Torchwood – “Made You Look”

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

Talmouth is a lonely seaside town. No-one has heard from it for days. No-one who goes in comes out. Something has happened to Talmouth. Has it been taken over by aliens? Or is it something far, far worse?

Gwen Cooper’s come to Talmouth to find out. What’s happened has to be seen to be believed. But by the time you’ve seen it, you’re already dead.

Eve Myles is Gwen Cooper in Torchwood: Made You Look

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Cast
Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper)
Matthew Gravelle (Darkness)
Marilyn Le Conte (Mrs Rhodes)
Ross Ford (James)

Written By: Guy Adams
Directed By: Scott Handcock
Produced by: James Goss
Script edited by: Steve Tribe
Released: 2 August 2016

Trailer – https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/popout/made-you-look-1394

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Torchwood: Made You Look closes out the second season of Big Finish’s Torchwood range with an atmospheric story set in an empty village. When Made You Look hits, it hits with a creepy apprehension filled opening act. When it misses, it stumbles, spending too much time wandering about towards an inconclusive ending without ratcheting up the tension in any significant manner.

English seaside resort towns usually look abandoned during the off-season. But to Gwen Cooper, there’s more to the empty streets and shops of Talmouth that meets the eye. Three days ago, the citizens of Talmouth began to disappear into thin air. When Gwen arrives on the morning train, the only inhabitants left are Ms. Rhodes, the blind owner of a local inn; James, a homeless bloke; and a charming sounding individual who makes fleeting appearances in the corner of one’s eye. A brief flicker the first time. A sudden appearance that makes one turn their head the second time. The third time’s the charm however, as the eyes are ripped from the victim’s sockets and their bodies dissolved, the last thing they see the true form of Darkness…

Made You Look is Guy Adams’ third contribution to the Torchwood range, following up on the season one closer More Than This and season two standout Moving Target. More Than This did a great job showing how a normal civilian would react once caught up on the chaos that is a day in the life of a Torchwood Three operative while Moving Target run on maximum tension and the barest of breathers as the characters ran for their lives. Made You Look attempts to combine the elements of those stories as the investigation of the abandoned town turns into an desperate attempt to escape to the nearby train station while harried by a villain who can’t be seen. Instead of weaving the two elements together however, Adams’ script instead puts them back-to-back. The first half of Made You Look is a gripping affair as Gwen arrives at the town of Talmouth. Aside from the lack of people, everything is perfectly normal. The lights are on, the shops are open, and dinners are sitting on kitchen sideboards getting cold. The only clue that something is wrong are the ravings of a homeless beach bum (James, played by Ross Ford who voice the alien Saviour in Broken) about a man that will kill him should he lay eyes upon him. This man is a…alien? Force of nature? It’s never quite described…who calls himself Darkness to give its low intelligence prey something to identify it by. Darkness is played by Matthew Gravelle who featured in several of the non-Big Finish Torchwood audios. Gravelle attempts to go for the charming villain type, one whose condescension of humanity is hidden underneath feigned niceties. His constant taunts of Eve attempt to quantify him and identify him, to “place him in a box,” have a nice ring to them, and his pure glee at devouring James’ body once the beach bum sees him for the third and final time makes the horrifying slurping and cracking noises that much worse. Gravelle’s performance however walks the fine line between “charmingly evil” and “ridiculously pantomime.” There’s a sense of menace at first that eventually becomes too gleeful and too “hiding behind a smile.” And there’s never truly a sense of what Darkness really is given by Adams’ script. Is he an alien? Some creature from the see? A powerful psychic energy? Darkness can move incredibly fast, kill people by his very appearance, control automobiles to drive Gwen and Ms. Rhodes off of the promenade, mess with people’s perception of space and distance to make a fifteen minute walk to the train station take over half a day, cause seagulls animals to attack the pair, and imitate Gwen’s loved ones in an attempt to convince her to open her eyes and sacrifice herself lest they lay their eyes on him…this is one powerful villain, an antagonist who could give even the Doctor a moment’s pause. But after his initial introduction and part in James’ demise, Darkness isn’t a threat aside from throwing cars at Eve and Ms. Rhodes to force them onto the
beach. He’s more of an annoyance than anything else.

The bulk of Made You Look’s second half is spent with Eve and Ms. Rhodes (Marilyn Le Conte) travelling up the beach, attempting to reach Talmouth’s train station in an attempt to get Rhodes to safety. A longtime local inn owner, Rhodes’ survival against the Darkness has come from the fact that she’s blind. Beyond that piece of information however, Ms. Rhodes is nothing more than a lodestone around Gwen’s neck for the back half of the story, giving Gwen something to do, someone to save from Darkness as opposed to actually solving the mystery. It’s a good ten-to-fifteen minutes of the pair walking up the beach, complaining about the fog, complaining about the distance, stating that it can’t be THAT far, Rhodes complaining about her hip, Gwen encouraging her to come along and it isn’t far now, Rhodes wondering just how effective Gwen is at stopping alien threats (meta-comment for Torchwood as a whole?), Darkness taunting them, and repeat. Ok, maybe it’s not exactly that cut-and-dried, but it is definitely during the beach walk that Made You Look grinds to halt and doesn’t really recover. Darkness tries to screw with Gwen by making her believe her husband Rhys is going to come looking for her and in order to save him, she has to open her eyes to look upon Darkness and sacrifice herself, only for Rhodes to scream Rhys isn’t real because as a blind person she knows the difference between a voice and a voice with the body. In the end, he’s defeated because Gwen and Ms. Rhodes refuse to look at him and “give him anything else to eat,” leaving him howling on the promenade like a toddler throwing a tantrum…but Gwen mentions that they’ll lock Darkness in a box to get rid of him. If you can’t see him or look at him, HOW are you going to lock him up?

On one hand, Eve Myles is fine as Gwen – the curious agent poking her nose into a mystery and determined to stop the bad guy at all costs and doing whatever she can to save whomever she can. On the other hand…she’s fine as Gwen. There’s nothing that stands out to her performance with Made You Look. It’s a solo Gwen story…and that’s a bummer as the Big Finish range had yet to give us THE Gwen story. Jack Harkness has Uncanny Valley. Ianto Jones has Fall to Earth. Hell, Suzie Costello who only appeared in a handful of televised episodes had Moving Target. While Forgotten Lives, More Than This, and now Made You Look are fine stories, none of them hit the level of “classic” or “standout” that the other Torchwood characters have gotten.

This story has no mention of the Committee (which I’m going to guess will play a huge part in the upcoming Torchwood: Outbreak), decent performances, solid sound work (it’s Big Finish and Blair Mowat/Steve Foxon, so you know the sounds of waves lapping on the shore, screaming seagulls, and even footsteps on the rocky sand are going to be top notch), and a few tense moments. If this had been a television story, the keyword would have been “filler.” Made You Look isn’t a bad story. Made You Look isn’t a good story. Made You Look is _A_ story, and its flaws are only magnified when compared to the other stories in the Torchwood range.

Random Thoughts
– There’s definitely a Silent Hill vibe in the first half of the story minus the faceless nurses and packs of screaming babies
– After recording More Than This in 2015, Eve Myles sent out a tweet stating “Thank You. Massive Goodbye. GC.” I’m imagining Big Finish saying “hey that’s cool Eve, thanks for coming in for these two stories, don’t mind us we’re just going to sit here working on this four-part story with John and Gareth…if you see any of the script pages lying around, please return them to us. Take your time holding on to them, of course…”
– I realized about halfway through writing this review that I had been typing “Eva Marie” instead of “Eve Myles…”

Cobi’s SynopsisMade You Look’s first half holds up thanks to a tense atmosphere, but the second half falters under closer observation due to a meandering plot thread and a weak conclusion.

Next up – With the city sealed off and murderous mobs raging through the streets, Torchwood has to save something even more important than the human race…

John Barrowman is Jack Harkness, Eve Myles is Gwen Cooper, Gareth David-Lloyd is Ianto Jones, Kai Owen is Rhys Williams, and Tom Price is Andy Davidson in…Torchwood: Outbreak

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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.

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