Torchwood is back with a brand new seventh series, following from the Aliens Among Us and God Among Us series previously released. Now considering that I had not heard either of those two series before this point I thought I would be hopelessly lost but rest assured that this boxset feels like a good enough jumping on point since the writers do a good job at getting you up to speed quickly. The four stories here all have a strong linking theme of prejudice, and the set takes the themes to some interesting places. As a continuation of what we have seen on television, this is a worthy successor to the four series we got on our screens.
Once in a blue moon, we’ll get a story with Suzie Costello. And every time this I immediately become very interested. I’ve always thought Suzie had the potential to be one of the most interesting Torchwood agents, she’s far more morally warped than your typical agent and she often revels in the brutality she uses to get what she wants. This was used to great effect in Sync and They Keep Killing Suzie, she’s a very selfish character at heart so doing an emotionally charged character piece like what we have here could go a good way to humanise her. Marcus gets that aspect down perfectly, however there is a bit of a problem with the general narrative flow.
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.
Every so often Big Finish will give us the chance to explore new characters within the Torchwood universe, offering us a look at branches and agents we may never would have seen onscreen. We’ve been to a Third Reich occupied Paris in The Dying Room, a Charlie’s Angels inspired LA in The Dollhouseand most famously we’ve had a glimpse into Norton Folgate’s Soho based branch. Doublefollows suit and takes back to a world where the Autons are slowly plotting their global take-over through corporate subterfuge and how a 70s British Torchwood may go around dealing with this hostile threat. Double’s strength lies in its longer format as we get to feel more involved with the world we see in Guy Adams’ script, everything is given the room it needs to breathe and we are offered an Auton story that feels genuinely fresh and expectedly bleak. Although there are some issues with how long it takes Adams to breathe, which ultimately does leave us with a big cluster of brilliant ideas and characters trapped within a narrative which ends up being somewhat confusing for the listener.
If Chimes of Midnight has taught us anything it’s that Big Finish fans love a good ghost story over the Christmas period. Nothing quite gets you in the festive spirit that a good fright, and Torchwood audios over the past couple of years have treated us to sci-fi scare for tide us over until the next holiday season. This year’s entry into that collection is from veteran of the Sherlock Holmes audio stories Jonathan Barnes, slipping into his comfort zone of the Victorian period to give us a series of short horror vignettes with Queen Victoria. But this story ultimately ended up leaving me more frustrated than frightened.
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.
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.
Tosh is often placed at the centre of some of Torchwood’s more experimental audio stories. The perfect piracy commentary Cascade, the anger management focused story Instant Karma and Dinner and a Show explored her little seen friendship with Ianto. Of all of the main team, Tosh has the most consistent catalogue of good stories; a catalogue Suckers happily fits in. New writer Alexander Stewart gives a fresh take on the often overused amnesia narrative and mental ward setting by giving us a story with far more human stakes that are more terrifying than any alien could ever be.
Ianto Jones, on one of his many routine cataloguing trips to the basement, finds himself stalked by a ghostly presence while he lets out some demons of his own.
The premise of Maddie Wilson’s debut story is shockingly simple; she takes one of our beloved Hub crew members and sends them off to deal with a spook on their lonesome. We’ve seen this quite a lot with Ianto specifically in this range, and they always come out as being exemplars of what the range can do with character development. James Goss’ Fall To Earth and The Office of Never Was are both excellent delves into the man Ianto truly is; just a guy who wants to be liked and seen as one of the team. But Wilson goes above and beyond the call of duty and gives possibly the best solo Ianto story the Torchwood Monthly Range has ever received. Equal parts tragic and unsettling, the story is a fresh exploration of the secret hero of Torchwood Three. Continue reading →
Billis Manger seems to be something of a fan favourite character in the Torchwood community; appearing in a grand total of two episodes of the television series. For many the character made an immediate impression as Murray Melvin brings a slimy charm and eeriness to the villain, but that wasn’t enough for me to want to see him return. However Big Finish, if they are to be known for anything, are known for their resurrection in interest for characters who might not have gotten fair innings on the television. That brings us to the latest monthly range offering; Dead Plates. Manger has previously appeared in four other audio entries but this is my first experience with the character in this format. And based on what I’ve heard here, I may just go and listen to more.