For fans of the on-again, off-again Doctor Who spin-off, this has been far too long in the making. After a damp squib of a final season, Torchwood has been brought back under the guiding hand of the audio maestros Big Finish, for good or ill.
It's fitting that John Sessions should pop up here after lending his voice to the Doctor Who production crew for Series 8's one-shot villain GUS and it's easy to see why; he gave an excellent performance there and he does here as well. The other voice actors aren't as familiar to us but they still lend life to their roles. But the main attraction here is John Barrowman's return to the role of Jack Harkness, and though the dialogue he has to deliver can be a bit expositional at times (due to the audio nature of the story), he gives it his all. Quite simply, it's like he never left. Which is good, because he doesn't have the usual suspects around to support him.
But the big question is, is this story worthy of him and Torchwood? Quite frankly, we feel the answer is no. The main thrust of the story is an interesting idea and does seem like a natural fit for the series (as proven by, y'know, them doing it in Series 4), but the execution didn't quite live up to it. It was the ending that did it for us. There we were having a rollicking time exploring character and then somebody reveals they were the evil mastermind all along. You can hear the Evil Voice coming through. The story was on the verge of doing something interesting when it took a sharp turn and became a soap opera B-movie (where everybody knows everybody and they're all trying to kill you). The final reveal made a lot of sense and was well set up, but does that matter when it's all a massive cliché? At one point we were genuinely predicting the dialogue before it happened and that's when you lose us.
Or, to put it another way, cheesy dialogue? Vague plotting and talk of evil alien conspiracies? That's Torchwood all over. Though this outing may have disappointed us, we'll be sticking around to see where it goes anyway.
TORCHWOOD: THE CONSPIRACY / AUTHOR: DAVID LLEWELLYN / DIRECTOR: SCOTT HANDCOCK / STARRING: JOHN BARROWMAN, JOHN SESSIONS, SARAH OVENS, DAN BOTTOMLEY / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW