Review: Torchwood – SUV

Review by Cavan Gilbey

Tosh and Ianto have had two of my favourite Torchwood audios recently, both of which really utilise the characters to tell engaging and personal emotional character studies which have these great darker edges to them; Ianto’s almost fetishistic need to feel loved or Tosh’s treatment at the hands of institutional racism in the medical world. So putting these two members together specifically is a great choice and worked really well in their previous joint adventure Dinner and a Show. SUV doesn’t quite feel as fresh or interesting as that story, in fact much of this story feels too much like a retread of the character work done there but the pairing are still charismatic enough to make the audio overall fun and snappy.

The plot from Main Range first timer Ash Darby, who previously wrote Hostile Environment for God Among Us Part 2, concerns a minor rift breach in a sleepy Welsh village. So Ianto and Tosh are sent to check it out, mostly so they can bolster their reappraisals and seem more important than they perceive themselves to be. A terraforming mist soon descends and brings with it a violent alien who tears through all in its wake. Stuck in the only safe place around, the SUV, the pair must figure out a way to survive the night or fall victim to the deadly fog. 

Darby’s set up for what is ostensibly a bottle episode has a good amount of tension and horror to it; you can’t get out the car otherwise you’ll die but being stuck in their with depleting oxygen isn’t ideal either. It’s a classic ticking clock scenario and the desperation that does build up throughout feels genuine and tense, the strongest examples of this are in Ianto’s panic attacks and how Tosh brings him back down to Earth with mundane conversations about crisps and it feels like this is the friendship that these characters have had for years; even though its only recently been explored in the series within the last two years. The script feels like it captures this pairing really well, the bickering about how they both see themselves as the most under appreciated member of the Hub crew is excellent and adds to the brief moments of futility where they both just assume they’ll die and kind of be forgotten. It’s genuinely strong emotional work that I feel might have worked better in something with a more dynamic setting, as opposed to a story that ends up being a bit stop/start so it can try and balance the brilliant emotional work and the relatively boiler plate alien threat sequences. 

The biggest problem with SUV is that the fog, which I can’t tell if the influence is more Carpenter or Darabont, just doesn’t have much of a deadly presence and feels far too much like a McGuffin. I love the idea of it just turning up and nobody knows how to deal with it, that’s got flavours of cosmic horror that I’m a huge fan of and I would have maybe enjoyed this a bit more if the mist had a kind of character of its own in a Xenomorph sense. It’s here and we have Ianto and Tosh really be pushed to the edge when trying to deal with it, they’re forced out into the open with very limited resources and have to try and force the mist’s hand. Instead the threat doesn’t feel too naturally implemented as driving force to evoke strong emotional bonding in the leads, it is more like something that occasionally has to just be there as a break from the emotional work so we can have Ianto climb so rocks or the hand-break fail. 

This gets me to the inclusion of Nigel Havers as the titular vehicle, and this is just an inclusion that really annoyed me. Don’t get me wrong Havers does a good job, he’s a great actor and his voice has enough charm and menace to add an uncanny quality to the villain of the story but ultimately this feels so randomly included. This feels more so as ‘I’m friends with Havers/Havers’ agent’ rather than a genuine casting choice. He doesn’t really get anything to do, his best moment being entirely comedic and consists of him saying ‘bollocks’ which really tickled the immature part of my brain.

On the whole the story is entirely carried by the astonishingly good character work from Darby. Their interpretation of Ianto and Tosh feels so real and like these are just two co-workers having human conversation as opposed to the occasional over-bloated nature of the TV show’s dialogue. I loved David-Llyod and Mori’s chemistry here but the rest of the story seemed dead set on making that aspect of SUV a bit frustrating. The constant stop-start nature of the story does a lot to damage the pacing and never gives the threat much time to be properly realised or explored, which is a shame when this pairing has proved to work so well in stories with pretty dynamic threats and challenges. 


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