“150 years ago, Torchwood had rules, regulations, a private army…Now we’re a hole in the ground and a random group of demoralised misfits. And yet, somehow, we we keep going.”
In August, ‘Aliens Among Us’ kicked off with a newly-resurrected Torchwood regaining a handle on Cardiff. They met dubious Apprentice reject Tyler Steele and naive but adaptable Orr. They uncovered a Sorvix infiltration, led by the mysterious Ro-Jedda, and reached an uneasy cohabitation. But how do the citizens of Cardiff feel about the return of Torchwood and the occupation of their city?
As usual, these reviews are 100% spoiler free. I’ll only directly mention stuff that’s been in the promotional materials (i.e. Bilis Manger). But, like last time, there’s a particular subplot that I definitely feel deserves going into detail about. So, if you’re interested, click here to zip down to our spoiler corner at the bottom of this page.
Love Rat by Christopher Cooper
A horde of horny corpses and Jack’s hyper-charged libido means a big mess for Torchwood. I could have phrased that better. Episode five has an unmistakable “first series” vibe about it, and one episode in particular. Yes, it’s another shag virus! But whereas ‘Day One‘ felt, at times, like a teenager’s idea of what an adult series should do, ‘Love Rat’ takes a much more mature approach. Sure, the monster of the week is compelling everyone to rut relentlessly. But the emotional and physical consequences are dealt with in a realistic way. The story moves at a good pace, not rushing through things but not standing still too long either. I really enjoyed how this story challenges the relationships between characters, particularly those that were at the heart of the series since the very beginning. My only real criticism that the ending felt a bit too quick and easy, but it leaves enough to build on later to get away with it.
A Kill to a View by Mac Rogers
At home with the Colchesters as Torchwood’s resident renaissance man and his husband land a swanky new flat on the Bay. Unfortunately, social climbers and a creepy manager turn out to be neighbours from hell. Literally. It’s the return of Bilis Manger to the series and another callback to Torchwood’s early days. Murray Melvin has lost none of his quiet malevolence ten years since he last played the role. Manger is up to something but, luckily, you don’t need to remember the intricacies of his TV outing to follow this plot. Though, as in ‘End of Days’, he serves as the envoy of a much larger threat to come. How his scheme ties in with the series arc adds more tension now that the Sorvix threat has been temporarily settled. The premise will inevitably draw comparisons to ‘Superiority Complex’ from the last release, but the execution makes for an original and really enjoyable character-driven story.
While the rest of the team get a bit sidelined in this story, the plot is focused and pumps up the peril in this deadly dinner party. The story takes its time to get going but a spectacular second half is all the better for that build up. Though a few scenes, like Rhys’ appearance, felt like padding. Mr. Colchester (whose first name we still don’t know; even his husband calls him by his surname) gets plenty to do and Paul Clayton carries it well. We learn more about Colchester’s motivations and how he’s reacted to the new Cardiff. For all the sass, eye-rolling and disdain for Jack, Colchester is depicted as a deeply caring man underneath. There’s definitely still room to explore his life prior to Torchwood and the circumstances of his joining. I really hope we’ll hear that some day.
Zero Hour by Janine H Jones
One of Big Finish’s newest writers pens a clever look at the gig economy and exploitation. With a occupied Cardiff all but cut off, a courier startup like ‘Deliverables’ can make a killing. And what better way to deal with the unemployment problem than to hire the locals? Tyler is in hot pursuit of the equally hot Hasan, one of the top workers at Deliverables. Meanwhile, the team are dealing with tantrums both from the rift and a seven year old girl. The latter subplot leads to some great scenes between Gwen and Orr and peg Orr as the the emotional heart of the team.
However, this story mainly focuses on Tyler and, as with Mr Colchester, fleshes the character out much more. Whereas in the first release he was a mere opportunist, we see that he more aware than he lets on. Keeping Tyler as an outsider to the Torchwood team is a fresh new way to develop an almost anti-hero for the series. This story takes full advantage of this characterisation and includes a guest turn from Sacha Dhawan as Hasan. The two have astoundingly good chemistry that makes for a great listen.
The direction by Scott Handcock does an excellent job as ever, but it’s used in this story to great effect. The dread is subtly seeded in the opening scenes and is built over the course of the runtime. Such as the sound of the sat nav getting gradually sterner. It all melds together nicely to add a sense of unease to seemingly banal situations. Episode seven nicely builds on the Bilis Manger story and ties together hints from the series so far. Throw in a clever, if a little whimsical, sci-fi element and this has all the makings of a classic.
The Empty Hand by Tim Foley
When Andy is accused of killing a refugee, the tension in Cardiff’s population finally spills over. Tom Price’s presence is felt throughout the release but episode eight puts him straight into the thick of it. While Andy has been developed in the Torchwood monthly series to great effect in ‘Corpse Day‘ and ‘Ghost Mission‘, the character has remained pretty consistent. This story shows new sides to the affable bobby in a way that’s upsetting to hear in the best possible way. He’s put through his biggest trial and there’s no easy way out. Price gives a first-rate performance and handles Andy’s inner turmoil with a deftness that is commendable. He’s also paired with Kai Owen as Rhys for a large chunk of the story, which leads to some great interactions. Given the characters use to butt heads on TV, seeing a mutual respect between them when the chips are down was a nice touch. The plot is a little complex and, at times, hard to follow. But it nicely balances scenes of Gwen, Jack and Andy to keep up the pace and prevent an overload of exposition.
It all culminates in a scintillating final confrontation between the team and Jack with a twist that I really didn’t see coming. Even without the surprise, it’s an excellent scene and one of John Barrowman’s best moments as the character.
The second part of ‘Aliens Among Us’ has a much heavier focus on character which is very well-executed and much appreciated. These are four great individual stories that allow the cast to really shine. Though Orr gets very little to do in this release and even Jack gets sidelined a bit in the middle, there’s a clear sense that this is going somewhere big. Full cast stories with big series arcs is definitely the way Torchwood should be facing: forwards.
Blogtor Rating – 7/10
Big Finish picks up the events after Miracle Day with Torchwood: Aliens Among Us…
Captain Jack and Gwen Cooper have restarted Torchwood. But it’s in a very different Cardiff. Something terrible’s happened to the city. With every day getting darker, will Torchwood need to adopt a whole new approach?
5.5 Love Rat by Christopher Cooper
Captain Jack Harkness is dead, and that’s the simplest thing that’s happened to him in the last few days. Even the manner of his death is surprisingly complex, especially when it turns out that he hasn’t come back alone.
While Torchwood try and cope with a new mayor and a terrorist cell, they also have to deal with what, at first, looks to be a plague, and then turns out to be something far, far worse.
5.6 A Kill to a View by Mac Rogers
Ritz Towers is a luxury tower block so exclusive not even aliens can get a place there. Mr Colchester has somehow secured a flat at the Ritz. With the streets increasingly troubled, his husband feels safe there. The problem is that Ritz Towers is anything but safe.
For a start, the building has more tenants than it has flats. Then there are the endless dinner parties. The whole new definition of upwardly mobile. And finally, there is the very mysterious caretaker.
5.7 Zero Hour by Janine H Jones
Welcome to Deliverables. Thanks to us, Cardiff is enjoying an economic miracle. We have created thousands of jobs. We have wiped out homelessness.
More importantly, there are so many benefits to you. Deliverables will deliver your post, your packages, your meals. We are Deliverables, and we never stop.
Deliverables – we always know where to find you. Deliverables – put your life in our hands.
5.8 The Empty Hand by Tim Foley
An innocent refugee has been shot point-blank on the streets of Cardiff. It causes an upsurge in terrorist attacks.
An innocent refugee has been shot point-blank on the streets of Cardiff by a policeman. It’s a catalyst for protests in the streets.
An innocent refugee has been shot point-blank on the streets of Cardiff by Sergeant Andy Davidson. It’s the end of Torchwood as we know it.
Written By: Christopher Cooper, Mac Rogers, Janine H Jones, Tim Foley
Directed By: Scott Handcock
John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Alexandria Riley (Ng), Paul Clayton(Mr Colchester), Sam Béart (Orr), Jonny Green (Tyler Steele), Kai Owen (Rhys Williams), Tom Price (Sgt. Andy Davidson), Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper), Murray Melvin (Bilis Manger), Rachel Atkins (Ro-Jedda), Ramon Tikeram (Colin Colchester-Price), Ewan Bailey (Duncan), Kerry Joy Stewart (Maddy), Diveen Henry (Sandra), Ellie Heydon (Andrea), Marilyn Le Conte (Patricia), Luke Rhodri (Rowan), Charlotte O’Leary (Poppy), Sacha Dhawan (Hasan), Sarah Annis (P.C. Nicki Owen), Rick Yale (Lorry Driver), Laura Dalgleish (Newsreader), Kristy Philipps(Stacey), Aly Cruickshank (Student), Richard Elfyn (Takeaway Man), Sanee Raval(Xander)
Torchwood contains adult material and may not be suitable for younger listeners
Produced by James Goss
Script edited by Scott Handcock
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
As before, Gwen’s ongoing storyline and having two actors playing her is something I want to talk about. But to avoid spoilers I’ve tucked it away down here. I’ve settled into hearing Alexandria Riley as Gwen now, even if there’s still a disparity there. Again, Riley is giving a great performance but it’s hard to talk too much about it in the main review. That said, we are still no wiser about what happened to Gwen. It seems like, if this subplot is going to be resolved this series, we should be exploring it more. We’ve still got four more episodes, but with so many subplots still to resolve it feels like it’s either going to be ignored or rushed in part three. But Big Finish has proved its mettle at tying together multiple storylines so I’m sure it’ll all work out in the end.