Who’d have thought that Torchwood would be back? Who’d have thought it was brought back six months ago and now, we’re getting the series finale, More Than This starring Eve Myles as Gwen Cooper? Who’d have thought that Russell T Davis makes a cameo appearance? Who’d have thought?
Gwen Cooper has triumphed against impossible odds before, but now she’s finally met her match: Roger Pugh, Planning Officer for Cardiff City Council.
Mr Pugh doesn’t believe the world needs Torchwood. Gwen sets out to prove him wrong. For Mr Pugh, it’s a day that’ll change his life. If he can survive it.
If there’s one thing I’ve loved about the Big Finish Torchwood releases; it has to be the interesting way it structures the narratives. Whilst it would have been easy for Big Finish to make the releases linear stories that take place one after another featuring one of the members of the Torchwood team and and a guest character, they decided to be more maverick, more experimental, frankly Big Finish have done this more Torchwood.
The pre-titles sequence was brilliantly crafted and gave enough exposition whilst keeping the listener partially in the dark. The way that we’re reintroduced to Gwen and introduced to Mr Pugh is through a series of voicemails left for one another regarding getting planning permission for the Torchwood hub after the events of Miracle Day.
Mr Pugh gets whisked away when Gwen barges into his office to show him exactly why Cardiff needs Torchwood; but all of this is really flashback. The story gets told from Mr Pugh’s perspective, whilst he’s telling his dead wife Jessica about the crazy day he had. Like I said earlier, Big Finish Torchwood doesn’t seem to be a fan of the straightforward and linear. And I love it.
Eve Myles’ portrayal of Torchwood’s leading lady Gwen Cooper is just as on point four years after Miracle Day aired than it was when she started; the characterisation is spot on too, Guy Adams has done a fantastic job of reminding the listener that, at heart, Gwen is about family first and Torchwood second. Even if it does appear that hubby Rhys is now her second in command too. Speaking of Gwen’s new Torchwood, we’re also reintroduced to a familiar voice from the TV series, with Tom Price reprising his role as Sergeant Andy, old friend of Gwen from back when she was in the police.
One thing I loved about More Than This was the fact that Mr Pugh was a total pushover; there’s a scene between him and Gwen whilst they’re driving and he tells her about a fight he once found himself in and if I’m perfectly honest, Mr Pugh comes across as absolutely spineless and pathetic. I’m sure a fair few of my readers would associate those traits with council workers too, but that’s entirely your opinion.
What I really enjoyed about More Than This is that it seemed to be a perfect summary of everything Torchwood was about when it was televised; we didn’t just have aliens popping up here and there, we also got to hear Gwen sorting out temporal leakage, having people from the different times suddenly appear in modern day Cardiff. To sort the problem, Gwen has to utilise Mr Pugh but quickly realises that he’s not a member of Torchwood and that, at the heart of it, he’s a bit naff.
The great thing about Gwen is that one minute she can be hotheaded, feisty and swearing, (a lot) and seemingly the next minute she goes back to being quieter, more compassionate and reasonable; more maternal if you will. It’s quite clear to Gwen that Mr Pugh is struggling to keep up with the whirlwind life of a Torchwood member, so she slows down for him and buys him two coffees.
Gwen and Mr Pugh seem to become more and more comfortable around each other as the story progresses; with Mr Pugh seemingly becoming more adjusted and more understanding of ‘the Torchwood life’, even if he’s not especially cut out for it. One of my favourite scenes from the past series of these Torchwood audios is when Gwen and Mr Pugh are in the modern art gallery. I won’t ruin the laughs for you, but it’s classic Torchwood humour, and Eve Myles delivers the line perfectly.
If there’s one character in this release that I feel sorry for, it’s definitely Sergeant Andy, Gwen seems to be palming him off a lot, every time they seemingly bump into each other, she dismisses him; making the listener wonder exactly what’s happened between these two old friends.
By the end of release, we discover that Mr Pugh isn’t just a whimpering mindless drone like you’re lead to believe, but is in fact a very deep, philosophical, fragile and somewhat tragic character, making you realise that first impressions aren’t always the most reliable.
The rift plays a big part of the narrative in the second half of this story, with the threat of it moving and raining alien starfish. Yes; you read that right. You can tell you’re listening to Torchwood. Mr Pugh is adamant to help with the impending doom that is predicted by the raining alien starfish and he tries his best to help Gwen. If you’ve watched Torchwood on TV though, you know just how dangerous and unpredictable rift activity can be. The stakes in More Than This seem to be greater than anything we’ve had in the previous five releases; the overarching threat of The Committee is nothing compared to that of the rift.
Mr Pugh becomes even more likeable as the story progresses; his compassion and remorse makes him more human amongst all the aliens, makes him more relatable than a cold, emotionless council worker.
The music in this release towards the end of the story is very slow, minimalist and frankly beautiful. It adds to the wonder of the events of the story, and is an interesting way to portray weightlessness on audio. These kind of tricks to aid the listener with imagining the action is the exact reason that I’m glad Big Finish have been given the rights to Torchwood.
Concluding this amazing release, Mr Pugh becomes incredibly poetic and emotional. The writer of this story, Guy Adams, has my upmost respect and admiration. As someone who wants to become a scriptwriter myself, I will forever be looking at this release as a masterclass for writing incredibly powerful and moving monologues. Mr Pugh is such a tragic character who’s struggling to deal with the death of his wife, and it is utterly heartbreaking. Gwen, on the other hand is motivational and powerful, cementing her place as the woman who is the embodiment of Torchwood.
At its heart, Torchwood seemed to be more about the relationships between the characters than it ever was about monsters, aliens and time rifts. More Than This strips back a lot of the sex and the profanity and the adventure and focusses on two very different characters; Gwen Cooper and Mr Rodger Pugh. Both of whom have lost vastly important aspects of their lives and both in need of one another in a way. More Than This is the perfect way to end this first series of Torchwood from Big Finish. It’s huge in scale but at its heart it focusses on one small, insignificant man.
Now I can’t wait for next month to start the second series with Captain Jack Harkness in The Victorian Age.
The rating system on the Gallifrey Archive is achieved on a scale of 1-10.
For More Than This, I will give a rating of:
Should you want to purchase More Than This it is available now from from the Big Finish website. The price is £7.99 for the download and £9.99 for the physical CD.