Continuing this set of adventures which feature the Torchwood team coming up against classic Doctor Who monsters is The Green Life, a continuation of the story, The Green Death. We’ve got Maggots aplenty as well as the re-emergence of BOSS and the brilliant pairing of Captain Jack and Jo Jones/Grant.
Listening to the CD extras on this release I think it is fair to say that there are few 1970s stories that are quite as iconic as The Green Death. Not only are the giant maggots remembered by people of a certain age, we’ve got the very upsetting departure for the companion Jo Grant who chooses to marry Clifford Jones the Professor she fell in love with over the course of the story. John Barrowman has strong memories of this story it seems as well as Terror of the Autons and his love for this story is evident throughout.
The story from David Llewellyn kicks things off seemingly from the middle of the adventure which I must admit, was a little jarring at first, I thought I had missed something but as the adventure speeds along it becomes clear how these two characters happened to come back to the little village of Llanfairfach. What I really enjoyed about this story is that felt like the perfect continuation of the original adventure in much the same vein as the novels from the Virgin Missing and New Adventures and BBC Books from the 1990s and early 2000s. I’ve always loved those books usually from Gary Russell or Craig Hinton, continuing the threads that were set up in the original story and turning them into a continuing arc. Its probably the same reason why I’m going to love this run of Torchwood adventures and David Llewellyn has made this Whovian very happy!
What is also enjoyable is that it isn’t just a rehash of The Green Death. That story is one of the very best adventures that the Pertwee era had to offer, with the whole UNIT family at their absolute best. I’m not sure how much I should spoil but BOSS isn’t the big bad this time and the whole plan is something so disturbing that only Torchwood would be able to get away with it!
Llewellyn has a great handle on the characters. He has of course written plenty of Torchwood adventures over the years that the range has been running and much like one of his previous entries, The Death of Captain Jack, this one allows Barrowman to explore the fun side, as well as, the serious side of his character. Llewellyn has also written for Jo Grant before in The Third Doctor Adventures but this an older version of her character, set sometime after her appearance in The Sarah Jane Adventures. What was interesting is that this is Jo on a mission, exploring a mystery, getting a little in-over-her-head and then pulling herself out of it. This is a very serious version of her character, someone with unfinished business. It is great to hear and Katy Manning performs it brilliantly.
Although he has probably been relegated to being one of the more strange enemies the Doctor has faced over the years, I must admit to getting chills when I heard BOSS again. BOSS is an interesting villain, a computer programme which seems to have a human personality made him quite different from all the other robots who were trying to take over the planet. Stewart Bevan, though credited as ‘The Voice of the Hive’ on the website, plays the role of BOSS this time around, with his original role of Clifford Jones off exploring and trying to save the oceans. He does a really great job here, making BOSS sound sinister and evil without actually being sinister and evil and actually succeeds in making us feel a little sorry for the megalomaniac machine!
The pairing of Captain Jack and Jo Jones is an inspired one. Whether it was Big Finish’s decision to do so or Llewellyn’s, it was a brilliant move as it always nice to hear two of the Doctor’s companions from different eras interacting. What is really interesting here though is that Jack and Jo are constantly arguing with each other. While this a more serious version of Jo, she still has the same sense of wonder and excitement she always did while Jack has a ‘been-there-done-that’ attitude which puts them at odds. And it is a little odd for Jack to ask Jo why the Doctor left her, was it like Sarah Jane or Rose. I would presume that these names would mean nothing to Jo but that is a minor quibble in an otherwise brilliant adventure.
Llewellyn also displays a great understanding of the themes in The Green Death about pollution and our planet dying is even more prevalent now than it was in 1973. I expect the same sort of discussion in the upcoming Sargasso with Rhys VS The Autons but it seemed particularly strong here. Jo talks a little about some of the work she has done around the planet and how much there is still to do. And that is true in real life, while we have made some progress we still have a plastic epidemic to deal with. But this story rightly keeps things along the lines of food and how people will eat anything that promises to help you lose weight. Even if you don’t know the real ingredients. Trust me, listening to this audio will make check the back of the box for the rest of your life!
As I’ve stated above, both John Barrowman and Katy Manning put in great performances here and it is clear how much this cast got in from the CD Extras at the end. Jack and Jo might seem like a strange pairing at first but it really works as the pair help show us how both Torchwood and Doctor Who can still co-exist.
Overall this another strong entry into the Torchwood range and another success for Big Finish. Director Scott Handcock keeps things moving along nicely while deftly creating a nice new world on audio for Jack and Jo. Hopefully, this won’t be the last time we see past companions in these sets, a Tegan/Tractators story would be nice!
Well done to everyone involved for another cracking release!