The first episode of Big Finish’s new Torchwood series, ‘The Conspiracy,’ got off to a really great start. It was a nice mix of drama and narration, and set the scene up for Torchwood’s latest arc really nicely.
‘Fall to Earth’ is a very different type of story. While it only has two cast members for the whole episode – namely Gareth David-Lloyd as Ianto Jones, and Lisa Zahra as Zeynep – there’s no narration for this one. In fact, the entire story is focused on one telephone conversation, and it’s both the most random and most mundane of telephone conversations, at that: a cold caller trying to sell Ianto some insurance.
What makes this cold call interesting to listen to, however, is that Ianto’s been called while he’s on a crashing spaceship and there’s no one else who can help him…
Despite being a two-hander and, even on audio, mostly taking place in one setting, this is a very fast-paced episode. It unfolds over real time as Ianto does his best to convince this insurance seller to help him, even if he has to actually buy insurance to do it.
Along the way, we gradually learn more about both Zeynep, the person whom Ianto is talking to the entire time, and how and why Ianto ended up on the spaceship in the first place.
There’s heaps of drama in the story, as Ianto and Zeynep get to know each other better and form a really close bond over the course of the episode. It’s actually the kind of story you’d expect from Torchwood – something that’s a lot more focused on the ordinary humans than on spaceships, aliens, and conspiracies. Those things are just the catalyst that allow the emotional drama to happen, and we get a lot of it with this story.
Towards the end, it gives its listeners a massive gut-punch, and the fact that it’s delivered so well after only an hour of build-up is a testament to the writing of James Goss.
Gareth David-Lloyd carries the weight of this story entirely on his shoulders, and he does so with remarkable skill and emotional range. His portrayal of Ianto’s desperation, fear, and eventual resignation is truly captivating and serves to draw the listener in even further.
Gareth’s performance is the standout aspect of the episode, and it’s clear that he has a deep understanding of the character he’s been playing for over a decade.
I struggle with audio dramas, my mind drifts a lot. However ‘Fall to Earth’ grabbed my attention from start to finish. It’s a beautiful two-hander and shows exactly what Big Finish and Torchwood can really do at their best. With a few more releases like this, Torchwood on Big Finish may become the definitive version.