Torchwood – Release # 1
Written by: David Llewellyn
Directed by: Scott Handcock
Performed by: John Barrowman, John Sessions, Sarah Ovens & Dan Bottomley
Duration: 60 mins approx
Chronology Placement: Cardiff, 2008 (during Season 2 of Torchwood)
Synopsis: Captain Jack Harkness has always had his suspicions about the Committee. And now Wilson is also talking about the Committee. Apparently the world really is under the control of alien lizards. That’s what Wilson says. People have died, disasters have been staged, and the suspicious have disappeared. It’s outrageous. Only Jack knows that Wilson is right. The Committee has arrived.
“The Conspiracy” is the first play in the core series of Torchwood audio plays from Big Finish Productions, which sees John Barrowman returning to the role of Jack Harkness after the “Miracle Day” miniseries concluded in 2011. Set during the second season of Torchwood, before half the team were wiped out, this adventure introduces a new over-arching threat for Jack and the team in the form of The Committee – a mysterious organisation who manipulate events on Earth for their own benefit. Clearly influenced by infamous conspiracy theorist, David Icke, the adventure revolves around the high-profile rantings of a disgraced journalist who claims that the Committee are real, and are actually aliens in disguise.
David Llewellyn’s script crackles along with a fine pace, especially the opening chapter which features Jack addressing the listener directly, interspersed with news clips that provide interesting glimpses at the backstory. It feels quite immersive, and while it differs from the approach seen in other Torchwood productions, it still has maintains that same Black-Ops feel that the TV series captured so effortlessly. Structurally, the episode blends the real-time action of Jack’s investigation of Wilson and The Committee with his voice-over narration, creating a hybrid of a story that feels part audio-book and part audio-play.
The stylish ambience and frenetic pace of the audio helps cover up some of the story’s plot holes, particularly the motivations of the lead villain in the piece. The grand finale feels a bit rushed and suffers from the cliché of the villain over-elaborating about their evil plan. That said, it works well as a brief introduction to The Committee and teases a formidable foe for Jack and Torchwood to deal with in future instalments. While it might be a case of style over substance at times, “The Conspiracy” demonstrates just how effective the audio format can be for Torchwood and with a return to TV extremely unlikely, it would be the perfect home for the franchise going forward.
Despite time away playing in the DC Comics sandbox as Malcolm Merlyn over in Arrow, John Barrowman slips back into the role of Captain Jack Harkness with surprising ease. Captivating and charismatic as always, Barrowman is an absolute joy to listen to and his voice suits the audio format perfectly as he is able to communicate his character’s emotions with just his voice. The rest of the cast perform admirably as well, particularly John Sessions in the role of George Wilson. It was interesting to hear cast members swear, albeit low-category swearwords, further embodying the more mature Torchwood vibe. Personally, I’d have been quite happy with unbleeped F-words, but I guess Big Finish doesn’t want to put a formal ‘Explicit Content’ tag on the covers.
“The Conspiracy” is a fantastic debut for Big Finish’s Torchwood range of audios, accurately recreating the tone of the television show but with enough individuality to stand out as a separate entity. With future instalments featuring deceased members of the cast, it seems like the stories will take place at varying points in the Torchwood chronology, but I do hope that Big Finish will push the series forward beyond “Miracle Day” and possibly set up a new status-quo for the team. It feels like Torchwood has been in an odd stasis since the conclusion of Season Two and the departure of Tosh and Owen, and really needs to return to its roots and I have high hopes that Big Finish will be able to recreate the series’ heyday in the audio format.