Torchwood: Uncanny Valley Review

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Gustaff Behr gives his spoiler-free verdict on the fifth audio boxset of the spin-off series.

Torchwood-Uncanny-Valley-big-finish

Torchwood starts 2016 with a story that if summed up correctly, is a mix between Random Shoes and Out of Time with a little bit of Countrycide. Talk about an odd duck eh? Uncanny Valley proves itself to be the most unusual episode so far. But is it a success? Read on!

I’m going to start this review by admitting that this title was so unusual that initially I didn’t know how to approach this review. In many ways, despite its rare approach, Uncanny Valley feels, at its core, like a classic Torchwood story from Series One which was famous for exploring existentialism, homosexuality, bisexuality, as well as human corruptibility. If you are a fan of these themes, you will most certainly enjoy this title.

For the most part, this episode is a character piece and if it not for Steven Cree’s brilliant portrayal of Neil Redmond, then this story would’ve fallen flat on its face as Neil is the Eugene Jones of Uncanny Valley.

Unfortunately, while this aspect of the episode is its strongest, it is also its greatest weakness. Let me also clarify that this weakness can be easily ignored or even made to not exist at all depending on whether you as the listener connects with Neil Redmond and his plight. If you’re used to seeing your protagonists at the heart of the story, you might not take too well to this story as Jack is really only there to listen to Neil’s story. The first 2/3s of this episode is basically dialogue with various flashbacks (featuring more dialogue) to link you to the emotional turmoil.

While there is action in this story, a good deal of time passes before we get to it. While I had no trouble connecting with Neil and didn’t mind Jack being there just for the sake of it (he could’ve been replaced by anyone really), if it had been a less entertaining character, I would’ve disliked this story. Basically, bias for Jack Harkness and John Barrowman is strong in this reviewer.

However, one of the elements that were missing in last month’s One Rule was the link to the Committee… or rather, the shoehorned in connection which didn’t really mean much. Uncanny Valley not only reveals the ‘what’, but also the ‘how’ and David Llewellyn manages to link it to the conflict in the story in such a remarkably organic fashion, that my expectations for next month’s release has been exponentially raised.

I also applaud David Llewellyn for coming up with a truly cadaverous tale, choosing to incorporate some rather vehement, grim and sometimes repulsive ideas which casts my mind back to Countrycide in Series One. This episode is definitely the most “not-for-kids” one of the lot.

Lastly…and this is not a criticism directed towards the episode in any way, but I do find myself wondering why Gwen Cooper was selected to end the series and not Jack Harkness in next month’s More Than This. Even if Gwen is the audience surrogate, it makes more sense to have her in this story and allow Jack to bookend the Committee story arc in the finale (it is technically his show after all).

Unless of course this isn’t the end of the Committee…

With the announcement of Series Two, Big Finish could very well decide to make the Committee the recurring arch nemesis of Torchwood. That would open up quite a few story ideas down the lines. Perhaps the Doctor Who’s equivalent of S.H.I.E.L.D. vs Hydra?

But what do you think? More importantly, which do you prefer? Do you want to see the Miracle Day/Committee storyline come to a final close with loose ends neatly tied up and a new threat explored in Series Two or do you think the Committee should stick around a little longer?