An Essay on TORCHWOOD: GOD AMONG US (Series 6)

Neo’s written essay on TORCHWOOD: GOD AMONG US (series 6).
How does this series treat faith? What statement does it make about systems of self-appointed leadership? How are storytelling fakeouts used? And what makes this series work in so many ways the last didn’t?
Plus a ranking of the twelve episodes!

Spoils of War

For a company like Big Finish, the audio play producers that create the post-MIRACLE DAY ‘seasons’ of TORCHWOOD, returning cast members are enormously important. The reach of television is naturally going to be so much higher than niche audio dramas, so as excellent as an audio-original character might be, they’re never going to attract sales the same way that slapping John Barrowman’s famous face on the cover of a CD will. When audio dramas are based on television series, returning cast members legitimise the affair by tying them in directly, as well as engaging fans of the characters. However, characters returning – or characters not returning – often are written as significant surprise story developments. As things that may well spoil one’s, well, if not enjoyment, then at least their chance to experience stories the way they were written to be first experienced.

This is a roundabout way of saying that the covers to the GOD AMONG US boxsets reveal developments that play as significant surprises across the actual stories. However, since returning cast members as so critical to the legitimisation of audio dramas such as these (and, even moreso, raising awareness and boosting sales), they are marketed hard. Thus, they’re tricky to avoid online if one’s interested in the brand. Even in the streaming age, television is treated as a more time-sensitive experience than niche audio dramas, meaning someone perfectly interested in listening to ALIENS AMONG US and GOD AMONG US one day, they may well put it off for a year or two or more. This means the odds of seeing the heavily-marketed boxset artworks that reveal certain developments is really quite high for a lot of people. This isn’t ideal in terms of experiencing the stories ‘as intended’, but is a nearly unavoidable aspect of following such stories. This question of when revelations should be timed does not just apply to the real-world contextual baggage around a story and how it’s experienced, however…

(spoilers for GOD AMONG US below)

The big ‘spoiler’ of season 6’s premiere is that it more or less functions as the actual finale to season 5. One wonders why the penultimate episode of ALIENS AMONG US was so utterly throwaway, then the actual finale so inconclusive, then season 6’s premiere so utterly dedicated to tying up the former season’s loose ends. In the 115th issue of VORTEX, the Big Finish in-house magazine, effective ‘showrunner’ of the TORCHWOOD audio range James Goss says writing the premiere was ‘odd – it [had] to remind everyone where we were, and set up a whole new series of challenges. I cheated and asked Scott [Handcock, director and another key creative mind behind the range] for a shopping list of unfinished business, and then worked through it’. Even without that clarification, it’s still rather evident in the actual story. The nature of Ng, why she possesses Gwen, where she was from, why she was on Earth, that’s all clarified. Gwen’s absence from the series 6 covers, Yvonne’s presence on them, these are all the kind of revelations that simultaneously are meant to play as surprise reveals, but are marketed heavily to try and get people interested in listening to the stories in the first place.

More framesetting and suggesting than spoiling is the in-universe podcast CARDIFF UNKNOWN, released a few weeks before the first boxset of series 6. It features two characters (that don’t show up in the series proper until the tenth episode) reference events of series 5, and set up events of series 6, in a way that makes the audio conception of Cardiff feel lived-in and cohesive in a way it didn’t really in the actual season prior. It’s a small thing, but when urban legends and the like referenced in this faux-podcast actually pop up later in season 6 itself, it feels more interesting, more monumental, and like a more natural outgrowth of the world than if that’d been their first appearance. This is an example of how tipping one’s hand regarding story developments can actually enhance the storytelling. This kind of logistically clever storytelling very keyed into an actual format is very much a hallmark of James Goss. A downside of his stewardship of these seasons is that it sees him handle the ‘important’, arc-heavy episodes like the premiere and finale here, where his strengths shine so much more in self-contained stories that have the room to play with format and structure while not having to set up and pay off complicated networks of story developments.

Grow Faith

Speaking to Russell T Davies’ involvement in series 6, Goss said ‘he asked for some characters to be included, suggested how others should develop, was adamant about who we’d had enough of. He was also firm that this time he’d like to see some more self-contained stories. So, yes, a god has come to Cardiff, but that’s just to allow a springboard for some stories, rather than it getting complicated. One thing we all agreed on from the last series was that the most fun came from how the team interacted, so it’s much more about each episode finding them in a new and horrible situation’.

The season is indeed structured more as isolated, episodic adventures, more like the monthly TORCHWOOD audios in that they often focus only a few specific characters instead of the wider cast. THE MAN WHO DESTROYED TORCHWOOD, FLIGHT 405, HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT, A MOTHER’S SON, and SCRAPEJANE are all cases of that kind of story, and it’s a mode of storytelling that noticeably works much better for the range. It’s not just that stories have more room to breathe, but that the smaller scope lets writers play more with format and structure, something the monthly TORCHWOOD audios often excel at. Consequently, the season feels consistently good where season 5 just felt consistent, as well as more of a traditional season of TORCHWOOD in that the episodes actually vary concepts and feel memorably discrete. Being able to do things like ‘the bodyswap episode’, the same way that series 2 methodically worked through many typical episodes such shows do at some point, it frees up the range to focus on strengths like the characters, instead of concentrating so exclusively on spinning out some epic longform yarn that inevitably falls under its own weight and scope.

Season 6 didn’t just take after the monthly TORCHWOOD audios in form, but also in terms of characters and plots. The very successful Norton Folgate character was brought into the fold at RTD’s insistence, and with him came the Committee, the villainous capitalist organisation born of Queen Victoria’s failed attempt at a kind of imperialist controlled opposition to spur on Torchwood as well as manufacture consent for its operation. The Committee were the loose, sprawling arc that had defined the earliest years of Big Finish’s TORCHWOOD output, but had been more or less on hold after the tenth anniversary THE TORCHWOOD ARCHIVE special, so bringing them (and Norton) into the sequel season range was a genuine surprise, but one that snapped focus and direction into the range, as well as making it feel more part of a greater whole and less its own disconnected thing. Such a thing was wise to avoid, given how little connection the range really had to televised TORCHWOOD at this point, given the absence of Gwen Cooper and the continuing issue of John Barrowman not having as much availability to be part of the season as he would a traditional season.

The story A MOTHER’S SON consciously fashions itself as grafting onto a past televised story, which is a style more common the monthly range than season 5’s attempt to look ever forward. The show has always had one leg in the past as much as the future, so while it seems unintuitive, this really does make season 6 feel closer to the show, not unlike how DOCTOR WHO seems to operate more comfortably when not consciously trying to divorce itself from its enormous past. Goss says ‘A MOTHER’S SON is a companion to an episode called ADRIFT. Torchwood used to be able to do terrible things and get away with it, but now with everyone live streaming everything, how easy is it to cover stuff up? It’s about what happens when Torchwood comes up against a grieving mother who isn’t going to stop until she has all the answers’.

Another improvement over ALIENS AMONG US was how politics was handled with more clarity and less empty gesturing. While THE MAN WHO DESTROYED TORCHWOOD mightn’t engage particularly deeply with the phenomenon of racist and conspiracy-focused YouTubers, it very clearly positions itself as a farce, then leans into format tricks to develop that farce in a creative way. It does not position itself as an solemn or serious story the way something like THE EMPTY HAND or TAGGED did. Irony about Churchill’s racism or bizarre conceptions of free speech sit neatly into that kind of tone and context. And when GOD AMONG US does have a story positioned that seriously, it provides the actual follow-through and genuinely engages deeply with its concepts. This is the case for the phenomenal HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT, an examination of homelessness, dehumanisation, and systemic blindness (where SEE NO EVIL is a much more literal, low-stakes take on actual blindness!).

The author of HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT, the curiously obscure Ash Darby, stated ‘I wanted to do a story about Spice – the street drug that is rife in prisons. Scott [Handcock] wanted to do something about the horrific rise in homelessness in Cardiff and suggested we combine the two. I was inspired by an app that was launched during the last blizzard that allowed you to ‘tag’ rough sleepers in order to notify a charity of their whereabouts. I imagined a Torchwood version of this – essentially turning finding the homeless into Pokemon Go!‘ and ‘Sometimes Torchwood is very dark. Some of my favourite episodes involve the treatment of people as unnecessary and irritating commodities. Hopefully this fits in alongside them’. This clarity of purpose and tone helps make clear why that story didn’t have the exploitative vibes of some other ‘very special episode’ stories of the range.

There are other sorts of touches that grow faith in the range, like the legitimately strong handle on the Internet in SCRAPEJANE, or the political significations of Norton ended up trapped in a loop of his own making and Yvonne essentially being a double agent against the populace’s interest all along. There’s a thematic throughline of how condemnable arrogant, controlling, dehumanising systems of self-appointed leaders are, from Yvonne’s Torchwood, to the Committee, Oblation, and so on. But, as with nearly every series of TORCHWOOD, ultimately not everything cohered or worked.

No Faith (We Don’t See)

The word ‘god’ is said so much in the season that it very rapidly loses its meaning. After a false start with a ‘god’ in the premiere that was just a monster, most of the season goes with an affable Scottish-accented woman with some godly powers as the titular ‘god’, who goes around speaking in increasingly interminable cliches. While earlier on there’s clearly some attempt at reasoning with the idea of how an all-loving god would interact with humanity, the stories get hung up on the idea of the inconsistency in trying to give all humans what they want (as if that’s an original thought) that it really comes across as juvenile, like a teenager’s first realisation of inconsistencies in religious conceptions. Characters rightfully express scepticism of the godliness of the character, and the character itself leans so hard and repeatedly on the supposed cutesiness of their daffy affability, that it all becomes rather grating even before later stories sink into coherency by rewording the same refrains about love and faith and sacrifice and whatnot over and over.

One of the unique things about TORCHWOOD as a show was its brazen conception of death as oblivion, its adjacency to nihilism and atheism – for all the Abaddons and Deaths of the show, it fundamentally always came back to revolving around the thematics of death as final, and life as meaningless unless imbued with an appreciation for that very meaningless, that mundane operation of day-to-day life and relationships. To upset that by introducing literal ‘god’ into the mix, then haphazardly walking back and forth on the validity of the character, then burying it all in vague discourse about faith…it doesn’t work in its own right, and it certainly doesn’t work to justify itself as a contradiction, iteration, or evolution of the differing approach the televised seasons took.

‘God’ resurrecting Mr. Colchester feels at such odds with the television show’s approach to death in that sense, but Mr. Colchester’s death itself is one of the most bizarrely misjudged parts of the range. He sustained a wound in the ALIENS AMONG US finale, but there was no indication of it having such severity or import so as to be fatal enough to kill off the most successful new character. So after the GOD AMONG US premiere abruptly places all this import on him dying offscreen, he shows right back up again in that very same first boxset. What was the point in cheapening death and arbitratily killing off the character, just to bring him back again? His relationship with Colin isn’t really developed off that plot point beyond some hand-wringing. Even more bizarre is ‘god’ making Jack mortal again, a plot point there was quite literally an entire televised season about. That concept is raised so intermittently in the series it comes across as tremendously poorly thought-out even besides the fact it’s a needless repetition of something the show already explored.

These kind of abrupt raising of monumental plot points that are quickly dashed, it’s indicative of this strange non-dramatic approach across the season. When Cardiff is destroyed by a tsunami at the end of the second boxset, it’s actually a surprise when the third boxset holds true to it, as the season has so primed the audience to not trust (therefore, not invest in) supposed monumental developments. When EYE OF THE STORM tries to raise another fakeout about Mr. Colchester dying it’s almost laughable; for all the poker metaphors the range likes to make, it’s played its hand far too many times. Regarding the twist that the monster in the premiere wasn’t the ‘god’ of the title, Goss saidYes, it was sort of a deliberate bluff that we’re pleased we got away with! Mind you, what’s more TORCHWOOD – a great monstrous god that devours souls or a charming lady fascinated by sausage rolls? Actually, both are valid. We’re thrilled we got away with the trick, but mind you, some people last year couldn’t tell that Eve Myles and Alexandria Riley were two different actresses – and I just can’t work out what to make of that!’. I’m not sure that the stories ‘get away with’ these kinds of things as much as stated here; on the season’s own terms it’s abundantly clear that a twelve-episode series called GOD AMONG US did not dispense with the titular figure as a wordless chump in its first episode.

The abundance of this kind of fakeout storytelling obscures some of the actual intent behind more longform storytelling, like the slow shifting of how Yvonne is framed over the series. The first boxset’s character dynamics feel odd in how diminutively Jack returns to Torchwood, tail between his legs, letting himself be bossed around by the imperialist Yvonne. There are a multitude of reasons that could explain Jack acting so apparently out of character (intentional continuations of his character regression across MIRACLE DAY, general tiredness of life perhaps bought on by all his old relationships being gone by the end of ALIENS AMONG US, an apathy born of his immortality that figures he should just wait Yvonne out, etc.), but none are described at any length in the actual series. Murkier still is the treatment of Ng, who by all rights is an absolute villain after taking over Gwen’s life and doing her so much wrong, yet is accepted rapidly by nearly all the characters in the series. Jack is told off for being ‘immature’ about not being friendly with the woman that nearly completely ruined his best friend’s life. One wonders why Ng didn’t simply suffer amnesia from the beginning of the series, to justify what feels like a character reboot that GOD AMONG US gave her, in making her a workable, friendly member of the team.

As far as Yvonne, that jarring dissonance with how the character is being presented with the audience predisposition to them is played upon when the second boxset reveals she’s been in league with the Committee all along. Reframing Yvonne as a traitor and villain in a way that plays upon her politics is strong storytelling keyed into the themes of the series, and centring the third boxset around the absolute failure of her beliefs and policy, then ending that boxset on her literally being arrested, it’s all cohesive storytelling that works in the ways the last season didn’t. What works less well is a way the season didn’t learn from issues in ALIENS AMONG US; having another episode where Andy goes bad, becomes corrupt, a bad cop, and undercutting it by it being a trick and feint all along…it’s just completely ridiculous. It cheapens the character so much, to constantly reduce him to a prop to half-baked plot twists playing the note of ‘what if Andy had bad politics!’ too often, too loudly, and too discordantly with the characterisation we’ve literally seen of Andy’s in the television show.

GOD AMONG US isn’t exactly consistent, and hinges itself too much around cheapness like constant fakeout storytelling, pseudointellectual gesturing at religion, and still too little consistent characterisation of its leads. But there are episodes that genuinely soar here, and the more episodic approach absolutely paid off. Where ALIENS AMONG US felt positively incoherent, there’s a throughline here of condemning arrogant, controlling, dehumanising systems of self-appointed leadership, with an ending that smartly and purposefully positions Torchwood as a chaotic, unsanctioned, on-the-run band of misfits.

Episode Rankings

HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT

A strong, focused story that brings Tyler’s unemployment (joked about in the premiere) down to being so destitute he can’t afford a place to live anymore, then explores the brutality, dehumanisation, and systemic spiral that is homelessness. It shuns sentimentality, showing how much people like to put the homeless out of sight and out mind, even the supposedly sympathetic or friendly. When ‘the only surplus in the city is people’, as Tyler says, people increasingly ‘fall through the cracks’. Rather than confront that, the story shows how people prefer to ignore it and retreat to some type of just world paradigm.

An app, reminiscent of real-world apps targeting tents and other sites of the homeless, is used for people to feel good abut identifying the homeless, where it then summons drones that offer the homeless death by incineration, or randomised experimental drug trialling. Tyler ends up prostituting himself after these drugs and rough living take more and more of a toll on him. The way this story zeroes in on the lived experience of the homeless makes the ‘topical’ elements of it feel so much more rightfully explored, especially when contrasted to stories like THE EMPTY HAND and TAGGED, that deal so much more in gestures and abstractions. In a very James Goss inspired ending (one wonders at the identity of ‘Ash Darby’, the supposed writer of the story that has no information available online at all), there’s no real villain.

Tyler sees the creator of the app exterminated, but he recognises the systemic issues that gave rise to it in the first place, that enabled and empowered it – ‘we are all little people, little people working for someone else who works for someone else and so on, and up and up, and nobody cares who’s down the ladder….It’s how we’re designed’. The final note of the story is that Tyler, now accepted into Torchwood and with a home again, ignores and doesn’t help a homeless friend of his. He perpetuates the cycle, the systemic issues, in a story that refuses to minimise homelessness down into an issue of the individual. Yvonne might talk up the lofty import of Torchwood, the way it supposedly helps people, but it certainly did not help here. It didn’t even see the problem.

ANOTHER MAN’S SHOES

A bodyswap episode is such a good and obvious idea for a TORCHWOOD episode that I’m surprised it never happened in series 2, when the show was working through the kind of expected episodes a show like this does. Here, most of the actors have infectious fun with playing each other (only Mr. Colchester’s approximation of Captain Jack feels flat really), and the story works through the initial comedy of everyone playing off type, then the empathetic factor of characters being in each other’s shoes, then folds it into wider revelations, like Andy learning Yvonne has always worked for the Committee. It’s a very strong character showcase that knows when to vary things; it’s paced well and has a dynamic progression of tone. A resounding success.

SCRAPEJANE

A TORCHWOOD take on creepypasta, exploring the quasi-religious belief structure underpinning urban legends, online rumours, and people’s emotional narrativisations of each other. The fact the titular urban legend was made up in an attempt to get people to go out and explore, yet just led to people talking about it online, rings very true (shades of Anno, Miyazaki, etc.). For the first time in the series, the ‘god’ material doesn’t come off as tired, but instead has some actual thematic relevance, with the way the story argues faith as tired into personal narrative conceptions being actually quite well-executed.

THE MAN WHO DESTROYED TORCHWOOD

It’s a joy how episodic this story is, with how it feels like the more standalone episodes of the show’s first two series rather than the more serialised material that came after. The alt-right YouTuber type the story revolves around is drawn a bit broadly at times (the twenty-something loser seems more the audience of such content rather than the popular creators), and the ending wherein unforgivable material is placed upon his computer is oddly alarming. Yet there are a lot of laughs to be had from the character interactions, particularly with Jack, shaded in supervillainous aesthetics, and Orr. The structure of it, with how scenes from different times bleed into each other, works well, and the broadly-drawn imagined Torchwood of the story is amusing. Nothing revelatory, but it’s always nice to see TORCHWOOD return to that sort of conspiracy storytelling mode, and it’s an amusing, quite episodic, genuinely fun story.

NIGHT WATCH

It’s such a similar concept to the previous episode (the whole city having a sort of sense deprived supernaturally) that it must be intentional, but everyone falling asleep doesn’t really work as interestingly as everyone going blind. Still, this episode is more about the characters, as Colin and the revived Mr. Colchester sort through their post-funeral relationship, Jack and Yvonne further rub up against each other, Ng’s status in Torchwood is probed, Tyler does some drugs, and Orr has a friendly chat with God. Jack’s characterisation continues to feel weird, with his affectations very much in the vein of his more rambunctious DOCTOR WHO self, in what’s perhaps a wilful sort of character regression similar to how Jack acted in MIRACLE DAY after having lost Ianto, but is not elaborated on enough to really be clear.

Jack’s arguments with Ng raise good points about the bizarre, uncomfortable status she currently has with Torchwood, but then it’s resolved rather unconvincingly in the end where he seems happy enough to work with her after Yvonne scolded the two of them. Yvonne’s patronising attitude – ‘don’t you dare criticise me!’ – is questioned as well, by Andy and by Jack, but the story still ends with the same status quo of her in charge (though Jack argues her reign is, by nature, very temporary). The ending (in the Hub, not the bizarre, ambiguous ruin of sorts of Orr) is a genuinely good cliffhanger, with Yvonne’s attempt to do a sort of temporal retrieval of a living Ianto immediately panicking Jack, only for it to go awry and retrieve Norton Folgate from the separate Torchwood monthly adventures audio range instead. While a lot of the apparent resolutions are unconvincing, the story focuses enough on character interactions that at least it doesn’t feel like the empty busywork that filled so much of the previous series.

A MOTHER’S SON

I like how series 6 committed to doing episodic episodes that feel distinct and like their own stories even for all the serialised material. This story invites a few too many comparisons to ADRIFT, the highlight of series 2, but is still a good approach to probing the impact of the flood that ended the last story. It feels a bit writerly in the way things are methodically set up and paid off, as with the titular mother has an obsession with recharging her phone which of course ends up being recontextualised as born of a tragic character moment. Orr returns after being completely absent from the second boxset (presumably scheduling issues, ever the bane of this range), and while their absence and return is muddled, the way they become an unhealthy approximation of loved ones people lost in the flood works, as does some dark comedy in their inability to really yet understand the complexity of human emotion.

While it never really sparkles with the vive or magic of other strong stories in the range, it’s still a focused script that finds a good balance between comedy and cynicism. The mother making herself cry on television to keep her mission son’s name out in the press is a particularly good beat. Yvonne is kept at a distance that doesn’t entirely work; her role in the events of the last episode were so seismic that the vague way she’s dealt with here comes off as frustrating at times.

EYE OF THE STORM

A Biblical flood done TORCHWOOD style. Quite a lot happens in this story, with Yvonne and Norton’s dastardly allegiances coming out, lives being saved left and right, the Committee having Cardiff subsumed under a tidal wave, and so on. It never really quite coheres into a focused story though, and while the status quo shifts of the story are interesting, the character beats come off as oddly muted even for all they signify. Perhaps it’s just that some tropes have well worn out their welcome, like a would-be fakeout Colchester death again, or Norton getting sent back to the past (kind of) once more. It’s more interesting thinking how the characters will progress from their changed situations than really seeing the situations themselves change here.

FLIGHT 405

This story invites many comparisons to the main, monthly range of TORCHWOOD audios. The central concept is very similar to the second Big Finish TORCHWOOD story, FALL TO EARTH, but not as tightly-written or well-executed. Those monthly stories have the benefit of the unity and cohesion of effectively being standalone one-hour affairs usually grafted onto existing times and settings, where these season ranges ostensibly drive the story forward. This story does that interestingly, by – at RTD’s suggestion, no less – bringing Norton Folgate, from the monthly audios, into series 6, and along with him the Committee. The Committee, being the villainous arc spread non-linearly through the first years of TORCHWOOD at Big Finish, bring a sort of focus and verve to the range that was missing with the more amorphous Sorvix and God material. As for the story itself, it does some temporal hijinks and makes fairly good use of putting the actors for Norton, Andy, and Yvonne on a crashing plane together, but most of the inventiveness is just in the signification of bringing Norton and the Committee over into the range.

SEE NO EVIL

It’s nice to have a fairly episodic standalone adventure, and the concept of all the residents of a city going blind simultaneously is good. Yvonne and Jack get some further characterisation, and while the development of Yvonne’s utilitarianism feels natural, the way Jack diminutively accepts being demoted in Torchwood feels out-of-character, or at least not elaborated upon enough to really meld smoothly with the character as developed. The ending revelation of Jack think he’s mortal again feels like an unnecessary retread of MIRACLE DAY, and the revelation that Mr. Colchester is back is welcome in that he’s a great character and his presence was missed, it feels cheap to undo a death played for so much emotion only two episodes previously.

DAY ZERO

A societal descent story in the vein of DAY FIVE or THE GATHERING, DAY ZERO never really builds out its water shortage disaster with the verisimilitude of those stories. Why’s nobody else helping Cardiff out? How anticipated was the shortage? Orr’s godlike status in the story makes sense for their character, an interesting evolution of their position in HERALD OF THE DAWN and the narrativised faith aspects of SCRAPEJANE. Yet their judgement is questionable. Violent riots are one thing, and a policeman shooting a child certainly another, but Orr’s monologues come off as a condemnation of people being greedy and malevolent in…wanting the water they need to live.

Andy’s status as basically a malevolent authority figure feels on paper like it could work as a cynical outgrowth of kind of condemnation of systems the audio stories make, but it jars with a character who tore off his police uniform to defend the citizenry in DAY FIVE. If that was the point, then a hell of a lot more time should have been dedicated to his character development, rather than runarounds with journalists and whatnot. Yvonne refusing to take the blame for the flood where Jack more or less does (blaming it on Torchwood, at least) works character-wise, although it relegates the former couple of Andy and Yvonne both to fairly detestable establishment figures. This feels a story more interested in the idea of modern societal collapse than one really portraying it with any lived-in sense.

FUTURE PAIN

This ‘premiere’ is oddly dedicated to acting as a finale to series 5, with the conclusions it provides for the Sorvix arc, the explanations it provides for Ng, and the ostensible conclusion to the Sorvix God arc. Yet much of it is dedicated to tablesetting, slowly putting characters in new positions and clearing the way for presumably new arcs and sequences. It’s certainly odd structurally, particularly with the bizarre revelation that Mr. Colchester actually died from a wound sustained in the series 5 finale that very much was not played as fatal then. The bizarreness of suddenly raising the stakes of that wound and having Mr. Colchester dying offscreen makes it very difficult to emotionally engage with the story and all its scenes relating to his death.

That death’s no small thing either, as the story is framed around his death-tape, the recording Torchwood members make for others to view in the event of their death. I felt very much ‘on the outside’ to it all, not helped by the fact the character is clearly visible on the third boxset for the series, but oh well, that was hardly around to look at when this story first released. Colin’s speeches are well-written and performed, punctuated by grounded emotional beats relating to their marriage and how little their families understood or approved of it. An odd beast not really functioning as a finale or a premiere, but a strange piece of connective tissue in-between, operating on reveals so abrupt they’re hard to really latch onto.

THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS

Unlike HERALD OF THE DAWN, this very much is an actual finale. It fundamentally shifts TORCHWOOD’s status quo, iterating some character arcs forward and pushing the team onto the run, away from Cardiff. It’s not all finality – while the Committee are dealt a devastating blow, the story makes sure to undercut that a bit by pointing out there are still agents on Earth, and previous stories have mentioned their galactic reach so presumably they’re quite spread out. The condemnation of Yvonne becomes most explicit with the story ending on her arrest. Jack demonstrates heroism. Orr, frustratingly, remains a cipher, but at least all the godly business seems somewhat closed off now. The religious material is so undercooked; characters talk endlessly about faith and love and belief, but none of it really hooks into actual characterisations, and so ends up coming off more like teenage ramblings than anything really baked meaningfully into the storytelling, let alone profound.

The revelation that Andy never really allied with the Committee and was a secret ally of Jack’s along, well it’s eyebrow-raising that Andy’s malevolent turn there happened in a story resembling THE EMPTY HAND, where he barked racist diatribes and killed a refugee – only not really! It’s cheap. While Andy suddenly working for the Committee jarred with his characterisation, undercutting the character again by another fakeout feels repetitive and reductive. It renders the character as a prop to twists that focus stories more on empty surprises than the actual subjects (i.e. the refugees and protesters in THE EMPTY HAND, or the thirsty populace in series 6), or even Andy himself. It’s frustrating seeing Goss write the premiere and the finale of a season, episodes dealing with lots of busywork and narrative shifts, when his skills seem to lie in more standalone stories, like his excellent monthly audios.

One thought on “An Essay on TORCHWOOD: GOD AMONG US (Series 6)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s