Torchwood – “Broken”

Whenever Ianto Jones has a tough day at work, he has somewhere he can hide. And, for Ianto Jones, it’s always a tough day at work.

His girlfriend is dead, his colleagues don’t trust him, and his boss… his boss is something else. With no friends in the world, and his life in danger every day, is it any wonder that at night, Ianto Jones goes to the pub?

Ianto’s local becomes somewhere where he feels safe. Safe from his demons, safe from his life, safe from Torchwood. Until one evening, Captain Jack Harkness walks into a bar….

Gareth David-Lloyd is Ianto Jones and John Barrowman is Captain Jack Harkness in Torchwood: Broken.

X X X X X

Cast
Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones),
John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness)
Melanie Walters (Mandy Aibiston)
Eiry Thomas (Glenda)
Ross Ford (The Saviour)

Written By: Joseph Lidster
Directed By: Scott Handcock
Producer: James Goss
Script editor: Steve Tribe
Released: July 2016

Trailer – https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/popout/broken-1393

X X X X X

The Scream movies is one of my favorite horror films series , and the current MTV television series based on the movies is my wife and I’s current “watch the night it airs” show.

Both versions of Scream look into something I’ve always found fascinating about slasher flicks that’s very rarely touched upon, and that’s how the life of the “Final Girl” is affected by being one of the survivors of the killer’s/killers’ murderous rampage after the final credits roll. The movies show how Syndey Prescott slowly removed herself from the world by working on a woman’s help line from her remote cabin, isolating herself from her friends in an effort to keep them safe as well. The television series, now in its second season, is showing how the surviving teenagers are coping with their survival. One of them runs a podcast dedicated to examining the murders while trying to figure out the how’s and why’s. The “main” survivor meanwhile is trying to deal with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, including bad dreams, hallucinations, and a variety of triggers that cause her to have an episode. Of course, there’s a major difference between PTSD from being in a horror film and real causes PTSD brought about by severe and intense situations, however the first one allows me to escape from reality for a few hours, a reality that seems to be trying really hard as of late to give America a severe case of PTSD by the time 2016 is all said and done.

Torchwood: Broken takes the character of Ianto Jones and examines how he’s coping with some of the more extreme events he’s had to deal with during his time with the organization, specifically how his time around Captain Jack Harkness has changed his view of the world. In the hands of a writer perfectly suited for the subject matter, Broken fills in a lot of characterization gaps for Ianto while also giving us a bit of a peek into how and why Jack and Ianto ended up as a couple.

Canary Wharf. His girlfriend converted into a Cyberman who went on a rampage throughout the Hub, killing two civilians in the process. Almost being carved up and eaten by Welsh cannibals. Ianto Jones is a mess, however he has a tough time trying to explain how he feels to his boss, one Jack Harkness, the man who killed his girlfriend and someone who would rather dash about in a cavalier manner than try to understand what Ianto is going through. Luckily, there’s a place where Ianto can to forget about life for a while – his local pub. Its owner also serves as its main barmaid, and Mandy Aibiston is well trained in lending a friendly ear. As Ianto gradually opens up to Mandy and his feelings of hatred towards Jack Harkness, Mandy is willing to go one step beyond in helping Ianto. If Cardiff can’t give Ianto the support he needs, why not begin again somewhere else? Somewhere far away from Torchwood and Jack Harkness, someplace Ianto would never have to worry about seeing him again…

Broken is hands down the darkest, bleakest, and most honest of the Big Finish Torchwood releases so far, and I mean that in a good way. It took me a little bit, and I’m ready to admit it after this story and Torchwood: One Rule. I enjoy Joseph Lidster’s writing, and I no longer cringe when I see his name associated with a Big Finish release. I believe it’s because Lidster’s darker and more gritty (and a bit depressing) style of writing fit into the Torchwood and Dark Shadows ranges better than it does into Doctor Who. Broken is a story that doesn’t pull any punches. Ianto Jones is messed up, and who can blame him? His girlfriend Lisa died during the Battle of Canary Wharf while being converted into a Cyberman (Army of Ghosts/Doomsday). He found her body and tried to reverse the conversion, only for Lisa’s Cyberman half to take over and murder a doctor and a pizza delivery girl in an effort to once again be with Ianto (Cyberwoman). And he found himself at the mercy of Welsh cannibals who nearly killed him and Tosh (Countrycide). Ianto hasn’t been trained as a field agent, and as such doesn’t have the same means and capabilities as someone like Tosh to deal with the stressful events that happen to Torchwood every single day. Add to it that his teammates don’t trust him (pot, it’s kettle, phone for you) and it’s no wonder he can’t cope, and why he finds solace in the bottom of a pint glass. Lidster pulls from the Torchwood TV series, directly referencing the events of Cyberwoman and Countrycide as Ianto has nightmares over Lisa’s final death as the hands of Jack Harkness and is nearly driven to suicide at the memory of the knives of the cannibals that won’t leave his head. Lidster’s script, the direction of Scott Handcock, and the sound editing provided by Steve Foxon all come together in a cacophony of screams, knives being sharpened, Weevils being mercilessly beaten, and Jack being tortured to set a very brutal and bleak canvas, mixed in with the quiet scenes of dialogue between Ianto and the barmaid Mandy. Broken is by no means an easy story to listen to, however I mean that in a good sort of way and not in the Nekromanteia sort of way. Even the mandatory “there MUST be an alien menace” storyline ties into the rest of the audio, Mandy’s repeated suggestions to Ianto to “begin again somewhere else,” and the mythology of the Rift, as well as providing a momentary respite from the more down-to-earth interactions between Ianto and Mandy.

Broken is Ianto’s story. Gareth David-Lloyd turns in a performance that rivals and maybe exceeds the one he gave in Torchwood: Fall to Earth. In that story, Ianto was looking to prove himself to the rest of Torchwood. Here, Ianto is simply trying to find himself, an immensely more difficult task. From his childhood, to Canary Wharf, to Cardiff, even to the fine suits he always wears while making the team’s coffee, Ianto’s whole life has been trying to prove his worth to others. When asked to prove his own worth to himself, he has no answers. David-Lloyd’s turn sees Ianto slowly break down more and more over the course of Broken, finding no help from his teammates even as his psyche becomes more and more fragile. His interactions with Jack are more outlets for his emotions than any attempts to seek help, interactions which make Ianto’s hatred towards Jack more palpable as the story rolls on. While people have called Jack out on his actions before, Ianto is furious with him which is nice to hear from a listener’s point of view (I hate characters who always seem to avoid major consequences). When Ianto’s promise of someday leaving Jack to die comes true near the end of the story, it doesn’t come off as a surprise, a shock, or even a “Lidster Twist.” It’s the natural progression of his storyline, a moment that hits the listener square in the jaw and demands their attention. And there’s no big “a-ha” moment of realization for Ianto that causes him to go back and save Jack from his final fate. It’s a quiet moment that caught me a bit off guard, which is how David-Lloyd plays it – a slow burn of an idea that simply comes to a boil and makes Ianto realize “my God, what have I done?”

With Ianto taking center stage, Jack Harkness is set off to the side. Ianto interacts with Jack to go on a few missions, but the primary interaction with Jack comes in the story’s second half as Jack comes to the pub investigating a series of locals who have gone missing. John Barrowman’s performance here is ALMOST over-the-top, barely under the proverbial redline as Harkness cracks jokes and acts larger than life. In a serious story, Jack is the one who provides the moments of levity with his boisterous ego, flirtatious nature, and comments such as “Why are we fighting? Did I miss the safeword?” Barrowman as Harkness validates Ianto’s hatred of him through his actions and words, with his ease at dismissing Ianto’s emotional crisis and threatening to Retcon the barmaid because Ianto let slip Jack was his boss. The ease with which Jack forgives Ianto is a bit sudden, but it’s explainable as centuries of being immortal have led Jack to know when to forgive and when not to forget.

Rounding out the main cast is Melanie Walters as the owner of the local pub, Mandy Aibiston. She’s your typical barmaid, willing to lend an ear in return for the purchase of a pint of bitter, and Walters excels in the part as she gently pulls Ianto’s story out of him. Is the sympathy true or feigned? One has to wonder when Mandy rushes to Ianto’s flat to stop him from overdosing on pills after his incident in the Welsh countryside, as well as when she tears into Jack about how he doesn’t give a whit for Ianto and he’d be better off somewhere else. In true Torchwood fashion, there’s something TOO good about Mandy, and it’s her charm and kindness that make her casual revelation of the truth to Jack all the more shocking. Her final fate also caught me off guard, especially for a Joseph Lidster story, however it’s a nice capstone on the proceedings.

Gareth David-Lloyd has been at the heart of my two favorite Torchwood releases – Fall to Earth and now Broken. Joseph Lidster gives David-Lloyd plenty of emotional pathos to work with and the result is a brutal, honest look at just how difficult it can be to cope with all that Torchwood Three handles, especially when one’s boss is in denial. If you’re a fan of Torchwood in any capacity this one’s a definite pick-up, and if you just like stories I’d recommend giving this one a look as well.

Random Thoughts
– It’s funny that this story is meant to bridge the events of Cyberwoman, one of the show’s poorest episodes, and Countrycide, one of its best.
– Props to Ianto in one scene for showing that sometimes good old fashioned detective work can trump all the electronic bells and whistles.
– So…after a full audio of hating on Jack and rescuing him at the last minute, the Ianto/Jack relationship begins in the story’s final 60 seconds when Jack asks Ianto what he can do for him, Ianto asks for a kiss, and it turns into a “one night of hard shagging and it’s back to normal.” Yeah, it’s Torchwood, I’ll allow it!
– This is the first Big Finish Torchwood story not to mention the Committee in any way.

Cobi’s Synopsis – Emotionally dark and brutally honest, Torchwood: Broken is among the finest of the Big Finish revival with a superb turn from Gareth David-Lloyd.

Next up “It stalks you. It whispers. It wants you to turn around. It wants you to look. But if you do… If you see it…”

Eve Myles is Gwen Cooper in…Torchwood: Made You Look.

Advertisements

About cobiwann

A guy who's into a niche fandom of a niche fandom - the Big Finish audio plays of "Doctor Who." Also into the show itself, both old and new, plus pop culture and a smattering of human insight.
This entry was posted in Big Finish Review, Torchwood and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Torchwood – “Broken”

  1. cate says:

    I agree, I loved it…. just one TINY correction…. the director is Scott Handcock…you called him Steve at one point in the review “the direction of Steve Handcock, and the sound editing provided by Steve Foxon all come together…” No biggie, but, ya know, I hate it when my name gets muddled…and I am guessing others do as well.

  2. isara says:

    Wonderful review! Congrats! I hope much more stories with Jack and Ianto (even in TV: really, was the biggest mistake leaving Ianto out of the team – his chemistry with Jack is fabulous)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s