Well. That was certainly different. Taking place between the end of Series 2 and the beginning of Series 3, a particularly turbulent time for the Torchwood gang, Expectant gives us a pregnant Jack, while still trying to hunt down aliens, in a strange little tale from Xanna Eve Chown.
While I think this is certainly a strange outing for the Torchwood team of Jack and Lanto, there is certainly some fun to be had in hearing Jack trying to deal with his job, as well his pregnancy and putting up with his midwife Jonty underfoot. And Barrowman does a great job, despite sometimes falling into the realm of OTT acting occasionally as he tries to balance out his mood-swings and cravings. Sometimes it’s very funny but sometimes its also slightly too cringy but for the most part, it runs the knife-edge of both quite nicely.
At first glance, and certainly, in the first ten/fifteen minutes, it feels like this is going to be a story with little substance and just far too much quirkiness. But Chown quickly reminds us of when this story is supposed to be set and following on from the events of Series 2, the characters are trying to deal with them in their own ways. In Jack’s case, it’s carrying the prince of an alien species in his belly. Even though in Everything Changes, he swore never to do it again, something that they do reference.
I actually really liked this element to this story. With Lanto and Jack dealing with Series 2′s fallout as when Children of Earth rolls around it isn’t really mentioned again. I think its why I like the Torchwood segments in The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End so much as it recognised the events and addressed them in a greater degree than the actual series did. And Expectant does that to a pleasing extent too.
And while this is a quirky story, Chown also manages to keep things on track by explaining to us why Jack is doing all of this. He says that he has seen many dark things, death, decay and war and so by carrying the child of Yalnix Empire, he is going to keep the peace to stop the Empire from falling into war. And through the character of Jonty, Chown has a great outlet to explain the politics of that planet to us.
Jonty is a great little character played brilliantly by Aaron Anthony. It would have been very easy for the character to become irritating but Chown gives him just enough intelligence and naivety to keep him interesting, elements of the character that Anthony really enjoys bringing to life. And he makes a great addition to the small cast, working excellently with John Barrowman.
It’s always nice to have Gareth David-Lloyd involved too. I really like Lanto so any opportunity for him to shine is always great and Lloyd does a great job here, giving him a much darker edge. It was a great way to explore the character. And Barrowman does an excellent job too, he’s funny and series when he needs to be but he is also just Jack and so what more could you need?!
For me, Expectant was a big surprise. While it seems to be initially a very quirky and strange story, it quickly becomes a lot more than that, allowing us a great exploration of Jack’s character and in turn, Lanto’s. But following on from a year of such strong Torchwood releases, its unfortunate that Expectant falls a little under the bar they set in terms of storytelling. But it’s not for lack of trying.