Ianto Jones of Torchwood during Series One was a very lonely character. So it only makes sense to have him as the star of this story that takes the rest of the team and the city out of his life. Torchwood: Ex Machina turns the tea boy into Cardiff’s only protector and pairs him up with a young woman named Abby as they try to make sense of her lonely seeming life.
Abby and Ianto are a fantastic team. They have immediate chemistry that may come from the actors having worked together before. It’s their dynamic that keeps the story flowing smoothly and keeps listeners invested. Laura Aikman brings a lot of energy to her character and it’s easy to root for her and empathize, even after things take a darker turn. It’s also interesting to see Ianto gathering clues and playing detective, showing that the skills and confidence seen in later seasons of the show were around much earlier. Special shoutout as well to Kerry Joy Stewart’s Mrs. Evans who deserved much more time solving mysteries with our dynamic duo.
One aspect of the story that I’m still undecided on is the villain itself. Or rather, its method of ‘disappearing’ people. I’m talking about the blobs. I’m just not sure ‘blobs’ can ever be truly scary. There’s something a bit 1950’s B-movie about them. However, the voice is sufficiently creepy, as it makes vague references to pain and suffering, mixed in with eerie declarations of love. Scenes of the blobs taking someone away are very intense moments. It gets frightening and feels very immediate. Then, just like the characters themselves, I find myself forgetting. Someone refers to ‘the blobs’ and it’s just a reminder of how silly they must look although that must help with ‘disappearing’ people. The less threatening they look, the more surprising for their victims.
The story is writer Alfie Shaw’s first Torchwood audio. I recommend listening to the interviews after it ends to hear about his process and how the story changed. (That’s also how I realized the double-meaning of the title!) He struck a good balance in tone between some of the darker and the lighter events and themes. I also liked the combination of relationship drama with impending doom. The best line goes to Abby near the end as she yells, “I need to see other people!”
Ex Machina is a solid story and its characters bring the charm needed to keep things interesting. It’s full of breakups, butlers and blobs. What else could you need? A fun story and a great chance to see Series One Ianto in action with only about half of his usual baggage. Jury’s still out on whether ‘the blobs’ are terrifying or ridiculous… so listen in and decide for yourself.
This title was released in September 2020. It will be exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until November 30th 2020, and on general sale after this date.
Ianto Jones is Torchwood. Ianto Jones is the defender of a deserted city, a lone crusader who keeps the empty streets safe.
One day he meets one of the few survivors. She needs his help – because she’s being chased by a darkness. A darkness which says it loves her.
- Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones)
- Laura Aikman (Abigail Forehill)
- Jacob Dudman (Luke)
- Misha Malcolm (Fran)
- Joshua Manning (The Absence)
- Kerry Joy Stewart (Mrs Evans)
- Senior Producer: David Richardson
- Additional themes by Ben Foster
- Cover Art by Lee Binding
- Director: Scott Handcock
- Executive Producer: Jason Haigh-Ellery & Nicholas Briggs
- Music: Blair Mowat
- Producer: James Goss
- Script Editor: James Goss
- Sound Design: Iain Meadows
- Written by Alfie Shaw
- Theme Music by Murray Gold