Zone 10

Posted in Audio by - May 06, 2018
Zone 10

Released April 2016
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

The Pulse is an endlessly repeating radio signal bleep that has puzzled scientists across the world for forty years, NASA believing it has ties to the Russians and the Russians believing it has ties to NASA. Now, though, Toshiko Sato has decoded the hidden message within, uncovering a very personal connection that leads her to Russia and into an uneasy alliance with Torchwood’s Russian equivalent, KVI. She needs to get into the frozen wasteland known as Zone 10 which doesn’t officially exist, an area that’s not quite as deserted as believed as a surprising link to the past is revealed in David Llewellyn’s aptly-titled ‘Zone 10.’

It’s been eight years since Toshiko Sato’s harrowing death in ‘Exit Wounds,’ but Naoko Mori easily returns to the role as if no time has passed at all, bringing out a determined confidence in the character outside of the Hub that was rarely seen on television. Toshiko isn’t one to take unnecessary risks, but she’s extremely driven by her need for knowledge, and her innate intelligence and compassion are proudly on display as the secrets within Zone 10 come to light. Joining her on this excursion is Krystian Godlewski’s Maxim Ivanov, and Llewellyn wisely avoids basing this relationship on distrust and hidden agendas to instead forge a great bond between these two who are both driven by the truth. Indeed, their shared love of Tetris and Toshiko’s willingness to discuss her perceived need to take part in true action herself are wonderfully intimate moments that help to create a feeling of camaraderie despite the characters’ different roots, and Ivanov’s familiarity with the voice on the recording provides all the motivation Ivanov needs to ensure the mission stays on track even as dangerous forces quickly begin their pursuit and as he becomes increasingly conflicted as KVI’s previous connections to the Committee become increasingly known.

The ultimate revelation behind the origin of the recording is quite predictable, but the journey up to that point is a tense and exciting one, and the sound design does an admirable job of bringing to life this snow-covered wasteland that was the site of a brief but calamitous war between KVI and the Committee so long ago that stemmed from a horrible miscalculation about the true aggressiveness and intent of this mysterious and villainous group. Of course, the revelation that Torchwood once had a deal with the Committee far before KVI did and that it might be Torchwood that brought the Committee to Earth are monumental developments that toss any previous assumptions aside and that could lead to immense payoff in the future. The innocent victim caught up in this battle is Anna Volokova, a pioneering cosmonaut whose name has purposefully never made it into the history books because of the failed mission she found herself spearheading, and Ella Garland is able to realistically portray the conflicted emotions of a woman who has consciously found herself living the same day over and over again for forty years who is suddenly presented with a chance of escape as her past and present forcefully collide. The Russian accent does admittedly sound a bit off, but this is a minor quibble for a character at the centre of fragmented time who finds her own unique way out from the expansive watch of the Committee and others thanks to Toshiko’s resourcefulness and assistance.

The parallels drawn between these two female leads are emotional and engaging, and the thrilling continuation and development of the Committee storyline create a resounding sense of importance for ‘Zone 10’ that should make Mori’s first return to Toshiko all the more resonant and enduring. There are a few small flaws along the way, and the pursuers are almost comically inept at completing their murderous task as is so often the case, but this is a tense and emotional ride that commands attention at all points and bodes well for Big Finish’s continued introduction of more characters from the Torchwood universe into its ongoing audio adventures.

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