Big Finish: Torchwood RED BASE Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Torchwood RED BASE Review

Matthew Kresal takes one small step for man. Sort of.

One of the joys of the Big Finish Torchwood releases has been the way they've expanded both the history of that series and its characters. One of the cases of the latter has been Tom Price's Sergeant Andy Davidson, who has gone from supporting character to crossing over into Doctor Who proper thanks to the latest Eighth Doctor set Stranded. Now Sergeant Andy is going to Mars, sort of anyway, for an example of the former via the recent release Red Base.

James Goss's script is one that plays around with a lot of tropes. On one level, is an Agatha Christie inspired whodunit with a setting that's remote and leaves its characters isolated. The setting, a prototype futuristic Mars base, the kind of thing that might evolve into Bowie Base One from Doctor Who's The Waters of Mars, offering up tensions of its own. Throw a HAL-like computer interface named Dave (a neat 2001 nod from Goss) into the mix, and there's a technology gone amok element to the story as well. Finally, a sort-of reality TV element that draws upon not only the infamous UK reality show Eden but also the now abandoned Mars One proposal to fund a Mars mission via reality TV. And into all that wanders the personable Welsh policeman, and you've got a recipe for compelling listening.

It's here that coincidence comes knocking, at least for this listener. As it happens, the fifth season of Netflix's Lucifer, itself a detective series with genre trappings, recently dropped. Its second episode likewise has a plot set around a prototype Mars Base where death has led the police (and, in Lucifer's case, a literal handsome devil) to come and investigate. Neither Goss nor the writers of Lucifer are drawing off one another, especially given production timetables and their releasing about the same time, but it does mean that there are crossovers between the two in terms of plot twists, something which did have a slight dampening experience upon my listening. It's a minor issue, and likely a non-existent one for many a would-be listener, but an example where coincidences happen in creative endeavors. That it comes out on the heels of another Torchwood twist on the whodunit, Save Our Souls, likewise dampens its effectiveness though it makes for an intriguing listen all the same.

That aside, Red Base is a fun listen. Price's Andy continues to be an everyman in a strange land, and it's clear that the actor is relishing in a chance to play a sort of Welsh Poirot for the length of the story. Indeed, Price brings an infectious enthusiasm to this audio that keeps the drama from going too dark, especially given the nature of some of the deaths. Elsewhere, Blair Mowat and Joe Meiners deliver first-rate music and sound design. Mowat's score offers plenty of tension but, at the right moments, also strong emotion. Meiners creates a soundscape which does aurally what Goss's script does on the page: mix the uncanny with the familiar, in this case, a futuristic base alongside a Welsh quarry.

For fans, then, Red Base is well worth a listen. In particular for fans of the Sergeant Andy character and of the murder mystery genre. For, even with the issues of timing that affected this reviewer's listening experience, it's an intriguing example of the kind of sci-fi that Torchwood, and arguably British SF in general, does at its best: putting the familiar alongside the uncanny.

Torchwood: Red Base is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until October 31st 2020, and on general sale after this date.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places. 

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