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: Rhys and Ianto’s Excellent Barbecue

Rhys is planning a lads’ night in. Barbie in the back yard, few tins, mates and bants. But the only person who turns up is Ianto – who hasn’t been invited. Hell is other people, especially when they’ve brought board games.
Something goes wrong. The two of them could be trapped together for eternity at a barbecue where the sausages never cook, and worse, the brewskis remain forever out of reach.


This was a story I was really looking forward to. Rhys and Ianto are such great characters, who sadly didn’t get to interact much in the main series. Thankfully, that’s what Big Finish do so well. They’ll take characters who didn’t interact much like Owen and Andy, or Rhys and Ianto and they’ll give them incredible stories that build the relationships and add to the overall mythology of Torchwood.


I was expecting a light-hearted tale, given that this features two of Torchwood’s most fun characters. But this story is actually an emotional gut-punch. There are some moments of levity, but writer Tim Foley also chucks in some really emotional moments. Rhys and Ianto comforting Deidre in her final moments is utterly heart-wrenching and takes its toll on our heroes. The moment Rhys opens up to Ianto is handled in an extremely mature and realistic way. Kai Owen and Gareth David-Lloyd are both excellent in this. Both know their characters extremely well and portray them wonderfully. Youssef Kerkour is a magnificent addition as Badger/Deidre.




I also really enjoyed when the audio played with the awkwardness of having to spend time with your spouse’s friend, who you know very little about. I’m sure we’ve all been there.
Overall, this is a beautiful story about male friendship and the need to open up, which is extremely well-executed and incredibly relatable. Especially in these isolating times. This has everything I love about the range, it’s bonkers, funny, touching and, produced to a high quality. Blair Mowat’s music beautifully accents the dialogue and accompanies Joe Meiners sound design flawlessly.
I say this on every review, but every release proves my point. Torchwood on Big Finish is Torchwood at its absolute best.

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

Rhys and Ianto’s excellent Barbecue is available to purchase directly from Big Finish.



Big Finish review-Torchwood: Ex Machina

Ianto Jones is Torchwood. Ianto Jones is the defender of a deserted city, a lone crusader who keeps the empty streets safe.

One day he meets one of the few survivors. She needs his help – because she’s being chased by a darkness. A darkness which says it loves her.


Ex Machina is the debut Torchwood story by writer, Alfie Shaw. Shaw says he came up with the idea, after passing a book shop he used to visit with an ex. He suddenly felt like the shop was off-limits to him. Along with mutual friends etc. That’s something that really resonated with me whilst listening.




This audio focuses on fan-favourite Ianto, as he tries to help Abigail, who can’t understand what’s happened to her parents. In every photograph, she’s impossibly alone. Even in the memory, she has of moving to Cardiff, it’s just her at 6-years-old in the car. Alone.
The only tether she has to her old life is her neighbour Mrs. Evans – and she has problems of her own.

Gareth David-Lloyd and Laura Aickman work extremely well together. This audio was recorded remotely and entirely during lockdown. It’s a testament to the actor’s abilities and Big Finish as a whole, that you’d never guess. Perhaps the remote recording helped the performers feel isolated, like their characters. Jacob Dudman also puts in a fun performance, as a completely unlikeable character.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Torchwood on Big Finish is Torchwood at its very best. This is another top-notch entry in the range.

Cast:

Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones)

Laura Aikman (Abigail Forehill)

Jacob Dudman (Luke)

Misha Malcolm (Fran)

Joshua Manning (The Absence)

Kerry Joy Stewart (Mrs. Evans)

Cover Art: Lee Binding

Music: Blair Mowat and Murray Gold

Writer: Alfie Shaw

Torchwood: Ex Machina is available to purchase directly from Big Finish.

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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Torchwood: The Green Life

At first it seems like Captain Jack Harkness, leader of the ‘beyond the police’ Torchwood organisation and time-travelling Doctor Who companion turned eco-warrior Jo Jones (née Grant) would be quite a contrast when paired. But in ‘Torchwood: The Green Life’ the two are bound as much by what they share as what divides them.

Jo, in this story, is decades older than the girl who once travelled with The Doctor. Everything she learned from her time with UNIT is sewn into this Jo of today and much more besides. This woman is a good match for the immortal Jack, whose dashing young appearance only partially conceals how much of his strength is devoted to enduring a string of painful deaths and centuries. Big Finish audio dramas never shy from the role appearances play in stories when it’s relevant: here we have a pair of lovely fan favourites set amid some gruesome situations.



We’re back in Llanfairfach, the Welsh locale of the 1970s Doctor Who serial, The Green Death. The story then – of pollution-bred giant maggots and a technically-adept evil corporation – continues here. As Jack and Jo clamber over old territory we learn new things about them both.

Katy Manning has kindly returned to play Jo now and again in the past couple of decades – in television and in audio – and each time we get a hint or two about the character’s life since the 1970s. Here there’s quite a bit of her back story, particularly with regards to Llanfairfach. It’s a treat to hear the world of Jo Jones expanding into a mini-franchise of its own.

John Barrowman has been equally generous in his support, for the Torchwood franchise and for the ‘Whoniverse’ in general. He continues his regular contributions to Torchwood on audio here, with a bit of a new challenge: the gentlest members of Jack’s team were never as ‘right on’ as lovely Ms Jones. In Jack’s world, he and his go to some rather harsh extremes, they take their lumps and then find some way to make peace with themselves afterwards. Jo presents him with a world where there are certain lines that are simply not crossed. Where right and wrong don’t often intermingle. Where loyalty is everything.

The legacy elements of this story are taken in genuinely new directions. We get some detail about how the scientific advances of the 70’s Wholeweal community have developed in the years since. We learn a bit more about Llanfairfach as a population centre and its lifestyle in 2019. And we’re presented with something new that has gone very, very wrong. It’ll certainly inform a listener’s first real-world glimpse of a self-driving lorry.