Torchwood: Moving Target / Broken Review
Gustaff Behr gives his verdict on the 4th & 5th Torchwood audio adventure of season 2.
Episode 4 of Big Finish’s second season of Torchwood brings back Indira Varma’s Suzie Costello in Moving Target, written by Guy Adams. It also features Alex, played by Naomi McDonald, a human caught up in an extraterrestrial game hunt. Her only hope of survival? You guessed it.
I’m going to be brutally honest and say that choosing Suzie Costello to return feels like scratching the bottom of the barrel. I never liked the character on television. Suzie made so little impression on me that I had to go look up who she was on Tardis Wikia when it was announced she’d be returning. But Big Finish has turned redeeming unredeemable characters into an art form so I was willing to give Moving Target a shot. Suffice to say they missed.
This story’s biggest flaw is perhaps the fact that it makes a really unlikable character the star and partners her with an equally annoying co-star. But credit where it’s due. Naomi McDonald plays a really realistic Alex. To the point where I wish she’d been a little more animated. Alex at times made the story feel like a gritty reality show. Nicholas Burns plays the Referee, really pompous, but tremendously entertaining character who mocks and ridicules the cast in a very Dream Lord-esque manner.
The plot is really creative I will grant you. Freezing time so a bunch of alien game hunters can hunt down a human prey for sport feels ordinary, but I can’t recall another Doctor Who story which featured this as the main plot. Unfortunately, the story contradicts itself really badly when Suzie questions the legality of killing people all willy-nilly. The Referee answers that they are within their legal rights, but the story ignores the THING which sent the Atraxi packing in The Eleventh Hour: Earth is a level-5 world. Hunting for sport should be illegal given this status and for some reason this stayed with me throughout the episode.
The narrative itself is quite predictable. It doesn’t take a genius to predict the climax, but I will toot my own horn and say I got to the answer roughly thirty minutes before it actually happened. If you’ve watched episode 1 of Torchwood, you should be able to as well.
The story itself drags in the middle, as though the writer wasn’t sure how to move the narrative from its current point to the next. This makes Moving Target feel like a much longer story than it actually is. In fact, this story could’ve been condensed to thirty minutes. It would’ve done wonders for the pacing.
Moving Target provides a lot of foreshadowing to Suzie’s eventual fate, to the point where you could say that the reason They Keep Killing Suzie happened is because of Moving Target.
For the most part, this story is filler, but not one of my favourites. It would be worth your time if you’re a fan of Suzie Costello, but you don’t run the risk of missing any important information regarding the Committee, who seem to be slowly transitioning into a throwaway line as opposed to an actual character(s).
Joseph Lidster presents…Broken! A better name for this story would’ve been ‘Fixed’ as this is exactly the kind of story I needed to hear to get those Torchwood juices flowing. Broken in many ways embodies what Torchwood is about. It has heart. It has soul. Great character dynamics, real world problems and a careful handling of sensitive matters. I’ve never been that hardcore of a Jack/Ianto fan, but I suspect had this story made it into Season One in 2006, I might just have turned out to be one.
Ever wondered how Ianto forgave Jack for killing his Cyber-girlfriend in that ridiculously stupid Cyber(wo)man episode? How do the Torchwood team cope with and adjust to the things they’ve seen? If a bunch of cannibals almost cut you up, would you be able to brush it off and head back into work the next morning with a huge smile on your face? Probably not, but how long would it take? What would it take? Broken asks and answers most of these questions in an emotionally fragile, but sympatric story which did make me bawl at least once.
The majority of this story takes place in a pub with a glass of alcohol in hand, but quickly takes the listener on a trip inside the mind of one of the most messed up characters in Torchwood – Ianto Jones. Broken highlights just how miserable, depressed and frustrated he really is, as well as people like him. At times it may come across as a grown man whining and complaining about stuff adults should be used to, but aren’t we all like that? How many days end with us complaining about our boss to our family and friends? Well Ianto doesn’t really have much in the way of family (or does he), so he does what any other person in his position has been known to do…complain to the girl who serves you your drinks. And I must say that the conversations between Gareth’s Ianto and Melanie Walters’ Mandy Aibiston were really good. Real, proper, 3-dimensional discussions. It’s sort of the opposite of Moving Target which somehow tried to be too realistic and gritty. Broken always feels like a piece of fiction, but a really believable, ‘real’ piece of fiction.
I didn’t listen to the trailer for Broken so I had no idea what it would be about, but Lidster’s script succeeds in making you feel so many different emotions, all at the right time. It really is one of the best character stories we’ve had.
And that’s not even touching the plot twists. While not as plentiful as some others, Lidster’s script did manage to throw me for a loop more than once. The man has a way with a narrative curveball, but that’s no surprise given his previous scripts such as The Reaping (darkest Cybermen story EVER), Master and The Nightmare Man.
I highly recommend you pick up Broken, but be warned it’s even more completely standalone and filler than Moving Target. But at least the characters are more likable.