Torchwood: Fortitude takes us back in time for another story featuring Queen Victoria and the very, very early days of her Torchwood Institute. Rowena Cooper returns as the wise and manipulative queen as we explore just some of the damage she has caused with her power.
Fortitude can best be described as a ghost story. Queen Victoria and Maharajah Duleep Singh venture to a fortress surrounded by a tempestuous sea. They are stranded for the night with the fort’s caretaker, the mysterious Colonel Crackenthorpe, and the ghostly noises he calls imps for company. Being trapped in a creepy haunted fort in the middle of a supernatural storm is hardly a stress reliever. So the story turns into more of a personal and philosophical drama with the ‘ghosts’ serving as a catalyst.
Maharajah Duleep Singh is a historical figure with an interesting relationship to Queen Victoria. Paul Bazely does a brilliant job portraying the maharajah’s dark but complex feelings towards the Queen. He rages at the loss of his country and his family, but most importantly his freedom. His entire life was spent monitored and adjusted and controlled. Now he is stuck in the more literal cage of this fort and sees opportunity and necessity to act to try and regain some freedom. His best scene is as he recounts a true story from his childhood about the Koh-i-Noor diamond. It highlights the political trap of his life even in the queen’s favour.
By James Goss
Queen Victoria, on the other hand, is shown to be shrewd and in complete control. Other characters feel as if everything is falling apart around them but she is unmoved. She uses not only her knowledge of each man’s life and the history of the fort but also her awareness of their feelings to manipulate her perfect outcome to this story. It is clear that everything we learn listening to the story is something she already knows. It is Crackenthorpe who sums up her character and this story most succinctly when he says, “Even free, we’re her slaves”. He’s a less sympathetic character than Duleep Singh but no less interesting and no less trapped.
Starring Rowena Cooper
It’s near the end of the story by the time we meet the monster creating storms and ghosts in this fort. This creature strengthens the metaphors of the story and reveals more of Queen Victoria’s monstrosity. However, it almost feels unnecessary. It’s a way to end the story rather than an integral part of it. With all the emotion in the fort that night a natural dark and creepy atmosphere may have brought very similar conversations and plans to pass. If anything the creature responsible slows the story from the brooding material that had gone before.
Fortitude excels when focused on interpersonal anger and turmoil. However, the supernatural element felt very secondary and not as important to the story being told. It has an interesting script, eerie sound, and great performances. It might be of most interest to Torchwood fans who love a historical story but may not need to be at the top of everyone’s list. Either way, it proves to be an intriguing tale.
This title was released in January 2020. It will be exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until March 31st 2020, and on general sale after this date.
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.
- Rowena Cooper (Queen Victoria)
- Paul Bazely (Maharaja Duleep Singh)
- David Sterne (Colonel Crackenthorpe)
- Senior Producer: David Richardson
- Additional themes by Ben Foster
- Cover Artist: Lee Binding
- Director: Lisa Bowerman
- Executive Producer: Jason Haigh-Ellery & Nicholas Briggs
- Music: Blair Mowat
- Producer: James Goss
- Script Editor: Scott Handcock
- Sound Design: Lee Adams
- Written by James Goss
- Theme Music by Murray Gold