The Last Beacon

Posted in Audio by - May 19, 2018
The Last Beacon

Released April 2018
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Torchwood, perhaps even more in the audio medium than on television, has proven that it is perfectly adept at managing a vast array of storytelling styles and tones, Big Finish often making the use of unlikely character pairings in its smaller-cast monthly range to offer more intimate character exploration within the shifting confines of any particular story. In ‘The Last Beacon’ by Gareth David-Lloyd, Ianto and Owen head up into the Brecons to stop a signal from broadcasting and calling an ancient battlefleet to Earth, but nothing is ever quite as straightforward as it seems and Owen soon finds out that Ianto really loves camping.

Gareth David-Lloyd is, of course, thoroughly familiar with the character of Ianto Jones at this point, and though ‘The Last Beacon’ represents his first writing credit for Big Finish, it’s clear that he perfectly understands the character of Owen Harper and the unique balance of humour and horror that typifies most of the very best Torchwood stories as well. In truth, Ianto had one of the most fascinatingly complex character arcs during Torchwood Three’s televised exploits, and David-Lloyd perfectly captures Ianto’s multifaceted psyche with elemts of insecurity and a desire to prove himself to his team out in the field bleeding through as his childhood experiences and current position blend to spectacular effect.

As entertaining as seeing Ianto return to his less urban Welsh roots while searching for the beacon would be, the inclusion of Burn Gorman’s distinctly metropolitan Owen Harper is a masterstroke that makes the most of the setting and the fact that Owen is technically Ianto’s boss even as Ianto takes charge of this mission where he is much more comfortable. Owen is completely out of his element in this world of kebab chains, unreliable transport, and small communities where everyone knows everyone else’s business, and the contrasting viewpoints of this type of community where Ianto sees only friendliness and caring but Owen sees only nosiness and judgment form a remarkably poignant discussion point that gets to the crux of each character while also accentuating the science fiction story at hand. ‘The Last Beacon’ doesn’t quite leave this point as open-ended as most philosophical discussions, but guest star Ellie Darvill gives a magnificent performance as her character almost begs for the human race to return to its simpler roots before technology developed and individuals became increasingly individual.

The direction and sound design are spectacular throughout and help to create a remarkably atmospheric tale that makes the most of haunting visuals, pungent aromas, and a real look at a corner of society not often thrust into focus. Though the alien mystery is certainly strong enough to carry the narrative of its own accord and culminates with a difficult and emotional resolution, it’s the remarkable dynamic between Ianto and Owen that steals the show from the very start, the natural optimism and excitedness of the former trying to prove his worth juxtaposing perfectly with the more melancholic and grounded tones of the latter. Yet it’s the small touches throughout that advance the relationship between these two so immensely, and Owen’s admission at the end hints at the more sentimental character beneath the aloof exterior that would come to focus more and more prominently as the original series progressed. ‘The Last Beacon’ is by no means the deepest or most ground-breaking Torchwood story to date, but it doesn’t set out to be and instead represents an immense first offering from the indisputable writing talents of Gareth David-Lloyd that makes the most of its unique pairing to deliver a reflective story about change beneath the gloriously comedic and emotional lead interplay

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