Tuesday, 31 May 2016

This Sporting Life

Utterly charming. There I have said it. But those two words sum up this release perfectly. So do the words sweet and heartwarming. Because that is what this release is. But what is this charming heartwarming release, well its this months Short Trips release “This Sporting Life”. When I first heard about this release I (like many other fans I am sure) raised a wry eyebrow as of course this title is the title of a famous film starring none other than William Hartnell. This story is not about the First Doctor going undercover as a rugby scout as the title may suggest, but about the theft of the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966.
 Read by Peter Purves (Steven Taylor) he recalls a time where the oft overlooked TARDIS team of The First Doctor, Steven and Dodo arrived in London 1966 and became involved in the recovery of the stolen original World Cup Trophy. Dripping with period charm this small scale interlude is set in a familiar 1960’s London, a nostalgic London of Bobbies on the beat that probably hadn’t existed since the 1950’s – more Dixon of Dock Green than Swinging London – but utterly in keeping with the nostalgic tone of the story telling. In the short 35 minutes of the story our heroes become embroiled in the theft of the World Cup, discover the reasons behind the theft and The First Doctor – with customary twinkle and wry smile makes sure that history is kept on track.
 If the Ealing films had made a Doctor Who it would be this one – all post war pride, larger than life characters and a happy ending, almost twee, but not quite going that far just, well Utterly Charming. Of course a review referencing the 1966 World Cup Final wouldn’t be complete without me saying they think its all over – and at a heartwarming 9/10 – it is now.


For a 119 year old story Dracula is still possibly still the most influential Horror Story ever written. You may throw Frankenstein at me, or Jekyll & Hyde or The Turn of the Screw – but I say NO. THE most influential horror story was a tale of a trip to Transylvania by Bram Stoker. Think of it this way, no Dracula then no Hammer, no Buffy, no Twilight, no True Blood, no State of Decay. The character of Count Dracula is a villain for the ages imbued in our psyche as a byword for evil, you don’t need to have read or seen a Dracula film to know who or what Dracula is – so, it was no surprise when Big Finish announced that they were going to dramatise the greatest Horror Story ever told. Not only that but Mark Gatiss was going to play the Count.
 There have been may interpretations of the story, from Cushing & Lee in the Hammer Classic to (for me) the definitive Gary Oldman portrayal from the 1990’s – but what sort of angle were Big Finish going to go for? Well, they have gone back to the source material and produced a very faithful adaptation of the original Bram Stoker text told over three parts each being approximately an hour long.
 Part One deals with Jonathan Harker (Joseph Kloska) visiting Count Dracula (Mark Gatiss) at his home in Transylvania to conduct the legalities on a property that the Count has purchased in London – told from the point of view of Harker writing entries in his diary (exactly as the novel) we follow Jonathan’s ordeal at castle Dracula and the dawning realisation that he is a prisoner and may never get out alive.
 Part Two has the Count in England terrorising Lucy Westenra (Rosanna Miles) and the beginning of the fight back led by Lucy’s fiancee Arthur Holmwood (Alex Jordan) and his friends Dr John Seward (Rupert Young) & Quincy P Morris (David Menkin) – part two also sees the introduction of the legendary Abraham Van Helsing (Nigel Betts)
 Part Three deals with our heroes now accompanied by Jonathan Harker & his wife Mina (Deirdre Mullins) fighting back against Dracula’s evil plan and hounding him back to Transylvania for an epic showdown.
 It is a very well produced adaptation and really does tick all the boxes – Big Finish really have gone back to basics and told the story of the book rather than the legend that the book has become – I just felt that the earlier parts of the production lacked pace, urgency and peril, all the constituent parts were there but the spark of adventure did not seem to have been fully ignited – however after a slow and ponderous first two parts things step up a gear in the final chapter – the method of story telling is more experimental and the sedate pace of the build up gives way to a breakneck race against time.
 Let me talk about the cast – yes there is the much lauded Mark Gatiss who gives a suitably “Arch” performance as the Count – he plays it almost exactly as you expect he will, nothing wrong with the at all – but I will save my praise for two actors in particular – Deirdre Mullins as Mina Harker and Ian Hallard as Renfield. Whilst the quality of acting is as excellent as any of Big Finish releases Mullins & Hallard really do raise the bar – Mina could be a textbook damsel in distress but not here she is strong, determined and unwavering – a woman ahead of her time and every bit as strong as her male comrades. Which brings me to Renfield – how easy would it be to play Renfield as a gibbering raving maniac? It would suit the part and would be perfectly in keeping with Stoker’s character – but Ian Hallard under the direction of Scott Handcock gives an extraordinary performance and all the more frightening for seeming sane 90% of the time – a  very clever take on the character.
 Before I sum up I will hand you over to Hayley for her thoughts:
 I have read Dracula many times and welcome any audio/visual with eager open arms, as I welcome any Big Finish release in the same vein (no pun intended). Dracula, much like Shakespeare, is always open to interpretation. He’s been a subject for comic treatment, Blaxploitation, and various Hammer escapades, so it’s always good when he comes home to Stoker. 
Mark Gatiss seems the obvious and right choice for the Prince of Darkness. A horror fan himself, it seems natural that he’d be cast in the role at some point in his career and he certainly seems to relish this opportunity. Often subtle, always menacing, and finally human he gives a performance as good as any I’ve seen or heard. It has an impressive cast who breathe life into the often recounted tale; Deirdre Mullins in particular stands out as a gutsy Mina Harker – a woman ahead of her time. 
To echo Ed, it’s the final third where it really comes alive. It’s a faithful production but lacks something early on. Perhaps the tension was lacking for me due to my familiarity with book, but it I felt it lacked the impact of Big Finish’s excellent Frankenstein. The denouement was well done though, Mina as brave as any male hero and Gatiss giving a touching human quality to the Vampire. 
 Thrilled again that Big Finish are tackling the classics. It’s made me want to revisit the book one more time, which I certainly will do. 
 A traditional retelling of a classic that somehow in its early stages seems a little too safe and meandering, superb acting and production values and a lengthy running time give the story a chance to breathe and gather pace to a gripping finale. Clever story telling techniques (especially in part three) keep the story fresh – one to it down to on a quiet rainy Sunday afternoon with a glass of something red and let yourself be whisked away to Transylvania again. 7/10.

Gallifrey VIII - Enemy Lines

I do love politics. Along with cult TV, my family and Cats its pretty much my favourite thing. I bore the socks off my family at Election time, canvass for my party, go to counts and am even contemplating standing for the County Council again next year – yes indeedy, Politics to me is what football is to many others. Gallifrey has always been a politics heavy series dealing with the great and the good of Gallifrey – of President Romana (present and future), Castellans, Cardinals, Ambassadors and not forgetting Leela and latterly Ace. I love the political intrigue of the series, the manipulation, the puppeteering and counter puppeteering – Gallifrey as a series is like a sci-fi version of House of Cards (well, you might think that, I couldn’t possibly comment) and this month sees the release of the eighth series of plots, counter plots & intrigue in Gallifrey – Enemy Lines.
 Told over six half an hour episodes Enemy Lines carries on where last years Intervention Earth (review here) finished and sees Coordinator Narvin (Sean Carlsen) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) in a bit of a pickle – they are in a dying TARDIS, the air is running out and then, just to make their day worse they are found by Time Lord forces and summarily sentenced to death. We then cut to events a long time previous, you see the series of events that led to the whole Omega situation in Intervention Earth was a timeline that should not really have happened and a figure from Gallifrey’s ancient and mythical past, the mysterious Watchmaker (Eve Karpf) along with a future version of Romana is trying to put things back on track. Enemy Lines has paradoxically (sorry) my favourite and least favourite types of story telling – it has political intrigue a plenty with scheming ambassadors, traitors, plots within plots and universe spanning consequences. It also relies on paradoxes (or messing about with time travel, or cheating as I call it) the sort of thing that has blighted TV Doctor Who on TV for the last six years or so. Now, you may think I am being a bit harsh, and maybe I am – a society of Time Lords who have Ambassadors from other Time Faring societies as Ambassadors all engaging in political intrigue – well they would abuse time travel to spy on each other and lay plots wouldn’t they? OK, they would, but it just leaves me cold. Niggles over, hows about the positives? Its excellently paced, scored and acted and as a listener I was completely drawn in to the intrigue, it really had that “just one more episode” box set feel. Can I also praise the magnificent Louise Jameson – effortlessly wonderful as Leela especially in the final episode where she gets to pour out her scorn and bitterness and tells us of the life she might have led away from Gallifrey, her voice all full of haunted pride at what she has done and the people who’s lives she has touched – it brought a tear to my eye, we are truly privileged to have Louise as an actor, writer and director in so many of Big Finish’s releases.
 Sweeping, epic and with consequences that will reverberate throughout many subsequent Gallifrey releases. Enemy Lines is an odd mixture of Politics and Paradox – on the surface of it not the sort of things that go hand in hand but crafted together here so that it seems odd to have one without the other. An epically built House of Cards that just one paradox may bring crashing down, and I feel that paradox may be on its way. 8/10.

Cyberman Series 1 & 2

Cybermen always frightened me a lot more than Daleks. Well frightened and brought about a great pity. Whereas Daleks just want to conquer and destroy the Cybermen are altogether more chilling, they want us to become them, they want to assimilate us, they want us to belong to them – to surrender our humanity and become part of a collective emotionless whole whose sole purpose is survival.
This special release collects together the original Cyberman series from 2005 and the second series from 2009 and gives it the full “Special Edition” treatment with a couple of making of documentaries added and trailers for all the Doctor Who Cyberman releases.
But what is the Cyberman series? At its heart Cyberman 1 is a political thriller that begs the question just how far would humanity go to win a war? The war in question is the war in Orion against the Androids. Its a war that has been going on a very very long time and humanity is tiring of the constant losses and sacrifices. There is a top secret covert operations unit named “Scorpius” who have been working to end the war swiftly – and their discovery of a crashed Cyber ship on the sea bed just off the Isle of Wight may just change the direction of the War. Its a long game, a very long game that the Cyberman are playing, getting their agents into top positions in the Earth Government, engineering a state of emergency so that Martial Law can be declared and so enabling President of Earth Karen Brett (Sarah Mowatt) to deploy “Special Commando Units” (Cybermen to you and me) in every city to keep order. Civil liberties are being eroded a tiny fraction at a time in the name of keeping the population safe, Special Commando Units reassure the public in their blank monotone that “there is nothing to fear” and we the listener knows that there really is everything to fear because the path that the earth government is following will lead to only one thing, total subjugation to the Cybermen.
 Cyberman 2 carries on where Cyberman 1 left off, Earth is under the control of the Cybermen but doesn’t even know it – but whereas part 1 concentrated on the leaders of society, President Brett, Commander in Chief Liam Barnaby, Head of Scorpius Paul Hunt  - Cyberman 2 has more of a focus on the ordinary people and the resistance to the stealth invasion by the Cybermen. Whilst the main players from Cyberman 1 are still part of the story, we also focus on Hazel Trahn (Jo Castleton) a taxi driver from the Midlands who witnesses the Cybermen clearing out the whole town of Stafford to “protect citizens from terrorism” and becomes a resistance fighter. The emphasis is more on the human effect of the Cybermen and how they view humans as raw materials to continue their race.
 This is a huge box set – the episodes themselves are almost 8 hours in total, adding the special features takes us up to the 9 hour mark, so plenty to get your listening teeth in to.
As large as the scale is this is a very character based drama with box set one dealing with the manipulation of President Brett by Paul Hunt (Barnaby Edwards). Let me talk a bit about Paul Hunt. Barnaby Edwards gives an astonishing performance as Hunt, the once head of Scorpius who is now the mouthpiece and puppet for the Cybermen in the Earth Administration, Hunt carefully stage manages everything, the puppet playing master puppeteer to the media and the public, gaining huge approval ratings for the more and more extreme but “necessary” curbs on civil liberties brought in – his discrediting of Commander in Chief Liam Barnaby (Mark McDonnell) friend and comrade of the President is worthy of Francis Urquhart of House of Cards infamy. We also get monologue from the main players regarding their thoughts and feelings about events as they occur which further add to the depth of character.
 It is an incredibly bleak set full of paranoia and misplaced patriotism based on hatred of the enemy Androids who really are just a mirror of humanity and the shocking cost that some humans are willing to pay for victory. There are no happy endings, no quick fixes, no real heroes or punch the air moments just a feeling of inevitability and frightening parallels with the times that we live in. Well paced over its 8 hours and compellingly acted – a cold brutal cautionary tale 8/10.

The Tenth Doctor Adventures Volume 1

2008 was a very good year for Doctor Who – the highest viewing figures in the revived show, the number one rated show of the week for Journey’s End, in 2008 Doctor Who was THE show to watch, everyone watched it, but like all good things the team of Tennant & Tate who had been instrumental in this high water mark was soon at an end. Donna Noble’s story came to a tragic end, she suffered a fate ostensibly worse than death, she was robbed of all knowledge of her time with The Doctor and became the vacuous person she was before he had enlightened her, and in a heartbreaking end to the season, The Doctor is left on his own again. And that was that, a few more specials and the greatest and most successful era of Doctor Who was at an end, David Tennant bowed out on new years day 2010 and something special vanished from the world of Doctor Who, something it has never quite achieved again. The Doctor had lost his best friend in Donna Noble, and the audience had lost its best Doctor in David Tennant, and those glory days were gone forever. Not if Big Finish had anything to do with it they weren’t.
 Lets fast forward to 2015 – on an unassuming Monday in October 2015, this was announced and fandom has been holding its collective breath ever since. Would Ten & Donna work as audio, would David & Catherine recapture the magic of 2008, would the scripts do them justice? Read on dear listener because all these and many more questions will be answered (or rambled on about at great length)
The thing that makes the 2008 season  so special is the camaraderie between 10 & Donna, no romance, no sexual tension just friendship – a deep caring friendship which makes Donna’s fate all the more tragic – she genuinely loved her time with The Doctor, she learnt from being with him and grew as a person, she wanted to stay with him forever. Tennant & Tate had such chemistry that they have been cast together in Much Ado About Nothing as Benedic & Beatrice and as recently as April 2016 have presented “Shakespeare Live” together for the BBC – some actors just work well together and bring joy to the screen – Tennant & Tate are the personification of this. So, after eight years away from playing The Doctor and Donna how do they work on audio? Fire up your iPod (or CD player), put in disc one, close your eyes and immediately you are back in 2008 – yes indeed dear readers, its like season 4 never ended, the golden age is back, David Tennant is the Doctor travelling with Donna Noble and all is well with the world. This very special release is split into three stories.
 1.1 Technophobia by Matt Fitton
 The Doctor takes Donna a couple of years in to her future to visit London’s Technology Museum but something is wrong. Jill Meadows (Rachel Stirling) cannot use her tech, technology is attacking the populace, society is beginning to unravel as humans lose the ability to use technology – is it mass hysteria or is it all part of an alien plan? Reminiscent of the RTD era present day earth stories with rolling news, familiar settings and a threat that plays on our reliance on tech – this is a whizz-bang season opener and from their very first appearance The Doctor & Donna are back – utterly. Its like they have never been away. Donna is funny, sharp, witty and clever, whereas David is well, how do you describe 10? sublime? definitive? much missed? all of the above? It contains all the hallmarks of the Ten era, fast talking  wise cracking and a sense of joy that has been sorely lacking in modern Who since, well since 01 January 2010 really. Welcome back David, you have been missed.
 1.2 Time Reaver by Jenny T Colgan
 When the fluid links burn out in the TARDIS, the Doctor takes Donna to Calibris to see his old friend Soren (Alex Lowe) to get them replaced or repaired. Calibris is a spaceport, a stopping off point where crime is rife and everything has a price. Donna (in full “wench” outfit) is not impressed, she would much rather the Doctor had taken her to the “Planet of the boys” (not that such a place exists according to Ten) But all is not well on Calibris – as the alien Vacintians try to impose some sort of law & order to Calibri, the gangster Gully has come in to the possession of the most disturbing and horrific weapon in all creation – a Time Reaver, a weapon that can prolong the agony of death almost to an eternity. A very “noir” feeling episode, full of the usual 10 & Donna humour, but also with a darker undertone, there is a scene where I went cold as a phrase from season 4 is mentioned and the soliloquy by Ten in the last few seconds is heartbreaking, more so because we know his fate. Supporting cast are Who luminaries Terry Molloy and Dan Starkey who sound like they are having a ball, and why not the material and the rest of the cast demand that they do – a great mix of the tragic and the comic – never melancholy but tinged with the feeling of inevitability.
 1.3 Death and the Queen by James Goss
 Donna has met her Prince Charming. Literally. She has been swept off her feet by Prince Rudolph (Blake Ritson) Crown Prince and she is off home to his Castle to marry him. Problem is The Doctor has never ever heard of the country that he is Crown Prince of, and decides to follow Donna there……
What follow is  bit of a base-under-siege/romp of a story with Donna’s wedding being interrupted by an invasion from Death itself and an army of living Skeletons and dawning realisation of what Donna’s part in proceedings really is. Another wedding disaster for Donna ensues as The Doctor tries to work out the significance of an inscription on the flag and work out the actual price of 500 years of peace and harmony. Full of zingy dialogue and Donna-tastic one liners, Catherine Tate steals the show in this episode, it really is a vehicle for Donna to show what she is made of – and we are not left wanting.
 Three stories really are not enough, I could have listened to seven or eight more – and whilst I am overjoyed that the stories are being made it makes me all misty eyed and nostalgic for the glory days of 2008 and to extend that all too brief era even more through more releases from Big Finish. A very special release that perfectly captures the spirit, ethos and ambiance of 2008 – not a tribute or a nostalgia piece, a continuation of that era, the episode could quite easily have slotted in to the season – and coming from an RTD fan that is praise indeed. Undoubtedly a Ten (and Donna) out of Ten.

212 - Vampire of the Mind

The second part of a trilogy is always difficult. The ground work has been laid in part one – we know we are building to an epic conclusion in part three. But Part two is difficult. It has to tell a story in its own right whilst sowing seeds for HUGE payoffs in the finale, have enough of a link to parts one and three and yet be its own entity.
 This is the dilemma that Vampire of the Mind faces and attacks it in a very different way. In fact it completely ignores the set up from “And You Will Obey Me” (reviewhere) and hits the ground running as very much its own story. In fact if it were not advertised as part of the “Two Masters” trilogy it would be a very good standalone story and that is the way I will look at it for this review.
 “Techno-Thriller” is the phrase that comes to mind when listening to part one (available free here) and well worth a listen, it is also reminiscent of The Invasion – in fact the majority of the story has a very familiar very nostalgic feel but with a 2016 edge. Intrigued? then read on.
 The story begins with Old Sixie going to visit his old friend Professor Threadstone (John Standing) but finding out from his daughter Heather (Kate Kennedy) that he is missing having taken it upon himself to find several other eminent Scientists who have gone missing. The Doctor and Heather decide to investigate and all roads lead to the mysterious “Dominus Institute” which immediately set alarm bells ringing for The Doctor as Dominus is a latin word for “Master”. Getting themselves a place on the Dominus Institute sponsorship programme they head to the remote island castle that is the headquarters, a place that The Doctor thinks he has been to before….
 What elevates this story from a retread of the old glories of the Pertwee era is the performances of the main cast – Colin Baker & Kate Kennedy immediately spark as a Doctor/Companion pairing and then we have HIM – Alex Macqueen as The Master, the most spiteful, manipulative, embodiment of chaos – utterly cruel simply because he can be and seemingly at the very beginning of his regeneration so he really does not know who he is yet or what this incarnation is capable of – the suave calm of Delgado has been replaced by a supercilious sneer and an arrogant contempt. This man is dangerous, really dangerous and his plan requires The Doctor, or more specifically The Doctor’s mind.
 What starts as a techno thriller in part one progresses to a claustrophobic mystery in parts two and three and to a shocking ending in part four where, well, I will just have to let you listen for your selves – suffice to say, there is a link to the forthcoming finale to this trilogy – it will not make much sense at the moment, but I am hoping for an almighty payoff next month.
 This is a strong story, but maybe a little too familiar for my liking – taking many tropes of the UNIT era and transposing them to a modern day setting the nods to the past come thick and fast but are played in different ways than seasoned Whovians may expect keeping surprises, well, surprising – its a grim old tale, very dark and takes Old Sixie to one of the darkest places I have witnessed the character – his actions at the end of part four made me question whether he was bluffing or not – it was a very uncomfortable listen.
 Echoing the past with its plotting yet innovative with its characterisation. A dominating performance by Alex Macqueen and Colin Baker giving us even more layers to Old SIxie – I cannot wait to see how this pans out next month – 8/10.

4th Doctor 5.5 - Gallery Of Ghouls

Waxworks are odd things – I really don’t see the attraction. Facsimiles of the great and the good (and sometimes the feral and the foul) cast in wax and placed in an exhibition for the paying public to look at and take photographs with, it just seems a bit bizarre to me. But as actual objects, Waxworks are an excellent Horror Story device – the too shiny skin, the too perfect hair & teeth, the slightly too piercing eyes – there is something wrongabout them. Like a really excellent cover version of a song you enjoy, its not quite right and slightly unnerving. Look at the use of Waxworks in Pertwee’s debut Spearhead from Space or the numerous Horror films of the 1950’s and 1960’s like House of Wax and its ilk. Creepy, unnerving, WRONG.
 Which brings me on to this months 4th Doctor release, and in case you were wondering it does feature a Waxworks. In fact it features two.
The Fourth Doctor (more by luck than judgement) has brought Romana II to Brighton in 1833 – its only 18 years until the Pavilion opens so he decides to wait. On a deckchair. On the beach. For 18 Years – yes indeed dear readers, we are in gloriously silly Season 17 territory – and whilst the Doctor works out how to put up a deckchair for his 18 year wait, Romana decides on a grand tour of Europe visiting the great and the good of the era. That is until on her way from the beach she discovers Madame Tissot’s Waxworks Exposition and persuades the Doctor to accompany her to visit it.
 Madam Tissot (Celia Imrie) owns Brighton’s premiere Waxworks Exposition – she is expecting a Royal Visit from  the King’s sister tomorrow. Surely nothing can go wrong. Surely the arrival of the Fourth Doctor and Romana will not hail mayhem and disaster and a bizarre series of events????
 What follows is a series of bizarre events involving mayhem, disaster, the theft of the head of Waxwork Marie Antoinette, the introduction of rival Waxworks owner Mr Goole (Nickolas Grace) the delightfully named “Goole’s Gallery” and the revelation that The Doctor has a diploma in firefighting awarded to him by “Pugh, Pugh, Barney, McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grub” – (surely worth the entry fee in its own right?)
 Tom is on fire delivering some of the best “silly Tom” lines – marvel at his lecture from the diorama of the death of Nelson at Madam Tissot’s Exposition, Thrill to his prepared final speech where he leaves his stamp collection to Romana and marvel at how he messes with the air conditioning in the TARDIS at a very important moment. All pure Tom gold.
Lalla Ward has the haughty Romana 2 off to a tee – she does not suffer fools at all, let alone gladly, which makes you wonder why she is with the zany Fourth Doctor at all!
 This story is very much a pastiche of the waxworks horror sub genre of horror – but unlike the Hinchcliffe era stories that took (and take) themselves very seriously, this one is delightfully silly and played for its comedy while still containing a very exciting plot. This, like the Season 17 that inspired it is more about larger than life characters and actors “giving a turn” and being allowed to chew the scenery – and long may it continue.
 Full of fruity acting, wonderful dialogue and a plot that whilst taking a back seat to the performances it inspires is edge of seat stuff this is the best 4th Doctor release so far this year and can proudly sit alongside The Horns of Nimon & The Creature From the Pit in Season 17. A fun and fruity  9/10.


How are you selected to join Torchwood? Gwen Cooper seemed to just get in via sheer tenacity (and the death of Suzie Costello, remember that name…..) but it didn’t seem to be a job that you applied for, more a job you were selected for, it seemed to need the right sort of person. One of the supporting cast in Torchwood was the ever lovable PC Andy Davidson (Tom Price), he was Gwen’s colleague when she was a Police Officer and her contact in the Police when she joined Torchwood, he crept up from time to time and kept Gwen grounded – he was a lovely audience identification figure and PC Andy, or Sergeant Andy as he is now is the subject of this months Torchwood release – because today is Andy Davidson’s assessment day – the 21st Century is where everything changes and Sgt Andy Davidson has to be ready.
 Ever grounded, ever loyal and a genuine nice guy. Going about his duty to the people and city of Cardiff, stoic, sensible and utterly decent – just the sort of person Torchwood need. Surely…..
We encounter Andy having a cuppa at his favourite cafe and he is about to pluck up the courage to talk to a girl he sees there every day when his world completely changes and he encounters the delightfully camp and wonderfully urbane Norton Folgate (Samuel Barnett) a Torchwood assessor sent forward in time from the 1950’s to assess Andy’s suitability for joining the “new Torchwood”. Andy’s mission is to investigate a spill of an alien chemical agent all the while being assessed and commented on by the intangible Norton. This is a story where the audience almost know more than the characters, that is IF you have been following the series from the beginning. References to “the Committee” will be lost on listeners who have not followed the whole range but will bring out the requisite “oohs and ahhs” from long time listeners and get the old grey cells working overtime to try and get one step ahead of Andy & Norton, to work out what is REALLY going on and what Norton Folgate’s role in all this really is. If you are listening as a stand alone this is a great “buddy movie” of the type that is becoming the house style of Cardiff based stories in the Torchwood range – Andy the fish out of water paired with an urbane ghost is a genuine odd couple and throughout the events of the story they really do surprise each other. This is a story that whilst working as a stand alone works better as an ongoing mystery – who are the Committee, what do they want with Torchwood, why are they in Cardiff – all left hanging at the end of the story. The ending actually is very sweet and very low key and warmed the heart of this old romantic.
 As interesting as the story is, the “Cardiff Buddy movie” formula is becoming a little too familiar, maybe Andy’s next outing will see him more involved with the whole Committee Conspiracy as this release does fell like we are building to something. The story is full of Welsh humour and being typically Welsh Andy is not fazed or particularly impressed with the aliens or the “ruling Torchwood Committee” that he meets, treating them all like he treats drunken valley boys & girls early on a Sunday morning initially to Norton’s amazement, latterly impressing him with the technique.
 As a reintroduction of Sgt Andy its a great character piece – his personality is endearing and he really does get the listener rooting for him on his assessment which he CENSORED FOR SPOILERS.
My only slight niggle is that a “house style” seems to have developed, its a very good house style and is a great way to get two disparate characters together in a way that they HAVE to interact to get a job done. Its the 21st century and Sgt Andy is ready – I am not qualified to assess him on his Torchwood application, I will leave that to Norton Folgate, but I assess their adventure as 8/10.