Review: Torchwood – The Lincolnshire Poacher

Review by Cavan Gilbey

Back in the early days of the Doctor Who Monthly Range we would get a bunch of audios that experimented with the medium of audio itself; Whispers of Terror, Scherzo, Special Features and You Are The Doctor to name but a few. Now that same lovingly daring spirit has been revived in the Torchwood monthly range and are often some of my favourite stories done by the company full stop, especially Cascade and Made You Look. A few months ago we got to see Ianto star in one such experimental stories and here he is again in a spooky story exploring one of the most interesting audio phenomena, the number station. Naturally for a release like this one I really think everyone should go in blind so I am going to attempt to speak as vaguely as I can so I don’t ruin the experience for those on the fence about picking up the story.

The plot, coming from returning duo Lauren Pringle and Stewart Mooney, concerns the daily life of the conspiracy obsessive Greg and his rampant recording of the wild-life around him. But his true passion lies in trying to make sense of the infamous Lincolnshire Poacher numbers station, said passion leads him to Ianto Jones of Torchwood and sends our favourite coffee boy on a chaotic pursuit to find the source of the station before the numbers infect his life.

Now the aforementioned Greg serves as our narrator for much of the opening half of the episode, guiding us through his opinions of hunting law and his slightly sadistic beliefs regarding the ethics of using snare traps and sets the tone that Greg is not quite the innocent old man he initially seems. Numbers slip in and out of dialogue, himself slowly becoming part of the number station and actor David Shaw-Parker plays this slow descent into something more sinister so well and it really adds to this sense of cosmic dread that hangs over the story. Perhaps one of the greatest moments of fear created by the audio is a short montage sequence where the people Ianto meet all adopt the voice of Greg, using his voice to slowly let the number station take over Ianto’s mind and life. It’s a sequence that really does capture the unknowable horror that is Greg, and also helps further this idea that the reason why number stations are unsettling is because they can just turn up out of the blue and be heard by accident.

Gareth David-Lloyd doesn’t get as much to do in this one as he does in many of his other outings from this year, mostly getting to pick up the lead role in the latter half when he is being guided by Greg’s voice. But Llyod helps sell the panic that comes from having your own personal reality warped to this extreme degree. There is a scene in a supermarket which he does with such a real sense of panic and confusion that you really feel the anxiety in his performance, he ends up having to just leave his shopping as a wave of panicked realisation comes over him and I can’t help but think this audio is just made even better by the obvious fact that Llyod seems extremely pleased with the script.

I want to give particular praise to the sound design from the long-serving Toby Hrycek-Robinson and the direction from Big Finish veteran Lisa Bowerman. The atmosphere the pair manage to create here might by the best we’ve had in a Torchwood story this year, Bowerman rightfully keeps the characters feeling very grounded and keeps the threat feeling very human with the calm and calculated delivery of Greg and the greater humanity of Ianto. Robinson’s audio work, mixing the actual sounds of number stations into parts of the dialogue and background music creates a feeling of sinister omniscience that makes sure that no calm moment ever sits right with the listener.

Ianto Jones has had perhaps his best year in 2022. Between this story, Restricted Items Archive Entries 031-049 and Lloyd’s outstanding performance in SUV its clear that he’s thriving under the new writing talent that has been brought in to give him fresh new takes. The Lincolnshire Poacher is certainly the one that I had the most fun listening to, having Pringle and Mooney drag me along this unsettling story of entrapment and reality manipulation with their electric script makes this an easy Halloween relisten for the indefinite future.


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