|No expense spent with the episode title cards this year!|
Have you ever listened to the Shipping Forecast on the radio and thought, "Ooooh, that's scary"? No? Me neither but that's the concept behind the alien menace in the first of three Torchwood audio plays, The Devil and Miss Carew. Set in the gap between series two and three, this play features Gwen, Jack, Rhys, and Ianto. Yes people, Ianto is alive and well in audio play land. You can now sit by the radio and coo softly at his smooth Welsh voice as he flirts poorly with Captain Jack.
The Devil and Miss Carew features a technology hating alien that offers a new lease of life to the elderly in a scheme that stops making any kind of sense once you think about it for more than five seconds. The alien, named Mr. Fitzroy, manifests during the Shipping Forecast on Radio 4 and offers to rejuvenate the elderly for the price of their immortal soul. In return the refreshed pensioners are supposed to aid Mr. Fitzroy's arrival on Earth by destroying the world's electricity supply because he really freakin' hates electricity. Torchwood bumble into the evil scheme and it's up to them to stop the end of civilisation as we know it.
There are so many problems with this play, a low budget affair that manages to be unambitious, uninspiring, and dull. First of all, the performances are poor. Eve Myles tries her best (and to her credit she always seems to be game for the latest Torchwood clunker she's handed) but John Barrowman and Gareth David-Lloyd are awful. The lines are poorly delivered, almost as if it's the first read through of the script. A better performance from the leads could have elevated the piece a little during the numerous, chatty, character scenes but unfortunately Jack and Ianto make this threat to the Earth sound like an inconvenient trip to Homebase to buy some fuses.
The plot is littered with lazy conveniences and shortcuts. The Torchwood team don't really do much to solve the problem, they split up and wander around a bit. Jack and Ianto find the alien's stash of antiques and talk to him via the radio, which ends with them standing around wondering how they'll stop Mr. Fitzroy. In the meantime Gwen is beaten up by a pensioner (Gwen conveniently provides commentary while being battered) but after being subdued by the villain manages to convince her to provide a detailed breakdown of her plans and a convenient backstory via a massive infodump. Later on Gwen is rescued by Rhys because Rhys sits at home bored, checks Gwen's browser history, and then decides that's where Gwen is and he should go and conveniently check up on her. Very convenient.
This audio play is a waste of time, it doesn't provide an interesting threat, it doesn't give an insight into the Torchwood team, and it doesn't entertain. It's narrow in ambition while attempting to provide global threat. The idea of a creepy voice on the radio is a classic and should work well in this audio format, but here it's used rarely and only once for scares.
Luckily you can avoid this episode by not downloading it from the BBC site. Yay!