Despite having been in the show since the first episode, PC Andy Davidson never got much to do in the actual show, I think my main memory of him is when he defends a council estate against the army coming to take the children in Children of Earth.
That is actually a great way to kick this review off, whenever he was in the television series, PC Andy was always the voice of reason in all of Torchwood’s chaos and that is a trend that author, James Goss, continues here. When Andy finds himself investigating a Mars base, set up as a practice run of a real thing where things are going wrong, people are dying and the bases’ computer is going a little insane.
The 1980s had a number of disaster/horror movies where technology was the culprit and Red Base feels very in keeping with those. Whether that was something Goss intended I don’t know, but it wouldn’t be hard to see this story on the big screen with a few tweaks like it actually taking place on Mars and the computer actually killing people.
Despite having that sort of vibe about it, Red Base is most certainly inspired by Agatha Christie, a locked-down location where people being bumped off one by one and someone has to solve the crime. The small cast adds to the sense of desperation, especially when Andy finds himself trapped in the base, despite knowing that he is only in a Welsh quarry. Hearing his character adapt to that situation is really fun, and one wonders why he wasn’t utilised more in the Torchwood television series. In fact, I think that he would make a great companion for the Doctor, and I know he was in the new Eighth Doctor boxset Stranded, but I would happily see him joining the Doctor in some kind of permanent basis.
A lot of the charm of PC Andy comes from the brilliant performance from Tom Price who is instantly likeable. You feel like you can trust him to save the day, even if he is clearly out of his depth here and the bases’ computer, Dave, makes a perfect foil for Andy. Price is excellent here, instantly leading the show while having great chemistry with his co-stars and you really felt some of the deaths because the chemistry between the stars was so excellent.
Dave is a good villain, it has the soft calming tone of voice that has made the Voc Robots such a well-remembered creation but he has much colder edges. You are never sure if what he is saying is a threat or if he’s trying to help. But in typical Agatha Christie tradition, as the mystery unfolds and Andy has to use all his wits to stay alive, things aren’t as simple as they first appeared.
Red Base is a very enjoyable story. Even if PC Andy doesn’t have the same ‘go-in-guns-blazing’ mentality that characters like Jack or Gwen do, half of the fun in this story is hearing Andy using his brains to outsmart the final villain and stay alive. The isolated location, small cast of characters and tightly plotted characters lend themselves nicely to this story and as a result, this is a brilliant listen for any Torchwood fan.