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Jul 25, 2007

Torchwood: Another Life - Invasion of the Welsh Pod People - or - It's Raining Welsh!

Oh, Doctor Who, what a cruel mistress you are, that I find myself gazing at the cover sheet of a Torchwood audio book. Not a radio drama, like I am ever so fond of, but an actual, by the numbers, audio book. I turn the first CD over in my hand, and remind myself that I wasn't all that fond of the show, but it had its moments.  These are the thoughts in my head as I ready myself for Peter Anghelides's Torchwood: Another Life. 200pxanotherlife_audiobook_2

Audio books have a three-fold goal in my mind.  Narration, action, and continuity. Does the narrator keep your attention?  Does he have a distinctive voice that you can listen to all day, or does he tire you after the first chapter?  Personally, in an ideal world all audio books would be narrated by Stephen Fry or Lisa Bowerman, but I'll bite. John Barrowman narrates Another Life, and I was surprisingly pleased by hearing Captain Jack's dulcet tones pumped into my brain for three straight hours, which is doubly surprising considering I tire easily of the defrocked Captain's hokey accent (made puzzling by the fact that it's a REAL accent, not a cowboy colonial affected by a Big Finish recruitee). Something that could be either a plus or minus is the fact that he didn't even attempt to ape the accents of the other team, be it Owen's strange drawling mockney or Gwen's charming uber-Welsh lilt. David Tennant did accents in the three audio books he did, and he pulled it off well.  Nailed Rose's slurred mockney, Mickey's authentic brainless addle, along with various other accents.  Then again, Tennant's quite experienced with vocal work, and despite any other differences I might hold with him, his voice is gold.

I actually found myself anticipating the next scenes in this, something that several episodes of Torchwood (stand up, Cyberwoman) failed to do.  This really felt like a story that Torchwood should have had, despite being almost another tired bodysnatcher story.  The narrative moved along quickly, with a very strong opening scene involving Jack and Gwen chasing a crazed man projectile-vomiting sea slugs into a building scaffolding. The atmosphere was continually reinforced by the story as well, with a massive storm building over Cardiff, blocking out the sun and causing non-stop rain and flooding. The only thing that bothered me was, if Roald Dahl Plass was flooded, how was the Hub still dry? Still, the scene with the slab-o-vator opening and Jack getting drenched was frightfully funny.

Characterization was good, better so than most of the episodes themselves, with Owen actually acting like an adult, none of the slightly icky sexual flirtation between Gwen and Owen, Tosh actually getting some action (not like that!), and Ianto having some choice lines. The characters really feel like they're being fleshed out more than the episodes provided us, and I'm actually really starting to believe that if I can get my hands on the other two audio books, I may just end up enjoying series 2 (and retrospectively enjoying series 1 much more the next time around).

In closing?  Torchwood: Another Life was a success, rarely putting a foot wrong, and (surprisingly) minimizing the supposed adult content that plagued the series to ill effect. I think Torchwood might have stronger success in spin-off media than it would in the visual media. Can we get Torchwood: The Comic, or perhaps Torchwood: The Animated Series in the style of Batman: TAS? I think I'm going to further investigate this, with Border Princes (with a zombie-making mcguffin) and Slow Decay (Weevil fun).  The good news? Eve Myles narrates Slow Decay.  The bad news? Burn Gorman narrates Border Princes.  Despite having an infinitely cooler name, I'll probably pass on Border Princes for now and do Slow Decay next.

Comments

Salem, you said:

"David Tennant did accents in the three audio books he did, and he pulled it off well."

I got the "The Stone Rose" audiobook free with the Radio Times last Christmas, so I've listened to that.

It really is quite extraordinary the accent-acrobatics that Tennant provides when narrating, it really adds an extra dimension to the story.

It's fun to hear his Scots accent as the Narrating Voice, which becomes the London-accented Tenth Doctor. (I prefer to think the Tenth Doctor has the accent of a Scot who has acclimatised to London. The accent Tennant provides for the role is excellent - not "mockney"! - but you can hear the Scots roots.)

His Rose, Mickey (and Jackie!) are recognisably the characters.

I wouldn't mind listening to Eve Myles narrate her Torchwood book - in fact I wouldn't mind listening to Eve Myles read out the telephone book. That voice!

John, have you ever listened to any of the Bernice Summerfield audios from Big Finish? You want to talk about a sexy voice that you can listen to all night? Lisa Bowerman. I did not, in fact, realize just how good the Benny audios were until I was halfway through the first season thanks to Lisa Bowerman.

And yes, Tennant is wonderful on audio. Back to Big Finish for a moment, but he's in the UNIT audios as Colonel Brimmicombe-Wood, and makes such a great addition to the cast. Also plays said character opposite David Warner's 3rd Doctor in the Unbound series. I think you're right about the Tenth Doctor's accent, though. He does have a hint of Scots in his delivery, much like my uncle's (and my own by proxy) accent, in that he's FROM Ireland, but has been in the US for so long it's almost faded.

Tennant does an excellent job on Big Finish's adaptation of Bryan Talbot's comic strip, 'The Adventures of Luther Arkwright'.

I must admit I was initially thrown a little by Tennant's accent: I'd met Talbot several times and as he looked and dressed a little like Arkwright, I'd imagined Arkwright to also have a Wigan accent.

Tennant eventually won me over.

He's also good as daft Jamie in 'Medicinal Purposes' and I have the BBC's audion version of 'Much Ado about Nothing' in which he plays Benedick.

Now, I'm a huge fan of Talbot's 'Luther Arkwright', but I'm still puzzled as to the point of an audio adaptation of such a visually rich comic. Was it intended for the deaf, or something?

Ona vaguely related subject, is 'Heroes' really worth sticking with? Just saw the first couple of episodes, and it seems rather ponderous and self-help blethery so far. It has manhugs, for fuck's sake. Manhugs!

Heroes? 'Fraid it's like that all the way through. It's definitely comic book territory, the characters are very cliched, and the writing is very first-thought-write-down. It's fairly enjoyable, I watched the first series because my sister told me to, and I survived. But I wouldn't be too eager to rewatch any of it.

TimC: Are you not into 'manhugs'? :)

Not in a dramatic context ("Ooh, I need to discover myself! Now I have a superpower! I'm special!"). And in real life, people just seem to flee from my bear-like grasp.

There's nothing wrong with a little Simon Pegg / Nick Frost bonding moment, but you have to be careful how far you take the manhugging, else it turns into that bit from Fight Club, and no one wants that..

I've been blogging about 'Heroes' elsewhere today (The Guardian's Comment is Free and Arts blogs) so I don't want to get too involved in another discussion about it here, but I thought it was terrific when I saw it on SciFi and I'm going to watch it all over again.

It features one previous Doctor, a former Master, an officer from the Starship Enterprise and the guy who killed Kirk.

Salem:

No, I haven't listened to any of the Bernice Summerfield audios from Big Finish.

The BBC has been supplying us with Who for eight solid months now (!) with Torchwood, SJA, BBC7 Eighth Doctor and the 2007 Season.

It is slightly bewildering without any new stories so I may dip into Big Finish during the summer.

Any recomendations from the Big Finish range (apart from anything-by-Shearman and the Unbound series which I am already thinking about)?

'It features one previous Doctor, a former Master, an officer from the Starship Enterprise and the guy who killed Kirk.'

Geek-friendly casting isn't a guarantee of quality, sadly (see 'Babylon 5', if you must). Although I noticed the second ep did have the lovely Clea Duvall from the invisible girl episode of 'Buffy' and 'The Faculty'.

And the 'former Master' is Eric Roberts, isn't it?

Yes, the former Master is Eric Roberts. The height of ironic humour is when you see the flashbacks with the Ninth Doctor working alongside the Master. They actually have really great chemistry.

And Malcom MacDowell is tops in anything he's in. And George Takei is the most dignified person captured on film who isn't named David Warner or Sir Ian McKellan.

John, I'm fairly familiar with the Big Finish line, so I feel comfortable making some suggestions.

> Anything Unbound - Except maybe the alternate First Doctor stories (kind of slow) and the one with the female Doctor (juvenile humour up to the elevens).

> Benny Summerfield - Lisa Bowerman is marvelous on radio. Possibly one of the greatest voice actors I've ever had the priveledge of hearing. Plus - the first one has Nick Courtney as a giant talking cat!

> Sapphire & Steel - Especially The Passenger and Water Like a Stone. Continuity is not a big deal here, as the adventures are nearly completely unrelated, much like the show. David Warner and Susannah Harker are, I'm sad to say, far better even than the original Sapphire & Steel.

> The Summer Sale - They've got a summer sale going on, insane deals. All 4 UNIT plays for 20 pounds, 16 Judge Dredd audios for 30 pounds, all 7 Unbounds for 35 pounds, and the first three series of Benny audios for 50 pounds. Pick up lots of good audios at dirt cheap prices..

"..the lovely Clea Duvall from.."

Liz will be on my arse for this second post, but..

Anytime I see Clea Duvall, all I can see is the crazy girl from Girl, Interrupted.

"Liz will be on my arse for this second post, but.."

You should be so lucky :-)

You're right I probably should.

Not that that particular connotation had occurred to me at the time, but after a major proportion of a fifth of whiskey, I completely agree. I'm sure you're lovely, Liz..

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