Big Finish Review: Torchwood - The Three Monkeys
It’s common knowledge that in times of emotional crisis, popular entertainment provides a welcome distraction from the worries of the world. Big Finish’s audio output in the face of 2020’s challenges continues apace with The Three Monkeys, the latest entry in the monthly Torchwood range and a respectable means to while away an hour after a long day.
The regular Torchwood team of James Goss and Scott Handcock return to write and direct The Three Monkeys, which is exclusively available from the Big Finish website until 31st December. The synopsis follows:
Andy Davidson's been ordered to watch over a local businessman. Everything's always gone right for him, and Andy’s long wondered why.
Owen joins him on the stakeout. He knows something – the businessman's attracted Torchwood’s attention, and tonight, the two of them are going to take him down. But will luck be on their side?
The first Torchwood monthly release to be recorded during lockdown, The Three Monkeys pairs Burn Gorman’s snarky and irritable Owen Harper with Tom Price’s infinitely optimistic Andy Davidson. With its light tone, adroit dialogue and likeable lead characters, the story encapsulates the potential of the Torchwood range: a clever conceit, good character work, and a dose of fun to combat the situation so many listeners would currently find themselves facing.
When it comes to their previous escapades at Big Finish, Andy and Owen’s track record has been pretty grim. Having teamed up in the morbidly depressing The Hope and the morbidly horrific Corpse Day (both fantastic stories despite their grisly subject matter), a less psychologically draining story for the pair has certainly been on the cards. The Three Monkeys delivers on that premise with an investigation that is, although not an all-out romp, a far cry from the first and second instalments in this unofficial ‘Andy and Owen’ trilogy.
There’s a mystery to solve involving an abnormally fortuitous businessman and the reason for his success, but more than anything this is a chance to know more about the main characters: the lives of Andy’s uncle and aunt, for example, or the ever-expanding margins of Owen’s nihilism. James Goss makes good use of the audio format – the episode is contained and intimate, set wholly within the confines of Andy’s police car and features only brief appearances from two other police officers – and brings out the best of his droll writing style.
In the extras, Goss explains the real-life influences on the script and why a toy monkey is such an irresistibly creepy image for narrative. The rapport between Gorman and Price is clear, as is their enjoyment of being involved in Torchwood once more at Big Finish. Although it is not included with this release, the trailer (available here) for next month’s entry, Rhys and Ianto’s Excellent Barbecue, by all indications promises an hour of erstwhile fun and hijinks with hidden depth for an underexplored pairing of Torchwood characters.
Now, as many places across the globe relax restrictions and memories of the early days of lockdown are at risk of fading away, it can be easy to underestimate the nous of productions teams like Big Finish’s in improvising methods to ensure a consistent output of stories. The Three Monkeys is the latest fruit of their labour.
Catch Burn Gorman next in December’s Time Lord Victorious – Echoes of Extinction, and discover The Digital Fix’s take on Tom Price’s most recent appearance as Andy in Torchwood Soho – Parasite.