“This is what Torchwood does”

Big Finish relaunched Torchwood for ongoing adventures with a nominal fifth series taking Captain Jack and co forward on audio. ‘Aliens Among Us’ was a big hit, with fans praising the new characters (like Orr and Mr Colchester) a shifting status quo, twists and a stunning exit for a Torchwood mainstay. With Cardiff occupied by aliens, the rift going haywire and the team in tatters, can the sixth series, ‘God Among Us’, raise the stakes?

Make sure to check out our reviews for ‘Aliens Among Us’ at these links:

Future Pain by James Goss

FUTURE PAIN BY JAMES GOSS
FUTURE PAIN BY JAMES GOSS

After the cataclysmic events of series five, the Torchwood team have to face a sombre day. But things get messy as Jack and Orr inadvertently lure a vengeful Sorvix god to the occasion. Meanwhile, Yvonne is picking up the pieces of the Sorvix invasion and makes a discovery that will tip the balance of power in Cardiff.

Series producer James Goss pens the opening episode with the task of reminding listeners how we left things. All of this is handled neatly in the first few minutes, spread across a handful of exposition-heavy scenes. After that, we’re off to the races! Or rather we’re off to a bleak but very authentic look at how people cope with grief when life keeps going. Some excellent character work is complemented well with a standout performance from Ramon Tikaram. The alien god subplot initially feels a bit sidelined but comes back for the second half and is nimbly woven into the themes.

With a story that features a subject matter as heavy and relatable as this, levity is vital but tricky. You need humour to relieve the tension but shifting the tone too quickly can become jarring. For the most part, Goss makes these changes slick and seamless. But on occasion it can undercut the mood of the scene and took me out of it. A functional story to kick off the threads for the series with some neat characterisation that’ll come into play later on.

The Man Who Destroyed Torchwood by Guy Adams

THE MAN WHO DESTROYED TORCHWOOD BY GUY ADAMS
THE MAN WHO DESTROYED TORCHWOOD BY GUY ADAMS

If you’ve been following the curious rise of the alt-right, you’ll recognise ‘The Man Who Destroyed Torchwood’. Guy Adams takes a deep-dive into the mind of a conspiracy vlogger to deliver a staggeringly funny and unsettling character study.

Brent Hayden, world-famous YouTuber, hero to patriots and scourge of the Leftist agenda. On a crusade to take down Torchwood. He soon comes into contact with an old associate of the institute who needs Brent Hayden’s unique influence to tell the truth to the deluded masses.

Following Brent for the full length of the story, Tom Forrister has to do a lot with the role in very short order. Forrister embraces the nuance of Adams’ script with a sensitivity vital to making the character work. Brent is somewhat sympathetic and oddly relatable, since Adams does a lot of work to explore Brent’s inferiority complex. But it never attempts to excuse his actions. The script does an excellent job at reframing scenes from Brent’s perspective, including some utterly hilarious fantasy sequences featuring the main cast. John Barrowman, in particular, sounds like he’s having a blast.

I won’t give away the ending but a hard-hitting finale pulls the rug out very suddenly. It raises questions about what kind of justice Brent deserves while proving a natural, if dark, move for Tyler. An absolute treat of a story.

See No Evil by John Dorney

SEE NO EVIL BY JOHN DORNEY
SEE NO EVIL BY JOHN DORNEY

Something alien attacks Cardiff and Torchwood is in the dark. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. John Dorney’s ‘See No Evil’ starts off as a distressing disaster movie realised with a cacophony of noise and panic. Pretty soon it splits off into two main storylines. Yvonne and Andy partner up to tackle it head-on while Jack is keeping up with the Colchesters.

While these are interesting pairings, the first scene hints at closure to Yvonne and Jack’s uneasily-shared leadership of Torchwood. This dynamic wasn’t resolved by the cliffhanger of ‘Aliens Among Us’ and seems like something personnel-obsessed Yvonne would prioritise. Left as the only two functional members of Torchwood, forcing them to work together seems like an ideal way to resolve it. Not to mention the as-yet-unresolved issue of Andy wanting to quit as a policeman after the events of ‘The Empty Hand‘. But it does take a proper look at the Andy and Yvonne relationship seeded into the last series.

Plotline quibbles aside, this story delivers a rare moment of pathos for Jack as he tries to fix past mistakes. Meanwhile, Yvonne and Andy get to do the fun stuff! Tom Price always works best as Andy when the character has an opposite number to bounce off. Like Norton Folgate in the monthly range that proved to be a fan-favourite pairing. Price and Tracy-Ann Oberman spark off each other in a different way but proves to be every bit as funny.

The only criticism I can really make is in the otherwise impeccable foley. An extended set of scenes with Yvonne and Andy in a car lacks any engine noise. So it was hard to track the movement of the characters into the car and the speed they’re moving. Though I guess it could have been a hybrid. Not sure if that was deliberate sound design choice but it took me out of the scene.

Night Watch by Tim Foley

NIGHT WATCH BY TIM FOLEY
NIGHT WATCH BY TIM FOLEY

‘Night Watch’ draws this box set to a nerve-wracking conclusion as the long night of Torchwood continues. While the city sleeps, Orr becomes its lone protector as the team fight off waking nightmares.

The dream-monster conceit is an effective way to explore a character’s psyche. But writer Tim Foley smashes dream and reality together in such a blunt way that every twist and turn keeps you guessing. The result is an exhilirating finale that teeters on the edge of busy. Luckily, the script uses Orr to ease the transitions so it never becomes confusing. It also means that some of the cast members get to play familiar roles in terrifying new ways.

We also get the starting overtures of Jack and Ng figuring out their new Gwen-less relationship. Something I hope series six will continue to explore in depth. Though once again the presence of Jack as an active Torchwood member despite his series five exile is only briefly touched upon.

Jacqueline King’s recurring role culminates in a fittingly bizarre confrontation scene that also proves a standout moment for Samantha Béart’s Orr. While we don’t get all the answers, enough of King’s character is explained to be satisfying while leaving some details to the imagination.

Three jaw-dropping cliffhangers in quick succession make this an excellent way to close out the first part of the series. I won’t spoil them of course but, whatever happens, the new Torchwood dynamic is about to undergo a major reshuffle.

Gods and Aliens

TORCHWOOD - ALIENS AMONG US
TORCHWOOD – ALIENS AMONG US

If part one is any indication, ‘God Among Us’ feels like a more streamlined version of ‘Aliens Among Us’. Series five was an intricately-plotted work about a Cardiff power struggle between humans and Sorvix. Not only were there multiple factions, uneasy alliances sprang up and characters had inscrutable motives. Add the Ng plot and the return of Yvonne and you’ve a great bit of storytelling with a lot going on!

However, the format (though unavoidable) limits this. It’s harder to follow ‘Aliens’ when spread across three parts with long breaks in between. Not to mention cliffhangers that continue the action as if no time had passed. Ahead of this review, I listened back to ‘Aliens’ in one go and it was a joy to follow the story arc. But I remember being confused on first listen, having forgotten important details in the intervening months.

Now that these plotlines are mostly resolved, the story seems more focused. That’s not to say the stakes are lower, as episode four proves. But fewer ongoing subplots gives the main story of ‘God Among Us’ more time to breathe. I can see series six being much easier to absorb in three separate chunks which will make it easier for new listeners to jump in.

Overall

Part one of ‘Torchwood: God Among Us’ feels like a natural escalation for the audio range. Having rubbed along with the Sorvix occupying Cardiff at the height of their power, another alien threat would have been no trouble for Torchwood. Making the threat more interior was a great way to shift the focus to exploring the characters that were so well established in series five.

The rest of the series promises a major shakeup to the status quo with plenty of entrances and exits. And with those cliffhangers to resolve, I can’t wait until February!

Torchwood: God Among Us, Part One is available to buy now from the Big Finish website. The entire series is also available to pre-order as a bundle.

Synopsis

This title was released in October 2018. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until December 31st 2018, and on general sale after this date.

When a God comes to Cardiff, the world goes to Hell.

6.1 Future Pain by James Goss

Torchwood pick up the pieces and move on. After all, there’s a whole new set of alien threats to deal with.

While Yvonne Hartman is asserting her authority as the new leader of Torchwood, Jack Harkness is hunting an alien god in the sewers – but what’s he really hiding from?

6.2 The Man Who Destroyed Torchwood by Guy Adams

Brent Hayden. To some he’s the darling of the alt-right, to others he’s a far-left crusader. A lot of people watch his videos, hang off his every word. Crisis actors? Conspiracies? Black Ops? Brent knows you deserve the truth. And Brent’s come to Cardiff, because he’s going to expose Torchwood. Don’t forget to Like and Subscribe.

6.3 See No Evil by John Dorney

Cardiff goes blind.

There’s a hunter out there in the darkness. With no escape, and the screaming getting louder, Jack Harkness and Yvonne Hartman each set out to save the city in their own ways.

6.4 Night Watch by Tim Foley

The Black Sun has come through the Rift. When it visits, sleep comes with it. Orr is the guardian, appointed to watch over the city while it slumbers. What will they find as they wander the streets?

Who are the lost souls, trapped with their demons? Who are the ones fighting even sleep? Who are the broken meeting their dreams?

Written By: James Goss, Guy Adams, John Dorney, Tim Foley
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Cast

John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Tracy-Ann Oberman (Yvonne Hartman), Paul Clayton (Mr Colchester), Alexandria Riley (Ng), Samantha Béart (Orr), Jonny Green (Tyler Steele), Tom Price (Sergeant Andy Davidson), Rachel Atkins (Ro-Jedda), Ramon Tikaram (Colin Colchester-Price), Jacqueline King (Mourner), Tom Forrister (Brent), Dominic Thorburn (Chip), Adam Turns (Old Man), Connor Calland (David), Jonnie Smith (Tim), Justin Davies (Scott), Karen Elli (Brent’s Mum), Laura Singleton (Celebrant), Melanie Stevens (Julia), Ri Richards (Shopper). 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 Scott Handcock
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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