Broken

Posted in Audio by - May 08, 2018
Broken

Released July 2016
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

The brilliance of the disjointed structure of Big Finish’s Torchwood releases narratively is that, while lesser-known characters can deservedly get a chance to shine, much-beloved characters also have a chance to benefit from enhanced characterisation at key points in their lives. Following the events of ‘Cyberwoman’ on television in which Ianto’s girlfriend loses her life, there simply wasn’t enough time dedicated to adequately exploring a man coping with grief, yearning for the trust of his colleagues, and navigating his conflicting feelings about Jack underlying their suddenly-developing relationship. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ianto’s local pub has become his refuge as Joseph Lidster attempts to redress these missing elements in ‘Broken,’ but when Captain Jack Harkness walks through those sacred doors one night, his demons, his life, and his work all collide in an emotional spectacle that ranks amidst Torchwood’s strongest efforts to date.

‘Broken’ is Torchwood at its darkest, bypassing the comedy and spectacle that so often shines beneath the true emotions and focusing instead on a solitary person in a very lonely and confused place just trying to find himself and to make a meaningful difference in the world. Stumbling through his sorrow and disillusionment into a local pub, Ianto takes solace in the company of barmaid Mandy Aibiston who provides a welcome voice to which he can both open up and listen. Following Lisa’s death, Ianto feels as though he is nothing with no true friends in the world, and Gareth David-Lloyd gives unquestionably his most pwerful and emotional performance as Ianto date as he paints a rather cold and grim picture about Jack and Torchwood while delving into his hopelessness and despair. As the days and weeks progress to incorporate the events of ‘Countrycide’ and Ianto experiencing firsthand the true horrors and atrocities that Torchwood Three handles, an even darker turn with thoughts of suicide begins to manifest, and Lidster’s script and Scott Handcock’s direction treat this slow downward spiral with the respect and gravitas needed to make it both believable and profoundly impactful.

Along for the narration of Ianto’s Torchwood life is Melanie Walters as Mandy, a woman who quickly becomes Ianto’s confidante and who always knows just the right words to say to talk him down and to make him consider another perspective. She implicitly knows that Ianto has more to offer than he has yet shown his colleagues and that he is not always the easiest to approach, and she is perhaps more responsible than anyone for Ianto’s gradual shift to a more forthcoming and confident presence within Torchwood even after suggesting that it might be best for Ianto’s well-being to step away from that life. After Mandy proves to quite literally be a life-saver from the most human of horrors, events come to a head at the pub when Jack arrives trying to piece together the mystery of fifteen people recently going missing in the area. Jack’s presence in front of Mandy allows Ianto to fully express his grievances both about Torchwood and about himself, and though the science fiction element at the heart of the missing people perhaps does detract from the very human journey that Ianto experiences just a bit, the betrayal and very personal news he is later told that together lead to the strong return of his sense of self and duty are superbly realised with the final kiss with Jack fully natural and earned.

Torchwood has always been branded as a series dealing with adult themes, and that has never been as intimately present as with the dark and purposeful exploration of a man who undergoes so much turmoil and despair and eventually comes out all the stronger for it. Not everyone is able to brashly laugh away danger and dread, and Ianto within this drama becomes perhaps the most well-rounded, vulnerable, and real character to ever feature in the franchise. Though John Barrowman’s role is quite wisely set as more of a background one to provide the needed glimpses into Ianto’s life on a more direct basis, his nuanced delivery is perfectly set to match the ever-changing Ianto as he boldly proclaims that everyone in the world is broken and comes to accept the dynamic and changing nature of Ianto whom he has finally come to call a friend.

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