Redacted Series Two

Posted in Audio by - October 06, 2023
Redacted Series Two

Released September 2023


Featuring a bold trio of LGBTQ heroines that bravely delved into so many corners of Doctor Who history to save Earth and all of existence alongside Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor, Redacted and its fictional anchoring podcast The Blue Box Files made a strong first impression upon the release of its ten episodes last year. With the sixtieth anniversary of Doctor Who upcoming, Redacted returns for a second series comprised of six episodes with Charlie Craggs, Lois Chimimba, and Holly Quin-Ankrah reprising their lead roles.

In the opening ‘Regrets’ by Juno Dawson, the world is still somewhat unsure of what happened following the momentous conclusion of Redacted. Cleo Proctor is seemingly the only person who remembers the Doctor, and although she continues to futilely reach out to this enigmatic figure using the emergency number given to her, she finds herself increasingly isolated as Abby and Shawna continue to grow more publicly intimate and hardly share her belief in the Doctor and extraterrestrial influences. Being a trans woman, she has continued to confront hurdles both romantically and scholastically, and seeking out the strange and dangerous with the explicit intent of crossing paths with the Doctor once more, Cleo heads out alone to follow up on reported sightings of giant rats, keen to prove her mettle and instincts to herself as much as to her friends who have become much more intrigued by the repeated inclusion of the word Torchwood within the reports of so many subjects they have investigated. Feeling that there is a conspiracy of some sort at hand, Abby and Shawna head to the historic Torchwood House that has in recent years come into the public domain. Following up on reports of a break-in and at least discerning that nothing of apparent note was taken before dropping a rather half-hearted attempt at subterfuge, the two are quickly set on the trail of an elder man in Glasgow City Centre who can possibly provide them with the information they seek. This is something of a unique dynamic for the lead trio that continues to develop the fallout from the events of Redacted well, and with Anjli Mohindra cameoing as Rani and with Torchwood seemingly primed to be a major driving force, this second series will hopefully continue the first’s trend of including elements from throughout the long history of Doctor Who to tell its tale.

In ‘Apex’ by Juno Dawson, the eponymous man from the Intergalactic Census Bureau Agency makes an instant impact, saving Cleo from danger and showing a genuine interest both in Earth that his reports suggest is inhabited by savages as well as in Cleo as a real person with genuine concerns. Hailing from the planet Origin that was created at the very foundation of the universe and from which all of time is linearly measured, Apex is self-assured and confident even as he freely admits that he does not have all of the information he or Cleo might like. Following Cleo’s numerous attempts at communicating with the Doctor as he looks to prove that the last known Time Lord is still alive and active while he looks to contribute to his agency’s task of documenting every living entity every one hundred years, Apex quickly becomes someone who Cleo can open up to, and Craggs and Freddie Carter quickly form an immense chemistry that reveals just how truly isolated Cleo has been in recent times. As danger quickly mounts for these two, Abby and Shawna follow up on their lead to discover their target hospitalized. Finding that he has had no other visitors, they witness a strange alien being emerge from within this man and escape into the world, instantly opening their eyes amidst the horror and shock to the vast potential of the universe and to the fact that Cleo’s stories and theories are instantly much more plausible. However, the two are sharp enough to continue their investigations, and the possibility of public buildings being the front for a clandestine organization as they eventually follow a mysteriously familiar symbol on a library card is too much of an opportunity for them to resist. Again, this split narrative is an intriguing choice that highlights the lead individuals if not the strong but strained relationship between Cleo and the others, but with empty folders mentioning the Doctor the only suggestion of thievery within Torchwood as Apex continues his own search for the Doctor while mentioning that something is amiss with their timeline, the foundation is set for a grand convergence that seems set to at least tangentially touch upon the unique premise for the upcoming sixtieth anniversary specials.

With Apex exposed to a lethal dose of radiation from a pursuing alien drone, he leads Cleo to the London Underground and his only chance of survival upon this world in ‘Underground’ by Chris Cornwell. To Apex, however, the Underground is a hidden sanctuary for aliens from across the cosmos, especially those of endangered species whom he has helped relocate to safety. It’s little wonder that Cleo should continue to be drawn closer to this dashing and heroic figure, and though she quite humorously misreads some of his intentions as he pursues a means of finding a cure, Craggs and Carter continue to share a great chemistry as Cleo’s horizons continue to broaden and the mutual search for the Doctor continues. Unfortunately for Cleo, the recent truths upon which she has based her search are completely upended by story’s end, and her own role in these events may be completely recontextualized as she comes to realize just how little she actually understands. With only six episodes in this run of Redacted, this is a bold cliffhanger for the second half to hopefully develop rather than disregard or diminish. These sequences contrast nicely with the more intimate scenes between Abby and Shawna that unfold under the pressure of a dangerous and manipulative alien presence that has seemingly wreaked havoc within this Torchwood base of operations. Entering into a relationship after being friends for so long is not without anxiety, and the resulting conversations about the desire to remain perfect in the other’s eyes as well as all of one’s efforts not being recognized and appreciated expertly keep these events grounded in reality without detracting from the bigger threat around them. The brief running time of each episode continues to make this split narrative something of a risk, but to this point the two have successfully run concurrently- albeit on slightly different scales- to allow each of its characters to continue to develop alongside the overarching and twisting plot.

Apex has some explaining to do to Cleo to open ‘Spaceman’ by Karissa Hamilton-Bannis, positioning himself as something of a Robin Hood figure who has been taking alien artefacts from around the world to help the poor population of the Underground that has suffered so much under the watch of Honour Bray. He has made something of a profit off of relocating endangered individuals to this location, but he at least claims to have a good heart and to want to again better their lives while he looks to settle all of his debts, primarily by finding the universe’s last TARDIS for Honour. To her credit, Cleo realizes just how much she has been swept off of her feet over the past day, trusting this strange man almost implicitly as she has been whisked into a very alien world operating within and around her own. More importantly, however, ‘Spaceman’ finally allows the stories of Cleo and of Abby and Shawna to reconverge as Abby and Shawna pursue the story of a break-in at a locale Rani’s podcast previously purported to be a front for an alien black market. Uncovering a pawn shop of sorts where buyers looking for future technology and for artefacts from the past can all converge, they also discover that the grainy CCTV footage reveals none other than Apex as the culprit. Perhaps understandably once reunited with her friends, Cleo does not want to see the evidence against Apex, instead turning her ire against them for not supporting her and taking her seriously as they continue to wall themselves off from her, willingly or not. As she puts it, Apex may have an open relationship with the truth while he strives to help the refugees by whatever means necessary, but she knows that he genuinely cares for her and believes in her as a person, exactly the type of support anyone needs and setting up a palpably emotional rift between the lead trio as Honour continues her pursuit.

Every story has two sides, and Cleo hears Honour’s in ‘Reboot’ by Ken Cheng. Surprisingly, the working relationship between Honour and Apex is not strictly transactional in nature as Apex looks to procure the TARDIS for her, and Cleo intuits that very real and all too familiar emotions may be driving at least a part of Honour’s actions. However, she cannot bring herself to believe everything being said about Apex because of the strong connection she has already forged with him in such a short time. Honour, though, has a scheme to reveal this man’s true character, one that ratchets up the immediate danger exponentially for far more than just Apex. This robotic element does feel somewhat out of place given the more intimate storytelling that has been told to this point across its sprawling locales even if Honour’s drones provide a natural stepping stone to it, but it nonetheless amplifies the scale and just possibly reveals a side of Apex that Cleo refused to believe existed as Redacted heads into its finale. Perhaps even more exciting, however, is the strong inclusion of Rani and even Mr Smith as Abby and Shawna head to Bannerman Road, revealing shrouded fissures in their own relationship in the process that will hopefully allow them to be even more open and honest going forward. While ‘Reboot’ does benefit from the convenience of Shawna being a computer programmer to work around Mr Smith’s defenses that became active when Apex tried to take the sentient technological being previously, this allows for Anjli Mohindra to confidently assert her presence while paying homage to Sarah Jane Smith, and Rani taking this attempted thievery personally can only bode well for the concluding instalment. This series as a whole has been very driven by emotions and relationships, and while those continue to allow these stories and characters to flourish in a much different fashion than in the first series, it has made the bigger threat harder to properly develop to this point and leaves a lot for the finale to address satisfactorily.

‘Redemption’ by Juno Dawson concludes this second run of Redacted fairly linearly and as optimistically as possible, struggling to maintain any sort of monumental threat but successfully continuing to focus on emotions in the process. Cleo was quick to pick up on Honour’s true motivations early on, and though her surprise at affirming them does seem somewhat overdone, this very personal element is one that is wholly relatable and that allows Cleo to perfectly empathize with this woman who would so willingly become the villain as a result of past pain. In so doing, she does have to attack the character of Apex to bring sense into the equation, but it’s quite evident from the start that Cleo herself does not fully believe her own words despite the genuine emotion behind them, inevitably leading to a reconciliation and hope for the future. It is something of an odd narrative choice to so casually disregard the more overtly grandiose element of the threat that had just been introduced in order to return focus to the emotions driving everyone, but it likely remains the stronger choice given the emotional undertones that still needed exploration and tying up following the last story. As expected, Cleo, Shawna, and Abby also open up to each other and apologize for previous missteps, and while the pause in production of The Blue Box Files is a natural step at this point, it certainly seems as though these three have come out of these events much closer than they have been in quite some time. It is also truly wonderful to hear both Anjli Mohindra and Alexander Armstrong featuring together once more, somewhat surprisingly providing the only direct link to the larger Doctor Who world in contrast to the first series that so doggedly incorporated known characters and threats from throughout the franchise’s history. Nonetheless, while this second series fails to reach the surprising highs that the first managed with its bold storytelling that eventually did manage to bring the Doctor into the fold, this second series manages to showcase a very different type of story that does well in its limited running time to continue to explore the dynamic mindsets of its charismatic lead trio and the dynamic universe that continues on even without the Doctor overtly present.

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