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Big Finish Review: Torchwood – Serenity

Have you wondered what would happen if Torchwood had met Desperate Housewives? The perfect lawns, the white picket fences and happy families, aliens, guns, innuendoes and swearing. You’ll be forgiven if you hadn’t but as the recently released story, Serenity proves, it would have been a match made in heaven!

James Moran is no stranger to Torchwood and the Doctor Who world, though it might surprise you know that this is his first proper entry into the franchise with Big Finish. Having previously penned The Fires of Pompeii for Doctor Who and two entries for Torchwood: Sleeper and Children of Earth: Day Three, Moran is certainly very at home here.

As well as the cover which sees the reunion of John Barrowman as Captain Jack and Gareth David Lloyd as Ianto Jones for the first time in a while, Serenity is also a terrific story, which suits the Torchwood framework brilliantly. Rather than creating a new alien for the piece, Moran rightly uses his original creations from Sleeper, the Cell 114.

As villains, they work brilliantly here because Sleeper ended with a possible rematch somewhere down the line. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen on screen but here, Captain Jack and Ianto find themselves coming up against them once more.

What was so brilliant about the Cell 114 was that they had false memories and identities implanted into their minds until they were needed for the invasion. This led to some terrifying visuals on screen and I can vividly remember watching their trail of destruction when the original story aired in 2008. I was so scared of the guy who Jack and Gwen track to an army barracks and the destruction he causes. They also proved to have some rather interesting visual effects designs with arms that turned into long blades and had cogs and workings that you could see through the human skin. They certainly terrified me on screen but on audio, not so much.

Torchwood: Serenity
Torchwood: Serenity

Perhaps the problem with them on audio is that for some reason they were given strange voices. I understand why this was done, to help the listener, who might not know them from the television series, differentiate who was a sleeper agent and who wasn’t but for me, it wasn’t needed. Half the reason they were so scary in the original format was that they still had human voices, though they dead to all emotion. They were just senseless killing machines looking for another planet to inhabit. And while their plans haven’t changed here, they were a very visual creation but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have fun in getting to this point in the story.

Indeed a lot of the appeal in this story is seeing how Captain Jack and Ianto could have lived together and it proves to be an interesting look at how their lives could have panned out had the show gone down a different path altogether. Half the fun is hearing how the pair fit into the lifestyle at Serenity Plaza. Barrowman seems to fit in perfectly, though standing out because he’s Captain Jack but Lloyd is brilliant at showing Ianto’s frustrations about the whole thing. He regularly gets angry and makes a number of hilarious and sarcastic comments that Lloyd absolutely nails in a pitch-perfect performance.

James Moran also creates a number of great supporting characters, some of whom you really feel sorry for as the story rattles towards its conclusion and if you are familiar with shows like Desperate Housewives which was everywhere in the mid-2000s, then you’ll no doubt see all the little references and appreciate the tone. Listening to this adventure it isn’t hard to picture Teri Hatcher, Dana Delany and Felicity Huffman strutting down Wisteria Lane with blades for arms, stabbing everyone they come into contact with!

Captain Jack and Ianto come across brilliantly too, giving them a taste at what martial bliss could be like and as Barrowman says in the extras, it would have been interesting to see this story on the screen back in 2008/9 as attitudes towards same-sex relationships have really changed since even then. Moran makes sure the pair get plenty to do and it really helps that the pair could be together in the recording sessions rather than one in Cardiff and the other in LA. It really added to the feel of this story being a cooperative piece.

Overall, Serenity is a great way to spend an hour. While the villains aren’t so strong here as they were in their television persona, if you were as terrified of them as I was back in the day, then you’ll still get something out their inclusion so in that sense they still work brilliantly. But the main attraction is the reunion of Captain Jack and Ianto who have always been brilliantly brought to life by John Barrowman and Gareth David-Lloyd. This is another one not to be missed!

Jordan Shortman

Jordan has loved Doctor Who for as long as he can remember and television in general. Many people blame his old teacher for what they believe his is obsession, he doesn't care though, his head is off in time and space most of the time.