Under the sea, Torchwood’s doomed Suzie Costello finds a last chance at love, and a finely judged character drama
“Good.” Such a simple word. But a word most commonly used in one of two meanings. It can mean suitable, competent, content. And it can decent, moral, true. It’s a distinction that lies at the heart of Big Finish’s The Last Love Song of Suzie Costello. As the eponymous Torchwood agent frets about whether she has in her to ever be truly “good,” her new friend Anwir tries to build her confidence by reassuring her of how brilliant, clever, and brave she is. But that’s not the sort of good Suzie is worried about…
It’s common practice for these monthly releases to focus on a member of the Torchwood team who have gone off on their own. You might think it risked become cliche by now. How many of them have run off, putting themselves in danger due to insecurities about their place on the team? But, rather it’s more of a running theme. Yet another example of just how much this life messes with people’s heads. This time it’s the Hub’s pre-Gwen second in command out to prove herself by skiving off with a top secret prototype one-woman sub. She’s playing a hunch, diving beneath the Icelandic seas near an island created by a volcanic eruption forty years previously. But she finds something entirely unexpected.
As ever when Boy Meets Girl, Girl Meets Girl, or Boy Meets Boy in Torchwood, tragedy is close at hand
As you’d expect, with a Valentine’s Day release date, and with that Love Song title, this is as close to ‘Girl Meets Boy’ as Torchwood ever gets. Along with finding an advanced spaceship on the bottom of the sea, Suzie finds its captain and last survivor Anwir. Trapped, they work together to repair the vessel and get him back to the stars and his noble mission. But as the days pass and she and her new friend get very close indeed, Suzie begins to wonder if maybe remaining on a planet she despises, in a job she hates, surrounded by people she loathes both individually and as a species, is as attractive an option as taking to the stars on the wings of newfound love.
Of course, the listener knows Suzie’s fate is written in stone. And, anyway, this is Torchwood where variations on ‘Girl Meets Boy’ are inevitably followed by the likes of ‘Girl’s Sex Gas Monster Vaporises Boy,’ ‘Girl Flies Plane into Space Time Rift,’ or ‘Girl Turns Out to Be Glowy Floaty Alien Criminal.’
A story of underwater spaceships and sea dragons as emotionally believable and compelling as the finest character dramas
So Rafaella Marcus’s story smartly doesn’t focuses on whether Suzie’s new romance will last. It doesn’t even particularly try to get you to guess exactly how it will all go terribly wrong. Instead it focuses on what the psychology of a Suzie Costello in love actually looks like. She’s very likely a sociopath, and possesses an off kilter mix of narcissistic tendencies and imposter syndrome. How on Earth does she fall in love? The emotionally intelligent script and Indira Varma’s sensitive and layered performance as Suzie makes for a captivating answer. Suzie, at some level, wishes she could be “good,” so how intoxicating to meet someone who really seems to think she’s the best person he’s ever met?
As Anwir, James Backway provides just the right balance of haplessness and earnestness. He wins you over as a futuristic spaceship captain somehow unable to make his own ship go. The interplay between him and Varma is finely judged too, as he never comes across as a fool for missing the darker double meaning of some of the things Suzie says. Indeed, there’s such subtly and truth throughout Love Song that it’s easy to imagine it as a kitchen sink drama of a doomed romance. Just one that happens to have sea dragons, a smug AI, and a spaceship in it.
After four Big Finish outings, Suzie remains as unknowable and hypnotic as ever
With her having so little screen time on TV, that successive audio plays for Suzie continue to make her an ever more intriguing and mysterious character is astonishing. She may lack the showy theatrics of Missy, or the biting cruelty of a Tecteun, but to look into the mind of Suzie Costello is to look into the lonely abyss. Hopefully, she’ll be staring back at us for a more stories to come.
Torchwood: The Last Love Song of Suzie Costello
An island’s appeared in the North Atlantic Ocean. Suzie Costello comes to investigate and finds a crashed spaceship on the seabed.
Inside the spaceship is a mystery. And also something Suzie has never dreamed of.
Torchwood: The Last Love Song of Suzie Costello is now available to own as a collector’s edition 1-disc CD + download (for just £10.99) or as a digital download only (for just £8.99), exclusively from Big Finish here.