Having not made a full appearance in Big Finish’s range since it began with ‘The Conspiracy’, Torchwood’s erstwhile leader Captain Jack Harkness returns in ‘Uncanny Valley’, still on the trail of the shadowy global conspiracy known only as “The Committee”.
The story begins with Jack arriving unannounced at the door of a remote Welsh castle, home to the reclusive billionaire businessman Neil Redmond.
Wary of his visitor, but persuaded by a combination of impossible knowledge and a Harkness charm offensive, the Captain is allowed entry and Redmond begins to reveal the tale of his curious robotic doppelganger.
Recovering from a horrific car crash, which it transpires, may not have been the unlucky accident he believed, Redmond was persuaded to acquire a company which manufactured “living dolls”. Before shutting it down, he took delivery of a most remarkable creation, a functioning replica of himself, pre-accident.
Through this avatar, which he christens “NJ”, Redmond has been able to continue and expand his arms business; maintaining a presence at meetings and conferences around the world whilst living the whole experience vicariously through a “live stream”.
‘Uncanny Valley’ is in truth a remarkable tour-de-force from Steven Cree (Outlander, Lip Service) with John Barrowman taking more of a supporting and provoking role. Cree is utterly convincing in his dual roles as Redmond and NJ, and is by turns emotional, tender, naive and chilling.
The script comes from David Llewellyn who has again captured the essence of good Torchwood, providing a mature and thought-provoking play with ‘adult’ moments that are far from gratuitous, unlike the television show’s uneven early days. In fact, it is the first of these plays which has demanded an instant second listen.
Sound designer Neil Gardner makes his directing debut for Big Finish here, and based on the taut drama he has created, it is a another cap which fits perfectly – no mean feat when you consider that, as the extras reveal, one of the cast was on a different continent for the recording.
With plans starting to be announced for a second season of Torchwood audio stories, set to follow on directly from the first, and the return of technical genius Tosh (Naoko Mori) in a further David Llewellyn script, the future for the range looks brighter than ever.
Released in January 2016 by Big Finish.
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