Torchwood: Aliens Among Us 1 review

So, we now have the first set of Torchwood stories set in what would have been (so we are informed) the fifth series of the TV show. Heavily informed by Children of Earth and ignoring (so far, and I hope permanently) Miracle Day, this is a Phoenix like rebirth in the city of Cardiff and more than just a set of stories, it’s the building of a new framework and the setting out of a stall for the next two boxes (at least) out in October and February. Welcome to Aliens Among Us Part 1.

Is it any good? Yes. Does it do everything it needs to? I think so, but let’s chat…

Aliens Among Us – the world of Torchwood series 5

Producer James Goss takes the challenge of setting out the series 5 world of Torchwood with the opening brace of stories: Changes Everything (as opposed to Changes Everything) and Aliens & Sex & Chips & Gravy. What he does very well is cover the following:

  • Give a sense of how repairs have progressed on the Torchwood Base
  • Introduce some new characters, within and without the team
  • Set up a theme for the series – those aliens who are, indeed, very much among us.

To a lesser extent he also brings us up to date with the core team – Jack and Gwen get the attention, Owen is not prominent in this set, nor is PC Andy. The Big Finish characters (eg Norton Folgate) are not present.

He also introduces some other elements I’ll not spoil, but listeners will know what I mean; the mystery that looks ripe to continue across the set.

I’ll cover the points bulleted.

The Torchwood Base

The team are back under the bay, the base is partly restored but looks like it has been blown up, and to be fair it has. One character describes it as a dungeon. Many levels aren’t too safe, and there’s a whole World War II / after the blitz kind of feel. The lift sort of works, as does the invisible tile. Beyond that it all needs more work, money and resources. I think this is a good place to be, not ridiculous and with plenty of challenges.

New characters

Chief amongst the new is Paul Clayton’s Mr Colchester. He’s the grizzly, experience civil servant, helping out with the rebuild and never left. He has good field skills, a very dry humour and is a great foil to (so far) every character we meet. We also have the character of Ng, played by Alexandria Riley, and I can’t even begin to discuss without giving away something substantial.

We also have Jonny Green as Tyler Steele, would be Torchwood member, bit of a computer geek and lacking in moral character, willing to play both sides against each other. Stephen Critchlow plays the Mayor, and he’s more interested in keeping the peace than he is at resolving any issues. A well-realised character and Stephen is in great form.

Of the new characters, most interesting is Samantha Béart, or Sam as we now call here, playing the trophy wife of a property developor getting rich from the new aristocracy in Cardiff, the aliens of the title. She’s more complex than first suspected, and a great addition to the series.

The aliens

This is where the setup deserves extra credit; instead of an alien invasion we have hordes of aliens led by the recurring character Ro-Jedda (Rachel Atkins) and they are both seeking refuge from something and keen to set up as an elite, putting up with humanity when they have to. With nobody watching the rift, this is what happens. Welcome to a very cosmopolitan Cardiff.

The four stories

Changes Everything

The blurb gives a flavour of this story:

Tyler Steele has washed up in Cardiff looking for a fresh start. A disgraced journalist, he’s looking into the Red Doors movement – are they really behind the terrorist attacks on immigrants? Who is stirring up the racism and hatred in the city, and what does outsourcing contractor 3Sol have to do with it? Tyler finds out that Torchwood – a secret organisation that everyone thought long gone – is back in business. Tyler realises that this is the second chance he’s been looking for, and he’ll do anything to be a part of it.

This is also the story that gives us the mayor, Mr Colchester and a good first look at the partially restored base. It’s a good mix of Everything Changes but with a different outcome. Even after one episode it’s clear relationships will be more complex in this series than hitherto.

Aliens & Sex & Chips & Gravy

Full marks (again) for the title, and the blurb is like the tip of an iceberg, as there’s a lot more going on than:

Has Cardiff really been invaded by aliens? Tyler thinks he’s found a lead – the daughter of the mysterious Ro-Jedda is getting married and has booked a private party. If Torchwood can infiltrate it, there’s a chance they’ll end up closer to the truth. Free bar, canapes, and the chance to find out what’s really going on. What could possibly go wrong? Soon Torchwood are on the run for their lives, and learning more than they ever wanted to about alien life.

Mr Colchester and Gwen Cooper at a hen party, aliens, death and prejudice all conspire to tell us a lot about the aliens now well ensconced in the city and gives us a great story about family and obligation. There’s also opportunity to see how Gwen has evolved since the TV stories. James Goss delivers story, character and more of the framework of this set/series. Great stuff!

Orr

Juno Dawson gets to drill down on one particular alien, Orr, and in doing so we get the most powerful scene of the set where Jack sits down with Orr waiting for death. It’s reminiscent of the end of Out of Time and gives real depth to Jack’s character. It orbits around both death and the special nature of Orr’s biology (no spoilers here) and Juno takes the characters to a great moment. The rest of the episode is summed up by the blurb:

Vincent Parry is the most successful property developer in Cardiff. A while ago he made an agreement with the mysterious Ro-Jedda, and it is an arrangement he has come to bitterly regret. Something has to be done – but it’s going to cost him everything he loves. With time running out for Cardiff, Torchwood encounter an alien who knows them only too well.

There’s insight into Cardiff’s new underworld, and it’s just a very strong story.

Superiority Complex

AK Benedict brings this set to a close in Superiority Complex, and a slightly more straightforward plot:

Poverty and homelessness are on the rise in Cardiff. The streets are full of the desperate and the dispossessed. So, of course, it’s the right time to open a 7-star luxury, all-inclusive hotel. And, naturally, the hotel is for aliens only. As the humans stand outside the gates and look hungrily in, there’s one thing that makes them smile. Someone is murdering the guests.

We get another look at the characters new and old, some resolutions but really just an understanding of the new status quo — there are aliens among us, so deal with it. The story has plenty of action, a well-realised setting and ends the set on a high.

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