Torchwood: Curios is a story that flows smoothly. It’s free from the constraints of any actual Torchwood presence. Curios begins in WWII with Bilis Manger in a Welsh coal mine. He’s surrounded by priceless works of art, a huge Torchwood archive collection, and a mysterious and menacing creature in the dark. It’s this intriguing scenario, combined with an unlikely friendship, that piqued my curiosity throughout.
Bilis Manger is back and so is his creepy, villainous voice. This time in a creepy old mine! Murray Melvin is brilliant as the eternal and sneaky manipulator, but in this story we also get to see a whole new side to Bilis. It’s actually the beginning of a beautiful friendship for him. Jill Anderson is an interesting sort of protégé for Bilis. The dark terrifies her. She’s smart as a whip though and cool-headed in a crisis, but still young. Jill can handle the villains of the real world, but her new friend can be much more dangerous. Yet, we see kindness, consideration, regret and more from the man who is usually an antagonist. He seems to be influenced by humanity, but the real question is: what will his influence become over Jill?
That relationship is such an important aspect of the story because, in any other story, Bilis would be the biggest danger to be found. However, in Curios the real danger and horror is not down in the mine with Bilis. He becomes a source of comfort, security, and solidarity for our hero Jill. (A strange sentence to type about Bilis Manger.) The mine is the only place we see her happy. Even with a mysterious creature lurking and roaming all the dark spaces, the mine is safe for Jill, out of reach from the monsters of the real world above. Honestly, the creature in the mines was more interesting as a mystery than it was after its eventual reveal. It’s possible that’s because of the emphasis on the cruelty of the world outside and above the mine. By comparison the creature felt like a small thing to handle.
Using the setting of a mine meant that the distinction between the two worlds and experiences Jill was having could be realized with a physical border. Everything is above or below and somehow it is not the location full of all encompassing dark that is the most frightening. One of the creepiest Torchwood villains is found in a creepy dark mine full of portraits and scattered artefacts, but that becomes the safe place of the story, even if it’s not one anyone can stay in forever.
Curios is a well-paced story that shows a new and interesting side of Bilis Manger. Murray Melvin and Rosie Baker are a great pair. Their seemingly different characters just fit perfectly together. I was so curious the whole time about how things could possibly conclude between them. That curiosity is the key to the story. It’s important for the characters and how they end up where they do; but it also makes holding the listeners’ attention that much easier. When things do conclude, they end in a satisfying way and with one last question. What happens next?
This title was released in September 2021. It will be exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until 30 November 2021, and on general sale after this date.
During World War Two, the Torchwood Archive has been stowed away in a Welsh coal mine along with countless other art treasures. Bilis Manger is among them. And there’s something hunting him in the dark.
Jill has been sent to catalogue the collection. She’s on her own, she’s in disgrace and there’s something hunting her on the slopes of the mountain.
- Murray Melvin (Bilis Manger)
- Rosie Baker (Jill Anderson)
- Matthew Gravelle (Wilf Church)
- Laurie Kynaston (Brent Hall)
- Sound Design by Naomi Clarke & Peter Doggart
- Senior Producer: David Richardson
- Cover Art by Tom Webster
- Director: Scott Handcock
- Executive Producer: Jason Haigh-Ellery & Nicholas Briggs
- Music by Blair Mowat
- Producer: James Goss
- Script Editor: Scott Handcock
- Written by James Goss
- Theme Music by Murray Gold