Ten years since the tragic events of Torchwood: Children of Earth, Capt. Jack Harkness and Ianto Jones are reunited for a new adventure from Big Finish. Released early to mark the anniversary, the latest instalment of the Torchwood range sees the two investigate Serenity Plaza. As one might expect, things are not quite what they seem…
Recently Big Finish have been combining the world of Torchwood with creations from the classic era of Doctor Who. This is more of a return to first principles and I suppose what could be called classic Torchwood.
Following the traditional reminder that Torchwood contains adult and disturbing material not suitable for younger listeners, our ears are greeted by some upbeat lift music and an introduction to Serenity Plaza. Things are indeed very disturbing and it only gets worse! The neighbours talk to each other, competing for the best lawn and highlighting when your car has a spot of mud on it or if you have a few drooping daffodils. Ken, sorry Jack, and Ifan, sorry Ianto, are undercover. These idyllic surroundings are hiding something and not just two Torchwood operatives.
Although little time is taken highlighting what they are looking for, which will be familiar to those who enjoyed Torchwood on television, it isn’t a simple foot down on the accelerator to the finish line. Plenty of time is spent creating the environment of Serenity Plaza and the nauseatingly chirpy inhabitants making plenty of sexual insinuation. As with a lot of Big Finish material Serenity would be so exciting to see on screen. But the visual signature is strong enough to allow the listener to fully visualise the environment that Jack and Ianto find themselves in.
Jack and Ianto
Jack and Ianto’s relationship proved hugely popular with fans of Torchwood, culminating in the Welshman’s devastating demise at the hands of the 456. However, there was little opportunity for them to be a couple. Serenity Plaza provides an opportunity for them to be that couple, just with slightly different identities. Imagining Ianto as a Stepford Wife is surely where this story started out. James Moran‘s script is full of innuendo which John Barrowman and Gareth David-Lloyd no doubt thoroughly enjoyed in the recording booth.
Gareth David-Lloyd is tremendously entertaining with his accent at it’s most Welsh as Ifan, which neatly allows him to switch personas as required. Ianto is hilariously frustrated at the constant dietary requirements of the other residents and his face being in a permanent state of smiling. Be careful where you listen to this story as you are likely to be unable to hold in a loud laugh or two.
By comparison John Barrowman is a bit more controlled. However, it is the story’s conclusion which sees Barrowman’s talents really shine. For all the bravado his final decision is a difficult one. He even admits to not knowing what to do. Although he has the equivalent role of The Doctor for Torchwood, Jack is capable of doing un-Doctorish things. This is something greatly refreshing and highlights why Torchwood is such a flexible format.
Recent releases such as ‘Night of the Fendahl‘ and ‘The Green Life‘ have provided sequels to Doctor Who adventures. This time Serenity provides a sequel to a Torchwood episode. Writer James Moran develops the ideas he originally presented in Sleeper and presents additional elements. The scale of the threat is increased and requires a more drastic solution from our heroes. It is an excellent return for James Moran to Torchwood with a great script and some laugh-out-loud dialogue.
Quite rightly it is John Barrowman and Gareth David-Lloyd who shine but perhaps in slightly unlikely ways. David-Lloyd provides the comedic touches and Barrowman is the steely and clinical resolver. The chemistry is rekindled so if you, like so many, love these two characters you won’t want to miss this.
In conclusion, this feels very much like televised Torchwood but with our favourite couple at its heart. One for Torchwood fans not to miss out on.
Serenity Plaza is the most exclusive gated community in South Wales. You’d kill to live there.
Jack and Ianto have gone undercover as a happily married couple. There are rumours that something’s wrong at Serenity Plaza and they’re determined to investigate. But the problem is that Serenity Plaza is just so rigidly normal.
Suddenly, Jack and Ianto have to confront the problems that normal couples face. Sharing a house together, doing the washing up, entering the residents’ baking contest, and hoping to win the Best Kept Lawn. Competition is fierce. Because this is Serenity Plaza. And you’d kill to live there.
- John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness)
- Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones)
- Ellie Darvill (Vanessa)
- Deirdre Mullins (Kelly)
- Joe Shire (Bob)