Tosh is back with Torchwood in Big Finish! From last months brilliant escapade in Victorian London, to this months adventure in the wastelands of Russia; Big Finish likes to be diverse and it’s doing that right here. Will Zone 10 be a cool release, or will it deserve to die in the wastelands alone?
They call it “Pulse” – a radio signal which has puzzled the world for 40 years. But now Toshiko Sato has solved it.
She’s uncovered a message which leads her to Russia, and into an uneasy alliance with the KVI – the Russian equivalent of Torchwood. Toshiko needs to get into Zone 10 – a frozen wasteland which officially doesn’t exist.
An intergalactic war was once fought in Zone 10. And it turns out there’s a survivor.
It’s great that Naoko Mori has agreed to come back into the world of Torchwood for Big Finish; in my opinion Toshiko Sato was the unsung genius of Torchwood Cardiff, she was the quieter and more introverted member of a rather loud and extroverted team, I think that giving Tosh the spotlight once again is a genius move by both Big Finish and David Llewellyn as it means we get to see just how independent she can be.
After the titles, which are back to normal this month, both the listener and Tosh are introduced to Maxim Ivanov, a man who seems to like comparing Tosh to his ex-wife. If initial impressions are anything to go by, I’d bet that Maxim is a somewhat bumbling guy who has a soft spot for Miss Sato, but as I’m writing this part of the review, we’ve only just met him, so I could be wrong. I guess we’ll find out together…
The information that we learn about the KVI, the Russian equivalent to Torchwood (if you read the synopsis you’d already know that), and Torchwood’s relationship has been rocky in the past, especially during the Cold War; which is understandable really.
One of the most intriguing things about Zone 10 to me, is the fact that is seemingly harks back to the events of The Conspiracy and Uncanny Valley, helping to give the impression that these Torchwood releases are in fact all connected in some way.
I have to credit David Llewellyn for drawing some amazing parallels between Torchwood the the KVI, things that most people could consider small, unimportant things that are actually quite significant if you’re a die had Woodie. One example of this is that Gwen discovered Torchwood through pretending to be a pizza delivery; and the KVI’s ground floor is actually a pizza shack. Now, this could just be a total coincidence, but it’s an interesting detail all the same and goes to show just how carefully the writers of Big Finish plan things out.
When I downloaded Zone 10, I had no idea just how much the story would seemingly follow on from the events of The Conspiracy and Uncanny Valley, and it’s clear to me that David Llewellyn clearly has his own story to tell with Big Finish’s Torchwood releases; every single one of the stories he’s penned thus far have all interlinked, and it’s fascinating and truly compelling to listen to.
Zone 10 seems to be the Russian Area 51, a place that’s totally restricted for completely unknown reasons but with rumoured alien affiliation; of course that’s where our Torchwood agent has to go. When Tosh goes to Zone 10 though, she can’t be alone and she needs a guide; of course it’s going to be Maxim, the man who can’t let Tosh out of his sight.
To me, there’s something quite charming about the relationship and dynamic by Zone 10’s two leads; Tosh and Maxim are a great pairing, they’re not the same person with different voices though, they’re both definitely their own characters. Tosh is quite clearly a scientist hungry to understand as much as possible, whereas Maxim is clearly a man on a mission which just happens to involve Miss Sato.
When Toshiko and Maxim finally enter Zone 10, it’s learnt that Tosh has this underlying feeling that it was destiny or fate that brought her here, like she always knew that the Pulse was meant for her. Personally, I thought that it was quite out of character, as Tosh is a purely scientific mind; from my experience with scientists, (and believe me I know, I live with a student biomedical scientist) the idea of fate is a concept that doesn’t sit right. In scientific minds, every effect has to have a cause that led it to there, the idea of fate being the thing that lies in between cause and effect just doesn’t compute.
One thing I was very happy with was just how timey-wimey parts of Zone 10 were; I’m an absolute sucker for when the very notion of time is used to effect in science fiction, especially in shows like Doctor Who and Torchwood; y’see, people assume that time is linear etc, etc… Another thing I love is how the use of the timey-wimeyness is related to Tosh, and the story harks back to projects that she was working on in the TV show and was even mentioned in The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End.
Approximately half way into the story, we’re introduced to Anna Volokova, an astronaut whom hardly anyone knows about. When it transpires that Anna is a woman who is out of her time, Toshiko is way more than just sympathetic to her. Just after we are acquainted with Anna though, her discovery is overshadowed by some classic double crossing and a test of morals and allegiances. For an hour long story, this might be the most ambitious Torchwood story that Big Finish have produced so far, and I have to admit it pays off.
The closing third of the story starts with a deadly game of cat and mouse in the snow; we then get some of the most poignant and personal moments that we’ve ever had in any Torchwood release; we learn so much about Toshiko as a person instead as a member of Torchwood Cardiff. We also get to hear just how jealous both Maxim and Anna are of people whose lives don’t just revolve around working all of the time.
During the closing few minutes of Zone 10, there’s a lot of revelations and new questions are seemingly brought to the forefront which I don’t want to spoil to anyone who hasn’t listened to the release yet, so I won’t talk about any of it, all I can say is that the ending actually brought a tear to my eye, something that very rarely happens. All I will say is that David Llewellyn’s epic story doesn’t seem anywhere near done yet, and I have my suspicions how both he and Big Finish may make the conclusion extra special…
Overall, Zone 10 is a great story that is fast paced enough to keep you engaged and fully invested in the plot, but peppered with slower, much more intimate and personal moments that really help you understand the characters and their motivations. This story even has a bootstrap paradox…
The rating system on the GallifreyArchive is achieved on a scale of 1-10.
For Zone 10, I will give a rating of:
Should you want to purchase Zone 10, it’s currently available physically for £9.99 and as a download for just £7.99, which you can purchase by clicking here!