ASSESSING STRESS, AUDIO EDITION – Main Range: “Iron Bright”

Welcome to DoWntime’s new, not-too-regular column, Assessing Stress. That’s where we assess … stress. Or more accurately, talk and debate about the newest episodes to hit the television screen, the new releases from Big Finish, and all these good things.

And today, Tibère and Scribbles look at the latest Monthly Big Finish story, from the pen of relative newcomer Chris Chapman! Spoilers after the “read more” tag.

Also, while you’re here, you might be interested in checking out the Twelfth Doctor fan audio series supervised by regular site contributor Janine Rivers – the next episode, coming at the beginning of August, was written by Scribbles, if you need any more incentive!

 

Spoiler-free thoughts:

TIBERE: It’s the kind of audio where the sentence “baseline level” is uttered a lot. It’s a solid story, it really is – I think Chris Chapman is one of the most interesting recent additions to their writing line-up, he has a really good handle on pacing, character, and theme and some very unique aesthetics; but, for now at least, he might be erring a bit too much on the trad side. I mean, it’s only natural for a writer that’s starting in the world of Who to rely on already-trodden paths; but, in front of the unquestionable talent he deploys here, and deployed, especially, in last year’s excellent “The Middle”, it’s hard not to feel a bit frustrated at how safe he’s playing it.

SCRIBBLES: I find this story exceptionally difficult to comment on. Big Finish has done a fantastic job this year of increasing the average quality of the monthly range, and this continues the trend. It’s a well-paced celebrity historical that doesn’t do anything wrong, but it’s also one I don’t find much to care about in regards to. There’s no companion on-hand to really fill up the story with humanity, and I don’t think the period characters ever threaten to take over in that regard. The most prominent character with an arc is of course Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who is well-realized, but like many celebrity historical figures in Doctor Who, there’s a limit to how far the drama can push him to do interesting and unexpected things. For people who enjoy this period of history, I’m sure this story is a treat. For me, it exists, did its job, but unfortunately won’t be long remembered. It’s an effective vehicle for competent plot married to equally competent historical details that provides little else.

TIBERE: In regards to Big Finish’s larger trajectory, I think it all makes sense. There were big, big problems with the Monthly Range, and I think they realized that – the decisions that have been taken, ie. distributing the responsibilities that were previously taken care of by the Alan Barnes/David Richardson duo, breaking up the trilogy format, etc. …, are for me all unequivocally positive, but they’ll take time to reap dividends. For now, it looks like the main objective of the Monthly Range is not to fuck up. Which is frustrating, in a way – but, at the same time, if you want to build an edifice, you have to do it on steady ground – I feel like the end of the year, bringing in characters like Narvin, Iris and Klein, will go in more adventurous directions, that hopefully will be auspicious. Or at least I hope – because while this is a good audio, it’s not the best its author, and Big Finish in general, is capable of.

 

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ASSESSING STRESS, AUDIO EDITION – Torchwood, series 4: “Goodbye Piccadilly”

Welcome to DoWntime’s new, not-too-regular column, Assessing Stress. That’s where we assess … stress. Or more accurately, talk and debate about the newest episodes to hit the television screen, the new releases from Big Finish, and all these good things.

And today, Tibère and Scribbles look at the newest Torchwood monthly story. Let’s get funky, sweeties, we’re going back to the fifties! (also, spoilers after the “read more” tag).

Also, while you’re here, you might be interested in checking out the Twelfth Doctor fan audio series supervised by regular site contributor Janine Rivers – the next episode, coming at the beginning of August, was written by Scribbles, if you need any more incentive!

Spoiler-free thoughts:

SCRIBBLES: There are moments in this story that are vital, hard-hitting things that Torchwood has always existed on the periphery of and never explored. They are stunning, powerful, and thematically meaningful. They are also, unfortunately, just moments. Overall, this is a fairly standard issue romp, but one with some moments that transcend all else and make you wish for more. I’m glad “Goodbye Picadilly” exists, but I wish it had chosen to have more focus and, honestly, less comedy, or at least more comedy integrated into the character aspects and less romping about Soho in general. There’s a lot to love here, but it’s a hard story to quite like.

TIBERE: The premise is fascinating, it really is. And of course Samuel Barnett is a catch, and his Norton continues to be one of the most energetic and fascinating characters in the world of Who – an enigmatic, camp, sinister crook. I’m not sure you “can” make a bad Norton Folgate story, honestly. He completely carries the story through. Which isn’t bad, really, but just very by the dots. It’s exactly what you’d imagine going from the premise: so, basically, an inversion of 2016’s “Ghost Mission”. There are worse things to be, I think “Ghost Mission” is a perfectly fine story, but there’s definitely something to be said about the state of the range right now – when Norton first popped up, it felt like something new and completely unseen, whereas now, even he has kind of fallen to that safeness that is dragging the range down of late. It’s interesting that the two weakest audios of this series, this one and “The Death of Captain Jack”, were written respectively by the range producer and its script editor – there seems to be a bit of a creative crisis at the moment. Still, a James Goss script is very rarely going to leave you unsatisfied – it’s a good story, but once again, it feels like it misses the opportunity to be truly special, and that’s frustrating.

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ASSESSING STRESS, AUDIO EDITION – Short Trip: “The Siege of Big Ben”

Welcome to DoWntime’s not-too-regular column, Assessing Stress. That’s where we assess … stress. Or more accurately, talk and debate about the newest episodes to hit the television screen, the new releases from Big Finish, and all these good things.

And today, Tibère and Scribbles look into the latest Who contribution of the most excellent Joseph Lidster, which also happens to be the debut of the Metacrisis Doctor and the return of Jackie Tyler in audio form. Exciting times! Grab some wine, and beware the spoilers after the “read more” tag.

Also, while you’re here, you might be interested in checking out the Twelfth Doctor fan audio series supervised by regular site contributor Janine Rivers – the next episode, coming at the beginning of August, was written by Scribbles, if you need any more incentive!

 

Spoiler-free thoughts:

TIBERE: The Short Trips have continuously gained in relevance recently, with the rather high-profile McGann releases from last year, “The Turn of the Screw” serving of preface to one of this year’s best stories, and now with a two-parter by Lidster tackling one of the biggest hanging threads of the Russell T. Davies’ era. And it’s pretty delightful, too – the audios have started exploring a lot of possibilities with Ten’s character, but we haven’t really seen a straight critique of him, and Lidster, as usual, delivers the goods with a perfectly-pitched and subtle study. I mean, it’s not really a “straight” critique of Ten, considering he’s playing with the Metacrisis incarnation, a rather nebulous concept to say the least, but he makes it work very well – it’s not the romp that some people might be expecting, but I personally like it better. It’s very engaging, very layered character drama, especially for such a short story.

SCRIBBLES: This is a magnificent character piece. It’s only the first half of it, of course, so it’s very likely there will be emotional and thematic resolution in the second half. But it takes the known quantity of Jackie and some familiar character traits of the Tenth Doctor and his Metacrisis and runs with them, crafting a wonderful little bit of a tale that pulls out all the stops for a whopper of a conclusion. The best part of it, really, is how natural it feels as an extension of stories now a decade old. There is no doubt in my mind, this just is what happened next. It feels so thoroughly right as a continuation, with all the characters perfectly captured. And I’m so glad it’s Jackie that gets to be the point of view. She’s been one of the best and brightest new series acquisitions by Big Finish, with a consistently wonderful track record, and her voice here allows old tensions between her and the Doctor to take the reigns of the story in a way it’s difficult to imagine with anyone else. You couldn’t tell the story of doubting the Metacrisis Doctor through Rose’s eyes, she just wouldn’t. You couldn’t tell it through Pete’s, he’s not the same defined, human perspective. You need Jackie, someone bursting with humanity and impulsive judgement in equal measure, to take this story to the highest place it can go.

TIBERE: I think having Lidster as a writer really is a smart move – he is, after all, a Davies-era writer, even if he didn’t contribute to the flagship (and the flagship is the poorer for it). He has worked with these storylines – I don’t know if Davies had oversight on this release, but whether that’s the case or not, he just “gets” it. He perfectly understands the voice of these characters, and what they can go from there. And yes, you’re right – this had to be Jackie, be it only because she’s probably the one character best equipped to criticize the Doctor. They have baggage in their interactions – even beyond the initial tension, there’s always something a bit uneasy about them. The Doctor is just a little too mean, cuts a little too deep when addressing her. This is not a whole thesis on the topic, of course – it’s not even the main focus of the story, really, it’s still a rather upbeat release, it’s not assassinating any character. But it’s nevertheless fascinating to see, well, a sort of coherent take on the subject being slowly built up.

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ASSESSING STRESS, AUDIO EDITION – The Companion Chronicles: the Second Doctor, volume II

Welcome to DoWntime’s new, not-too-regular column, Assessing Stress. That’s where we assess … stress. Or more accurately, talk and debate about the newest episodes to hit the television screen, the new releases from Big Finish, and all these good things.

And today, Tibère and Scribbles tackle the new Second Doctor companion chronicles set, featuring Jamie and Leela meeting at a dinner party, a UNIT stand-off in the jungles of Belize, and LOADS OF DINOSAURS. Beware the spoilers after the “read more” tag, and also THE GIANT DINOSAURS.

Also, while you’re here, you might be interested in checking out the Twelfth Doctor fan audio series supervised by regular site contributor Janine Rivers – the next episode, coming at the beginning of August, was written by Scribbles, if you need any more incentive!

 

Spoiler-free thoughts:

SCRIBBLES: Moving the Companion Chronicles has been an interesting choice. Unlike so many box sets Big Finish puts out, these stories are totally unlinked, which means there’s quite a wide array of stories featured. So a recommendation or not on this set comes not from a collective quality, but how well each story performs. On that strength, I think I would probably recommend this set. There’s a story in here that both my colleague and I consider an instant classic and highlight of the year, a nice piece of fanservice, a joyous romp, and a story that, while neither of us care for, is sort of inevitable in a collection like this. That’s not a strike against the range or the set, but just a fact of what happens when you have a series willing to dig in so many different directions. The highs of this set are unlike anything else Big Finish is doing right now, and demand to be heard.

TIBERE: I think the Companion Chronicles, at their best, are a really a space for weird, joyous character experimentations. When they’re good, they manage something really unique, they give new points of views on corners of Who you’d never have thought about beforehand. The move to boxsets has slightly reduced the potential for wild crazy storytelling, but the range has gained in ambition again recently, especially last year, with stories like “Across the Darkened City” and “The Plague of Dreams” really pushing the envelope in terms of what audio Who can do. And this pretty much continues on the same line – like pretty much all Chronicles sets, it’s very variable in quality, but the highs are spectacular: and really, on the four stories here, I’d say three of them are absolutely fascinating. Not necessarily fantastic, but really interesting and original. It’s a really compelling listening experience – capped by one of the most singularly perfect stories in the whole Big Finish library, too, which doesn’t hurt.

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ASSESSING STRESS, AUDIO EDITION – Jenny: the Doctor’s Daughter

Welcome to DoWntime’s new, not-too-regular column, Assessing Stress. That’s where we assess … stress. Or more accurately, talk and debate about the newest episodes to hit the television screen, the new releases from Big Finish, and all these good things.

And today, Tibère and Scribbles discuss the debut of Jenny, the Doctor’s daughter, in audio format! Prepare yourself for loads of running (also, politics), and beware spoilers after the “read more” tag.

 

Spoiler-free thoughts:

TIBERE: Oh boy, this is going to be a complicated one. It’s a tale of two sides, really. In a way, the set works: the objective here is clearly to “rescue” Jenny’s character, who, from Georgia Tennant’s own mouth, really wasn’t developed or interesting enough to warrant a set of her own. That is a success. An impressive one, even – Jenny is a delight to follow, and the writers find some really compelling emotional and thematic angles to explore her. I absolutely believe she can be a good series lead now – and I came in with a lot of skepticism. The problem is … Once you’ve established solid bases on which to build a show, what kind of show do you build? And the narrative of this set goes in some really unfortunate directions. Not all the time – there are interesting and intelligent elements, but, especially in the truly woeful third story, you also get a faceful of some of the most virulent orientalism Big Finish has ever managed. It’s all fine and good to be feminist, but Jenny, as a show, has to prove its feminism can be intersectional and efficient. Because so far … This is the kind of problematic fun that is ripe in some corners of the Davies era, which, for all that I love it, had its fair share of issues there, from the character of Cassandra to the Gareth Roberts episodes, but that is not really acceptable in 2018, no matter how fun it is. And it is fun, that’s the worst thing. It’s a well-crafted, solid set that could give birth to a great series, but not before some serious political editing and soul-searching.

SCRIBBLES: This set exceeded expectations. Not all of those expectations are good. Overall, I think it’s safe to say this is a very enjoyable set. There’s clearly an effort made here to engage with feminist storytelling, which is always welcome, and Georgia Tennant bursts onto the scene with an immense amount of energy and personality that makes her a joy to follow, and the stories overall hit a very strong baseline of quality. Unfortunately, as a story that demands to be read on feminist terms, not all of its storytelling succeeds. For the second time this year, we unfortunately must extensively criticize a story from a box set for political, social justice-oriented reasons, as this set unfortunately has one story that hamfistedly bungles its attempts at feminism and veers into some very objectionable orientalism in the process. Furthermore, while I form my criticisms, I have to note my distaste with Joe Kraemer’s score, which consists of a number of recycled tracks from his main range work that often entirely fails to mesh with the tone of a scene, a problem that is rarely solved by the few new tracks contributed here, such as an overdone lighthearted, comedic track playing over a massacre by Ood. On the other hand, though, there’s a lot to love. There’s some brilliant commentary on feminism and family legacy elsewhere, an awful lot of good humor, and a really sweet coda for the fans. And much as I criticise Kraemer’s work, the theme tune is quite catchy. It’s not a perfect set, and given the arc it seems to be building, it’s very likely future sets could go very, very wrong in the vein of this set’s weak installment. But overall, this is a pleasant experience.

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ASSESSING STRESS, AUDIO EDITION – Torchwood, series 4: “We Always Get Out Alive”

Welcome to DoWntime’s new, not-too-regular column, Assessing Stress. That’s where we assess … stress. Or more accurately, talk and debate about the newest episodes to hit the television screen, the new releases from Big Finish, and all these good things.

And today, Tibère and Scribbles look at the newest Torchwood monthly story (with some delays, apologies! life got in the way, as it so often does). Get in the car, start, don’t forget to call the babysitter, and beware spoilers after the “read more” tag.

 

Spoiler-free thoughts:

TIBERE: I think this audio leads me to two very different hot takes. The first one being that it’s a really good story, a great horror concept piece with tight character elements. The second one being that the range is still in a bit of an identity crisis right now. This is not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it does lack the … importance of the first three series, this feeling that you were seeing an absolutely vital, but yet unseen, part of the show. Between this and “The Death of Captain Jack”, there’s a feeling that they’re resting on sure, tried and tested values – this is a lot better than “Death”, because well, experimental two-hander is a stronger basic concept that big gay fanservice piece, but still. The fact there’s now pretty much two ongoing Torchwood range is a bit of a problem too – the pay-off to this audio, in a way, happens in scenes you won’t get until the end of Aliens Among Us. Which are, in isolation, deprived of some crucial setting up and character work. I think there’s a lot of fantastic potential in having both these storylines unfold, but they haven’t really perfected the execution for now. Which is fine – they don’t have to do it right away. But it makes the range into something a bit more discrete, and a bit less vital, even in strong entries like this one.

SCRIBBLES: There’s something of a throwback feeling to this audio, really. It’s been a long time since we heard Gwen in action, and even longer since the early days of the Torchwood monthly range in which two-handers were the de facto production necessity, rather than dramatic choice. I have mixed feelings about the result here. On the one hand, the characters are exceptional as ever. Gwen and Rhys have always been fantastic characters, and sure enough, you can absolutely get an engrossing hour about them talking about their feelings in a car. But on the other hand, there’s something a bit safe about it. The two-hander structure starts to feel more limitation than dramatic impetus after an exceptional first half-hour or so, with the plot, once it kicks in, feeling like more of an afterthought. That isn’t necessarily bad; the selling point here is the character work, which is exceptional and worth the price of admission. But the pacing of the story has an unfortunate effect of frontloading the character work, before focusing entirely on the less effective plot, which leaves the story feeling less substantial in the end than it deserves to. This is a good story. A very good one, even. But it could have gone further emotionally, or at least saved the biggest things it has to say for a more opportune moment.

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ASSESSING STRESS, AUDIO EDITION – Jago & Litefoot Forever

Welcome to DoWntime’s not-too-regular column, Assessing Stress. That’s where we assess … stress. Or more accurately, talk and debate about the newest episodes to hit the television screen, the new releases from Big Finish, and all these good things. Beware of spoilers after the “read more” tag, old chap!

And today, Tibère and Scribbles say goodbye to Jago and Litefoot, discussing their last adventure, a tribute to the late Trevor Baxter.

 

Spoiler-free thoughts:

SCRIBBLES: Oh, gosh, this is a sensitive story to discuss in general. It’s an audio that’s impossible, of course, to listen to without knowledge of the real world context that surrounds it. It’s a series finale of necessity rather than narrative design. It’s an affecting tribute act, really, that knows its limitations. As such, it’s difficult to say this is the ideal production to end a range on, but equally, it’s about the best thing one could hope for, and it makes the emotions land where it matters most in paying homage to adventures that will never end, even though they have. You know if you’re going to buy this audio, really. It’s for if you’ve followed all the adventures prior and want one last bit of closure, not for standing on its own as a story. I, for one, felt the closure. And I think that’s the quality that matters most.

TIBERE: I mean, there’s only so much rational analysis can do here. There are flaws to this story – quite a few – and qualities – quite a few as well -, but it just is secondary to the big question of whether it provides emotional closure, if not necessarily to the characters, at least to the viewer who has followed them for over fifty hours. I think it does – it’s a suitably touching celebration of these characters, a bit sombre but never less than hopeful, with some delightfuls call-backs (a shame so many were spoiled by the trailers, but oh well). It’s a good testament for the range, I feel – just like it Jago & Litefoot wasn’t always great but always was this warm, lovely comfort food you could rely on; “Forever” isn’t the best story of all time, but it doesn’t need to be, considering its warmth. Could it have been more? Maybe, but I got what I wanted and expected, and I feel at peace with the loss of the amazing actor that was Trevor Baxter.

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ASSESSING STRESS, AUDIO EDITION – Monthly Range: “The Lure of the Nomad”

Welcome to DoWntime’s not-too-regular column, Assessing Stress. That’s where we assess … stress. Or more accurately, talk and debate about the newest episodes to hit the television screen, the new releases from Big Finish, and all these good things.

And today, Tibère and Scribbles tackle the latest Monthly story from Big Finish! It has tentacles, music, and the Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch. Hang tight (and avoid the spoilers after the “read more” tag!).

 

Spoiler-free thoughts:

TIBERE: Well, that rather was an excellent surprise. Matthew J. Elliott has had a rather uneven output so far, feeling kind of restricted by the structure of the Monthly Range, but this is honestly one of the best monthly stories this year. It’s certainly not bereft of the flaws he has exposed before – but he managed to bring a real freshness to the proceedings, and to make the story about some truly original and interesting conceits. This feels like a story that has never been told before – and, on top of that, it’s some of the most fun I’ve had with the range in ages. It’s maybe better at being a quotable comedy than “Kingdom of Lies”, and that was hilarious already. No, it’s just a really good two hours of drama, that keep the hot streak of 2018 absolutely intact and make me really excited where Elliott goes from there. I feel like with this, he might have developed into a really original and compelling voice in the world of Who and I hope he makes the most of it.

SCRIBBLES: I’m not going to pretend there isn’t a lot that’s clunky about this story. The dialogue is frequently expository, on-the-nose, and far too didactic, when it isn’t playing into archetypes. But this story largely makes that into a virtue. Elliot’s stilted verbosity sounds natural when Colin Baker is the star, becoming quite infectiously fun and quotable, and the script on a conceptual level is very savvy, awash with ideas and with clever subversions to brush aside the more archetypal characters. This isn’t a masterpiece, and yet I really half want to call it one, because it’s a story I just feel fonder of as time passes. For the story so far this year I was most apprehensive about at first, I think this has rather become something of a favorite of mine already. It’s just a damn good and very witty time with an effective emotional punchline, and Colin Baker sinks his teeth into it with gusto.

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ASSESSING STRESS, AUDIO EDITION – UNIT: Cyber-Reality

Welcome to DoWntime’s not-too-regular column, Assessing Stress. That’s where we assess … stress. Or more accurately, talk and debate about the newest episodes to hit the television screen, the new releases from Big Finish, and all these good things.

And today, Tibère and Scribbles tackle the latest UNIT boxset, starring the Cybermen and the Master. Grab your VR goggles, we’ve got a code silver. Oh, yes, and beware of spoilers after the “read more” tag!

 

Spoiler-free thoughts:

TIBERE: Our enjoyment of UNIT sets, in the past, has varied quite a lot. It’s a range that has had some difficulties finding its feet, I think it’s fair to say. They have nailed the more experimental and political sets, but the more traditional fares of the even-numbered sets haven’t quite been perfect. Cyber-Reality is a definite improvement – it is very much a big, fanservice-filled product, that doesn’t reach the heights of Silenced or Encounters, but it manages to make the aesthetics and themes of the range cohere and seep through the traditional Who tropes. The Master and the Cybermen are not really here for a deep, nuanced session of thematic exploration, but even then, you can see that there are strong visions beyond them. This set “gets” it. It gets what the range is about, it gets what the Cybermen, especially in their latest, and arguably best, version, are about; and it gets, perhaps better than any other story so far, what the Jacobi Master is about. It doesn’t really push any boundaries or challenge the listener, but that’s okay. I feel like the range is allowed to just be breezy fun trad every once in a while, as long as it is intelligent about it. That’s really the best way to describe this set: intelligent trad. There are worse things to be.

SCRIBBLES: Cyber-Reality, as a whole, is an enticing cocktail of ideas, themes, and continuity elements. The selling point of Kate and Osgood going up against Derek Jacobi’s exceptional Master and the Cybermen is utterly tantalizing, and writers Guy Adams and Matt Fitton waste no time assembling a heady mix of themes and concepts to construct around it. I think it’s no reach to say that there are some of the most exciting ideas the Cybermen have ever had here, as well as what is for my money the best characterization Jacobi has yet gotten on audio. Furthermore, there is some delicious satire of data mining and exploration of VR gaming. Unfortunately, there’s a but. While the elements in this set are all exceptional, the plotting doesn’t always land, and the human element is often lost in a more cerebral landscape. If you adore the concepts, and there’s every reason to, this set will be enough. But if you want to be stirred beyond that, you will have slim pickings, though there is one startlingly good character-based exploration that I will get to in the full spoiler section. The concepts also don’t quite reach an intellectual payoff, despite all being exciting elements, leading to a delightful concluding episode with an unfortunately perfunctory resolution. This is a set I would absolutely recommend, but for the sheer wealth of possibilities it suggests with rapid-fire enthusiasm, rather than for the overall product.
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ASSESSING STRESS, AUDIO EDITION – Torchwood: Believe

Welcome to DoWntime’s not-too-regular column, Assessing Stress. That’s where we assess … stress. Or more accurately, talk and debate about the newest episodes to hit the television screen, the new releases from Big Finish, and all these good things.

And today, let us pray together to our Lord from Space, for Tibère and Scribbles are talking about the first full-cast Torchwood set, “Believe”, written by Guy Adams. Grab your scalpel and your expensive books, it’s time for some religion. And some spoilers after the “read more” tag, as per usual.

 

Spoiler-free thoughts:

TIBERE: There’s loads to unpack in that one. I think that the best praise I can give it is when it comes to its structure. It’s a very polished, very well-crafted piece of fiction – Guy Adams has proven, earlier this year with Vienna: Retribution that he’s really, really good with these three-parts epics, and that holds true here. It’s not quite as good, and we’re gonna get into why soon, but it’s still a really engrossing experience: there’s something wonderful in piecing together the plot, which is told to us out-of-order, scenes taking a new, sometimes radical meaning as they are inserted into the narrative in different and sometimes contradictory ways. So, as set, it coheres. As a crossover … Well, people that want to buy to get the team interacting together might be disappointed – they spend most of their time apart, but really, I don’t mind that. Torchwood always was at its best in small, intimate interactions, and I do feel like all characters get their share of the spotlight. Sometimes in problematic ways, but it does find something to say about all its leads, which is pretty neat in a set that has to juggle five main characters! Finally, there’s considering it, well, as a piece of the rebooted Torchwood range. And then, well, there are bits that really work, and some that feel a bit odd. It’s certainly engaging, and rooted deeply into the aesthetics that have been established since 2015 while finding new angles to tackle them – but it does feel a bit too ambitious for its own good sometimes, and there are many thematic dead ends that could have been developed more. Really, a set like that is an event more like than anything – and I think it hits the mark on that front. The story itself maybe won’t enter the annals as an all-time great, but there’s still a lot to appreciate (well, appreciate – it’s a very, very uncomfortable story, and I would advise you to think about it if certain topics are triggers for you). That’s my hot take, pretty much. Believe it or not.

SCRIBBLES: I have a lot of admiration for this set. It is unafraid of controversy, which it is sure to generate, and tackles a number of phenomenal and relevant themes that are very much in connection with the ongoing pulse of the world. This is a three hour explanation of faith, transhumanism, and sexual coercion and consent. All three are also themes that are particularly important to me, two of which having deep personal connections to my life, and one being a casual academic interest. Unfortunately, I must say, I did not appreciate the way all those themes were handled. Author Guy Adams strives to say interesting things about vital, raw topics, but they do not all land where I wish they would. I was nearly unable to review this set, and briefly considered not even finishing listening to it, because it is a very triggering and dark story that plays risky games with aforementioned topics. I appreciate the boldness and vision, but I think the success of these musings varies greatly, and is in some cases fairly painful for me. It also has some odd impacts on some of the characterization, which is sure to be controversial. I only want to support the drive and ambition that leads to a writer feeling willing to engage with important issues, and I think Torchwood has often been good at that, but compared to a recent dark story, “Tagged,” I don’t think this has quite the same sympathy, understanding and deftness. “Believe” is a good attempt, but a very flawed one.

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