Review by Cavan Gilbey
It’s always really cool when an actor gets to write for the character they’ve spent so long embodying and studying; Tom Baker of course gave us one of the best Fourth Doctor stories in Scratchman, Colin Baker has given us numerous short stories, Matthew Waterhouse has given us a pair of novels and Gareth David-Llyod has perfected the Ianto story. So now its time for Tom Price to pen a story for PC Andy; a comedy story making fun of modern dating practices. And you know what, it really is quite good.
Andy has a date, in fact he’s got one in twenty minutes. It’s the woman of his dreams, she’s saying everything he wants to hear and they hit it off. Actually everyone seems to be getting lucky with love, suspiciously lucky. Andy is on the case, with Rhys in tow. All they’ve got to do is keep their hands from swiping right and causing a mass brain washing.
Price’s script is punchy, its pacey and best of all its funny. Which for a comedy story, it sort of needs to be. Andy is exactly the right kind of character for a story like this; no massive alien threat, just one man who is overreaching himself and needs bringing down a peg. Andy has always been a calming presence for the Torchwood stories, providing a comic relief character who still has this great emotional depth to him and here Price does play into that by giving us an Andy who is committed to doing good even when he knows that his mind is being played with. For the most part he’s keeping Rhys in line, but Andy does end up getting caught up in this love bug. There’s a good scene near the end where Andy confronts the villain, and it does have this air of a man making it up as he goes along but has the confidence to sell it. But it shows us how Andy will go out on a limb if it stops people getting hurt.
There’s a big touch of Black Mirror here as Price plays on a very modern point of satire; dating apps and services. The theme of mind control naturally comes up a lot and the idea that this would always lead to military use because of course it does. But the idea has that bellow the surface sinister feel that makes big-tech so frightening. The mind virus doesn’t seem evil since it helps people find love, but it forces them to become slaves to love and just completely grind society to a halt. Price makes fun of this idea that people define themselves too much by what could be written in a Tinder profile, hence all these repeated conversations about dogs and walks in the country.
Rhys ends up being the comedic relief for the most part here, although there is a bit of a bleak edge to his role in the story. His role is initially quite minimal, only really sticking around to go on a fashion shopping spree where he asks Andy for clothing advice. But eventually he gets to play hero and use his IT skills to figure out the dating app and use it to make everyone talk about naan bread, he even gets an awkward bit of flirting with Andy at one point which is the comedic highlight of the story. However the thing that really sells Rhys in this story is his background relationship drama with Gwen, it does a good job of communicating the stresses of love and acts as this metaphor for how cheating can seem so easy but can often lead to worse situations if you don’t try to work stuff out.
The cast are firing on all cylinders. Price and Kai Owen are the obvious highlights with this outstanding chemistry that makes me ask ‘why aren’t these characters paired up more often?’. They bounce off each other really well, playing into each other’s comedic timing to perfectly sell Price’s comedic voice. However I think the real standout is Rebecca Trehearn as Anna, a council worker who becomes increasing exasperated by her inability to resist the love bug and is played with a very sense of frustration at how she’s trapped going on endless dates with Andy.
Thirst Trap is a great surprise from Price, and from the Torchwood range as a whole since the outright comedic stories we’ve had prior to this have been really inconsistent in quality. But the script is funny, the performances have great timing and the situation, while not massively original, is a perfect choice for Price’s excellent satire script. This has become an instant comfort listen to me since the tone is never too serious, the stakes are never too high, but the characters are lovable and the writing is funny.
Review: Torchwood – Double (Part 1 & 2)
Order on CD/Download from Big Finish
Order on CD from Forbidden Planet
Check out the rest of our Big Finish reviews!