Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Torchwood The Lost Files - Submission

The title of this audio play is a pun. It’s not a reference to Captain Jack’s favourite type of hanky panky but rather a literal description of what happens. The Torchwood crew go on a mission which takes place within a submarine or ‘sub’ if you like. Sub-mission. Submission. It’s a mission on a submarine. A mission on a sub. Submission. Do you get it now? Good.

Awful title apart, this audio play is actually quite enjoyable. I know, pick up your jaw, I was vaguely positive about something Torchwoody. It shocked me too. Here’s the official plot blurb:

“In Ryan Scott's episode, Torchwood are chasing aliens down the M4, when Jack accidentally blows a hole in the Severn Bridge, and the SUV hits the water. Whilst submerged John, Gwen and Ianto hear a strange noise, which, back at the Hub they realise is a cry for help. They track the cry to its source which turns out to be the deepest part of the Ocean - the Mariana Trench. Ianto rings old Torchwood flame, Carlie Roberts, who's an expert in marine geology, and Jack pulls strings with the US government to get them all on board the USS Calvin, an Arleigh Burke class destroyer, which is heading for the Trench. From there they board the Octopus Rock, the only submarine built to withstand the pressure at that depth, and follow the signal. But when the Submarine crashes, the team are left at the mercy of a hungry alien.”

Conveniently, the team were in the water at the exact time required to hear the alien sound – it was at this point I started to roll my eyes in contempt. Luckily the play pulled it back with a simple but enjoyable plot from then on as Ianto contacts an old flame from his days in Torchwood One, and the team blag a submarine from UNIT (it’s a sub mission remember, submission). The tale combines elements of Bioshock and The Abyss to create a suitable creepy underwater menace, in particular there’s a menacing American voice that seems very Andrew Ryan like. Unfortunately there are the usual gaps in plot and logic that Torchwood does so well but they’re not quite as offensively stupid as usual and the alien has a reasonable motivation (even if staying in the deepest part of the Earth isn’t a particularly great way of luring new human visitors).

The play is full of continuity references and mythology that the show has dropped since series one. We hear reference to the original Torchwood offices (remember early in the show’s history when they mentioned Torchwood hubs in other UK cities?) and UNIT provide the submarine for the sub mission (Submission). There is some decent character work with Ianto as the writer gives him dialogue which isn’t just limited to being deadpan or flirting with Jack. John Barrowman is poor as always, audio is not a good medium for his skills as it’s obvious that he struggles to emote convincingly using only his voice. There’s also yet another attempt at portraying Jack as a ruthless saviour, prepared to sacrifice anyone to remove a threat to the human race, but it’s not convincing here just as it isn’t convincing when Barrowman is forced to play that role in the TV series. Eve Myles is as loud and enthusiastic as ever.

Maybe it was the playful dialogue that saved this play for me, there are jokes and retorts aplenty in this episode and they’re certainly a step up from the usual Torchwood attempts at witty repartee. This is still a Torchwood play though and you will need to ignore silly stuff like a highly valuable submarine only being operated by four poorly trained operatives with no previous submarine piloting experience on  a journey to the deepest part of the Earth. So yeah, usual logic problems aside, this play is reasonably entertaining for 40 minutes.

But man, that pun title. Submission. Get it? Yeah? Submarine mission. Submission. A mission on a sub. It’s a submarine and the people within it are on a mission. A submission.

Okay, I’m annoying myself now.


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