Torchwood – Release # 10
Written by: Guy Adams
Directed by: Scott Handcock
Performed by: Indira Varma, Nicholas Burns & Naomi McDonald
Duration: 60 mins approx
Chronology Placement: Cardiff, 2006 (takes place before Season One of Torchwood)
Synopsis: Suzie Costello would never describe herself as a hero. Not even if she were the last woman on Earth. Turns out, she’s the second last woman on Earth, and that’ll just have to do. With the Earth frozen in time, Suzie becomes locked in a battle to save the planet and the life of Alex, the last woman alive. Hunted by alien warriors, and, with every hour that doesn’t pass, the stakes are only getting higher. Suzie Costello would never describe herself as a hero. But she would say she’s someone who always makes the right choices. Wouldn’t she?
I’ve always found Suzie Costello to be an extremely intriguing part of Torchwood lore. Initially presented as a main cast member in promotional materials ahead of the series’ debut, she was killed off in the first episode in a shocking twist – only to be resurrected later in the series as a full-blown villain. While she never had the opportunity to reappear on the show after the first series, the anthology nature of the Big Finish monthly Torchwood range allows for stories to be set across the entire timeline of the series, and with this in mind, “Moving Target” takes place a few months before Susie’s first death in “Everything Changes” and hints at the rough edges and flaws in her personality that would eventually lead her down a path of villainy.
Indira Varma steps back into the role of Suzie with ease, capturing her cold distance with the people she risks her life to save. It’s an interesting dichotomy – Suzie wants to be a hero, yet finds herself struggling to connect with the people she is supposed to save. She wants to save the world because it is her job, but lacks the same empathy and care that Gwen will later bring to the role. In fact, looking back at Season One of Torchwood and all of the agents are borderline sociopaths with broken morality compasses, so it is a bit unfair to single Suzie out. Varma delivers a wonderfully nuanced performance as Costello, and considering how little screen-time the character received in relation to the other Torchwood agents, she comes across extremely well-developed.
The plot is exciting and diverts from the same template as the previous few Torchwood audio adventures which seemed to involve a “demonstrative tour” of what it means to be a Torchwood agent, often to an outsider. Here, Guy Adams writes a thrilling adventure that feels like an exciting blend of Predator and The Hunger Games with a hint of I am Legend thrown in. Listening to this years after it was originally released, it is interesting to note the similarities between this ‘alien game hunter on Earth’ plot and the Thirteenth Doctor’s debut, “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”. Adams’ script is fresh and fast-paced, quickly establishing a camaraderie between Suzie and Alex – the last two women on Earth.
The episode flits between drama and humour perfectly, thanks to the bright personality of Alex (played by Naomi McDonald) who manages to embody that same every-man realism typified by Doctor Who companions like Lucie Miller and Donna Noble. Adams’ makes us care for the fate for this character in the space of a single episode, which makes the ending all the more unexpected and tragic. I won’t spoil too much, but Adams effortlessly defines what makes Suzie Costello tick and how she is able to reframe herself as the hero of the story. It is a bleak, mature conclusion to the adventure and something that Torchwood does best. I think the closest equivalent in Doctor Who history might be “The Woman Who Waited” and the downbeat ending for ‘old Amy’.
“Moving Target” is a marvellous example of audio storytelling, crafting a vivid and heart-breaking take on the ‘alien bounty hunter’ trope. The sound design from Steve Foxon was pitch perfect, and accentuated the emotional beats of the episode perfectly. This adventure has definitely whetted my appetite for more Suzie Costello stories, delving into the morally complex motivations of the twice-deceased Torchwood agent. Both exciting and energetic yet also deliciously downbeat, “Moving Target” has become an instant favourite of mine, and is quite easily one of the strongest Torchwood audios produced yet. I cannot recommend it enough!