In many regards, Zone 10 is one of those stories which is trying to nail everything which drew fans to Torchwood in the first place. It offers ancient alien secrets, government conspiracies, odd time-travel phenomena and cloak-and-dagger elements Doctor Who could rarely get away with. Unfortunately, this is one of those situations where a production attempts everything but doesn’t quite accomplish anything as a result.
Echoing across the world for decades, the pulse has been one of the twentieth century’s big mysteries. No one truly knows its origin or even its meaning, but Toshiko Sato has finally cracked the message only to be confronted by a new enigma. Forging an uneasy alliance with Torchwood’s Russian counterpart, she sets out to uncover just what lurks in Zone 10.
Let’s get the big problem out of the way – The pacing. Overshadowing all else here, a critical failing of the story is that it simply plods along, dragging its feet at every turn. Much of it is spent just reaching Zone 10, and while a slow burn can benefit a conspiracy story, we’re offered little besides character introductions and a few heavy-handed hints of later twists. This leaves very little time to get to the real meat of the story, so once the interesting stuff does arise it’s crammed into the about half the time it truly deserves. There’s a galactic war and alien abductions, but it’s all delivered via second hand information or leaves questions we never get answers to.
Even the action itself is oddly subdued, as the villains are never given much of a face, and remain a nebulous threat. While their otherworldly nature or vast power might have worked if given a lot more focused, there’s so little here it’s hard to gain a grasp of what they really are. A damn shame to be sure, as the retelling of a failed war is one of the drama’s best scenes thanks to its bleak atmosphere and Big Finish’s high quality audio assets.
The cast choices and voice acting is expectedly top notch. Naoko Mori slides back into the role of Tosh with ease, proving the character can easily hold her own as a lone protagonist; Godlewski offers a likable Russian agent bereft of the usual stereotypes, and Garland conveys the exhausted sorrow of her character near perfectly. It’s their chemistry and performances which prove to be the highlight of the story, and they definitely deserved a better tale.
Tosh fans or those after a bleaker, darker Torchwood story after the zaniness of recent releases will get a kick out of this one, but just keep in mind this is a deeply flawed release.
TORCHWOOD: ZONE 10 / AUTHOR: DAVID LLEWELLYN / DIRECTOR: SCOTT HANDCOCK / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / STARRING: NAOKO MORI, KRYSTIAN GODLEWSKU, ELLA GARLAND, GEOFFREY BRETON/ RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW