Monday, 9 April 2018

Torchwood: More Than This written by Guy Adams and directed by Scott Handcock

What’s it about: Gwen Cooper has triumphed against impossible odds before, but now she's finally met her match: Roger Pugh, Planning Officer for Cardiff City Council. Mr Pugh doesn't believe the world needs Torchwood. Gwen sets out to prove him wrong. For Mr Pugh, it's a day that'll change his life. If he can survive it.

Welsh Babe: Anybody who has become entangled with the government or any kind of bureaucratic department can empathise with Gwen’s plight in the first few scenes as she attempts to get planning position for a new base of operations for Torchwood. Gwen still gets shaken when confronting aliens but essentially takes it all in her stride now. After the things she’s seen, it’s just another day in the office. Pugh wonders if the existence of Torchwood encourages alien threats, which Gwen denies but there is no denying that their tinkering with the rift and their blasé approach to the universe at large has led to more chaos and attraction of alien nasties than would otherwise be the case. Nowadays Torchwood is about protecting people and not taking stupid risks. The fact that she has such a vital role in the survival of humanity makes Gwen feel terrified and humbled.

Mr Pugh: How fascinating to have a story told almost entirely from the point of view of an outsider who is being brought in to Torchwood. It’s essentially a copy of the story being told in Everything Changes but instead of ultra-naive Gwen being put through her paces we have a man from the Council, Mr Pugh seeing the day to day running of a covert alien fighting organisation. It works much better too because it’s told with much more relaxed humour and much less melodrama. The casual way that Pugh mentions that he knows about aliens because he’s read about them in the paper, is marvellous. Cutting back and forth to Pugh at his wife’s graveside and narrating parts of this story works extremely well. It allows us to get close to Pugh emotionally and for him to move the story on narratively. It’s established early that Pugh isn’t a fighting man which makes his endurance throughout More Than This the work of a brave man. The moment when Pugh admits that he let go, which is something he has wanted to do for years, it doesn’t need any explanation as to why because his wife’s death has already been very well established. The thing that makes him come to his senses that there is never more than this, there is no chance he will be reunited with her in heaven. But he’s open to the possibility, which offers hope. The world needs Torchwood and he has to help them create a base of operations.

Standout Performance: Eve Myles is clearly a talent and her continuing success beyond Torchwood is a testament to that. She broke my heart in The Unquiet Dead and returned to Doctor in quite a different guise in The Stolen Earth. I’m certain that Torchwood series one always played to her strengths because she works much better as the beating heart of Torchwood rather than the seduced vixen she became. Myles’ natural humour and likeability won through though and her characterisation has been a lot more consistent and enjoyable since. She’s especially fantastic throughout Children of Earth. On audio we’re up close and personal and her dulcet Welsh tones ring beautifully in our ears. She’s a phenomenon, effortlessly easy to get close to and portraying a character who is smart, confident and friendly. Listen to the moment where she has to bring Pugh to his sense in the climax. She’s instruction him with such conviction that even I sat up to attention.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Saving the world from the boot of my car is getting tedious!’
‘It used to make me feel bigger somehow. Imagining more than this. That’s what it comes down to, doesn’t it? That’s what all fantasies are about. We look at our lives and say to ourselves…there must be more than this.’
‘That’s what they always get wrong in the films. Special effects are flawless. Life isn’t flawless.’

Great ideas: Wonderfully on one call to the Council, Gwen is attacked by a hideous monster in the normal Torchwood line of business and Pugh’s response in his call back to her is that she will need to sign a health and safety form before proceeding further with planning permission. Plans have been drawn up for the space that Torchwood wants in Cardiff Bay for a new parking lot. Four years and it seems that the world has forgotten all about Torchwood. How cool is the idea of a liquid life form that can turn itself into a work of art and feed on the emotions of the people who look at it.

Isn’t It Odd: It’s a shame that the event that killed Pugh’s wife had to be directly linked to Torchwood. It’s a pointless piece of continuity and like with Buffy’s mum in The Body it would have been much more touching had it been a natural death, nothing to do with the supernatural.

Standout Scene: The stunningly written and performed scene in the middle of the story between Gwen and Pugh when they discuss the nature of fantasy and leaving a mark on the world before you depart. It’s so emotionally honest it quite took my breath away, especially after the frivolity elsewhere in this release.

‘We did it. We saved the world…’ Fascinating because it picks up after Miracle Day and continues that narrative that was left hanging by the TV series, More Than This abandons the American sojourn in favour of something a little more home grown, intimate and touching. This is essentially a fourth pilot for the show (after the first episodes of series 1, Children of Earth and Miracle Day), a way for newcomers to come to the series with no real knowledge of it (just like Mr Pugh) and take on board the Torchwood lifestyle. How very backwards to have this story then at the end of the first series, rather than kicking things off. Audio Torchwood wanted to establish that it can do and go anywhere in it’s timeline before continuing things where we left off on telly. Smart move. It’s such a cute idea, too, to have Gwen (who went through this experience herself many moons ago) expose the terrifying world of Torchwood to a Council Official who wants to turn the space they have earmarked for Torchwood Three into a multi-storey car park. The story hops from set piece to set piece as Pugh confronts the sort of dangers that Torchwood juggles and he comes to realise why such an organisation is vital to the security of the world. There’s witty lines, shocks and lovely moments of humour but more importantly there’s a lovely relationship that develops between Gwen and Pugh that surprises and moves. Guy Adams’ dialogue is very insightful and the script is beautifully played by both actors. Pugh goes from naïve newbie to giving Gwen advice by the end of the story and his monologues to his wife’s graveside really made him feel like a person who had a life beyond this story. Trust me with a lot of characters in audio drama I don’t always get that feeling. Lots of imaginative ideas abound too, in the little vignettes that we experience in the day in the life of Torchwood. Hugely enjoyable and a nice spring board for more Torchwood stories that take place after the body of television work, More Than This serves a purpose but it’s an involved piece in its own right: 8/10

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