Review by Jacob Licklider
Whenever Big Finish Productions decides to release a story that is a two-hander the listener is almost guaranteed a classic. Most of the best Companion Chronicles are the experimental two-handers like Solitaire and The Time Museum, and Robert Shearman’s highly experimental Scherzo is a work of brilliant.
The February 2020 Torchwood Main Range audio ‘Dissected‘ is another two hander and was promoted as the return of Martha Jones to the Doctor Who Universe with Freema Agyeman returning to the role and being paired with Eve Myles’ Gwen Cooper. As this is a two-hander, much of the quality of this story is down to the two actresses giving an engaging and entertaining performance, and Agyeman and Myles deliver. They play off each other as two old friends who have been apart for a long time, and are ever so slightly uncomfortable as they reunite in a less than ideal situation. The actresses really do give it their all and ooze chemistry between one another. The character Martha Jones in particular has always been better when not shackled down by the Doctor moping about Rose; so Freema Agyeman actually gets to play a well rounded and incredibly fun character to explore.
Martha is at a point in her life where she has kind of fallen into a rut. Journey’s End has happened, and UNIT has put her into an office job which is a real comedown after her final travels with the Doctor. She helped move the Earth back to its place in the universe after all, and almost deserves more. She’s also found herself becoming distant from those around her who care and really is just ready to remove herself from the world to gain a new lease on life. On the other hand Gwen Cooper has her own set of issues to deal with: Tosh and Owen are dead, she and Rhys are married, and she’s in that uncertain point where she doesn’t really know where Torchwood is going. Gwen embodies that and almost goes to Martha for the potential stability of seeing an old friend, which is especially poignant as this takes place just before Children of Earth where the Torchwood hub is destroyed and Gwen and Jack are left as the only members of Torchwood. They’re two women attempting to reconnect their friendship and come to some sort of catharsis with what their lives have become and where their lives are going.
While this review has been careful to avoid spoilers, it is at this point where they will begin to creep in as I move to actually discuss the plot and production. If you haven’t heard Dissected this is your final warning to go listen and return to finish this review. Now the plot is actually pretty basic, as many are when character drama and development are the main order of the day. Gwen Cooper arrives at Martha Jones’ office with a dead body on which she needs Martha to perform an autopsy. The audio is literally the fifty minutes that it takes for Martha to perform the autopsy, occurring in real time to help with the immersion. The immersion of Tim Foley’s script is an incredibly important element as within the first five minutes the listener realizes that they are a character in the story. The listener takes the role of the body, starting in the zipped up body bag with some brilliant sound design from Peter Doggart where the unzipping of a zipper makes everything fall into place. Foley doesn’t stop there with the immersion: the body is identified as Johnathan Dee, which is clearly a spin of John Doe, and foreshadows the twist that the body is the still living corpse of a Chameleon, you know the villains from The Faceless Ones. As this is a character without a face the immersive quality of the story, adding layers upon layers to what makes the listener engaged. Scott Handcock is excellent in the director’s chair for this story as he is aware of the space that the two actresses are inhabiting throughout the story.
Overall, Dissected is an excellently experimental experience which is a necessary addition to anyone’s collection if they’re a fans of this type of story. 10/10.