Red Base

Posted in Audio by - August 21, 2020
Red Base

Released August 2020

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Torchwood on television, although featuring an ensemble cast, was unquestionably a showpiece for Captain Jack who had obviously debuted on Doctor Who before it. During that time, however, the natural charm, naivety, determination, and everyman nature of PC Andy Davidson made the supporting character one of the memorable and instantly likable, and it’s little surprise that actor Tom Price has been elevated to being one of the franchise’s most prominent voices in the audio medium even within smaller-cast releases. In ‘Red Base’ by James Goss, Starr Base is the first small step on man’s long journey to reaching and surviving on Mars, and when the crew begins to die and the survivors become increasingly paranoid, Sergeant Andy Davidson arrives to find out the truth.

Both the setting and the brilliant opening perfectly set the scene for this narrative that embraces and puts unique spins on many traditional science fiction and murder mystery plot elements as Andy enters an isolated practice Mars base situated in a Welsh quarry. Of course, a group of people in isolation for any reason is sure to be filled with emotions and impulses both good and bad, and the dwindling complement of survivors quickly and dynamically comes to life as each comes to accept the shocking truth in his or her own manner. Whether through grief, fear, or even flippancy, ‘Red Base’ highlights the human experience in response to loss and an impending threat to oneself exceedingly well, and Kae Alexander, Rakie Ayola, and Ronak Patani all give superb performances to bring the respective characters’ strengths, weaknesses, and insecurities to vivid life.

Of course, as different opportunities and motives come to light with plenty of red herrings to demand everyone’s attention, Jeremy Ang Jones threatens to steal the show as the base’s computer, Dave. An homage of sorts to HAL 9000 is nearly inevitable in this setting, and Goss uses the known expectations of a seemingly sentient computer to both drive the narrative forward and to offer a surprisingly poignant character in its own right as the ultimate truth comes to be revealed. Emotionless but always exuding something of an unspoken menace with even the most routine elements of everyday life, Dave rightfully gains more attention as the story progresses, and his position in this dangerous puzzle is an immensely satisfying one that likewise ties into a very human response to isolation and abandonment flawlessly.

As an outsider providing a fresh perspective, Andy’s open mind and sheer practicality blend with the heightened emotions perfectly, especially since he is certainly not one to mask what he is feeling when he and those around him come under threat. ‘Red Base’ is yet more proof that Andy with his police background and increasing breadth of knowledge from Torchwood can integrate into any situation, and his very emotional and fallible nature continue to make him one of the most relatable characters the franchise has created and offered to this point. With stellar direction and an effective sound design to drive home the increasing tension and the dark mystery as the term isolation continues to be redefined on many levels throughout, ‘Red Base’ is an exemplary Torchwood release in a range that continues to experiment with what it can explore and offer. There’s no question that many of the individual elements on display have been done elsewhere countless times, but together the characters and plot progression offer a unique and enthralling tale that is more than worth a listen.

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