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From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
3
Plot Rating:
1
Acting Rating:
5
Replay Rating:
3
Effects Rating:
3
Has Prerequisite(s):
No
Reviewed By: thisoldcanReview Date: 8/12/17 6:19 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

In Torchwood: The Dying Room, Monsieur LeDuc (Simon Russell Beale) as been detained by SS Interrogator Grau (Mark Elstob), and interrogated about Torchwood and his recent encounters with the mysterious Madame Berber (Emma Cunniffe). A plauge is sweeping through Paris, targeting German soldiers, and Grau thinks that Berber, and Torchwood, are behind it. Grau is determined to get to the bottom of this plauge and stop it, but before the night is done, Grau will find out all about Torchwood. The Dying Room is the final story of a season that has taken risks with it's storytelling, largely to varying degrees of success. It concludes the series with a fairly straightforward tale, of an encounter between the Nazis and Torchwood, albeit in a roundabout way. For a first script by Big Finish's Dark Shadows actor Lizzie Hopley, it's a decent way to start off one's career. The cast, especially Simon Russell Beale, shines, breathing life into Hopley's story throughout. Yet, the story feels flat because it's fairly obvious what's going on, and it's a pretty tired idea, having things from the Doctor Who universe encounter the Nazis.

Simon Russell Beale stars as Monsieur LeDuc, the professor who has come to Paris for some rest and relaxation, but is secretly a Torchwood agent, looking to destabilize the Nazi regime in France. Beale plays the part extremely well, especially given his status as a Torchwood agent at the end. It wasn't exactly a surprise, given the way these stories usually go, but Beale still sold the hell out of his character with his performance. He portrayed Beale perfectly; slightly bumbling, but with all the confidence an old man possesses. His reaction to Gabriel (Aly Cruickshank) being shot by Grau is excellent, made all the more brilliant by his reaction a few minutes later that Gabriel, "...will be fine", delivered with a cool detachment. It's a great performance, and one of the best parts of this story.

Mark Elstob also stars in this story, as SS interrogator Grau. Elstob, star of Big Finish's The Prisoner series, gives an enjoyable, if stale, performance as the scary Nazi interrogator. Scary Nazi interrogators are a dime a dozen quite honestly, and it's quite hard to shock me with these performances. Nothing in Elstob's performance really shines out too much, which sucks, because Elstob always gives such a brilliant performance as Number 6, but here, he's relegated to a role that's been done over 1000 times already, and it's a damn shame to hear him have to try and make it interesting. Emma Cunniffe and Aly Cruickshank also star in this story, in smaller roles as Madame Berber, a mysterious woman who Grau thinks is part of Torchwood, and Gabriel, the seemingly sickly son of LeDuc, who is, in reality, a Torchwood agent engineered to overwrite the DNA of anyone who touches him. Both have small roles in this story, but both do a good job with what they're given; Cunniffe is fun as the loud, slightly boozy, yet mysteriously skilled marksman, while Gabriel is interesting, though moreso after he dies.

Lizze Hopley, star of several of Big Finish's Dark Shadows stories, takes a turn in the writer's chair for this story, delivering a decent first story. It plays upon the tried and true themes of World War II and Nazi stories a bit too much at times, while absolutely nailing the character of Monsieur LeDuc. The story itself is a pretty common one; some shadowy government organization comes in to destabilize the Nazi regime, framed by an interrogation scene between the SS officer and the person who insists he's absolutely, emphatically not a member of this shadowy government organization, until his friends show up. What makes Hopley's story so interesting though is the introduction of Gabriel, a Torchwood agent genetically engineered so that those he touches turn into hideous monsters, or, as LeDuc calls it, having the inner evil boil up to the surface for all to see. That's the most brilliant part of the story, but the biggest issue is that it takes nearly 45 minutes to get to that point.

The biggest issue with Hopley's story is that all the effort seems to have gone into making the character of Monsieur LeDuc as brilliant as possible, something she succeeds in. But as such, the story suffers for it, leading to a rather boring story. To start, it feels like we've had thousands of stories very similar to this one, save for the invention of Gabriel and his ability to overwrite DNA. There have been countless stories featuring SS interrogators trying to tease out secrets about secret government organizations, only to die when their prisoner is revealed as a member of that group. Beyond that, apart from a single scene midway through where Grau and LeDuc grapple, as LeDuc tries to escape, there's not really much tension. Grau's flat "good cop" routine ensures that apart from that single scene, and the ending, there's never any dramatic tension. It's all just Beale's LeDuc telling a story, rather than creating something engaging for the entire cast.

Overall, The Dying Room ends the season on a rather boring note. While Simon Russell Beale is brilliant as Monsieur LeDuc, and the character of Gabriel is a brilliant creation by writer Lizzie Hopley, the rest of the story falls rather flat. Mark Elstob's deeply disappointing Grau never rises about the stereotypical SS interrogator, while Emma Cunniffe and Aly Cruickshank do a passable job, if nothing else. The story is the most disappointing part, giving a rather flat Nazi story that feels so familiar, because it's been done thousands of times over. It's ends what has been a somewhat inconsistent series of stories on a bit of a sour note; all I can hope for is a return to form with the next series of Torchwood stories.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
7
Plot Rating:
6
Acting Rating:
7
Replay Rating:
7
Effects Rating:
7
Has Prerequisite(s):
Yes
Reviewed By: thisoldcanReview Date: 8/12/17 6:19 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

In the final story of the first Aliens Among Us box set, Superiority Complex, a new luxury resort has gone up in Cardiff. The only problem? It only serves aliens. But a strange series of murders of the guests have the humans elated, and the hotel staff and Torchwood worried. Torchwood must work to get to the bottom of these murders, before it threatens to spread to all of Cardiff. Superiority Complex ends the first of three box sets on a solid note, with an enjoyable story about alien murders and xenophobia. The cast was solid all around in this story, and the writing by AK Benedict ranged from funny to dead serious. The story itself was enjoyable enough, but the story will mostly be remembered for the ending, which set up a lot for Torchwood to tackle in the following box sets.

The Torchwood team is mostly assembled, as Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), Mr. Colchester (Paul Clayton), and Orr (Sam Béart) all come together to help solve the mystery of these murders. It's lovely to hear a full team together again, after last year's inconsistent Torchwood: Outbreak. What I liked most about this release as a whole was the team dynamics; Jack is still the leader, and Gwen is still the deputy, but the introduction of the sardonic Mr. Colchester and the smart as a whip Orr is a welcome introduction to the Torchwood team at large. It helps add a new dimension to the team and, when joined by pseudo-team member Tyler Steele (Jonny Green), the cast of these stories gels together really well.
CAUTION: Very large spoilers ahead. Spoilers.

Writer AK Benedict, an established science fiction writer, wrote the final story of this set, and delivered an enjoyable finale to the first set. The story of a killer hotel is a pretty interesting one, recalling shades of The Shining and the like, so it's nice to see it realized well by Benedict. The best part of the story was certainly the humor of Benedict. She gave multiple characters lots of dirty and hilarious things ("Everything's better with Harkness in you" and "I've got a lift for an organ now" being two of the best). But Benedict also does a solid job at writing some of the more dramatic scenes. The cold open is sufficiently horrific, while scenes like Orr talking with the hotel also come across as powerful little moments. For a solid writer like AK Benedict, this was a rock solid script. It wasn't the most inspired story ever, but it was certainly a solid one all the same.

The last two things I'd like to mention here are the music and cover art. I mention them together, because like nearly every single previous Torchwood release, each story features a very similar cover art style and soundtrack to one another. The familiar stings are still there, and the incidental music is all the same. I've been irked by the fact that Big Finish often doesn't make much of an effort to change up the music for their Torchwood stories, and I'm starting to get annoyed at the similar cover art styles by Lee Binding, who has done some really great work in the past. I did however like the small musical sting of The Lives of Captain Jack introduction when Jack was trying to save Cardiff in the final story, as I felt it gave it a nice bit of continuity with the show at large.

Overall, Superiority Complex ends the first Aliens Among Us box set on a solid note. The cast of this story did a really great job, meshing well with one another, and sounding great all the time. Special kudos go to the ever brilliant John Barrowman and Eve Myles, as well as newcomer Sam Béart for her turn as Orr. Likewise, AK Benedict delivered a rock solid script; it wasn't the most inspired of her stories, but it ended up being a rock solid story all the same, and that's all you can ask for sometimes.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
10
Plot Rating:
10
Acting Rating:
10
Replay Rating:
10
Effects Rating:
10
Has Prerequisite(s):
Yes
Reviewed By: thisoldcanReview Date: 8/12/17 6:18 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

In the penultimate story, Orr, Torchwood is drawn into a conflict between Vincent Parry (David Sibley) and Ro-Jedda (Rachel Atkins). The two were originally allies, but once Parry discovered that Ro-Jedda was an alien, he balked at the deal, and wants Torchwood to save him from her wrath. But when he's murdered, leaving behind his wife, Torchwood must work to save Catrin Parry (Sam Béart) from death; even as that brings them into an encounter with an alien they know all too well. Orr is Juno Dawson's second Big Finish contribution, after this year's The Dollhouse, another Torchwood release. This story is her first time using the established Torchwood team though, and Dawson knocks it out of the park, with a sweet story about love. While it doesn't end in the most satisfying of ways, that's more than made up for by the insights into the Torchwood team throughout. Sam Béart is the star of the story, giving a brilliant performance, that the other main actors, John Barrowman, Paul Clayton, and Jonny Green, all feed off of to make for a wonderfully realized performance of Dawson's tight script.

Sam Béart stars in this story as ostensibly the wife of Vincent Parry, Catrin Parry. However, the story reveals her to be a genetic experiment known as Orr, who's able to subconsciously adapt her appearance to match the desires of those she's interacting with. What this excellent creation by Dawson leads to is a brilliant character for Béart to play, and play her she definitely does. She does a brilliant job with the role; she's simultaneously having fun with the absurdity of it, while also selling the hell out of the quieter moments. I particularly loved the interactions she had with Paul Clayton about Mr. Colchester's feelings for his husband, and her interactions at the end with John Barrowman's Jack Harkness about, presumably, Ianto and his feelings towards his deceased lover. That scene in particular is a beautiful, sweet performance by Béart, highlighting the talents of a brilliant actor.

John Barrowman, Paul Clayton, and Jonny Green all return from the previous stories in this set. Barrowman and Green both largely sat out the last story, so their return here is welcome. All three of these actors' characters have some excellent interactions with Béart's Orr that reveal something interesting about them all, which are some of the highlights of this brilliant story. I found the interactions between Clayton's and Béart's characters to be rather fun; it was sweet to learn that Mr. Colchester still finds his husband to be the object of his desires, and the reveal that it's the form of his husband from 10 years ago adds a little bit of uncomfortable humor into the story. It's lovely to hear the unflappable Clayton flustered here in this story. But the most interesting reaction was certainly Jonny Green's Tyler Steele, and his reaction to seeing a past lover, Damien, come forth. A lot of this scene's power is owed to Béart, who is horrified that Tyler cheated on Damien out of paranoia, but it's Tyler's reaction to it that really sells the scene; he is genuinely terrified of her in that moment, and it shows in Green's performance.

Juno Dawson, in her second time in the writer's chair for Big Finish, wrote an excellent story about love and gender fluidity. It's an unabashedly political story, the norm for this set, and I can't help but love it for that. But even without that, it's still a powerful story about love, the people who matter to you most, and what they do to you. Orr is a relatively simple creation, but is inherently so complex at the same time. A creature that changes it's form to be something so pleasing to you isn't exactly new, but Dawson is able to differentiate Orr from those other impressions by making it unintentional. This small changes begets a great story, as the changes made by Orr are often in reaction to the other characters, not an intentional thing. But what really clinches the deal is the ability for Orr to inherently understand exactly what's going through their heads. It's not her being psychic, but her innate ability to understand people and how they tick. It makes for one of the better creations to come out of Big Finish so far this year.

As I mentioned above in the cast part of my review, the highlights of this story were the interactions Orr had with Jack, Tyler, and Mr. Colchester. Colchester's interaction is more for comic relief than anything else, while Tyler's is a powerful scene that reveals a lot of darkness in his past. But the scene where Orr and Jack sit and wait for Orr to die is one of the most touching scenes I've heard at Big Finish. There's a lot that goes unsaid in that scene, as Jack changes the subject away from discussing Ianto, while Orr keeps insisting Jack leave, to which Jack refuses. It's a touching scene between two people who have lost so much over the years, and it makes this story so touching. While the quick ending, with the collar falling off and everything ending happily feels like a cop-out, I'm willing to overlook it for the scene prior to that.

Overall, Orr doesn't bring the set to a climax, but rather slows the set down and tells a deeply personal character story. The arrival of Sam Béart's Catrin Parry is a welcome addition to the cast, as she has brilliant interactions with John Barrowman, Paul Clayton, and Jonny Green. Likewise, writer Juno Dawson delivered an excellent, emotional script, filled with lovely little moments, and beautiful, touching scenes. For her second story, this is one hell of an excellent story to make your Big Finish mark with, as it's such a brilliant, sweet story.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
6
Plot Rating:
5
Acting Rating:
7
Replay Rating:
6
Effects Rating:
6
Has Prerequisite(s):
Yes
Reviewed By: thisoldcanReview Date: 8/12/17 6:17 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

In the second part of Aliens Among Us, Part 1, Gwen (Eve Myles) and Mr. Colchester (Paul Clayton) have heard rumors of a party attended by a group of aliens. However, when they arrive, they instead find an open bar and a rambunctious bachelorette party. But quickly things start going wrong; human-eating aliens terrorize the night club, and Gwen and Mr. Colchester are forced to flee with the daughter of an alien, Madrigal (Sophie Colquhoun). What started as a boozy night will end with Torchwood finding out more than they ever wanted to know about alien life. This story felt a little lacking, compared to the first story of the set, also written by James Goss. It was more of a filler episode, and as such it somewhat disappoints in the story department. The tale of a bachelorette party gone wrong isn't exactly new, but it makes for an interesting story to start, but the ending feels rather disappointing and tidy. While the story was a little lacking, the cast of the story was pretty great, with Paul Clayton continuing to shine as Mr. Colchester, and Eve Myles continuing to impress as Gwen Cooper. Newcomer Sophie Colquhoun was fun as the drunken bride-to-be Madrigal, and had some emotional scenes towards the end of the story.

Eve Myles and Paul Clayton star as Gwen Cooper, deputy head of Torchwood, and Mr. Colchester, a civil servant helping Torchwood out. Myles got to let loose a little bit in this story, playing both a drunken Gwen and also an angry, leading star Gwen, without Jack around. Her performance ranges from the flirty and drunk to the horrified throughout the course of the story, but throughout it all, she's extremely enjoyable. I felt a little let down after her excellent performance in the previous story, but she still managed to shine here. But taking the cake here is Clayton as Mr. Colchester. He was one of the best parts of the cast for the previous story, and his sardonic, dry wit recalls the likes of Trevor Baxter's Professor George Litefoot, and Miles Richardson's Braxiatel in some ways. He shines here in his comedic role, but it's the ending of the story, where he ends up killing the aliens, where he begins to show his true colors. It's a strong scene and one of the best moments from the story, as Gwen is horrified by his actions.

James Goss, pulling triple duty, writing the opening two stories and producing the range, delivered a bit of a lackluster script for this story, especially compared to the previous one. It was a bit of a rompy tale, and it was generally fun, but it felt like the last half of the story was padded out in such a way that it left me with a rather bored impression of the story as a whole. The tale of a bachelorette party gone wrong isn't exactly a new tale; I believe there's even a movie out in theaters as I type that deals with that very topic. But it's one that, to my knowledge, hasn't been done at Big Finish yet, and Goss handles the funny parts of it well. He's at his best when he's writing the boozy Madrigal and Gwen, or when he's showing the dark humour of one of the aliens eating the stripper. But while the story is certainly a fun one to start, it hits at an emotional note about halfway through, as it's revealed that Madrigal doesn't want to marry her husband to be, as she's being forced into it by her mother as part of a political marriage. That's an interesting line of writing, that's ruined by the fact that Goss felt the need to pad out the following 20 minutes with a way to get to the destination. While the ending scene was brilliant, I couldn't help but feel rather disappointed by the shameless padding midway through the story.

Steve Foxon provided the sound design for these releases. Foxon has a number of sound designing credits under his belt, including many from Torchwood. His work is always very excellent, putting you right in the middle of the scene with very little trouble. His work here is no exception, as he crafts a very visual soundscape, making it seem effortless. I particularly liked the sound design he did for the supermarket, with the bustle of a late night store, and the paging system heard overhead, and I also found the sound effects used for when the aliens ate the stripper to be excellent. Foxon is one of the better sound designers Big Finish employs in their stable of excellent sound designers, and I hope he continues to do excellent work.

Overall, Aliens & Sex & Chips & Gravy was an enjoyable rompy story that started out strong, but stumbled a bit in the latter half of the story. The cast was strong and enjoyable, with Paul Clayton continuing to shine as Mr. Colchester, but also getting to show his range beyond the comedic with a dark turn in the story. Eve Myles also delights as Gwen Cooper, though her performance feels a little lacking at times. The story by James Goss was an enjoyable one, and started out with a rather strong story of a bride-to-be in an arranged marriage. However, the latter half felt extremely padded out, to account for the fact that Goss seemed to lack about 20 minutes of his script. But overall, it was an enjoyable enough story, even as it stumbled towards the end.

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