For a relationship that has taken place entirely on audio, with very little groundwork from the Torchwood television series to work off, it’s incredible how far Big Finish has taken the combination of Dr Owen Harper and PC Andy Davidson. And while Burn Gorman and Tom Price are sure to want to work together again, and dip into an earlier point in their characters’ lives, the release of Gooseberry seems like a natural (and emotional) conclusion to their time together.
Gooseberry begins with Andy introducing his girlfriend Caite to Owen, and a few fairly serious things become apparent.
- Andy is genuinely happy with his life and totally in love (and rocking a beard, according to the cover art).
- Andy is also punching above in his love life.
- Cait has a deadly secret that Owen can’t resist.
Get ready to witness the ever-loveable PC Andy having his heart broken by his girlfriend and one of his best friends over the course of the next hour. And not even nicely: this is peak b*stard Owen.
This is set towards the very end of Owen’s life, as in, this is actually dead Owen inside and out, but the story takes place over several weeks or even months as it tracks the relationship and the ever messier involvement Owen has in it once he meets Caite.
Blair Mowat’s score is a combination of his usual brilliant original numbers as well as music that totally captures the feel of Series 2, and Owen’s Theme is used here when we hit some real low points for the character.
It’s a ridiculously fast-paced tale; so much so that it feels like you’ve already had a full episode of action after 18 minutes, which only then gets you more excited to hear the rest because this story takes Owen to the very edge.
It starts with Owen and Caite holding hands, then sharing food, then sharing phone messages and eventually engaging in illicit road-side activities that are all unknown to Andy. I’m sure reading this is making you think the very worst of Owen, but it’s so much different than that and beyond it too. It will test any Owen fan’s enjoyment of the character, but then it’s a great performance with a script that is so totally in-character for him that it’s very enjoyable in the most painful of ways.
Lois Chimimba does a brilliant job as Caite, bouncing off her co-stars incredibly and with different levels of intimacy and also convincingly sounding like she’s friends with some of the other Torchwood Three members too (not that she’s to know they’re Torchwood).
This story straddles several genres, some very rarely explored in Big Finish’s output, and the most potent one is that of an affair. But again, it’s not what you think it is. It’s just using those dramatic tropes of ‘I hope my partner doesn’t find out’ and all the close shaves to build on a bigger story. And the music does get a bit broody for some of those moments.
Gorman gets to act some incredibly physical pages of script in this, which leaves all involved a bit flustered, and it does contrast with Price’s continued mission to have ‘Poirot’ moments where Andy is more detective than PC or sergeant in his audio appearances these days (although I’m sure Poirot has walked in on shenanigans at least once in his investigations).
It’s hard to pick a highlight from this release, because every part of the production is turned up to 11; even the supporting cast who feel like they’ve been seen before despite portraying totally new characters, and the sci-fi metaphors for very human moments and problems are clever, funny intense and most importantly Torchwood.
A must buy for fans of the franchise on audio.
Torchwood: Gooseberry is out now from Big Finish.