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Latest Community Reviews

From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
6
Plot Rating:
5
Acting Rating:
8
Replay Rating:
5
Effects Rating:
8
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: thisoldcanReview Date: 5/17/17 5:56 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

The Dollhouse, the second story of 2017's run of Torchwood stories looks at the adventures of Torchwood's Los Angeles branch, made up of the trio of Marlow Sweet (Laila Pyne), Charley Du Bujeau (Kelly-Anne Lyons), and Gabi Martinez (Ajjaz Awad). These three ladies, directed by the shadowy Mr. Beamish (Guy Adams) work to protect the West Coast from alien threats in the name of the British Empire. But they're about to come face-to-face with the seedy underbelly of Hollywood, as they put themselves in harm's way to try and stop a horrific series of events. The Dollhouse is an odd production for Big Finish. Starring three female actors, including a Black actress and a Muslim, and written by a trans writer, this release is certainly, on a production level, a complete departure from Big Finish's normal production. And as a story, it's unique in that it features almost no ties to the original source material, save for a passing reference. But overall, the story itself was a solid, if a bit bland, adventure for a fun new team. Buoyed by an excellent chemistry between the three lead actors, though with some extremely dodgy accents throughout, and with a solid script from newcomer Juno Dawson, this was a surprisingly enjoyable story to listen to.

The cast was strong, if a little too cliched for my liking. The first member of the cast is Laila Pyne as Marlow Sweet, a brilliantly bright woman who turns into a conspiracy theorist, only to be noticed by Torchwood. Pyne does a good job with what she's been given here, which is mostly a script filled with 1970's New York cliches. She's fun, and delivers her lines with relish, making for a very fun performance, even if she was asked to affect an extremely dodgy, stereotypical "blacccent". Likewise, Kelly-Anne Lyons was tasked with bringing Southern former pickpocket Charley Du Bujeau to life, taking on a rather exaggerated Southern accent, but still managing to deliver a fun bit of acting nonetheless. I particularly liked her strong bits of acting towards the end of the play, captured by Stuart Milligan's Don Donohue, during her interactions with both him and Valerie Fox (Eve Webster). Rounding out the main cast is Ajjaz Awad, playing Gabi Martinez. Her character, an immigrant from Mexico who comes joins Torchwood after encounter aliens, was an enjoyable character as well, even if the accent itself was beyond stereotypical and came across as incredibly fake. While the individual actors didn't work out all that well in my opinion, what made them work as a unit was their excellent chemistry. I'm not quite sure how this release was recorded, but the interplay between the three leads makes it seem like all three have been friends for years, and were recording in the same booth. Their excellent chemistry really elevated some dodgy performances, and made for an excellent trio of lead performances.

The writing by newcomer Juno Dawson was an enjoyable story, but some poor writing for the characters. The story was a pretty standard "pilot" episode story. A trio of likable characters are tasked with a dangerous mission, where they're forced to be put in harm's way, one member dies, only for another, inspired by the trio, to take her place, as they abandon their original handler. But Dawson does well making it feel interesting and exciting. This is certainly one of the most standalone Torchwood releases to date, featuring almost no mention of any other Torchwood story, save for a brief mention of Jack Harkness, and the story is elevated somewhat by it. It makes the story feel unconstrained and yet familiar at the same time. It's new, it's exciting, and it makes for a really interesting story.

But while the plot was interesting, I felt that the character work by Dawson was rather lacking. Each character is written with a distinct lack of depth; Marlow Sweet is a sassy, strong black woman, Charley Du Bujeau is a motherly, Southern accented actress, and Gabi Martinez constantly talks about her abuela and her chicas. I appreciate what Dawson was doing, and how she handled it pretty well, but the writing borders on offensive at times, with all three main characters sometimes barely moving beyond sterotypes. It's lazy in many ways, and really bogs down an otherwise interesting story. That's not to say that the writing was extremely bad though, because at times, there were excellent moments of character work by Dawson. The writing of Charley Du Bujeau in particular was handled extremely well throughout the story. I think in many ways, I'm letting the writing pass, because this is only a one-hour long story; it's nigh impossible to fit in large amounts of character work for three separate leads into one-hour audio story, and what Dawson is able to do with the story is impressive nonetheless. If this were to become a fully-fledged series of Torchwood stories, I would be a little harder on the story if some of the issues I have with the characters persisted, but for now, I think it was a strong, if slightly misguided start.

Lastly, I'd like to make special mention of Blair Mowat's work on the music for this story. I complained last month that the music for Visiting Hours was starting to get stale, as it had been used in every story, and I was hoping for some slight changes here and there, to fit the mood of the story. In The Dollhouse, Big Finish changed up the music a bit, invigorating the script and making it feel glitzy and retro throughout. Big Finish did a great job making the story feel slightly jazzy at times, while keeping the same familiar themes of their Torchwood range at times. It was one of my biggest criticisms of some recent Torcwhood stories, so it was nice to see Big Finish change things up a bit.

Overall, The Dollhouse was a solid, though flawed story. The main cast was solid as a unit, but individually slightly underwhelming. Kelly-Anne Lyons gave a strong performance in this story towards the end, but otherwise, the cast struggled to make an impression. But the excellent chemistry between leads Pyne, Lyons, and Awad really elevated the cast. Newcomer Dawson's script was a strong, if also underwhelming affair, that sometimes bordered on the offensive and lazy, with it's handling of the main characters. It had an enjoyable plot, giving new twists to an old tale, and set up a really interesting potential series for the Torchwood brand at Big Finish. Overall, while it certainly had flaws, it was an enjoyable piece to listen to, and I can appreciate it for what it did behind-the-scenes.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
10
Plot Rating:
10
Acting Rating:
10
Replay Rating:
9
Effects Rating:
9
Has Prerequisite(s):
Yes
Reviewed By: SpaceFritter Review Date: 5/13/17 11:45 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

Simply one of the most fantastic Big Finish stories I've listened to. Incredibly emotional. Very convincing. I cried many times. I can't say enough. A brilliant piece of writing and wonderful performances. I've never cared more about these characters. Thanks to the team who produced this. They should be very proud.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
2
Plot Rating:
1
Acting Rating:
3
Replay Rating:
1
Effects Rating:
10
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: thisoldcanReview Date: 3/21/17 7:52 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

In Visiting Hours, the opening Torchwood release of 2017, Rhys (Kai Owen) is visiting his mother Brenda (Nerys Hughes) in the hospital, following a routine hip surgery. But mysterious things are happening at St Helen's Hospital; people keep dying of natural causes during the night, but no one can find the bodies. This hasn't gone unnoticed by hospital staff, and questions are being asked. Rhys and Brenda thought this would be a routine hospital stay, but they're in for a rude awakening and a very long night. Visiting Hours was not a strong start to 2017's run of Torchwood releases. While the script managed to wring some humor out of the interactions between Rhys and Brenda, it didn't manage to do much more, delivering a boring story. The main performances by Kai Owen and Nerys Hughes were fun, as they had an excellent comedic back-and-forth, but there wasn't much else in their performances.

Kai Owen and Nerys Hughes reprise their roles as Rhys and Brenda Willliams, with Hughes returning from Torchwood's Something Borrowed. Owen is the main star of this story, delivering a generally funny performance, as a man both frustrated by and scared for his mother. The comedic bits of his performance were excellent, such as his exasperation with his mother constantly telling him to mind his language, while I felt the commanding, emotional moments tended to fall a bit flat. His scene interacting with Karl Theobald and Ryan Sampson about the reasons for why they're taking people, and about their motivations for it, felt forced to me, and fell flat, in my opinion. Hughes fared a bit better, acting as the mother most people have; overbearing, caring, and just a bit bawdy. She too did very well with her comedic moments, and shared an excellent chemistry with Kai Owen. Her emotional moments fared better than Owen's, as I felt she did well in the scenes where she was meant to be scared of being taken.

The guest cast is mainly led by Karl Theobald and Ryan Sampson as Mr. Tate and Mr. Nichols, two men tasked with taking bodies back to the past for rich benefactors. The two were given a decent amount of depth beyond the normal criminal goon, which I appreciated, and I think Theobald and Sampson did a good job together. They had a good rapport with one another, and both brought something fun and interesting to the table. Also making occasional appearances throughout the story was Stephen Critchlow as the sinister Dr. Fletcher. Critchlow didn't really stand out much, which is a damn shame, as he's such a good actor usually. His brief appearances in this story felt like a cameo of something greater, which I didn't really like. Rounding out the guest cast was Ruth Lloyd, playing Nurse Brown in the opening and closing scenes. She did a perfectly fine job, and I liked her bumbling performance at the end of the story, trying to explain to Rhys that there was a mixup with his mother, and they thought she had passed away.

David Llewellyn's script was a funny affair, but it didn't do much beyond trying to be funny. It felt like a very boring, somewhat confusing story overall, and not much else. I really appreciated the comedic elements of this story, as I think Llewellyn did a great job there. The scenes between Rhys and Brenda were rather funny; I particularly liked the way Brenda was constantly telling Rhys off for swearing, and then said, "...because I'm in fucking agony right now..." towards the end. It gave me a rather good laugh, to be quite honest. However, beyond the comedic elements of the script, there isn't really much of substance there. The emotional moments between Brenda and Rhys fell flat, save for the tender ending scene between the two. It never really felt like a mother and her son doing things, but rather like a comedic duo trading banter. I also found the "villains" of the story to be poorly developed. The villain's plan was to kidnap people from the future for rich benefactors, and harvest their organs; they're aided by a mysterious, robotic force from the future, and use the promise of salvation for those who help them out. And yet, most of the story focuses on the people aiding the villains, and their work trying to kidnap people. I can understand if Big Finish is setting up a new villain to replace The Committee, and starting a new arc, but that doesn't mean that the motivation for the villains should be pushed to the side completely. How did the villains set up the time machine to the past? Why was Dr. Fletcher helping them? What are the robotic force from the future? None of those questions are even touched upon, leaving a confusing, and deeply unsatisfying ending to the story.

The music of the previous two series of Torchwood returns, which I'm not too crazy about. The music is rather good, don't get me wrong, but I wish that Big Finish would change it up here and there. Stories like The Victorian Age and Zone 10, which are set in very different places than Cardiff, would've been the perfect stories to experiment with a different soundtrack, but instead, they just use the same old Torchwood theme. I wish Big Finish and Blair Mowat would work on using a different soundtrack for these Torchwood releases, or at least mix it up a little bit here and there, much like they do for other ranges. The sound design by Benji Clifford is rather excellent though, with the hospital setting feeling alive during normal hours, and empty and creepy, yet still lived in during the night. Big Finish has always employed excellent sound designers, and Clifford is really one of the best ones out there, in my opinion.

Two final things I'd like to note about this release are the length of the story and the cover artwork. The length of this story is rather short, coming in at about 46:30; with the behind-the-scenes content, it goes up to about 57 minutes in length. I tend to not really care that much if some of Big Finish's releases are a few minutes short, but when they're over 10 minutes short, I take notice. I always feel a little cheated when I find that a story is shorter than promised; in this case this hour long story is almost 13 minutes shorter, which is the most I've seen in quite some time. Finally, I'd like to make note of the cover art, done by Lee Binding. Binding has done the work for most of the Torchwood range, to mixed results. Some of the art, for releases like More Than This, Ghost Mission, Moving Target, and Made You Look have been quite interesting, while others have been rather boring. This art falls into the latter in my opinion, with a rather simple design of Kai Owen's character in front of a ghastly operating theater. Not the most visually stunning photo ever, but it gets the job done, which is perfectly fine.

Overall, Visiting Hours was not a great start to the 2017 run of Torchwood stories. Featuring two strong comedic performances, but very little else, and some bland guest performances, the cast didn't really stand out in this story. Similarly, David Llewellyn's script was funny, but it lacked an engaging plot, and the ending felt rushed and almost tacked on. The sound design was good as well, but I'm beginning to get frustrated by the same soundtrack being used, and the very similar, bland cover art being used from story to story. It wasn't a great way to start of 2017 for Torchwood, so here's hoping next month's story will fare a bit better.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
7
Plot Rating:
7
Acting Rating:
7
Replay Rating:
8
Effects Rating:
7
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: TheBigChurroReview Date: 1/30/17 1:14 am
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

"Fall to Earth" sees Ianto Jones falling to Earth on a spaceship as part of a mission he chose to go on to try and win back the Torchwood team during Series 1 (after Cyber-Women). This audio does go on for quite a while but the two cast members hold it up well, 50 minutes of just 2 people on either side of a phone call is a great concept that Big Finish executes perfectly.
But because there are only two characters, the one you care about you already know is going to make it out alive, while the other you don't really care about, the story lacks the gut-punch that I want from a story like this.
In the end, I think "Fall to Earth," is a good story that deserves 7/10 :)

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