Captain Jack Harkness has always had his suspicions about the Committee. And now Wilson is also talking about the Committee. Apparently the world really is under the control of alien lizards. That’s what Wilson says.
People have died, disasters have been staged, the suspicious have disappeared.
Only Jack knows that Wilson is right. The Committee has arrived.
John Barrowman is Captain Jack Harkness in Torchwood: The Conspiracy.
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John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness)
John Sessions (Wilson)
Sarah Ovens (Kate)
Dan Bottomley (Sam)
Written By: David Llewellyn
Directed By: Scott Handcock
Produced by: James Goss
Script edited by: Steve Tribe
Trailer – https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/popout/the-conspiracy-1294
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In 2006, Russell T Davies expanded the Doctor Who universe with the creation and production of a new show called Torchwood, focusing on the efforts of Captain Jack Harkness and his team of agents known as the Torchwood Institute to defend Earth against threats all alien and supernatural. Over the course of four series, the show focused on more adult themes such as existentialism, homosexual and bisexual relationships, and the exploration of human corruptibility.
Attempting to explore more adult themes was a double edged sword. On one hand, the initial run of episodes focused on being more “shocking” instead of “profound,” leading to things such as a Torchwood member using an extraterrestrial device to “convince” a girl and her boyfriend to sleep with him in what’s actually mind rape, poisoning the character throughout the entire series, an alien gas that killed people via extreme orgasm, and…well, this.
On the other hand, the show would find its way throughout the second season and beyond, tackling topics such as life after resurrection, how much people would give up for the greater good, and the possibility of redemption…which isn’t always possible, no matter how great the sacrifice. In 2011, Russell T Davies announced that, for personal reasons, the show was on “indefinite hiatus.”
Those two words never stopped Big Finish.
Torchwood is a six-episode audio series that focuses on both current and past members of the Torchwood institute. The first episode, The Conspiracy, follows Jack Harkness as he investigates a well-known conspiracy buff who’s theories are steeped too much in the truth. A small cast and a quick run-time make The Conspiracy enjoyable and worth a listen, despite Jack’s willingness to hold the proverbial Idiot Ball.
George Wilson was once a respected television journalist. Then, he had an on-air breakdown where he denounced the constant stream of war, poverty, misery, and light entertainment that he was forced to discuss night in and night out. But it wasn’t just frustration with the world that drove Wilson to speak the truth – it was the fact that, behind the scenes, in the seats of government, embedded with the media, and sitting on the boards of multinational corporations are the true rulers of the world – an alien race who call themselves “The Committee” whose diabolical master plan is to wipe out humanity to obtain the moon’s vast supply of helium-3. This would be one of the most outlandish conspiracy theories Jack Harkness has ever heard…if it wasn’t so close to the truth.
David Llwewllyn has written numerous short stories and novels for both Torchwood and Doctor Who, as well as several Big Finish audios for various ranges including Bernice Summerfield, Gallifrey and Dark Shadows. He was a very solid choice to pen this first audio for the new Torchwood range, turning in a script that mixes both dialogue and first-person narration (Harkness fills in a lot of the narrative gaps and scene transitions in first-person format, almost like he was telling the story to a confidant over a beer in some seedy Singapore dive). It’s very rare that the story slows down. There’s always something happening to push the narrative forward, with a nice toss-in about the Weevils (an alien menace who made numerous appearances in the television series) to underline that there’s always a threat somewhere and it doesn’t always wait for another threat to get wrapped up. While the action keeps moving, it does lead to a big revelation at the end that comes off as just a TAD rushed and with JUST enough information to serve as both exposition and a bit of information overload. The very end of the story also comes off as a bit abrupt, especially for listeners who might not realize that this series of Torchwood contains a long-term story arc. But it makes sense, as this series mixes both team members who were still around after Torchwood: Miracle Day and those who are no longer serving with Torchwood.
This isn’t the first time Torchwood had been presented in an audio format, as BBC’s Radio 4 aired seven stories from 2008 through 2011. So it’s no surprise that John Barrowman slides very easily back into the role of Captain Jack Harkness. While Barrowman is now affiliated with the DC television universe, he’s stated time and time again (including on the behind-the-scenes segment on The Conspiracy, where one can just hear his eagerness and joy) how much Captain Jack means to him. Harkness has all of the qualities one saw during his time on television – his bravery, his charm, his covert side, and just a hint of the smugness that afflicts the agents of the Torchwood Institute, aka the best known secret agency on the planet (seriously, it seems like everyone in Cardiff knows the existence of the super-hot guy in the Royal Navy coat running around in a black SUV). Barrowman’s cadence and delivery seems JUST a little off, but that could be chalked up to the fact that Barrowman delivered his lines from Palm Springs to Big Finish via Skype. The only downside to Barrowman’s performance is how the character sometimes just flat out does stupid things, arriving on scenes by himself, without backup or scouting, only to have someone get shot or even killed. It can be attributed to the fact that Jack Harkness is the only Torchwood member in the story, but one would think an experienced covert operative would be a little more cautious than responding to someone saying “Meet me at the hotel” than running up the stairs and down the hall with his gun out and kicking the door open like gangbusters.
The supporting cast does a solid job, mainly John Sessions (noted British impressionist also known for his performance as the malevolent computer Gus from Mummy on the Orient Express) as George Wilson. He brings a level of cultured believability to the part, making Wilson come off not as a nut case, but someone who might, just might, come off as quite possibly knowing what’s going on behind the veil. Wilson isn’t a raving nutcase, but a man who truly believes what he believes in, and it adds a level of realism to the story, and Sessions sparkles a few moments of dry and wary humor throughout his performance. Sarah Ovens is fine as Kate, Wilson’s daughter and handler, who guides her father through his day-to-day activities, and Dan Bottomley has a small part as Sam, fellow conspiracy buff and blogger for THE EYE OF PROVIDENCE, who carries the dedicated and zealous side of things.
Torchwood: The Conspiracy does what it sets out to do – bring the show back for a new audience discovering the show for a first time or for long-time fans eager for new adventures. It serves to set up the long-term arc over the six-episode series while showcasing some fine performances. The next episode appears to be a flashback episode involving a departed character, but the ending scene for this story establishing one important thing. Captain Jack will return…
+ Fine performances from all involved
+ A story that moves quickly and keeps the action going
– Jack Harkness does some very dumb things for a secret agent
– Last minute exposition dump
Cobi’s Synopsis – Torchwood is back with The Conspiracy, a story focusing on Captain Jack Harkness and a conspiracy theorist whose absurd claims are uncomfortably close to the truth.
Next up – Ianto Jones thought the flight would be sabotaged. The only problem is…he’s on board…
Gareth David-Lloyd is Ianto Jones in Torchwood: Fall To Earth.