Continuing on the Torchwood series with returning Doctor Who aliens is Sync, which not only features the return of Indira Varma as Suzie Costello but also Annette Badland as the villainous Margret Slitheen!
Lisa McMullin has penned a rather interesting story. Not only does she get to delve into the characters of Suzie and Margaret she also gets to play this as a sequel and prequel to Everything Changes in Torchwood and Aliens In London/World War Three and Boom Town.
What might seem like an impossible task is handled admirably as McMullin makes sure you don’t need to have seen those mentioned stories from both Doctor Who and Torchwood but she makes sure she doesn’t alienate listeners who have seen those episodes. The way McMullin does this is through some exploration of the characters. We all know that Suzie and Margaret are manipulators and evil, but is that all they are? It’s interesting to get that question answered here and it throws up some rather interesting and surprising scenes and moments.
McMullin also makes sure to keep this audio a character piece, keeping the plot light enough so she keeps the pair together. McMullin makes sure the pair go through some ups and downs, and it is hilarious to hear them trying to outdo each other! We all know that Margaret is a survivor, but she meets her match here in the form of Suzie.
In Boom Town, we get to take an interesting look at what would happen when an alien adopts the human way of life. Margaret admits she likes where she lives and she doesn’t kill a pregnant woman when she tells her that she is going to have to tell the press about the nuclear plant that Margaret is planning to build. But that sudden discovery of humanity actually starts here as Margaret has a couple of moments where she could easily kill Suzie but decides not too.
Likewise, Suzie gets a lot more of a chance to prove her humanity, even if she goes about it completely the wrong way. It is interesting that this is only the second audio that Varma has done in the role and it is a fun exploration of her character. Is Suzie really as bad as she appeared in Everything Changes? You’ll have to listen to find out.
With this being a Torchwood release, it gives McMullin a chance to show the slightly more sadistic side of the Slitheen and we get a surprisingly tense scene in Suzie’s hidden lockup which is basically a darker version of the scene in World War Three where Margaret hunts down Rose and Harriet Jones. But the dialogue in this scene is electric as it shows how really intelligent both characters are and hopefully the Slitheen will make a return in a future Torchwood release soon!
The final moments also show the more sadistic side of Suzie as it becomes apparent the whole plot is a mistake from one of her vast manipulations. She wastes no time in combating the threat in her own way but it once again shows that she isn’t necessarily evil, just someone who will do whatever they have to do to save the day, even if that might be construed as the wrong way of doing it.
Listening to the extras, it is clear how much Badland and Varma had performing this script. From their first scene together, it is clear this pair is going to be a great and surprising double-act. Both of them haven’t really been back to perform these characters for over a decade and they both sound exactly the same. They really play up to the idea that over the course of the story, Margaret and Suzie develop a begrudging respect for each other. They know they could both quite easily kill one-another and even though that sense of fun continues throughout the majority of this play, by the time it comes to an end, you aren’t quite certain if they will actually kill one another. It is a great dynamic to explore and hear playing out across the hour runtime and Badland and Varma are excellent in each other’s company. Hopefully, this won’t be the last time we hear either these characters together or on other audios in the future.
In the director’s chair is Scott Handcock who keeps the light script rattling along at a real pace. But the real appeal of this audio is the sense of fun it has and Handcock should be congratulated for keeping that going for the runtime. One wonders how much direction he actually had to do because the whole piece feels so effortless! Well done.
Overall, Sync is a great listen. The script is brilliant, the main cast is on fire and the direction is fabulous. The whole piece is a joy to behold and one of the strongest and most enjoyable Torchwood releases of this year. I could say more but that would ruin the piece for you if you’re going to give it a listen. Sync is not to be missed!