Just when you thought you were spoiled with the two-hour Torchwood Archive, here comes a bursting three hours of Cardiff goodness!
As the title and nicely-done disc art hints, Torchwood: Outbreak sees Cardiff at risk from a medical threat. But this is much more than an epidemic of sniffles – first they know you, then you love, then you kill…
With no vaccine or protection against the mysterious infection, the Torchwood team have to keep themselves safe as well as find the true nature and intent of the disease. Is this from nature, or could alien factors be at work? Or could there be a deeper conspiracy at play?
Set between the events of Exit Wounds and Children of Earth, both the format and tone of Torchwood: Outbreak supply effective bridges between those two points. Similar to the UNIT releases, its three episodes – Incubation, Prodormal and Invasion – all form a single story and though the different authors (Guy Adams, Emma Reeves and AK Benedict respectively) give their components differing focus and flavour there is a consistent flow through the story. The pacing is fantastic too, managing to maintain both internally for each episode without compromising overall.
Another wonderful piece of balancing is how despite the larger cast than is typical for a Torchwood audio, it never feels cramped or busy and yet none feel neglected or missing from scenes either. And there is some fantastic character focus reaping the benefits of this – again none are overlooked but for me Ianto and PC Andy stood out, bridging their characters to later stories and showing why they are so popular with fans.
Martin Montague’s sound design is immersive and helps with a sense of scale and threat that bolsters the story; the disturbing nature of the contagion itself is also reflected in some occasionally very icky effects that bring a shiver – or an itch? – to the spine. The music by Blair Mowat and Steve Wright adds texture as well, with some lovely takes on some of the character cues and themes familiar both from previous audio stories and those televised, and director Scott Handcock pulls everything together deftly with impressive focus that never loses sight of the bigger picture in play.
If there are any criticisms to be found, it’s that the particular placement in series history means the sense of direct character threat initially appears lessened as you know who must survive to feature in Children of Earth. But Guy, Emma and AK are more than up to the task as it starts to dawn that there is enough wiggle room in the timing for survival to be very different from escaping unscathed, and by the time the story reaches its summit those opening reassurances seem completely out of the window!
From early on, there are echoes of the 1995 infection film that shares a name; both involve diseases that have come back to bite decades after initial burial and centre around a single town/city. Yet it’s the way that the individual level develops that makes Torchwood: Outbreak so recognisably and uniquely part of Torchwood history – and there’s no monkeying around to be found in this blockbuster of a set!
Torchwood: Outbreak is available now from BigFinish.com