George Hewitt reviews the opening episode of Big Finish‘s new Torchwood series: Among Us!
After a four year break since God Among Us concluded, Torchwood is back with its seventh series, Among Us! Series 6 ended with Torchwood going on the run, and the first episode of the new series, Aliens Next Door by Ash Darby, follows on from there.
Immediately, this series distinguishes itself from previous by focussing on only two main cast members in the first episode, rather than including the whole ensemble. This creates a different mood for the story, allowing it to feel smaller-scale and more self-contained. Because of this, Darby is able to really flesh out the guest characters in Aliens Next Door. Joining Alexandria Riley as Ng and Samantha Béart as Orr are Betty Clerihew (played by Melanie Kilburn) and Hakan (Raj Ghatak). Kilburn nails it as Betty, believably inhabiting the typical neighbourhood curtain-twitcher while allowing some of the more sinister aspects of the character to come through subtly. Likewise, Ghatak evokes much sympathy from the listener, playing Hakan’s fear and anxiety excellently.
As a whole, Aliens Next Door is much, much darker than listeners may initially think. The story starts off pretty slow, just as a conversation between Ng and Orr as they watch the estate. Both Riley and Béart remain convincing as their characters, each of them able to inject real personality into their performances while reminding the audience that both characters are aliens. Early on is some nice dialogue about Jack, acknowledging his absence from the series without dwelling on it too heavily, but the plot takes a turn when Hakan’s house is vandalised and only becomes more dramatic from there.
Racism, nudge units, and memories of lockdown are all tackled by this story and Darby’s script, coupled with Scott Handcock‘s direction ensure that each subject matter is handled coherently. Nothing ever feels over-the-top, and as the story progresses, listeners will begin to feel awful for what’s happening to Hakan. The resolution is given enough time to develop naturally, and makes sense within the context of the episode. Also, despite the dark nature of the story, light-hearted moments such as Ng and Orr’s nicknames for the fellow residents don’t feel out of place.
Overall, Aliens Next Door is a perfect opener to the new series of Torchwood. It manages to tell a fantastic story while also subtly setting up a larger arc for Among Us. Flawless stuff.
Torchwood Among Us 1 is available on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com
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