As a pairing, PC Andy Davidson and Dr Owen Harper have been put through the wringer at Big Finish. They’ve previously appeared together three times in Torchwood’s Monthly Range, their rapport oscillating between irritable sparring and quiet camaraderie. Corpse Day and The Hope were two hard-hitting pieces that uncovered a darker underbelly of humanity, while The Three Monkeys was a lighter affair (with a toy monkey to boot). Gooseberry straddles territory somewhere in between: there’s a flavour of a twisted love triangle to the premise, though the story quickly moves in an edgier and more disturbing direction.
James Goss’ latest Torchwood contribution follows in the footsteps of his script for January’s Coffee, with the first act playing out not within a set timeframe – such as that necessitated by a ticking bomb, say, or a chase through Cardiff’s streets – but across a sequence of discrete interactions between Andy, Owen and Andy’s new girlfriend Caite, as Owen grows suspicious of Caite’s intentions and meets with her behind Andy’s back. From there, we follow Owen’s attempts to cover up his involvement in the inadvertent killing of an elderly woman, perpetrated in a moment of sheer gluttony.
The dangerous secret of the synopsis is revealed without much ado: Caite, an undead alien succubus, is able to feed on the lifeforce of others – and, importantly, to allow the undead to feel alive again. This is a source of temptation for Owen for obvious reasons, who co-opts Caite into providing him with the physical gratification he’s craved for so long – to taste food, to feel the rain against his skin, to experience life’s many sensations one more time. Owen’s greed and selfishness are fully on show, yet for all his apparent apathy, these audios have shown hints at a deeper vulnerability and a genuine affection for Andy that make him, perhaps, not entirely irredeemable.
Lois Chimimba, who made her first appearance in the Doctor Who universe in 2018’s The Tsuranga Conundrum, is the pick for Andy’s new girlfriend, and she manages to capture that difficult balance charming new love interest and alien vampire succubus well. A variety of other bit parts populate Cardiff’s rain-drenched streets and shops, and things are as vividly domestic and Cardiff-centric as they’ve ever been on Torchwood.
Although Burn Gorman and Tom Price are billed as co-stars, this is really Owen’s story, and judging by his earnest performance, Gorman has an evident love for playing the character. Andy serves mostly as a foil for Owen’s miscreancy, but does get to display a perceptive intelligence towards the end, and the eternally likable Price gives nothing less than the usual 100%. Ultimately, the contrast between Owen’s nihilism and Andy’s optimism is a superb crux off which to hang conflict as well as friendship – and to go to some narratively dark, dark places.
Behind the scenes, producer James Goss struggles to keep a lid on the cast’s riotous banter. This is less behind-the-scenes interview, more ten minutes of wisecracks and laughs with some character analysis sprinkled in. Tom Price outlines his tendency to hyperventilate while at the mic, everyone engages in “Goss therapy” and prompts a joking admission of “enormous psychological failings”, and “Owandy” have already decided their next dual Torchwood foray will be a theme park episode.
Although there isn’t an isolated music suite attached this time round, Blair Mowat’s score complements points of excitement and distress nicely; Big Finish could release a fully-fledged soundtrack of his music from across all Torchwood ranges and it would likely go down a treat.
Torchwood – Gooseberry was released in April 2021. It will be exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until 30 June 2021 and on general sale after this date.
Andy has a girlfriend. She’s called Caite, and she’s utterly lovely. And then she meets Owen.
Owen finds out that Caite has a secret. One that he’s desperate to understand. But the more he discovers, the more dangerously close to Caite he becomes.
What’s going to happen when Andy finds out?
Burn Gorman (Dr Owen Harper)
Tom Price (PC Andy Davidson)
Lois Chimimba (Caite)
Lowri Gwynne (Mae)
Daniel Llewellyn-Williams (Bus Driver)
Betsan Llwyd (Pathologist)
Joanna Van Kampen (Homeowner)
Senior Producer David Richardson
Additional themes by Ben Foster
Remote Sound Engineering Paul Midcalf
Cover Art by Lee Binding
Director Scott Handcock
Executive Producer Jason Haigh-Ellery & Nicholas Briggs
Music by Blair Mowat
Producer James Goss
Script Editor Tim Foley
Sound Design Peter Doggart
Written by James Goss
Theme Music by Murray Gold