Big Finish Review: Torchwood - Sargasso
The fourth and final of Torchwood's take on classic Doctor Who monsters for Big Finish sees Kai Owen reprise his role as Rhys Williams, facing off against the Autons and the Nestene Consciousness in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Sargasso has been written by Christopher Cooper and directed by Scott Handcock. It is available at the Big Finish site here, and goes on general release on the 31st August. Here's the synopsis...
Torchwood vs Monsters!
The seas of planet Earth are choked by plastic. Plastic that no-one has a use for and no-one can get rid of.
Rhys Williams finds himself stranded on a container ship in a sea of debris. People on board are dying. Because, luckily, someone’s found a solution to Earth’s polluted waters. The Nestene Consciousness can never have too much plastic.
The final entry in Big Finish's Torchwood vs Monsters range is another winner, taking a classic Doctor Who monster and not only making it terrifying but tying it into a very real global issue. The pollution of our planet's oceans with plastic is an environmental crisis and Sargasso plays directly into that; it is funny and entertaining but the idea of part of the Atlantic ocean smothered in plastic waste is as disturbing a prospect as any monster. The story literally opens with a tidal wave of plastic attacking the ship and ends on the chilling realisation that plastic particles are in everything - that fish you had for dinner contained plastic and now you've consumed it. Autons aside, that's enough to give anyone nightmares.
Kai Owen imbues a great deal of humour and gravitas to the character of Owen; there is no doubt that he is strong enough to lead this adventure. His years of experience as Gwen's long-suffering husband give him the strength to navigate the dangers that unfold, teaming up with young American activist Sydney (Kaitlin Russell) as they fight off the plastic menace. There's a real big brother vibe to Owen's interactions with Sydney that carries it through from beginning to end.
As for the alien threat, Sargasso is a terrific outing for the Autons. Not only does the real-world environmental issue serve as the perfect home for the Nestene Consciousness (honestly, it's surprising that Doctor Who hasn't tackled this story yet), but it also provides plenty of terror. The scenes with the plastic bag octopus and the suffocating sheet wrapping are genuinely scary. It is also skilfully brought to life - the sight of hundreds of killer plastic ducks is something that would work magnificently on screen but this fantastical concept still works in audio, thank if no small part to the characters' reactions to them. The classic humanoid Autons also get their moment - in a slightly predictable but fun moment too.
Sargasso rounds off Big Finish's Torchwood vs Doctor Who monsters in style; the story ends with a chilling message and a creepy twist deserving of this dark tale that is sure to stick with the listener long after. And it give the Autons perhaps their best story since Spearhead from Space. With a balance of real-life issues, terror and comic timing from Kai Owen's Rhys, this continues to prove that some of the best tales from Big Finish are coming out of its Torchwood content.
A trailer for next month's Torchwood monthly release - reunites Jack and Ianto in a hilarious - and likely disturbing - suburban utopia with a very dark secret.
The release end with a short and sweet set of interviews between director Scott Handcock, writer Christopher Cooper and Sargassos leads Kai Owen and Sydney Feder, who clearly had a lot of fun in the recording studio, while reflecting on the more disturbing environmental aspects of the story. And cow tipping with Rhys Williams is one spin-off we'll all look forward to listening to!