Torchwood – Release # 6
Written by: Guy Adams
Directed by: Scott Handcock
Performed by: Eve Myles, Richard Nichols, Guy Adams and Tom Price
Duration: 60 mins approx
Chronology Placement: Wales, 2017 (set after “Forgotten Lives“)
Synopsis: Gwen Cooper has triumphed against impossible odds before, but now she’s finally met her match: Roger Pugh, Planning Officer for Cardiff City Council. Mr Pugh doesn’t believe the world needs Torchwood. Gwen sets out to prove him wrong. For Mr Pugh, it’s a day that’ll change his life. If he can survive it.
Taking place four years after the events of “Miracle Day” and following directly on from Gwen and Rhys’ promise to reinstate Torchwood Cardiff in “Forgotten Lives”, this whirlwind adventure from Guy Adams acts as a semi-reboot for the franchise as Gwen Cooper drags an officious civil servant on a whistle-stop tour of all things Torchwood. Despite its placement as the ‘season finale’ of Big Finish’s first run of Torchwood audio adventures, “More Than This” is extremely accessible and introduces listeners to the inner-workings of the clandestine organisation through the eyes of audience-proxy, Roger Pugh.
Adams’ script deftly balances humour and pathos throughout the adventure, lacing Roger Pugh’s baptism into the otherworldly with some surprisingly emotional beats. While it initially seems like a “fish out of water” romp through a typical Torchwood day, Adams develops Pugh beyond a simple punchline or plot device and creates a very real moment from the extraordinary. “More Than This” shares thematic similarities to the very first episode of the television series, “Everything Changes” with its induction format, and Adams even connects events to Gwen Cooper’s very first case as a Torchwood agent, recognising just how far she has come in the last decade.
While this release is a Gwen-centric storyline, she is actually positioned in a supporting role in this adventure in order to tell the events from Roger’s perspective. Eve Myles does a terrific job as Gwen (as usual), and it’s interesting to see her featured slightly off-centre in the audio. This subtle shift in role helps position Gwen as the new head of Torchwood, making her slightly less accessible to the audience in the same way that Jack was in “Everything Changes”. It is great to see her running things efficiently – or at least, to the same level as Jack did – and Adams provides us with some brief glimpses into her attempts to unite her domestic and professional lives. I would loved to have seen more interactions between Gwen and Rhys, but understand the budgetary limitations of these releases.
Richard Nichols does a tremendous job in his guest role of Roger Pugh, establishing and then developing a three-dimensional character within the space of an hour. As I said before, the temptation would be to play the character for laughs and use him as a straight-man punchline to the alien goings-on, but Adams and Nichols give him some real gravitas, which ends up fuelling the final act of the adventure. There are also some cameos from Tom Price as PC Andy, and while these are amusing at first, it does distract from the story the more often he reappears, although I have to admit that the final joke with him does land perfectly.
As with “Forgotten Lives”, this adventure sows the seeds for the next generation of Torchwood – which will eventually be revealed in the official Season Five continuation “Aliens Among Us” – but in the meantime, it is really exciting to see a new version of the team coming together. While this release plays it coy with some of the details, it definitely provides some much-needed groundwork in the rebuilding of Torchwood. While I have enjoyed the flashbacks and untold stories in this first season of adventures, I have to say that the post-Miracle Day adventures are the ones that have had me most excited.
Laying vital foundations for the future but not at the expense of strong storytelling, “More Than This” is essential listening for Torchwood fans, offering listeners a ‘back-to-basics’ approach that feels evocative of Season One, dusting the continuity debris of Miracle Day to one side. Rather than tying up loose ends regarding The Committee, this ‘season finale’ instead acts as a mission statement for the new status-quo. Big Finish have revitalised the once-dead franchise, taking the best bits from its various incarnations and pushing ahead with strong, character-driven narratives. Under the watchful eye of series director, Scott Handcock, this initial season of adventures have been fantastic, and I think that audio format may even be a better fit for the series than its initial TV run.