Torchwood: Torchwood: SUV brings a glorious new twist to workplace sniping about whose job is hardest, by adding killer gas, carnivorous mutants and a talking car to the mix

No, that’s not a typo in the title of this review. The latest of the monthly Torchwood releases from Big Finish really is called Torchwood: Torchwood: SUV. Because this isn’t just an SUV, as Torchwood Soho’s Lisbeth might have said while moonlighting for a department store, this is the Torchwood SUV. And it brings Toshiko Sato (Naoko Mori) and Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) along for the ride.

Promotion for this story made much of the genuine casting coup of getting one of the great smoothies of the British acting profession, Nigel Havers, to voice the eponymous Range Rover. It’s worth level setting listeners, though, that he’s not actually in it that much. In fact, if it surprised you to learn the SUV even had a taking computer, you weren’t the only one. It’s news to Ianto, and even Tosh only half-remembers installing it only for nobody to ever really use it. But when he does make his appearance, around the third act, his dulcet tones tinged with a slight menace, like all the best AIs in science fiction, it’s highly effective.

Gareth David-Lloyd and Naoko Mori are on top form as ever, joined by the legendary Nigel Havers for an extended cameo

So if this isn’t an hour of chatty car banter, why the title? It turns out the SUV provides the setting for the most claustrophobic base under siege story to grace the Doctor Who universe yet. The concept will be familiar to anyone who’s seen or read the various iterations of Stephen King’s The Mist. The Cardiff rift has opened up a portal in one of the region’s more remote villages, connecting it to another world’s toxic, fog-like, atmosphere. The fog rolls through the valley, killing everything in its path. And the only refuge for Tosh and Ianto, sent to investigate, is the air-tight security of the Torchwood SUV. But the fog’s not the only thing to come through. There are monstrosities moving through the fog. And they’re hungry.

The real focus of the story, then, is Ianto and Tosh’s relationship. One of the great benefits of Big Finish’s monthly range has been the opportunity to explore all the different combinations of characters and see what happens. Torchwood: SUV pushes that in unexpected, but well realized directions. Another of the series’ recurring elements been solo adventures for Ianto. Ones in which he grumps about being the Hub’s resident dogsbody, doing all the messy jobs nobody else wants. Yet another has been solo adventures for Tosh, where it’s clear she feels unappreciated, or even undermined, by team-mates who don’t credit her with being as intelligent and resourceful as she is. But what happens when you put those two viewpoints together?

 

Tosh (Naoko Mori) and Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd) in Exit Wounds (c) BBC Studios Torchwood
Toshiko Sato (Naoko Mori) and Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) in their television days (c) BBC Studios

The strength of the characters Russell T Davies created, and Big Finish’s development of them, continues to provide near infinite ways for them to bounce off each other

It shapes up to be a long night together in the SUV. The two soon engage in sometimes passive aggressive, sometimes positively tetchy, squabbling over their place in the Torchwood pecking order. Amusingly, though, both Tosh and Ianto want to be recognized as the most hard done by. Each feels they’re the most put upon member of the team and are irked by the other claiming that title. So to the Welshmen, Toshiko Sato gets to drift stylishly through the main Hub area just punching a few buttons while he drags bloodied body bags through the cellar. And to the computer expert, Ianto Jones is the one who has the easy job of glorified coffee boy. All while she toils away at cutting edge development work she can never tell the world about.

This isn’t a tale which concerns itself unduly with plot and incident. Indeed, quite how Tosh and Ianto go from being locked in a broken down car, surrounded on all sides by miles of killer mist and a legion of man-eating aliens, to saving the Earth, is a little ‘and with one leap they were free.’ But that’s not what Torchwood: SUV is about. Like many of the range, it’s about elevating some wonderfully realised and performed characters.

The original casting decisions by the BBC Wales team back in 2006 has always been one of Torchwood’s greatest assets. And that’s proven yet again here, as David-Lloyd and Mori’s charisma and humour make two people bickering in a car, alongside occasional interjections by Havers’ onboard computer, a thoroughly entertaining hour. Though possibly not one to listen to while stuck in traffic.

 

Torchwood: Torchwood: SUV. Cover by Sean Longmore (c) Big Finish Productions Doctor Who Ianto Jones Tosh Toshiko Sato Gareth David Lloyd Naoko Mori
Torchwood: Torchwood: SUV. Cover by Sean Longmore (c) Big Finish Productions

Torchwood: Torchwood: SUV

A routine alien incursion in the Valleys goes horribly wrong. Toshiko Sato and Ianto Jones are trapped in the Torchwood SUV. There’s a monster outside and it’s determined to get in.

Can Tosh and Ianto overcome their differences and save the world? More importantly, will the SUV keep them safe?

Torchwood: SUV is now available to own for just £10.99 (collector’s edition single-disc CD + download) or £8.99 (digital download only), exclusively here.

 

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