Big Finish Review: Torchwood - The Last Beacon
Following on from last month's delightfully twisted The Death of Captain Jack, is the latest Torchwood monthly release from Big Finish. The Last Beacon stars original cast members Burn Gorman as Owen Harper and Gareth David-Lloyd as Ianto Jones.
Gareth David-Lloyd has also written this story, which sees Owen and Ianto head into the Brecon Beacons to track down a mysterious alien signal. Scott Handcock directs. The Last Beacon is available to download at the Big Finish site here and goes on general release on the 30th June 2018.
Here's the short and sweet synopsis...
A signal in a Welsh mountain is calling an ancient battlefleet to Earth. Owen Harper and Ianto Jones head up into the Brecons to stop it.
The problem is - Ianto really loves camping.
The trouble I have reviewing Big Finish releases for The Digital Fix is that there are so many to chose from and I almost let this one pass me by. But I am very glad I chose to give it a go; The Last Beacon is atmospheric and funny, crude and very, very Welsh and might be one of the best releases I have listened to so far this year.
It is wonderfully scripted by Gareth David-Lloyd, whose love for the Welsh valleys shines through, imbusing it with character and populating the story with some delightful personalities for non-nonsense, brash Owen to interact with. Like Owen, I've been the English outsider even since I came to The University of Glamorgan in the valleys back in 2000 and the appeal of both sides - Owen's and Ianto's resonated with me strongly in this tale.
I might even go as far as to say this is the best Owen Harper story in audio or television; the script is littered with fantastic one liners delivered with crude perfection by Burn Gorman ("Smells like lavender...and fruit farts", "I don't want to be running around in sheep shit looking for a needle in a haystack, I don't want to be dressed like a rambling Geo-cock...") and I adored his observation of the local scenery with its several boarded up pubs, two spas, a one stop and several kebab shops all called Yummys.
It's a perfect case of two stooges from different worlds thrown together in the middle of nowhere and it made me laugh again and again (Ianto bringing his coffee maker - the Power Bean 8 in his rucksack, the encounter in the local pub and the only food in the village being the kebabs from another Yummys were all delightful moments). And the delivering of the line "We work in Cardiff. I think we can handle a little bit of rain" before cutting to Ianto and Own trawling the hills in a torrential storm certainly made me chuckle. I'd never experienced proper rain until I lived in the valleys!
But there is also plenty of atmosphere and mystery thrown in too; the ghost of the coal miner on fire vanishing in the storm was particularly creepy. And David-Lloyd's script and Handcock's lively direction make good use of the audio setting with the giant badger alien stalking the mines. But it is not all played for laughs either. The reveal that Pat, the alien disguised as an alien is trying to send a signal home planet, unaware that it was destroyed 50 years earlier, is incredibly tragic, ending the story on a somewhat bittersweet note. Owen agreeing to keep Pat's identity a secret from Torchwood is a nice bit of character redemption after being an arse for my much of the story.
The Last Beacon a great little comic tale, with plenty of Welsh flavour and a terrific banter between Burn Gorman's Owen Harper and Gareth David-Lloyd's Ianto Jones. The script balances the line between laugh out loud comedy and mystery well but it is the character moments that really shine, and for me, this is Owen's best Torchwood story by a mile.
Short and sweet, the release has a trailer for the Gwen and Rhys-centric 'We Always Get Out Alive', which promises plenty of tension and atmosphere.
There is also a great little interview with Burn Gorman, Gareth David-Lloyd and director Scott Handock that is a lot of fun; you can clearly tell they are having a blast and the 'cut bedroom' scene is hilarious!