The original Torchwood gang is back together, can you Believe it?
Hard to believe that April marks ten years since ‘Exit Wounds‘, the explosive second series finale of Torchwood that saw the deaths of Toshiko and Owen. While the show lived on and both would eventually reprise their roles, no production since has reunited all five original cast members. Until now.
‘Torchwood: Believe’ is the latest in Big Finish’s lauded audio continuation of the Doctor Who spin-off. But is this a happy reunion or have the nostalgia goggles worn off?
An apparent suicide leads Owen to discover a shady alien-worshipping cult operating right in the heart of Cardiff. Against Jack’s protests, the team take action to infiltrate the Church of the Outsiders and shut down any alien goings-on within. Ianto takes on the members and Gwen meets up with an outcast. Meanwhile, Tosh and Owen have a double-date with the Church’s top brass.
The opening episode starts the listener off with exactly what they want – the whole gang together – in an extended briefing sequence. Interspersed with scenes of the team putting their plan into action. This proves to be an incredible efficient way of delivering the heavy amount of exposition this story requires. It helps that Burn Gorman is on top form leading the scene. Guy Adams, who wrote all three episodes, adeptly recreates Owen’s attitude and crafts dialogue that Gorman clearly enjoys sinking his teeth into.
For fans of continuity, the story takes place during series two after Owen’s death and part-resurrection. Which is used very well to inform the character’s motivations, even if it’s a bit on-the-nose at times. I really hope Adams gets to do more with Owen in a future release.
In character terms, the meat of the story kicks in for episode two, comprising mostly of two-hander scenes. In particular, Rhian Blundell shares a very intimate sequence with Gareth David-Lloyd, with whom she has tremendous chemistry. But it’s really Naoko Mori and Burn Gorman who steal the show with their scenes together as Tosh and Owen. Not only do they spark off one another in their performance, Scott Handcock’s direction clearly gave them room to experiment since they have this really intriguing push-and-pull to the power dynamics of their relationship that wasn’t really seen on television. The two actors are giving it everything they’ve got and it’s absolutely dazzling to listen to.
Despite the relatively little action of the second part, the run-time evaporates under these long and intense scenes. Whereas 2016’s ‘Torchwood: Outbreak‘ was very action-heavy so often felt overwhelming, this approach streamlines the script.
That said, the action comes back swinging for the final episode while still carrying all the character development of the first two. Bringing in the mostly-absent Captain Jack and weaving him into the plot was a great new approach. Jack’s always been characterised as the all-guns-blazing action hero but here we see him as the master manipulator. The story culminates with the entire team back at the Torchwood hub to confront the big villain of the piece in a triumphant, if slightly fourth wall-breaking, climax.
However, it’s the extended coda at the end of the story that shows the strength in having an ensemble cast to really explore an issue. Something I really appreciated was the even-handed way Guy Adams tackles the subject matter. There are similarities to the very first Torchwood audio ‘The Conspiracy‘ but it feels like an extension of those ideas rather than a repeat. The resolutions of both Jack and Ianto’s subplots present a rare and very mature examination of the exploiters and the exploited. John Barrowman gets a powerful speech near the end that may be his strongest audio performance as Captain Jack so far.
Eleventh Doctor fans will already know that Arthur Darvill, aka Rory Williams, appears in ‘Believe’ as henchman Frank Layton. Though I felt he was underused in the main plot, his character is pivotal for the tremendous Owen and Toshiko scenes. He also gets some delicious lines as the slimy Layton that really shows his range as an actor. Though brief, his role is sickeningly fun to listen to and a great launching point for Mori and Gorman.
With most of the sci-fi moved to the backdrop, ‘Believe’ is a captivating human drama with aliens as the motivation but not the enemy. While the scale, action and stakes are smaller, in terms of writing this is easily on-par with the award-winning ‘Children of Earth’. For Big Finish, ‘Believe’ is an absolute triumph in recapturing the spirit of early Torchwood while developing its characters and themes.
This title was released in April 2018. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until June 30th 2018, and on general sale after this date.
The Church of the Outsiders believe that mankind is about to evolve, to reach out into the stars. Owen Harper believes that Torchwood has to do whatever it takes to stop them.
Written By: Guy Adams
Directed By: Scott Handcock
John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones), Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper), Burn Gorman (Owen Harper), Naoko Mori (Toshiko Sato), Mac McDonald (Steve Ross), Lois Meleri Jones (Andromeda), Mali Harries (Val Ross), Arthur Darvill (Frank Layton), Rhian Blundell (Erin), Chris Rankin (Val’s Assistant), Lloyd Meredith (Davey Russell), Jennifer Sims (Grey), Aled ap Steffan (Grey). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Torchwood contains adult material and may not be suitable for younger listeners.
Producer James Goss
Script Editor Steve Tribe
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs