AUDIO REVIEW: The Green Life, by David Llewelyn

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Series: Torchwood (#26)

Genre: SF Horror

Publisher: Big Finish

Runtime: 75mins

Cast: John Barrowman, Katy Manning, Stewart Bevan

Verdict: 5/5

Proper food. Proper grub. The small Welsh town of Llanfairfach has become the centre of a food revolution. But if all is what it seems, why is Torchwood investigating?

I’m a massive fan of the Jon Pertwee era, and The Green Death (aka ‘The One with the Maggots’) is one of the greatest stories in Doctor Who’s long history. With UNIT, Jo Grant and the Doctor investigating a shady company in rural Wales, it encapsulates everything that I love about the Third Doctor’s tenure. So when I found that Big Finish had released an audio sequel, I knew I had to pick it up. This time around there is no UNIT to be found, though they are referenced. Nor is there a Doctor in sight. No, this time around the only ones who can investigate are Torchwood’s Captain jack Harkness, and the irreplaceable Jo Jones (nee Grant).

Now, you may think that Jo is an odd fit for the swearing, sex and violence-drenched world of Torchwood, and I thought the exact same thing. But worry not, because Katy manning and John Barrowman are clearly having the time of their lives in the recording studio, and their chemistry crackles both in character and out, as showed by the ten minute group interview at the end of the CD. For all the genteel refinement that epitomises the Pertwee Era, Jo slides effortlessly into the grittier world of the twenty-first century without losing any of the heart and enthusiasm that made her so iconic. Whether it’s furiously smashing computers or apologising to maggots as they are run over, Jo is never anything less than a delight.

Make no mistakes though, for all that this is a clear and loving sequel to a Doctor Who classic, it is still undeniably a Torchwood story. If the swearing and violence doesn’t convince you of that, then the weightier themes certainly will. Like the series that spwaned it, this audio drama refuses to shy away from the dirtier side of dealing with threats both alien and other. There are endings, yes, but don’t expect them to be happy. Protecting the world is a messy job, and requires compromises that the Doctor would never agree to. Jack Harkness may be the man who cannot die, but he is not the towering figure of myth that the Doctor is. He and Torchwood fight things on a much more human level, and The Green Life uses that to full effect.

Although this is the 26th in the Torchwood series, it is a perfect standalone. All the 26 signifies is that there are 25 others out there to hunt down, which I will definitely be doing. These smaller scale stories are perfect for audio, while retaining the episodic feel that made the TV series so good. Even if you haven’t followed all the expanded adventures of the audio Torchwood series, as I haven’t, you can dive straight in here and enjoy it as a standalone piece. Though it will definitely help if you’ve seen The Green Death.

Whether you are a fan of Doctor Who, Torchwood, or just good squelching horror audio, this is definitely worth the price of admission.

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