CD or £20 for a digital download for a limited time.