Gwen: Got a submarine in your pocket?
One thing that can be said about this drama, and is obvious from the pre-credits mini-adventure (the Torchwood team go off the Severn Bridge with a splash), it that it uses the medium of radio drama extremely effectively, with sound effects sonically sculpting the settings.
There’s a ghostly underwater howl heard across the waters of the Earth – that it seems to be emanating from the Mariana Trench means Torchwood can go beyond the bounds of Cardiff which also throws up a question that they try to answer in the drama, doesn’t that sound like something the global-spanning UNIT would be thinking about? Ianto calls up an old colleague Carlie Roberts from the now-non-existent Torchwood London, a marine geology expert, and together they all board a UNIT submarine.
If the previous Torchwood Lost File drama (“Lost File” as it was broadcast after but set before Torchwood: Children of Earth and you should really watch that before reading this review, as that television plot is discussed) was “about” Gwen, with the main villain illuminating some aspect of Gwen’s character, then this one’s about the other two members of Torchwood team, Ianto and Jack (and their relationship). Also – watch Miracle Day! Plot discussed of that too.
This drama has a lot more “science bits” than last week though, and the actual history of the Mariana Trench is starting point for it.
The historical “first descent” Bathyscaphe Trieste is given a fictional twin sister-ship – Guernica – on which some of the drama is set. This drama was originally broadcast before the recent James Cameron descent which is – amazingly – only the fourth descent in history.
There’s some lyrical scenes describing “smokers”, the jets of chemicals deep in the ocean and the possible source of life on Earth, this “last refuge of alien forgotten creatures” is made to sound a place of wonder and awe. The clangs of the sound effects effectively build upon this atmosphere created bring the fantastical “old man at the bottom of the sea” into all this science.
There were two shipmates on the Guernica, so this man exclaiming “imagine if your own mate was dying” seems to allude to that. “I spent my whole life with him – I can’t let him die”.
It becomes clearer what’s happening though, it’s an immortal creature whose companion is the human with a limited lifespan, a human that’s made its existence more bearable.
Carlie admired Ianto during their time at Torchwood London, but he was with Lisa. Of Jack she asks.
“You two are together, aren’t you?”
Yes says Ianto but “Life will always move on from him” – “He’s become an expert in letting people go”. (So there’s some retroactive foreshadowing of Torchwood: Children of Earth. As the focus is on Jack and Ianto this episode rather than Gwen there is a much more of this sort of thing.)
In a dark way, the immortal creature – staying with its human “other half” is paralleled with Jack staying with Ianto (for a little while at least).
“If your mate needs a body, why did you wait 50 years to call for help?” – the Torchwood team are still trying to figure out the mystery.
The answer is the alien had 50 years of memories to spool through, to distract from the bad memories of its past.
It seems – and it tells this story when it’s possessed the body & voice of Carlie – she (?) explains, “I did have a mate, once” “our sun was collapsing”, but she left him to die.
“I need new memories, to escape that one”.
Torchwood replies “you need someone new, you’re not lost, you’re hungry”.
The subtext is there then that the immortal Jack is monstrous, and he seems envious as the monster gets a chance to make its peace with its life before “A final act”, “Is that what you’re looking for Jack?”
He’ll never be mortal he replies. (Hello Miracle Day, which was just about to be broadcast, these 3 radio dramas were broadcast days before that ten-parter began.) So it’s an interesting drama, that has subtle commentaries on the third and fourth seasons of Torchwood.
Quantity-ratings (click here for guide to rating system):
Episode Quality-rating: 3/5