Reviewed By: thisoldcan
Review Date: 8/12/17 6:17 pm
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In Changes Everything, the opening story of Series 5 of Torchwood, Torchwood is dead. Cardiff is a changed city, with hate crimes and terrorist attacks against refugees seemingly daily, and that doesn't look likely to change. But when investigative journalist Tyler Steele begins investigating these attacks, Torchwood must spring in to action to save his life. Cardiff has changed since Torchwood fell apart, but Torchwood will change with it, and retake their city. Changes Everything is a remarkably similar story to Day One, the tale of Gwen Cooper's (Eve Myles) first day at Torchwood. Though this story is different in one small way, it's essentially a familiar remake of that first episode for those new to the audio format. And what a first episode it was. It's damn near perfect, introducing the excellent Jonny Green as Tyler Steele, and reintroducing Jack (John Barrowman), Gwen, and Mr. Colchester (Paul Clayton) to fans of the show and audios. James Goss delivered a sadly topical story about the refugee crisis, while adding his own personal Torchwood flair to it. It's as good a story as any to reintroduce the Torchwood team to listeners, and a great start to the series proper.
Jonny Green takes the lead in this story as Tyler Steele, gay investigative reporter. Green gives a fantastic performance, especially at the end of the story, as he's rejected from Torchwood, and his pleading to be given a second chance. Green portrays the character as cocky and know-it-all, as basically a stereotypical reporter. But underneath that is a desire to do the right thing, as evidenced by his discussion in the coffee shop; in the end, he wants to get to the bottom of these hate crimes and terrorist attacks. Whether his reasons for it are for glory or for a desire to help people remains to be seen, but Goss and Green introduced a great character, who I can't wait to hear more of.
While most of this story centers around Green, John Barrowman as Jack, Eve Myles as Gwen, and Paul Clayton as Mr. Colchester are all reintroduced to listeners. Barrowman and Myles both reprise their roles as Torchwood leader (who loves Deepthroat) Jack Harkness, and Gwen Cooper, Torchwood's deputy leader. Myles is a delight in this story as Gwen, giving a performance much like Barrowman's own in the pilot episode of the series, turning the first episode on its head a bit. Similarly, John Barrowman is briefly in the story, but giving a strong performance all the same. His speech at the end about Cardiff being a different city, and his rejection of Tyler are both powerful moments for the character, and one of my favorite scenes from the story. But it's the dry, sardonic Paul Clayton as Mr. Colchester who captured most of my attention. He briefly appeared in The Torchwood Archive, a story celebrating the 10th anniversary of Torchwood. Here, the beleaguered civil servant returns to join Jack and Gwen as part of Torchwood's team. My favorite moment comes as Tyler attacks the civil servant for his supposed conservative views, hating the gays and immigrants and refugees, to which, without missing a beat, Clayton dryly replies that he's off to pick up his Muslim husband for shopping. Clayton is almost certainly in this story for a bit of comic relief, but that doesn't stop him from being one of the best parts of the story so far.
James Goss's first of two contributions to this box set is a dark homage to the pilot episode of Torchwood, Everything Changes. With a topical, yet distinctly Torchwood story, Goss manages the unenviable task of reintroducing listeners new and old to Torchwood, bringing in a few new characters, AND delivering a strong opening story to the set, all while making it look effortless. The story is a very similar story to the pilot episode, Everything Changes. Newcomer encounters Torchwood, Torchwood saves their life, newcomer chases after Torchwood trying to join, only to be drawn into a confrontation with a third party, as Jack dies, only to revive and be kill the third party. But the story chooses a very topical topic, as James Goss pens a story centered on hate crimes and terrorist attacks towards refugees and the monolithic "other". It elevates this story quite a bit, especially given the current political climate; I'm sure this story won't be for everyone, but for me, I thought it was one of the best choices for a story.
What stands out to me most is the final part of the story, beginning with the scene where the alien is threatening to kill hostages at the office building. Tyler chooses to let the alien kill hostages, thinking he'd have more time for Jack to figure out, which Jack is horrified by. This leads to the final scenes, where Jack tells Tyler that there's no place in Torchwood for him. It's a strong step forward for a series that is sometimes about giving second chances to those who don't deserve it, and it's made all the more powerful by the simple line by Gwen, when asked if she might be able to talk Jack into letting Tyler join Torchwood: "...I bought you a coffee." There's a lot that goes into that very simple line, and I think it's a remarkable step forward for Torchwood, courtesy of James Goss
Overall, Aliens Among Us starts off with an excellent story, courtesy of James Goss. He took elements of Everything Changes and Day One, and blended them together with some very topical ideas about refugees and terrorist attacks, making a brilliant story about a man trying to join Torchwood. Newcomer Jonny Green was a delight as Tyler Steele, while old cast members John Barrowman, Eve Myles, and Paul Clayton were excellent to hear. It's a strong start to the series, and a great return to form for Torchwood