Wednesday, 30 September 2015

TORCHWOOD - The Conspiracy

Arriving in 2006 on the Sunday before I moved house, Torchwood’s tag-line was: “The 21st Century is where everything changes” – and it did. Sort of. Well not everything, but certainly the Whoniverse got a lot bigger with new characters added who would make an appearance during the finale of Season Four.
Torchwood started well. Episode one was very good, but overall the first season was patchy. For every Countrycide or Random Shoes, there was a Cyberwoman or Combat. Things got a bit more consistent with Season Two, and Children of Earth was a bona fide classic, dripping quality and full ofwater-cooler moments everyone seemed to be talking about. Then came Miracle Day. Oh dear. It was about seven episodes too long – and that was just the start of it’s problems.
Torchwood seemed to be loved and reviled by Doctor Who fans in equal and after 2011 was slowly fading into obscurity. Yes there were rumours of reunions, but the cast had moved on. Then in 2015 Everything Changes – Big Finish picked up the licence to produce audio adventures and Torchwood was back. A six episode first season has been commissioned followed swiftly by a second, and what better place to start than with the man himself, Captain Jack Harkness, played by John Barrowman, in a story called The Conspiracy, written by David Llewelyn.
Not full cast, but not really Companion Chronicle two-handers – a small cast with lots of narration, this story sees Jack (the rest of the team do not appear) investigate ex journalist and conspiracy theory superstar Wilson (John Sessions). You see, Wilson’s predictions and revelations about a mysterious alien “Committee” and the fact that they have been controlling the world from behind the scenes for as long as there has been life on earth, ring eerily true for Jack. He meets Wilson’s daughter Kate (Sarah Ovens) and conspiracy theory nut Sam (Dan Bottomley) in the course of his investigation, and these four are the total cast in the production.
Barrowman gives us a very different Jack to the one we are used to seeing on TV; he has a harder edge, is less charming – more Daniel Craig than Roger Moore, if you get my drift – we also get no indication of when in the Torchwood timeline the story takes place.
It’s quite a slow-paced story for a season opener, and unfortunately it feels a bit familiar, we have seen stories like this many times before. In fact it feels very much like an episode of The X Files – grand conspiracy, aliens that have always been here, crosses and double-crosses, but it isn’t all that original. I hope I am proved wrong as the series progresses and the seeds planted in this story flower into great towering oaks of Torchwood legend.
It is very well acted, with John Sessions utterly convincing as Wilson, and Sam could so easily have been an annoying stereotypical conspiracy nut, but he is imbued with real character and depth. So, not the best start to the series, but several hooks which I hope will be played out over the next few months.
A conspirational 6/10.