The dynamic between Captain Jack Harkness and Ianto Jones has always been one of the most entertaining relationships within the Torchwood team, and the chance to have the pair reunited on audio (as Big Finish jumps around the Torchwood timeline) is always an appealing prospect. In Serenity, the latest adventure, written by James Moran, there’s the added bonus of seeing the pair go undercover in the guise of a happily committed gay couple, and one of the latest to take up residence in an exclusive (and smugly self-satisfied) community of Serenity.
It’s a place brimming with ‘neighbourly concern’, in which the quiet routines of the private estate are governed by the endless cycle of community barbecues, reciprocal dinner parties and the ‘best kept lawn’ competition. While Jack gets to leave to go to work each day, Ianto is the stay-at-home hubby being driven mad by the place’s stultifying atmosphere, even as he fears being seduced by its soporific domestic charms.
The pair are on an undercover mission, hoping to unmask an alien interloper that has disguised themselves as one of the residents. They need to identify the miscreant before they are able to send the signal that will call in a full-scale invasion force. As they hunt, they have to contend with the plastic politeness, the unflagging cheerfulness (and the ruthless oneupmanship) of the other residents, and deal with their endless enthusiasm for double entendres and coy sexual innuendos.
Moran’s first script for Big Finish’s audio Torchwood range acts as an unofficial sequel to Sleeper, the second episode of the second TV series, which was also penned by Moran. Although it’s not without its serious moments, for most of its run time Serenity is a light-hearted, comedic caper in which the enjoyment comes from the strains of Jack’s and Ianto’s faux marriage and the absurdities of the setting.
The humour is broad and fairly gentle in tone and, as a critical swipe at the privileged, quarantined lifestyle of ‘gated communities’, it’s not an especially barbed or scathing critique. It’s clear that John Barrowman and Gareth David-Lloyd are having loads of fun with Moran’s dialogue and his multiple misdirections over who the alien in their midst might be. Director Scott Handcock keeps things brisk and upbeat, and there’s an appropriately cheesy score from Blair Mowat.
It’s all good knockabout stuff, and it’s delivered here with all the energy and enthusiasm you’d expect. Whether it will make your all-time favourites list will probably depend on whether you prefer your Torchwood light or dark. Next up in the monthly release schedule is Torchwood: The Hope which promises to be a far bleaker, tougher tale. Such shifts in tone and changes in dramatic focus are one of the things that is helping to keep the range interesting and fresh. The indistinguishable residents of Serenity, forever stuck on repeat, would probably find that sort of determination to “shake things up and do something unexpected” as grounds for eviction.