Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)
Torchwood return for the second of their outings set after the events of Miracle Day (check out our review of Part 1 here). This set fleshes out the characters introduced in the first boxset and the larger new Torchwood world and deepens the plot with the new Alien menace.
You know you’re in for classic Torchwood when the first story of the boxset starts with Captain Jack literally being fucked to death. So begins the story of a plague hitting Cardiff and Jack, if possible, being hornier than usual.
This is a great opener to the set. As John Barrowman seems to be available for only parts of each boxset (unsurprising with his many commitments) it’s nice to have a Jack heavy adventure and it just feels right to have him kicking off the set. This story gives Jack a chance to be himself big time and to have him playing off the new version of Gwen (Alexandria Riley), with Eve Myles cropping up as classic Gwen deepening the mystery of what is happening there. They also use events in this story to add complexity and some distance to the relationship between Jack & Tyler (Jonny Green)
Mr Colchester (Paul Clayton) has got a place in the exclusive ‘Ritz Towers’ in the heart of Cardiff, where he now lives with his Husband Colin (Ramon Tikaram). But whenever one seems to be very intrusive about having dinner parties all the time and the new caretaker seems so creepy, is this an apartment to die for?
It really strikes me as brave. We have barely got to know Mr Colchester when his husband Colin is at very least double heading an episode with him, if not taking the lead. The great thing is, I find myself being happy with this. Mr Colchester was such a strong new character you feel like you’ve already know him for ages and then his husband just feels familiar too. In fact they are set up so well, when Bilis Manger (Murray Melvin) returns to Torchwood, although it’s satisfying, he’s not the singular most interesting part of the story.
Zero Hour by Janine H JonesA new delivery company, ‘Deliverables’ has set up shop in Cardiff and is helping keep unemployment at record lows. But when Tyler is attracted to one of the delivery men (and is confused as to how the driver doesn’t want him back) he starts following him and finds out there is a lot to the firm that doesn’t add up and what starts as mild stalking of someone he fancies, becomes what he thinks is a case for Torchwood.
Tyler is a really nicely complex and interesting character and another one you want to know more about straight away. He leads this story with Gwen as his person back in the Batcave lending assistance. Great guest casting of the amazing Sacha Dhawan as Hasan, the delivery man who just wants to do his job and not ask questions. Which is hard when someone is following you and doing nothing but asking questions. This is a really quirky story which ends with large stakes consequences.
The Empty Hand by Tim FoleySergeant Andy, one of the last pure good guys, wakes up in an interrogation cell. He can’t remember getting there, he doesn’t know why his hand hurts and he certainly doesn’t know anything about the murder of a refugee they are now saying he committed. Lucky Gwen is on the case and whilst she is taking on the mayor, Reece (Kai Owen) is there to keep Andy company. Jack is about, but what he is doing when the rest of the team are trying to stop Cardiff turning on each other as well as Andy is anyone’s guess.
This is a great, strong end to a strong set. All the team members play their part as you would hope in a final story. Orr (Sam Béart) gets a really nice part to play, as she does in some of the other stories in this set of being confused and turned upside down by the desires of everyone else, that force changes within her. You feel for Andy and when he does act out of sorts (to say the least) you want to know how the writer will walk it back and have the character still be able to function as Sergeant Andy in future stories. It’s also really nice not to quite know what to make of how Jack is acting and if someone or something has got to him. Add to this Kai Owen adding the heart as well as comic relief to the story and this is something special.
This is the kind of Torchwood I love. We are faced with a largely new Torchwood team, only 2 sets in by the end of this one, and it feels like it’s classic Torchwood. I don’t know if it’s the influence of Russell T Davies helping with ideas for this set, if it’s the inclusion of old Torchwood actors in the team or supporting roles, if it’s the quality of the new characters… lets face it, it’s the combination of all of this and great direction by Scott Handcock and consistent production quality by James Goss. Along with some wonderful writing by all. It feels like it’s written in one voice but each story is unique. It feels like the style you want from Torchwood, but it isn’t afraid to expand into new ideas.
I really want to talk about a twist included in the end which for me is a proper game changer… but I’m not going to spoil it… but OMFG!!!! Cannot wait for the next set to see where it goes next. An easy 10/10 for this set.
Buy it on CD or download here https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/aliens-among-us-part-2-1666