The Baby Farmers by David Llewellyn
Reviewed by DJ Forrest
The story begins in the late 1800’s, during the era of Emily Holroyd, Alice Guppy and Charles Gaskell. Jack Harkness is still freelance, and Emily for the time being has been delayed and a message has come for her to meet a particular gentleman with a white carnation in his lapel in a musical theatre, with relation to a matter of most urgency. Unable to locate Emily, Jack insisted that he went to meet the gentleman. Then Jack too disappeared. Emily later reappeared after finding a book with a slip of paper from an old rundown building, during an investigation – Torchwood matters. It seemed with some urgency she had to replace it in the library of the Cardiff University.
The story also centres around a ramshackle school, the HMS Hades, a hospital ship run aground in the mud flaps on the Cardiff docks, and now with its masts and guns removed, provides homes for the orphans waifs and strays of Cardiff – it also houses a sinister secret. According to intel the ramshackle school was also dealing in baby farming. When once such young girl named Mary gave up her young son Michael to Mrs Blight under the arches on a cold dark wet night, she wasn’t to know she would never see her child again.
David Llewellyn provides a lot of historical detail, and the love lives of the two women Alice Guppy and Emily Holroyd are it seems no different to Jack and Ianto of present day Torchwood in Series 1 and more so Series 2 and 3. When researching from the interview about the ships which drew David’s inspiration for HMS Hades, it’s clear to see how the Hamadryad hospital ship could give such a fitting home for the orphans of Cardiff, a ramshackle of huts built onto the hull of the ship, smoking chimneys and very bleak and depressing, but also very creepy in any light.
The ‘children’ who lived on HMS Hades gave way to the many creatures we’ve witnessed on Torchwood since and from Doctor Who, and a lot of questions arise as to whether the creatures in this story are perhaps related to the creature in ‘Virus’ written by James Moran further into the book.
I loved reading about Emily Holroyd, Alice Guppy and Charles Gaskell and really hope there are more stories involving these characters, created by Chris Chibnall, I find a delve into the past sometimes strengthens the institute that we’ve come to love over the years, even if in the early days it wasn’t for the same cause as it is today.