[Note: Don't read the following if you haven't heard the episodewhich is available to download from AudioGo. For that matter, don't read the BBC's own programme synopsis which is equally spoilery again and gives away almost the entire plot in that maddening way that indie cinema trailers increasingly are. Right, let the sycophancy commence.]
Radio Embracing the spirit of Jules Verne and James Cameron, Ryan Scott’s Submission shows us that radio Torchwood can be both personal and epic and more importantly unlike yesterday’s episode, offers a story that could not necessarily be filmed on an average television budget. One of the few strengths of the original television format was that it attempted to mimic the variety of Doctor Who into a more fixed setting, but isn’t it better, with just three episodes to play about with to have the team chasing aliens across the Forth Bridge than sitting around in The Hub watching for power fluctuations?
While parasitic aliens are dime a dozen in the Whoniverse, Scott’s script emphasised to great effect the journey through the Mariana Trench to meet this spooky and its modus operandi was never obvious. The descent of the submarine into the deep, the spirit of exploration, brought to mind the old time radio adaptations of classic adventure novels, of Welles, of Verne, in which our minds are called upon to picture the unimaginable. Hanging on every word of the writers and actors as they attempt to put that environment into words then cleverly through minimal description leaving the listener to envisage exactly what this huge alien beast communicating to the world might look like. Lovecraftian?
Some of the dialogue was admittedly exposition heavy, but it was quite naturally layered, from the characters rather than as a way of novelistically giving the audience a description of the surroundings. This made the most of its media rather than sounding as though the writer was having to cope with trying to fit his story into the non-visual medium. The business with the frozen hands of the "meat popsicle" is a perfect example; aided by Eve’s excellent timing, each crack of the bloody ice ran right through us and the ran through us again with the expectation that Cudlow wouldn’t have another one for long. Probably one the intentionally funniest moments the show’s produced.
The biggest surprise was the (gay) abandon with which it tossed around continuity references. I’ve always slightly regretted that Daleks didn’t get mention in Children of Earth (even if Journey’s End was at least alluded to in those opening scenes) but the reason they were cut was because RTD didn’t feel like it was the right slot. [squee] Yet here’s Erin Bennett's sparky Carlie Roberts from evil Torchwood One, a girl Ianto seems have left for Lisa, that’s Torchwood One “before the cybermen destroyed it”, they’re battling UNIT for priority on this adventure and Jack mentioned The Doctor several dozen times to get the advanced tech. [/squee]
Injected into that was also an excellent story for the coffee boy. The return of an old flame is one of the standard franchise storylines and the grace notes that Ianto won’t ever really be “together” with Jack and that Harkness will outlive him were already explored in his now gut-wrenching bedside speech in Phil Ford’s The Dead Line a few years ago. But this gained extra-poignancy because we know the outcome, Ianto isn’t long for the world and it’s impossible not to read the sense of loss in Gareth David-Lloyd’s performance. When he says “That’s Torchwood isn’t it, it kills you in the end” once again we’re dragged back in front of that tank watching him go.