Reviewed By: thisoldcan
Review Date: 6/10/17 7:24 pm
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In the opening story of The Lives of Captain Jack, The Year After I Died, Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) has been left behind by the Doctor and Rose on an Earth ravaged by the Daleks. Fighting those cells, he comes across a reporter, Silo Crook, and, in a decision that surprises him, saves her from certain death. When she goes off to the Hope Foundation, a place that gives hope to those in need, Jack is uneasy. Just what is going on in the bowels of the Hope Foundation, and will Jack be able to save everyone? The Year After I Died starts off the set with an enjoyable story we've heard a few times before. The familiarity helps settle listeners into the world of Captain Jack well, but it's the central performances of Barrowman and Shvorne Marks as Silo Crook who really bring the story to life. Guy Adams writes an enjoyable, familiar script, that gives a Jack Harkness spin on the tale of a seemingly benevolent organization with deep dark secrets.
John Barrowman returns to the role he (and we all) loves, Captain Jack Harkness. The Jack of this story is young; this is set a year after Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways, with Jack on an Earth ravaged by Daleks. Jack is a little more grumpy, and a little jaded here in this story, and Barrowman picks up the part and really just runs with it well. It's a different side of Jack than we're used to, as a lot of his flirty charm is gone here, but Barrowman plays the role well. I particularly liked the bit of acting after he saves Silo from the mines, wondering what made him so stupid that he would risk his life to save this girl he doesn't even know. It's clear that this story is set before Jack realizes he's immortal, and the performance that Barrowman gives is appropriate for that outlook on life. I also appreciate that Barrowman seemed to make a conscious effort to try and make his voice sound a little younger. It's a difficult thing for actors to do, and I found that I really liked that he put in the effort for it, to some success.
Joining Barrowman as his "companions" for the story are Shvorne Marks and Scott Haran as reporter Silo Crook and Malfi Pryn, respectively. Shvorne Marks is a delight throughout this story; while the attached job of reporter is getting to be a bit annoying in many stories (seriously, how many reporters can there actually be in the universe), I quite liked Marks' chemistry with Barrowman. She was able to play off of him well, and was able to bring out a slightly flirty side with Jack by the end. I particularly liked the scene trying to convince those waiting for the Hope Foundation of the Foundation's evil intentions. I liked the rapid-fire action with Jack, and then the very sudden stage fright when turning to the crowd. Scott Haran plays the slightly dopey Malfi Pryn, a man who has his eyes taken by the Hope Foundation in their sick organ grinding scheme. Why I liked most about Haran's performance was the comedic aspects of it. Even after he has his eyes taken, Haran plays the role like someone just coming out of surgery would; high as a kite, and unsure of what's going on. It's a fun, fluffy performance that I probably won't really remember in a few weeks, but one that nonetheless fleshes out the story.
The villains of this story are Sarah Douglas as the head of the Hope Foundation, the jaded vulgarian Vortia Trear, and her long-suffering assistant, Gorky Sax, played by Aaron Neil. Douglas relishes in the chance to play someone as horrible as Vortia in this story, giving a delightfully over-the-top evil performance here in this story. I particularly liked the way she delivered her jokes in the dining area, as she seemed to be having quite a fun time of it. While she felt a little too like so many other villains before her, Douglas clearly enjoyed the role, and I can appreciate that quite a bit. Neil gave the better villainous performance of the story in my opinion, as the bumbling assistant at the beginning, to the twisted, murderous lead at the end of the story.
Guy Adams' script in this story was a familiar, yet fun story, giving a safe story to start off the box set. We've had several stories that feature a seemingly benevolent organization with sinister secrets beneath it over the years, and this one enters that canon safely. But what sets it apart from the other stories is due, in part, to the excellent cast and the fun, snappy writing that Adams is able to inject into his story. The story itself is a bit too run-of-the-mill at times for my liking. I can appreciate a story about an organization that does a little organ grinding on the side, but this story seems to take most of it's spark from the shock value of an organization doing this kind of thing, rather than from something different and unique. I thought this story might feature something to do with the Daleks in some capacity, given the story description, but instead, we have a simple story about organ grinders using a charitable organization as a cover. Not that that's bad, per se, but it's certainly a little uninspired, and doesn't really make the story stand out too much. At the same time though, the dialogue that Adams wrote for each character was fun and enjoyable. I particularly thought that lines Adams gave to Vortia and to Silo were excellent bits of writing. Each of the characters really felt like they had a full back story to them, in no small part because of Adams excellent writing. He was able to make each character really pop off the page and feel rich and fulfilling.
The last thing I'd like to mention in this review is the absolutely excellent music by Blair Mowat. Aside from the theme music, which was superb, Mowat did a great job giving us a soundtrack for the story that sounded like a blend of some elements of Torchwood, Doctor Who. The end result is a soundtrack that comes across as a Space Western. You have the slightly sci-fi elements mixed with the more "out on the open road/gunslinger theme" music, and it made for just a delightful soundtrack. Literally from the getgo, I was in love with the soundtrack. Mowat has done stellar work for Big Finish before, but she really outdid herself here.
Overall, The Year After I Died starts off The Lives of Captain Jack on a solid bedrock. The story featured some strong performances by John Barrowman as the title character Jack Harkness, while Shvorne Marks shone as Silo Crook. Guy Adams wrote a story that was filled with solid character work and dialogue, but that felt a little too like so many stories before it. While the story itself was interesting and dark, it fell a little flat for me, because it didn't really have much to distinguish itself from other stories of a similar vein. Still, the openings story was enjoyable enough, starting off the set well, and leading into the following stories well.