Review-Torchwood: The Crown

The Ferryman stands in shadow and waits. The Ferryman giggles, hungers and hates. The Ferryman comes to carry away all who behold the crown and disobey.
Christmas Eve. Dr Gideon Parr is summoned to an asylum to check on a patient. A patient who claims to be haunted by a terrible curse. A patient who claims to be Queen Victoria.




The 45th release in the range also happens to be the final Torchwood release of 2020. Following on from “Fortitude” and “Save our souls” we once again follow the adventures of Rowena Cooper’s Queen Victoria.

It’s Christmas Eve and a young doctor (Derek Riddell) has been called away from his alleging wife to diagnose a new arrival at the local asylum, who claims to be the Queen herself.

With The Crown, Johnathan Barnes has crafted another incredibly atmospheric and immersive audio, that makes good use of its Victorian setting. This combined with Rowena Cooper’s outstanding performance as Queen Victoria levitate this above a standard ghost story. The supporting cast is amazing in their respective roles and, used expertly, which allows the story to breathe. This is all backed wonderfully by Joe Meiners flawless sound design and Blair Mowat’s musical score, which all makes for a claustrophobic soundscape. I felt cold and confined whilst listening.

This is a strong character piece that allows the listener to explore the early and darker days of Torchwood and its founder. I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but this release feels very at home over the festive period. Maybe it’s because Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” has become so entrenched in our DNA, that the Victorian era, spooky stories and Christmas just go hand-in-hand together.

I say this on every review, but Torchwood on Big Finish is Torchwood at its best. The Crown is no different, this is a highly recommended morality tale, that would be the perfect stocking filler this Christmas.

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Torchwood contains adult material and may not be suitable for younger listeners.

Torchwood: The Crown is avalible to purchase directly from Big Finish.



Review-Torchwood: The Three Monkeys

November’s Torchwood release was recorded entirely during lockdown. I wonder how long it will be before I stop mentioning things have been recorded during lockdown?

The Three Monkeys once again pairs everyone’s favourite Torchwood odd-couple, Owen Harper (Burn Gorman) and Tom Price (Andy Davidson). Unlike their previous team-ups, this is relatively light in tone.

Andy’s heart-breaking tale about his uncle was bizarrely partly based on a real story Burn Gorman told writer James Goss. In 2009, post offices up and down the country were installed with new computer systems. These systems showed massive discrepancies in the accounts. Even after the system was proved to be at fault, post office owners were wrongfully prosecuted for embezzlement. Goss wondered what would happen if this story was given a Torchwood twist and, The Three Monkeys was born.

Although lighter in tone, this audio brings everything we’ve come to expect from a James Goss release. It’s filled with tragic elements and deep character explorations. All perfectly directed by Scott Handcock, who allows the more serious moments to breathe. Iain Meadows’ sound design is flawless and tugs on the heartstrings, when Andy talks about his Aunt and Uncle. The setting of a car is inspired and makes the story feel confined and intimate. It’s like we’re sat on the back seat listening.

As always, Gorman and Price work insanely well together, Andy’s optimism mixed with Owen’s cynicism makes for an interesting dynamic.

Torchwood: The Three Monkeys once again shows that Torchwood on Big Finish, is Torchwood at its very best.

 

Torchwood: The Three Monkeys is available to purchase directly from Big Finish.



Review-Torchwood Soho Parasite

Since he was first introduced in 2016’s Ghost Mission, Norton Folgate (Samuel Barnett) has popped up in several Torchwood audios. His self-serving ways fast cemented him as a fan-favourite. So much so, it’s difficult to imagine the Torchwood cast without him.

In Torchwood Soho: Parasite, we catch up with Norton, as he investigates strange happenings in post-war London. There’re Nazi packages, a man who should be dead, a time-traveling pub and, Torchwood fan-favourite Sergeant Andy Davidson (Tom Price).

Writer James Goss blows me away, with each release. This is no exception. What’s interesting about this box set, is it’s comprised of six half-hour episodes. I loved this format and I hope it stays. It enables the story to be lean and flow at an incredible pace, there’s no filler here.

The story has a non-linear format, but thanks to Scott Handock’s smooth direction, you’re never lost. You know exactly where every character is and their motivations are always clear.



What can be said about Samuel Barnett and Tom Price at this point? They have such great natural chemistry, Norton and Andy are the perfect Big Finish odd-couple. It’s always a joy to hear them interact.

Rounding off the team are Torchwood new-comers, Dervla Kirwan and Joe Shire. Kirwan instantly shines as Lizabeth Hayhoe, she makes the role her own and establishes the character as a force to be reckoned with. Shire is equally charming as Gideon Lyme, a journalist, and love-interest of Norton. There’s also Belle Epoque (Franchi Webb), the immortal landlady of ‘The Stagnant Pond’ pub. All three characters are brilliant for Torchwood, I hope we see them again.

All-in-all, Torchwood Soho: Parasite is a strong release. Highly recommended.

Cast:

 

Torchwood-Soho: Parasite is available to purchase directly from Big Finish.



Review-Torchwood: Red Base

Mars is the next giant leap for mankind. Starr Base is the first small step. A practice Mars base has been set up in a quarry in Neath, just off the A474. Its aim is to see if humanity can survive on the red planet.

The problem is that the crew are dying. The survivors are terrified, paranoid, and wondering if something alien has got inside Starr Base. Sgt. Andy Davidson has come to find out what’s gone wrong.

Torchwood: Red Base, by the extraordinarily talented James Goss, is a murder mystery. So it’s difficult to review without spoiling.

It’s a whodunnit, loosely based on the channel 4 reality show, Eden. Which saw 23 participants living for a year in a remote part of Scotland, attempting to build a self-sufficient community. Filmed by the participants themselves, production began in March 2016. Unknown to the participants, broadcasting ceased after four episodes due to poor viewer ratings.

The Torchwood range has fast become my favourite. Releases like this just cement my view that Torchwood on Big Finish, is Torchwood at its absolute best.

Everyone involved is at the top of their game. Once more, James Goss gives us a solid mystery, paying homage to all the greats. Whilst also putting an original twist on the genre. Lisa Bowerman’s direction is as slick as always, she’s truly one of the best directors in the industry.

Blair Mowat’s music is perfectly accompanied and complimented by Joe Meiners sound design.

Tom Price is fantastic as Sgt. Andy Davidson, at this point he could play the role in his sleep. But he continually gives an outstanding performances full of humour, empathy and understanding. Everything that made Andy such a fan-favourite. It’s been a joy to hear the character evolve over the years.

Cast

  • Tom Price (Andy Davidson)
  • Kae Alexander (Mina)
  • Jeremy Ang Jones (Dave)
  • Rakie Ayola (Emma)
  • Ronak Patani (Faisal)

Torchwood: Red Base is now available to own as a collector’s edition CD at £10.99 or on download from the Big Finish website for £8.99.

Review-Torchwood: The Sins of Captain John

From zombies in Restoration London to Hell gatecrashing a funeral, rogue Time Agent Captain John Hart leads the universe to rack and ruin in four new adventures written by David Llewellyn.

This release contains adult material and may not be suitable for younger listeners.

Torchwood: The Sins of Captain John is a four-episode story, with James Marsters clearly having the time of his life breaking the fourth wall, as the Whoniverse’s answer to Deadpool. There’s even a fun moment where he complains to director Scott Handcock, that he can’t hear the theme song.

1. The Restored

Captain John is in Restoration England looking for some gauntlets. There’s intrigue in the Tower of London, the dead are walking the streets, and the severed head of Oliver Cromwell has a terrible warning.

2. Escape from Nebazz

Captain John is in a wooden space prison that’s under attack by a strange and terrible life form. Also the catering is truly dreadful and Dr Magpie’s latest discovery may have got a little out of hand.

3. Peach Blossom Heights

Captains John and Jack find themselves stranded on a world that may be actual paradise – the weather is pleasant, the people are friendly, and the giant stuffed animals only come out at night. There’s only one thing the world is missing. No-one has ever explained to any of the population about the birds and the bees. Which is unfortunate.

4. Darker Purposes

Captain John arrives at the funeral of one of the galaxy’s richest men. He died without making a will, and his heirs have some very creative ideas about how this can be put to rights involving murder, necromancy and seduction. Sadly, Captain John is only too happy to oblige.

It’s difficult to believe that it’s been 12 years since we first met the swashbuckling Captain John. James Marsters clearly has a lot of affection for the character, as he absolutely shines in this. It’s great to hear him on his own adventures.

David Llewellyn’s script is fast and funny, with Scott Handcock’s direction matching it all the way. The supporting cast are also incredible, each one of them gives a memorable performance without outshining Captain John.

The Sins of Captain John is everything I hoped it would be and more. Roll on Volume 2.

 

Review-Torchwood: Fortitude

Queen Victoria is stranded with Maharaja Duleep Singh on a mysterious fort in the middle of the ocean.
The fort has been ravaged by storms since it was built. There are ghosts inside and there’s something alien outside. It’ll do anything to get its release.

Fortitude is a very small scale and character-driven piece. It takes place on a fort, just off Portsmouth. Queen Victoria, Dnleep Singh and Colonel Crackenthorpe are trapped as a storm rages outside. This makes the audio incredibly atmospheric, Lee Adams’ soundscape helps convey the tension and isolation the characters are feeling. It’s a relatively small cast, consisting of three leads and a monster. This allows us to truly get to know the characters. One thing Doctor Who has always done well is mixing real historical figures with works of complete fiction. This audio follows suit. Maharajah Duleep Singh is a real historical figure, with an absolutely heartbreaking life and a very interesting, dark and complex relationship with Queen Victoria. It’s amazing his tale hasn’t been turned into a film. Paul Bazely does an incredible job portraying the former maharajah. He perfectly encapsulates the rage and loss he must’ve felt.

After years of seeing Queen Victoria played as a sweet old lady, it’s refreshing to hear her portrayed as a ruthless, cold and calculating character, who is in complete control in any situation. She uses her knowledge to manipulate everything.
All the performances here are excellent. Nobody in this adventure is a good person, but the actors do an excellent job of showing how complicated people are. You empathise with all of them, on some level. The monster is the weakest part of the story, but that’s fine because the story really isn’t about the monster. It’s about the characters and how they develop.

Fortitude has an intriguing script and great performances. If you love the history of Torchwood lore, or just love a pure historical episode of Doctor Who, I think you’ll love this.

Torchwood contains adult material and may not be suitable for younger listeners.

Torchwood: Fortitude is available to buy directly from Big Finish.

Review-Torchwood: Dead man’s switch

One of my favourite things about Torchwood on TV, was Bilis Manger. This creepy time traveller (Murray Melvin) had so much potential, that was never fully realised on TV. Thankfully, that’s exactly what Big Finish excel at. They take a supporting character and make them shine and Billis has never shone more brightly than here.

Synopsis: A devious antique dealer, a property developer and a heartbroken hairdresser. Three strangers sit on a train that’s going nowhere.

They are joined by a mysterious figure.

Bilis Manger wants to tell them how they died.

This release contains adult material and may not be suitable for younger listeners.

Dead Man’s Switch is a very different kind of Torchwood story. Dark and sinister. Writer David Llewellyn takes full advantage of the audio medium and offers us up a atmospheric homage to 70s horror, especially when they reach the twisted ending. This wouldn’t be out of place as an Arrow film.

The three guest actors are perfectly cast, Murray Melvin plays the role with such gravitas and I can’t wait for him to return once more.

Review-Torchwood: The Hope

The Big Finish Torchwood range is always advertised with “This release contains adult material and may not be suitable for younger listeners” never has that statement been truer, than with this release. One of the many things James Goss excels at, is bleak. After giving us all nightmares with Corpse Day. He’s back with The Hope.

Megwyn Jones is one of the most hated women in Britain. She used to run a home for troubled children in an isolated part of Snowdonia called The Hope. For a long time there were rumours about what was happening there, and then one day it was realised that the children had gone missing.

Ever since, Megwyn’s kept her peace. Is she innocent? Is she guilty? Where are the bodies?

An audio play about a convicted child-murderer is never going to be an easy listen. However, James Goss has carved something of a masterpiece here. This is an audio that definitely rewards repeat listening.

Burn Gorman and Tom Price had such brilliant chemistry, in Corpse Day that I’ve been waiting impatiently for a follow up, ever since. Their chemistry is still present and their scenes together are pure gold. Andy’s eternal optimism is a perfect foil for Owen’s eternal pessimism. They also get a chance to shine separately, in scenes that are up there with the most horrific in Torchwood’s history. Siân Phillips is mesmerising as Megwyn Jones, you instantly dislike Megwyn-but you’re also fascinated by her.

The Hope couldn’t be any further away in tone, than last month’s ‘Serenity’. But that’s what makes this series so great. I enjoyed Torchwood on TV. But Big Finish Torchwood, is Torchwood at its absolute best.

Review-Torchwood:Serenity

Serenity Plaza is the most exclusive gated community in South Wales.

Jack and Ianto have gone undercover as a happily married couple. There are rumours that something’s wrong at Serenity Plaza and they’re determined to investigate. But the problem is that Serenity Plaza is just so rigidly normal.

Suddenly, Jack and Ianto have to confront the problems that normal couples face. Sharing a house together, doing the washing up, entering the residents’ baking contest, and hoping to win the Best Kept Lawn.

Competition is fierce. Because this is Serenity Plaza. And you’d kill to live there.

Torchwood: Serenity is James Moran’s first Big Finish audio, so it’s fitting that it’s a sequel to his series 2 episode ‘Sleeper’ and this does what any good sequel should, it develops the threat originally presented and adds layers and complexities-all whilst playing to the strengths the medium of audio allows. Moran has crafted a continuation, that logically feels like the next step in the story.

Jack and Ianto’s relationship has always been popular with fans, so it’s great to have an outing featuring the pair. John Barrowman and Gareth David-Lloyd are clearly having a lot of fun here. The script is full of innuendo, with GDL playing Ianto as a Stepford Wife-type. He even gets to turn his Welshness up to 11.

I laughed a lot and I laughed hard with this audio, this is one Torchwood fans won’t want to miss.

Episode 201:Torchwood-Sargasso

In which Martyn flies solo and brings you a review of the latest Torchwood release by Big Finish.

The seas of planet Earth are choked by plastic. Plastic that no-one has a use for and no-one can get rid of. Rhys Williams finds himself stranded on a container ship in a sea of debris. People on board are dying. Because, luckily, someone’s found a solution to Earth’s polluted waters. The Nestene Consciousness can never have too much plastic.

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Torchwood contains adult material and may not be suitable for younger listeners.

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