After the last, slightly disappointing episode of the Big Finish Torchwood series, One Rule returns to the high standard we saw in the first two instalments. This one is a proper treat and the tale is a real hoot, except when it isn’t.
Set pre-Torchwood the TV series, One Rule sees the head of Torchwood 1, Yvonne Hartman, taking a trip to Cardiff to find an invaluable alien device, while mostly keeping clear of the local branch of Torchwood, who she clearly has no time for.
Writer Joe Lidster puts Yvonne through what is possibly her worst nightmare – a night out in Cardiff. Following the death of the Mayor three weeks earlier at the hands of shop dummies, Yvonne becomes embroiled in events as all of the candidates for the role of Mayor are, one by one, brutally relieved of their heads by a rampaging alien monster. With only two candidates left alive, who can Yvonne trust? And is it possible to get good Scotch in Cardiff?
Yvonne’s night goes from bad – everything she owns being destroyed in a fire – to worse – downing a pint of Diamond White in the White Lion while wearing a cheap dress. She’s even mistaken for a drag queen at one point as she attempts to stay alive while her companions, Mayoral candidates Barry Jackson (Gareth Armstrong) and Helen Evans (Rebecca Lacey), seem less concerned about their own fates as they bicker with each other and pretty much everyone else.
The alien monster is less of a menace and more a means of moving the story along, but there are a couple of decent, screaming deaths to behold at its hands. But the main reason for the monster rampaging through Cardiff is the sinister machinations of The Committee, which Yvonne (if not Torchwood) knows all about.
If I had one small gripe, it’s that One Rule is so packed with references to the Torchwood TV series and to Doctor Who that it can almost be a distraction at times. I like a good nod to the mother shows, but in this case it was slightly dizzying.
There are blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameos from two of Cardiff’s finest, PCs Cooper and Davidson, and a very brief but particularly amusing appearance by Dan Starkey as Mayoral candidate (there’s a fair few of them) Ross.
While the plot is highly entertaining, with plenty of LOL-inducing one liners, the best thing among the many good things is the magnificent Tracy-Ann Oberman’s revival of the role she last played on TV back in 2006 (I know!). At the very best, Yvonne could be said to be an ambiguous character. Is she good? Bad? What is certain is that she is certainly driven by her desire to see Britain Great again. Such is her superior demeanour that you’d wonder who curtseys to who during her regular meetings with The Queen.
Here we see Yvonne’s Londoner-in-the-provinces not particularly caring which Mayoral candidate lives or dies, as long as the survivor is useful to her. Maintaining the ambiguity of the character, Yvonne shows that she is equally capable of showing genuine humanity as well as brutal ruthlessness, especially at the tale’s conclusion where the plot takes a darker turn.
While Yvonne has no concern for local politics apart from when it can further her own driven course, it appears that what she really wants is for someone she can (sort of) trust to keep an eye out for one particular alien. Who (geddit?) or what can this alien be?
This episode is the first in this series to feel less stand-alone and more part of a larger story involving The Committee. Will more be revealed when Jack returns in the next episode? We can’t wait to find out.