Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Articles Welcome to Issue 75 WATNOW: COE: Day Two



Contents Guide

Articles
Where Are They Now Cast?
By DJ Forrest

Torchwood Reviews
The Hope
The Vigil
God Among Us 3
By Tony J Fyler

Big Finish Reviews+
Eighth Doctor Time War 3
The Second Oldest Question
By Tony J Fyler

Who Reviews
Carnival of Monsters Audio
The Time of Angels/Flesh and Bone
By Tony J Fyler

The Mothership
David Boyle Obituary
By DJ Forrest


Editor’s Note

Hi Folks, a smaller edition this month. So, we’re hoping for a much bigger bundle next month, which will be our last for 2019. I wonder what 2020 will have in store for us?

We’re on a recruitment drive this month, for new writers, to help fill our pages this year and beyond and for a new graphic artist to join us in 2020. Sharon has had to step down from this role for personal reasons but will see us through December. We will miss her loads.

If you fancy writing articles for us, or even to produce some awesome artwork, do please get in touch with us. Email us at our usual address (see our Contact Us Page), or message us on our social media pages over on the Book of Face or Twitter.

So down to two writers this month, we’ve done well to bring you a host of audio reviews+, our usual WATNOW article, and a sad farewell to an incredible individual who brought Doctor Who to not only Llangollen, but also to Blackpool, and who drove his little yellow Who car in parades in Lytham St Annes. Yes, we say a fond farewell to David Boyle. Many thanks to Julie Whitfield again for all her help in putting the article together.

So, without much further ado. Welcome to Issue 75 COE: Day Two

Djak






Articles Where Are They Now Cast? Day Two by DJ Forrest



COE Day Two originally aired on 7th July, 2009.

Written by John Fay and directed by Euros Lyn.

After the bomb explodes blowing up the Torchwood Three base, Gwen goes on the run with Rhys, while Captain Johnson and her team pursue them both through Cardiff and London. Dekker gives Frobisher cryptic written plans from the 456 and after some help from Gwen and Rhys, Ianto rescues Jack from his concrete tomb at Ashton Down.

Now it's time for Torchwood Three team to get back to doing what they're good at. Finding just what the hell is going on!!!

In a bid to locate some of the cast who appeared in Torchwood's Children of Earth Day Two episode, I have hit upon a few snags. Finding images from the original episode to back up the current photos I've managed to find. At some point, perhaps in the future, I might locate the missing photos and update this article. For now however, it may be a case of referring to the episode to see how much some of the cast have changed, and some, not at all. As can often be the way.


Ashley Hunt

‘Recovery Worker’

'Hello? If you can hear me, clench your hand. It's not a body. It's just the arm.'

He came upon Jack Harkness' arm when he abseiled down into the crater that was once Torchwood 3 Hub.


Since Torchwood episode Day Two, Hunt appeared in the film short Mind Games in 2011.

However, his theatre work lists much more than his television credits. In 2009 played Duncan Wicke in Too Much Punch for Judy, for the Ape Theatre Company and Brother in Roberto Zucco in the same year for The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts at the Linbury Studio.

In 2010 played Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream with The Young Shakespeare Company, touring, followed by Martinis and Midnight as Scotty for the Lost Theatre One Act play Festival.

In 2015 played Will in Blue Stockings for Eleven One Theatre Company.

Worked as a voice over for ActiveLearn Videos in 2016. Again, for Quick Start Guides for teachers, with Pearson. returning in 2018 for further voice over for Viva PD Videos for Pearson.

Back in theatre as Feste/Caliban for Twelfth Night and The Tempest for BMH Productions in 2017. Played Eleven for Rehearsed Reading in Old Fire Station Stories at The Old Fire Station. returning there for Victoriocity as Warder Ralgrieve/Porter for Rehearsed Reading in 2018.

In 2019 as Lowell for Oblivity, at the Old Fire Station. Played Tristan for The Effect at the Ronin Theatre Productions, and Rivers/Mercutio for Richard III and Romeo and Juliet for BMH Productons.


Osi Okerafor


‘Kodak - Corporal Camara’

'You don't look like an undertaker. If more undertaker's looked like you, there'd be more of a demand for bereavement.'

Corporal Camara was the soldier at Ashton Down morgue. Gwen knocked him out with her gun after she'd disabled the CCTV.

Since Torchwood, Okerafor has played many varied roles, including a Security Guard in 2012 for the television series aptly titled Twenty Twelve. Played Ben Ballo in Prisoner's Wives in 2013. In the same year played Olivier Dondo for Law & Order: UK. Played Benton in Fury a year later.


For seven episodes played Philip Baker for the series Guilt in 2016. Played Butterworth in the TV series Quacks in 2017. Was the voice of characters in Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 video game in 2017

Played Owen Hutchinson in Stan Lee's Lucky Man television series in 2018 for 2 episodes. Played Gregor Chapple in Casualty this year (2019) and Utrax Security Officer Jones in Hanna for 2 episodes. Played Billy in Angel Has Fallen this year too. And currently voices a character for E Go Betta Oh video currently in post-production.


Emmanuel Ighodaro

‘Paramedic’

'The government. I'm working for the government. I just follow orders, that's all. I just do as I'm told. I'm just following orders, that's all.'

Ighodaro played the Paramedic who was really a government soldier, with orders to kill. However, he got more than he bargained for when he came up against Gwen Cooper. When he attempts to jab her with a syringe, she shoots him in the foot.


Since Torchwood, Ighodaro has played and is probably better known for his role as Jackson Powell for 40 episodes of Shameless UK from 2011 - 2012. Played Kaz Winters in the Waterloo Road episode Baby, Be Mine in 2013. Played Julian Adomakoh in New Tricks in 2014. In 2016 played Charlie Franklin for DCI Banks story Drop of Blood parts 1 & 2. Played Clive in Coronation Street for 2 episodes in 2018. More recently played Benjamin Addo and Dean Farrall for medical day time drama series Doctors from 2016 - 2018.

Played Gregg in Sick of It, in the same year and again in 2018 played Tony Threadgold in The Queen and I.


Robert Shelly

'Sentry'

Kodak's dead? When did that happen? Jesus. Shit meself then. He owes me money.'

Shelly played the Sentry, with a broad Liverpudlian accent who greeted Gwen and Rhys as they came to pick up Jack from the mortuary. He got his wires temporarily crossed when he thought they were picking up Camara's body instead.

Prior to Torchwood in 2009, Shelly's career began back in 1978 in Special Effects for both Stingray and in The Prize Fighter a year later. He began acting in 2004 when he played Jay Denton in Merseybeat, going on to play the Quizmaster in Rocket Man in 2005. He played Carl Macmillan in The Bill episode Dead and Buried in 2007 before playing the Sentry in Torchwood. There are no credits after Children of Earth.


Quill Roberts

‘Guard’

'Complete waste of time. The body next door, Rupesh Patanjali, London wants to know if it's okay to release him to the family.'

The Guard is in charge of monitoring any changes to Jack in the morgue. It comes as a surprise to both him and Johnson when the body bag begins to fill out. Quill has the nasty task of unzipping the bag and cuffing Jack's skeletal body to the wall while he continues to regenerate.

Since Torchwood, Roberts has played an Asian Businessman in Cleanskin in 2012 and John's Step Dad in U Want Me 2 Kill Him? in 2013. Since then, no further credits.



Fay McDonald

'Mother'

Leave her alone. Go away. Piss off, you perv.'

When the children became possessed by the 456 at the park. Ianto tried to find out from one little girl what it felt like. Unfortunately, her mother reacted as any parent would towards a stranger and told him to sod off.

Prior to Torchwood, McDonald played ironically, a Torchwood Trooper in Doctor Who Doomsday episode in 2006 uncredited. After Torchwood, she played a Police Officer for Bad Company in 2010, again uncredited.

Louise Minchin

'Newsreader'

'Residents in Cardiff are reacting with shock and outrage. The entire Bay area has been closed off and witnesses say the effects of the explosion last night could be felt five miles away. No one can say for sure why this area was the site of such an unexpected attack, and the Prime Minister's office has refused to speculate until more details are known. Fortunately, the timing of the device last night was...'

Was the regular reporter of the COE story throughout the the last four episodes.


Since Torchwood, played herself once more as newsreader for W1A in 2017.


Libby Liburd

‘Barmaid’

'Over and over. Positive.'

Confirmed when asked by Clem the words he'd uttered, while in the pub.


Since Torchwood, Liburd played Rachael Carlton in Love Freely But Pay for Sex in 2013, and Brenda in St Milligans Wharf in the same year.



The Mothership David Hugo Boyle Obituary



David Hugo Boyle
1948 - 2019

David Boyle was born in Preston Royal Infirmary. He moved to Warrington at just a day old after his Dad who had been demobbed from the RAF, returned to the UK from India. It was his Dad who first piqued his interest in trains, having bought his first model railway before he started at the now defunct Richard Fairclough Secondary Modern school. He would often supplement his pocket money by fixing other pupils’ broken engines.

In 1983, he founded the DAPOL company (DAPOL is an amalgamation of David and ex-wife Pauline’s names. Polly is short for Pauline) that made mainstream ‘OO’ Model Railways. Their model engines manufactured from their Winsford site were produced in Hong Kong and the Far East, an arrangement that successfully survived for 32 years, strengthening their relationship with their Far East partners.

In 1994 the Boyle’s moved their business from Winsford to a larger site at Llangollen, which was able to support both the railway business and their new Doctor Who exhibition which was also supported by the BBC. Under licence from the BBC, DAPOL also produced Doctor Who figurines and action toys, including Tardis Play Sets.



In 1994, during the move to Llangollen, a devastating fire broke out in their Winsford site, destroying huge quantities of their products including their historical ‘Wrenn’ model railway material.

Their Llangollen Exhibition had 6000 square feet of space, to house a collection spanning 30 years of Doctor Who props from the Troughton era right up to the Seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy.

In 1998, David resigned from DAPOL, his former wife Pauline became the sole proprietor, running not only the factory but also the Llangollen exhibition until it closed.

Unfortunately, in 2002, the BBC decided not to renew the licence for the Doctor Who figures and playsets and DAPOL turned their attention back to model railways and in 2003 moved their manufacturing site from Llangollen to Chirk, Wrexham.

David set up another Exhibition of Doctor Who, this time on the promenade in Blackpool, next door to Sea Life. It ran from 2004 – 2009 when it closed. He sold a new range of Doctor Who figures from the Character Options range, along with a few of the early DAPOL figures rescued from the Winsford fire – the Time Lords of Gallifrey. Only a few of these are still in existence.

The BBC took back some of the Doctor Who costume exhibits after it closed to be displayed in their other venues up and down the country.

David was well known within his local community and a regular supporter of the Lytham Club Day Parades, where he would be seen driving his popular yellow Doctor Who car BESSIE, whilst dressed as a Native American. Bessie was the Third Doctor’s mode of transport when he was without his TARDIS. She was one of only 22 built.
It has a Ford Popular chassis with an Edwardian Roadster kit body. Its registration plate SUX419 will show it as a Ford Esquire on car insurance databases. It was occasionally used as a back up car in the Doctor Who series.

In 2009 David met his beautiful partner Julie in which they spent nine and a half loving years together. With Llangollen holding many fond memories for David, from his old DAPOL days where he brought up his family, to his twilight years with Julie, they would often spend their time visiting the local Llangollen Railway Station together.

On one particular Valentine’s Day, Julie arranged a trip to the Steam Railway. It was the first operational day of the year, so naturally the heating wasn’t working! As Julie recalls, ‘the champagne was particularly well chilled!’ Julie often called ahead to the staff at Llan, so that David was always given the ‘Red Carpet’ treatment. When he celebrated his 66th birthday, he was invited to ride in the cab for the journey, however due to heart surgery six days earlier, he was unable to drive the train. 

In 2017, David suffered a massive stroke which rendered him unable to speak, and requiring 24-hour care. Yet, despite this, however, David retained an amazing quality of life. Even after David’s stroke, they attended a very uplifting talk at Preston Comic Con, given by Colin Baker and Gareth David-Lloyd who reminisced about their careers in both Doctor Who and Torchwood. Later, after a photoshoot with Colin, the Sixth Doctor spoke with David, ‘treating him with the utmost respect and compassion.’ They had met on numerous occasions in the past, at David’s Doctor Who Exhibitions.

On 17th September, 2019, David sadly passed away but he was determined to go out in style.


David had always been a lifelong Wire supporter. He was brought up on the Wilderspool Causeway, close to the ground of his beloved Rugby League team, the Warrington Wolves. His matchday shirt was placed upon his coffin in the church, alongside his Native American headdress, outfit and shoes.

His TARDIS coffin was transported in a silver horse drawn hearse from the home he shared with Julie, in Lytham, to St Cuthbert’s Church, where a public celebration of David’s wonderful life took place. David’s last wishes were that everyone who came to pay their respects at his funeral were to wear bright colours. As the cortège arrived at the crematorium, a bag piper led the procession playing ‘Abide with Me’ and ‘Amazing Grace’.

David’s family said their final goodbyes to the original 1960s Doctor Who theme tune.

David also requested that half of his ashes were to be scattered along the steam railway at Llangollen, which was the location of the DAPOL factory and the Doctor Who Exhibition, and half in the grounds of Lytham Hall, where the Lytham Club Day celebrations continue once the parade has finished. The scattering of these ashes will take place sometime next year.

Special thanks to Julie Whitfield, for the use of photographs within the article, and for the personal information.

Research details:


Reviews God Among Us Volume 3 by Tony J Fyler



Tony meets God. After the Flood.

Torchwood’s post-Miracle Day box sets have frequently fallen into the category of ‘Story arcs that leave you needing a lie down in a dark room with a soothing cup of tea.’ The God Among Us arc has had more coherence than its predecessor, Aliens Among Us though, due in no small part to an increased familiarity with the characters of New Torchwood. If all this comes to you now as a bolt from the blue, stop reading immediately, you’re significantly behind us in time, and there’s no real way to catch up except by going through the preceding box sets, because this is not the Torchwood you think you know.

Go on, shoo! Come back, by all means, when you’re up to speed and have got your head around the hows, the whys and the wherefores.

All up to speed?

Right then.

You rejoin us at the point where, at the risk of still giving listeners some sort of mental breakdown, God (or at least, a God) has been working with the Committee – a bunch of body-snatchers from Way Out Yonder who’ve previously been mostly voiced by David Warner as Old Bloke In the Nursing Home Of the Damned – to at first secure a victory for a bunch of civic-minded aliens, but then, thanks to some fairly sharp thinking and self-sacrifice by the likes of Norton Folgate, just-possibly-hologrammatic Torchwood operative from the 1960s, and alternative-universe Yvonne Hartman (See? Getting up to speed makes all kinds of sense now, doesn’t it?), were at least partially defeated. But Cardiff now is not Cardiff as we’ve known it. Cardiff – modern-day, post-industrial, high-tech Cardiff – has been the victim of a major tsunami. Hundreds of thousands have died. Straggling communities of the homeless camp out in the lobbies of swanky apartment buildings, such as that in which Mr Colchester of Torchwood and his husband Colin live. Colin now works tirelessly to try and keep the flow of supplies coming to these new indigents, alongside would-be Torchwooder and part-time turncoat Tyler Steele. Jack Harkness is about here and there, but Hartman’s Torchwood is still, at least technically, in control. And PC-cum-Sergeant Andy Davidson (last seen in a moderately disturbing relationship with Yvonne), has become director of the committee dealing with the rescue and recovery effort for his shattered city. Meanwhile shapeshifting empath Orr might or might not have formed some sort of understanding with God, Colchester appears to have been brought back from the dead by Steele, without in fact understanding as much, and Ng, the one-time-and-possibly-still herald of God who hid out in the body of, and now has many of the personality traits of, Gwen Cooper, without in any way actually being her, is somewhat unsure of her past and her future but in the meantime is saving the world as best she can.

Annnnd breathe.

This is where we come in to this box set. By the time we reach the end, there’ll have been a fairly epic sweep towards the destruction of the planet, Andy will have shot an innocent teenager, God will have given away her powers, Orr will love everyone, Ng will have discovered the inherent superpower of Welsh women, and at least one podcaster will have been torn to shreds by thin air. Welcome to Torchwood – God Among Us, Part 3.

Alexandria Riley (who also plays Ng), takes writing duties to start us off here, and delivers a powerful piece, driven at us as if to-camera for large chunks of time by the wonder that is Mina Anwar. Anwar plays Bethan, mother of a young man who’s still missing after the Cardiff tsunami, and her grief is a powerful motivator to her strength and tenacity in this episode as she tries to find out what’s happened to her son – whether he’s still alive, or if not, what happened to him. She’s our window on the world of some of our Torchwood favourites in the wake of the disaster, and she unveils a cover-up as to who was behind the orders to evacuate parts of Cardiff, who gave the orders for the military to make preparations for the tsunami strike, who did any of it. When the inquiry into the incident demands answers, all that anyone can tell them is that they…don’t recall who gave them the orders. Bethan ultimately figures out the truth – or at least a version of it – and gains at least a little piece of mind, somewhat bolstered by a random encounter with Orr, who is driven by Bethan’s pain and need to ‘become’ her son Anthony for at least a little while.

Here’s the thing – we should be taking Riley’s writing more seriously. Absolutely, Mina Anwar is a powerhouse in this episode, driving it on, giving us glimpses into the characters-under-pressure of a city in crisis. But only once you’ve gone through the box set do you sit and assess the whole thing, and only then does the intricacy, the cleverness and the natural tone of Riley’s script really hit you. It opens up the post-tsunami world to us, providing a perfect first slice of action for this box set and a satisfying whodunnitandwhy, while mostly focusing on the human emotional cost of disasters, and the contrast between human effort to help those affected by such events and the necessary but inherently soulless bureaucracy that has to deal with the world after such catastrophes on a purely logistical basis. It’s affecting, effective writing, and more from Riley in all corners of the written world would be welcome on the basis of this introduction.

Robin Bell’s ScrapeJane delivers a kind of Blade Runner horror story of modern mythology and the power of belief, in which Mr Colchester and Ng have to defeat a bogeywoman admittedly created in the last handful of years – by of all people an ‘urban explorer’ hoping to interest people online in Cardiff’s history. There is of course nothing wrong with creating bogeywomen to encourage an interest in history.

Until your fictional bogeywoman starts slaughtering not only annoying podcasters but nests full of Weevils without a by-your-leave. The quest to find and pacify the invented ScrapeJane  gives Colchester (himself now feeling like he is living on the borrowed time of Colin’s belief in him, as he’s under the impression that it was Colin, rather than Tyler, who brought him back to life) and Ng, the one-time God-herald, now-Welshwoman-impersonator and world-saver and equally uncertain of her future, a chance to go beneath the surface of their day-job and exchange some honest insecurities. It’s the kind of getting-to-really-know-you fare which Torchwood has regularly done with great aplomb, and Robin Bell adds creditably to the series’ store of character-stories, while also investigating truth, fiction, creativity, ownership and belief in a very contemporary way. There’s even a bit of brave humour in here, as Bell writes characters telling invented characters that wanting to meet – and even take revenge on – their creators is unoriginal and has been done before. Imagine the ‘meta’ nature of writing that, and then tinge it with a sad note, as Bell himself is sadly no longer with us. As with Riley, it would have been good to hear more from him at Big Finish.

Day Zero, by Tim Foley, turns up the dial on the threat noise-floor, as Cardiff runs out of drinkable water. Isolated, with no relief able to get through, the city’s hit by a poison in its water supply. If every civilisation is just three meals away from revolution, Foley’s script asks us to imagine what happens to a major modern city if, all of a sudden – thank you news blackouts to ‘reduce panic,’ and yes, you’re entirely free to slide Operation Yellowhammer into your mind at this point if you like – there’s no water. No bathing, no showering, no toilet-flushing, no drinking, surprisingly little by the way of cooking, in a city already stretched to crisis-point.

The tension in this script (ahem) boils over when it turns out there’s one place with a source of clean water, and it becomes a focal point for dissent and battles, with Torchwood on one side, thirsty vigilantes on the other and Andy’s Disaster Recovery Committee in the middle trying to seize the source and allocate the water as it sees fit. The fundamentals of a solid dystopian science-fiction story are right here – remove something crucial from society and write what happens – but this being Torchwood, there’s a handful of unexpected twists, especially as Orr exists to give people what they want. In a city suddenly very thirsty, that has distinct consequences, but it’s also this episode that shows us the character divisions of what was once a united team, and which since the return of alt-Yvonne, has been carrying on as regardless as possible, trying to paper over the colossal cracks in the fabric of the city’s existence. This is a story that feels like it should draw battle lines, but its point is rather more subtle than that. Yes, it takes us into a hell of sudden deprivation (a hell, incidentally, already faced by millions of people on our planet, not all of them that far removed from our wastefulness), but it also shows us what happens when that deprivation ends, when everyone looks away and doesn’t tackle the division of which they were part. Day Zero feels important for that lesson, for the ‘What happens next?’ question of a society divided to the death.

And finally, all these increasing tensions and agonies and strong episodes need to come together at some point and explode. In Thoughts And Prayers by James Goss, the neat conceit is that thoughts and prayers actually work, that they provide an energy for gods (or those to whom gods have delegated their powers), which is then up for the taking and using by any power big enough to effectively threaten a god. The Committee are back, and ooh, they’ve made Torchwood all spick and span again, with a rift manipulator far more advanced than even TV Torchwood ever had. Think Stargate and you’re not far wrong. As the end of the world advances, there are ever more thoughts and prayers to process, and the energy builds to a climax that looks like it’s going to go one way – the phrase ‘I was trying to do my duty’ is mentioned, to the delight of all Hartman-fans – but then doesn’t go quite the way you think it will. The aftermath of Thoughts and Prayers is vaguely familiar territory perhaps, because you can only have a cataclysm if it has consequences, and there are only so many ways you can spin those consequences, but it leaves plenty of room for creativity in terms of where to take Torchwood from here. We’re not by any means necessarily looking at another re-boot after this, but whatever’s next from Torchwood will be filled with post-almost-apocalyptic challenges to overcome.

At the end of a series of box sets that have occasionally been challenging and have occasionally included episodes which mostly focused on character without advancing the plot, Torchwood – God Among Us Part 3 is that rare thing – a roller-coaster ride with plenty of emotional highs and lows, but no drops in quality from start to finish. It’s a belter, from the highly effective, personally-driven first episode to the roaring, screaming, ‘So this is it, we’re going to die!’ conclusion. You absolutely need to have followed the new Torchwood more or less from the beginning to get the most out of this box set. But it’s a conclusion that makes the journey thoroughly worthwhile.

Reviews The Hope by Tony J Fyler


  
Torchwood has always been able to tackle mature themes. In its time, both on TV and in audio, it’s done that many a time, sometimes going into the darkest areas of human experience.

Welcome to The Hope.

The Hope is an isolated part of the Snowdonia hills.

It’s where Megwyn Jones, the most hated woman in Britain, buried the bodies.

The bodies of children who were funnelled to her children’s home. Bodies that were photographed in death, as mementos of unspeakable acts.

Still want to play our game of Dark Torchwood?

When her crimes were eventually discovered, Megwyn Jones became that hideous avatar of our age – a celebrity serial killer. One of those whose crimes are picked apart, for the mystery, for the sensationalism, for the shiver down the spine while families weep. The bodies have never been found.

Still playing?

Now, old and in near-constant pain, Megwyn Jones is finally prepared to point the authorities to the bodies of her charges, to allow families to properly mourn as a final act of – what? Contrition? Nooo, that’s not Megwyn’s style. Not her style at all.

So, on the day when she’s released to find the bodies… why are Torchwood there? Why is Owen Harper, Torchwood’s very own dead man walking, up on the icy hills of Snowdonia, along with Andy Davidson, a leading policeman who’s been cashing in on his involvement with the case for years, and the sister of one of Megwyn Jones’ victims?

Are there secrets The Hope still has to give up, beyond the location of the bodies?

Let’s say this. Sian Philips is an actress of astonishing power. When she first popped up in Big Finish, it was in the Jenny series, arguably somewhat miscast as a kind of female Terminator.

The Hope gives you Sian Philips at full power, in a meaty role that allows her to leave the same kind of mark on your memory as other highly skilled performers, like John Hurt and Derek Jacobi. That’s her league, and in this relentlessly tense and occasionally horrifying script by James Goss, she gets to really show it, as she dances back and forth over the line in your mind – the line that makes you wonder if she’s really as evil as the mob thinks she is, or if she’s been hiding some ultimately benevolent secret all these years.

We won’t spoiler the story or its deeper mysteries for you. Suffice it to say that The Hope is a story with a scope that’s relentlessly grim, but which does pull you back and forth over that line more than once, and plays with your expectations from its set up. Where there feels like brightness, a deeper darkness is revealed, and yet from that deeper darkness, at least one of the Torchwood regulars manages to actually extract some…well, some hope, taking the overall story arc of Torchwood as we know it into new, unknown, exciting territory at the end of this story.

Burn Gorman being sarcastic and yet compassionate as Owen Harper is the kind of thing your ears evolved for, and there’s yet to be any bad in his performance. When he’s teamed up again with Tom Price as Andy Davidson, there’s a peculiar alchemy that takes place – Andy’s by no means a fool, and never was, but he’s getting wiser to the ways of Torchwood, without especially sacrificing the core of his everyday morality to the sights, sounds and dilemmas that involvement with Torchwood bring. Matched with Owen, it’s not that Andy becomes some everyman white knight, but there’s a sense that he imbues Owen with a more immediately visible compassion than was ever his want to reveal on screen. There’s also the potential for the comedy of desperate circumstances with these two, which means the background and the thrust of the stories they can get involved in together can be pitched much more towards the humanity of horror than necessarily to the science-fiction end of the storytelling spectrum, and The Hope takes advantage of that dynamic to pitch Torchwood into the crimes of a serial child killer – and the mindset that lies behind her actions. If you’re a fan of TV episodes like Countrycide, or of the previous team-up of Gorman and Price, Corpse Day, this story will take you down all the right alleyways, club you senseless and leave you for dead on the icy hillsides of The Hope.

Whether that’ll be the end of your story – well…that would be telling. A precisely written but emotionally murky script from James Goss, top-drawer performances from Burn Gorman and Tom Price, and perhaps above all, a spider-like and yet down-to-earth performance from Sian Philips will burn The Hope into your memory long after your first listen.

And long after your second and third listens too.

Reviews The Vigil by Tony J Fyler



Quiet please, says Tony.

There’s a lot in Torchwood – The Vigil, but you may not realise quite how much until you’ve finished listening to it the first time, and the layers of story and character come back to you.
As you go through it the first time, the story’s fairly straightforward – this is a tale from early in Tosh’s Torchwood career, when – as we’ve seen from the TV version – she was both instinctively tech-brilliant and deeply unsure about her skills, her worthiness, and for most of her time, the advisability of her saying boo to anything more challenging than a goose.

Throwing her into an active operation with Sebastian Vaughan – an aristocratic James Bond-alike, hardcore Hooray Henry, and equally new Torchwood operative – shows the contrast between Tosh and the seemingly ‘typical’ recruit of, perhaps, an earlier iteration of Torchwood. Daddy’s pulled some strings to get Sebastian into the alien-fighting service, rather than the standard MI5 route which might well have otherwise been his career path, whereas we know Tosh was rescued by Torchwood – and specifically by Jack Harkness – after getting involved with techno-gittery and blackmail-merchants and then falling foul of UNIT. They could hardly be more different in history or character, and they’re teamed up to deal with an infestation of vortex leeches.

Yes, they’re as disgusting as they sound, thanks for asking.

The thing is, the storytelling is split into two parallel strands – the past, mostly consisting of Tosh and Sebastian working on the problem of the leeches, and (and this really shouldn’t come as much of a spoiler to you, given the story’s called The Vigil, and one tends not to hold vigils for friends who come out of experiences alive, well and smiling), the present, in which Sebastian… well, he’s not as alive as is generally judged to be optimal.

In fact, if you want to be really picky, he’s distinctly sub-optimal in the whole ‘being alive’ stakes.

Leeches – they’re a bugger of a thing.

Once he’s dead, there’s a tradition to be observed. Unlike most Torchwood operatives, Sebastian Vaughan’s body has to be taken home to his mother. Because that’s just what Vaughans do. The family has a long history of service to the nation in war after war after war, and every time they’ve given their all in that service, their bodies are shipped home to be among their ancestors.

Sebastian Vaughan’s most immediate ancestor, his mother, is still alive and distinctly kicking. Throughout this story, she gives the impression that what she’d like to be kicking is Tosh, who, with her timidity, her uncertainty, and her general lack of dashed moral fibre, Mother Dearest feels is obviously ultimately responsible for the death of her big brave boy.

You almost don’t need to know any more about the story – you can probably see it spool out ahead of you. The leeches have evolved from mindless hunters to set traps, to keep their meat fresh until they can find a new  victim, and so the leeches, like vampires in some of the better Victorian vampire stories, pluck on the heartstrings of their victim’s friends and relatives, setting us up for a second round of Torchwoody goodness as Tosh has to find her mettle against gittishness of both the human and alien kinds.

The story is one of Tosh if not entirely finding her feet and her sense of self, then at least outlasting someone who was supposedly ‘born’ for the job, by doing things her own way – doing the research, getting the data, making decisions based on good intelligence, and, when necessary, going several extra miles to do the right thing.

What doesn’t really hit you until after your first listen is the richness of the characterisation and the backstory it lends to the whole thing. Sebastian is frankly awful on every level – and the chances are, most people (certainly most women) will have encountered him, from warehouse supervisors to boardroom bully-boys, and in every social circle imaginable. Privileged, certain of his own power and therefore of his own inevitable rightness, building connections by swinging his…personality about the place, and both intentionally and unintentionally belittling the efforts, the self-worth and the confidence of people who are not like him.

When you re-listen to the story, you’re significantly on the side of the leeches.
But his mother, Madeline, played as if looking down a glacial nose at everything not-we by Lucy Robinson, is equally vile and domineering, and actually helps explain where Sebastian’s granite sense of entitlement and self-certainty comes from. She delivers that odd combination of coddling of the Little Prince of the family, and the crushing weight of expectation that comes with having A Family, rather than just a family. The Vaughan’s have Standards. Ancestors. A code to maintain from generation to generation, and Madeline’s casual certainty that they’re a cut above almost anyone, and several cuts above the likes of Toshiko Sato, helps fill in some backstory of the growing Sebastian for us. By the time he’s working with Tosh, he seems to feel that she’s just not trying to fit in with the team, while he’s dumping all the gruntwork on her shoulders because – well, because someone else does that, don’t they?

All in all, the plot and the characterisation strands of The Vigil work well in harmony, and each would be weaker without the other. The plot on its own would be a standard ‘alien beasties not quite as dead as you assume they are’ story from before Series 1 of televised Torchwood. The characterisation alone would be ‘Tosh is a fish out of water with an eminently slapable colleague’ – which, given her ongoing infatuation with Owen for quite some time would not be entirely new either. But the subtle ways in which Lou Morgan intertwines both elements means that The Vigil is an emotionally satisfying listen that rewards a re-run, allowing you to pick up new elements and nuances each time.


Big Finish Reviews+ The Second Oldest Question by Tony J Fyler



As fans of what it is becoming increasingly ridiculous to call ‘New Who’ will probably know, the Doctor has been haunted by ‘the oldest question in the universe’ since they ran away from Gallifrey. It was made the subject of quite a lot of enquiry and discussion during the Matt Smith era, and revolves around their name. Let’s not focus on the fact that there must, presumably, be older questions than that still floating about the universe – ‘Doctor Who?’ is apparently that question.

So – what’s next on the universes To Do List? What’s the second oldest question in the universe?

In this Short Trip by Carrie Thompson, we’re about to find out.

When we work it out, you should probably prepare your groanometer. Pack it with ice or somesuch to stop it from exploding in philosophical rage. When you find out what the second oldest question in the universe actually is, (at least according to the unusually flippant Fifth Doctor here), you’ll go ‘Ohhh… Really?’

The point of course being that no, no-one’s proposing to tell you what the second oldest question actually is – it’s a twinkly-eyed joke from the Fifth Doctor as he’s up to his plimsolls in muck, mud, the trial of Satan’s Chicken and disgruntled medieval peasants with an axe to grind and a dinner to prepare.

Because that’s where this story takes us – to a soaking wet, muddy hole in the ground in Earth’s middle ages, full of drunks, honest sons of the soil who believe bathing is bad for you, and a chicken which stands accused of murder.

The Doctor, seemingly more for mischief than for any other reason, decides to defend the bird against the calumny of the villagers, many of whom have plans to share out the corpse of the doomed beast for their pots the next day, once they’ve seen God’s justice done upon the fowl fiend (Yes, dammit, I went there – how often d’you get an opportunity to use that spelling?!).

While Nyssa spends the trial with the head jammed in a medieval armpit, the Doctor uncovers shenanigans underneath the mud and the movement of chickens. He doesn’t exactly cross-examine the winged wonder, but he does shift the culpability for the inferno onto an altogether more likely looking wrong ’un.

Which is where things really start to go wrong. Everybody in the middle ages loved a good chicken dinner of course, but if there’s a chance to root out sorcery in their village by means of a full-on warlock-burning, so much the better – they can always kill the chicken when the interfering blond bloke naffs off back wherever he came from.

So, from a premise that feels forced and seems to involve the Fifth Doctor in an uncharacteristic game of ‘Let’s mess with the peasants,’ comes a situation of genuine danger, with the Doctor on the wrong side. When he discovers what’s really going on, it’s actually the Doctor who introduces the concept of witchcraft into the minds of the peasants, apparently on the grounds that it seems like a good idea at the time. The resolution of that drama though returns to a somewhat forced and not all that sympathetic denouement from the Fifth Doctor, who essentially forces someone with an extreme germophobia to live in a pigsty – or at least a chicken coop – for the rest of their lives, without really sufficient evidence of their need to be punished in this particularly hellish way.

Ultimately, The Second Oldest Question probably seemed like a good idea on paper, and could have developed from its mid-story point of peak emotional drama into something that showed the Fifth Doctor dealing with the occasional inconsistency of his own whims and actions. Instead, he appears content to lay his sentence of torment on a criminal – if not a chicken – and walk, muddy-shoed away, content in the knowledge that at least he’s saved them from being burned to death by hungry peasants. Ultimately then, it feels like a good idea insufficiently worked through with the Fifth Doctor’s character uppermost in the decision-making process, and with an ending of ‘that’ll do’ convenience, rather than one that strives for Fifth Doctor moral complexity.

The Second Oldest Question is certainly worth picking up for completists, and there are plenty of funny bits along the journey. It’s just that both the journey itself, and the destination it ultimately reaches, feel less convincing and worthwhile than they probably should.