Torchwood: The Conspiracy Review
Gustaff Behr gives his impressions on the audio return of Torchwood.
The road to Series 9 makes a pit stop because Jack is back! Yes, the first of Big Finish’s New Who titles has been released, but the real question is: Is it a success? Answering that is going to take longer because this is a different kind of Torchwood to the one you’re used to.
Firstly, we’ll talk about the new Torchwood theme. Ladies and gentlemen… this will most likely become your new ringtone for a while. It’s that good! Which means we can expect great things from composer Blair Mowat in the future. As for the rest of the soundtrack, the Torchwood vibe is always present. It sounds like you’re watching an episode of Torchwood.
As I mentioned, getting a reading on this first installment is rather difficult. We’ll start with the format as that is something which initially put me off. While these titles seem to follow the full-cast format, The Conspiracy makes use of first-person narration in the same manner that River Song narrated her investigation in The Angel’s Kiss. This can be a put off for some people as it sounds as though Jack is breaking the fourth wall. It also takes you out of the action taking place. Don’t make my mistake though, there is a very good in-story reason for this narration.
Next up, let’s talk about the story. It’s better to think of The Conspiracy as part one to a six-part Doctor Who story. It’s only meant to set things up for future installments. If you judge this story as a standalone, then it balances on ‘meh’ and ‘ordinary’. This is because almost every character that isn’t Jack Harkness comes across as ordinary or uninteresting. I will however admit that I was astonished when I heard that Barrowman recorded this along with the UK crew WHILE HE WAS IN AMERICA! Yeah, it’s like a Skype chat group that never even shows any signs of the cast not being in the same location, but recording as though they were. Kudos to the director!
One of the downsides to this story though is the lack of real tension for the most part, only becoming really attention grabbing at the three-quarters mark. We also don’t really feel for any of the other characters so if/when something happens to them, we don’t care.
What does count in this story’s favor is Jack. His characterization in The Conspiracy is fantastic. The fact that John is in almost every scene, either narrating or speaking with someone really sat well with me. Fans that have criticized Jack of being a walking innuendo or annoying will find solace in that those traits have been toned down thanks in part to how serious Jack takes this investigation. This is Children of Earth Jack Harkness. He is still charming and funny, but he is more toned down for this particular piece. I’d go so far as to say he is the perfect blend of people who want the walking, joking innuendo and those that don’t.
Speaking of time placement, reference is made to Gwen, though she is not seen or heard (by us), as well as Skypoint, which puts this story sometime after the events of Season 2; but I will say that there is also strong evidence to suggest that this story could take place after Miracle Day as no mention of Ianto is made, but no mention to the Miracle Day team is made either. Actually, there is very little continuity references made during The Conspiracy, but some fragments of Jack’s pre-Doctor life are explored.
Is The Conspiracy is good jumping off point for fans? Only if you’ve seen at least season 1 of Torchwood. The Conspiracy starts guns blazing and Torchwood as an organization isn’t explained in enough detail for new fans to fully understand. The Conspiracy accepts that you know who Jack Harkness is and what Torchwood does.
The Conspiracy is a thriller with aim to please those kinds of fans who love conspiracy theories and that realm of humanity. It is a story that you can listen to over and over again (I listened to it twice in one day) without losing entertainment value.