After the TV-series feel and length of Aliens Among Us, the bumper special of Believe and foray into Yvonne Hartman’s Torchwood One with Machines, the most recent set of monthly releases may have been overlooked. So as the summer comes to an end, why not catch up with some of the recent Torchwood releases?
There’s a whole bunch to choose from, and with the school holidays finishing plenty of opportunity for playlists for when the younger listeners aren’t around…
The headline of The Death of Captain Jack speaks for itself, with the added bonus of a return for Captain John Hart. It’s great wibbly wobbly rompy pompy fun, with a cracking pace and sense of humour to go alongside some twisted historical skews. It will always be a little odd to me to hear James Marsters in an British context without thinking of Spike though – and wouldn’t that be a dream crossover! 😉
The Last Beacon is an entirely different kind of pairing, with Owen and Ianto venturing into the Brecons for a mission considerably more challenging than a day’s hiking and whisky tasting, naturally enhanced by inevitable Welsh weather. Written by Gareth David-Lloyd, the rarely-seen combination works brilliantly, and the lighter tone than previous stories for both characters serves to round the further aspects that the audio stories are adding to the characters. If you ever wanted to hear a buddy-comedy with a sci-fi angle set in Wales, this really is the badger!
We Always Get Out Alive scales things right down – Gwen and Jack, in a car, alone at night. Or are they really alone? An intense two-hander with an excellent attention to detail (maybe not ideal for listening when driving, for more reasons than its rewarding of concentration!) there is a focus on perception that recalls stories like Made You Look. What really elevates it even within a strong series is the strength of the relationship between Gwen and Rhys and how Eve Myles and Kai Owen bring it to life in a natural and realistic way. For me, the highlight of the recent range!
Back to the Fifties, and a redux-of-sorts as Goodbye Piccadilly reunites Sergeant Andy with Norton Folgate. Waking up very chained up and very naked (watch out for a theme with one of those!), Andy finds himself having to evade gangsters, corrupt police and alien influences that could lead to a real War of the Worlds. For all of the sharp banter and bucketload of double entendres, the step into the past does highlight some of the less tasteful attitudes of the time that have thankfully progressed since – but this isn’t at the expense of the story or its characters and the tone is well-judged. More of Andy and Norton together please!
Instant Karma delves into the realm of wish-fulfilment and the concept of getting real revenge on the unthinking and rude, and the ramifications that can have. As a disenfranchised Tosh (this seems to be set to take place fairly early during the televised series period) investigates a self-help group headed by a man called Simon who may be more than just there to boost confidence, the nature of power, its corruption and the modern cult of personality are all questioned in a tense and disquieting story. It certainly inspires thought and consideration of consequence; it is worth noting that there are a couple of quite uncomfortably unpleasant moments (one especially for pet lovers), but then can be of benefit to know that what goes around, comes around…
Lastly, Bilis Manger returns in Deadbeat Escape, and a Hotel Cardiff-ornia in possibly the most dangerous sense 😉 The atmosphere is thick and disturbing and the morality many shades of grey, with an intriguing expansion of the character of Bilis that manages to make him both more three dimensional yet with even more questions on his true motives. The concept of time – and especially that of lost time through a life – is used well, and there’s certainly hints at further stories to come following the path laid out here. It does seem a slightly odd choice for a final story of the annual set of monthly releases, with its focus on a character like Bilis and mentions of the organisation itself few and far between. But with my record, it will all make perfect sense by the first story next year!
It goes without saying that production quality on the range is always top notch, and Blair Mowat’s music (with some by Ben Foster in The Last Beacon and We Always Get Out Alive) continues to add to the impressive atmosphere created by excellent sound design and direction. The Torchwood range continues to present another jewel to Big Finish’s ever-expanding crown, and if you haven’t checked it out before, what better time?