Hostile Environment

Posted in Audio by - February 23, 2019
Hostile Environment

Released February 2019


Using recent events in London as a foundation, Ash Darby tackles the increasingly concerning issue of homelessness in Cardiff in ‘Hostile Environment’ in which people assume they’re doing good and helping out society by using an app to tag the homeless to send the help they need. There’s a hidden truth to the decreasing numbers of homeless people on the streets, however, and Tyler Steele is about to discover the true horrors of everyday life when experienced from another perspective.

Although ‘Hostile Environment’ eventually does find Tyler seemingly accepted into Torchwood once more, this is not so much a story laden with plot continuity as it is a sharp and harrowing piece of social commentary. Tyler has never exactly had an easy go of it despite his continued pride, confidence, and assuredness that he can cope with anything thrown his way, but being tagged as homeless is a brutal experience that makes him all but invisible to the public at large. Even with Kirsty as a sympathetic companion, Tyler finds himself increasingly isolated, ignored completely or garnering just a few coins at best when approaching others on the street and finding even familiar faces more than reluctant to actually do anything to help him. Instead, everyone including his former flames and his erstwhile associates in Torchwood whom he independently crosses paths with is more eager simply to pull out his or her phone and snap a picture to leave his plight to someone else to address. Sadly, this willingness to turn a blind eye or to simply use an app to give some modicum of well-intentioned help is an all too realistic look at the general public’s approach to so many social and global injustices as a whole, homelessness often an issue confronted in everyday life that is nonetheless more overlooked when it comes to campaigns for change for individuals to join.

Fortunately, Tyler’s devastating journey of becoming less and less consequential while striving more and more to break free of his trouble is given a fitting Torchwood twist as the app summons drones that bluntly offer those tagged with the option of accepting drugs in a trial or accepting death by fire. This is a brilliant second layer that amplifies the danger on multiple fronts while injecting an uneasy sense of mystery, and the facelessness and seeming results of sure-shot social crusade start-ups that pervade the public are squarely called into question as a result. However, this is an incredibly smart story that takes no shortcuts with its narrative, and Darby wisely avoids bringing in Torchwood to fix homelessness within an hour while also exposing the very real and human motivations underlying the drones and their deadly offers. Indeed, this is essentially a Torchwood story in name only to allow the heightened circumstances of the drones to manifest, but this brutal look at the often-purposefully forgotten side of society is tormenting and brought to life incredibly emotionally by arguably Jonny Green’s strongest performance as Tyler yet that sees him taken to the brink of desolation, working the system to gain two sympathetic comrades, and then seemingly turning his back on the one friend who helped him when he was down once he again finds his feet.

Torchwood has tackled social issues before, but ‘Hostile Environment’ is a profoundly resonant piece that blends genuine emotional depth with tense action wonderfully. Although it may not make the full use of Torchwood as an organisation, this more grounded and isolated affair spotlights the equally impressive successes the franchise can achieve when the more bombastic science fiction notions become secondary to the more human elements that- for better or for worse- pervade the public and individual consciousness.

  • Release Date: 2/2019
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