Gooseberry

Posted in Audio by - April 24, 2021
Gooseberry

Released April 2021

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Of the many strong relationships that have developed all the more thoroughly during Big Finish’s Torchwood run, the friendship between Andy and Owen has unexpectedly become one of the most fascinating. It’s also perhaps unsurprising that Owen has undergone something of a redemptive arc alongside the more optimistic Andy, developing a much more nuanced outlook on life and death as he continues to find his way in a world he should have left behind so long ago. In James Goss’s ‘Gooseberry,’ Andy has a lovely new girlfriend named Caite, but Owen soon discovers that she has a secret that he is desperate to understand no matter how close to her he must get.

Owen is an incredibly complex character, and the taste of life he attains here naturally brings out the very worst in his character as he chases that thrill and the sensations that go along with it without any regard for consequences until it is far too late. A fascinating journey with the allure and repercussions on oneself and others that results from obsession and addiction neatly unfolds, and Burn Gorman gives an immense performance as the short-term highs Owen experiences are counteracted by the eventual introspection in which he wonders if he truly is a horrible person. It’s hard to fault Owen for trying to achieve a sense of normality given everything he has been through, but using Caite to do so and then going to increasingly dramatic lengths- including erasing incriminating evidence and using emotional blackmail- to hide the horror of his actions is an unsettling progression that is presented bluntly and grimly to great effect.

On the other end of Owen’s tortured progression is Caite, a woman with a most fascinating secret who cannot walk away from Owen’s obsessiveness because of his importance to Andy. Lois Chimimba gives an impassioned performance to give life to his woman who is trapped in and suffocated by an unhealthy relationship by proxy in order to save her true relationship with Andy, and her devastating pleas to stop Owen from continuing on only further accentuate Owen’s moral freefall. Unknowingly caught in the middle of this is Andy who is more key to events than he could ever know, and his steadfast dedication to his job and discovering the truth of events he knows are anything but normal reaffirms just why he should be so important to both of these characters and why he is worth fighting for no matter the circumstances. There is a rather pessimistic view that relationships are predicated upon the involved individuals using each other to different extents, and the twist that reveals itself at the end certainly redefines previous events to highlight just how truly integral Caite has been to this tale while questioning who has been the biggest user. This does take the direct spotlight off of Owen somewhat even if it fails to excuse his depravity, but the resulting dynamic between Andy and Owen is a strong endpoint that calls into question just who the gooseberry truly is.

‘Gooseberry’ starts off innocuously enough, but the story that unfolds is one of the most intimately unsettling that Torchwood offers because of the personal depths it takes a beloved character to when confronted with an addiction. Caite’s truth that is revealed at the end is ultimately unnecessary and even takes away from some of the profound lasting impact these events could have had were Owen squarely to blame, but the journey to that point is utterly brilliant and a true highlight of this range. Goss has written another incredibly strong character piece, and the wonderful direction and sound design ensure that this experience is a gripping one from beginning to end.

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