Torchwood returns to a universe of terrors in an atmospheric sequel to The Impossible Planet which rivals the original for thrills and chills
Part of the glory of Torchwood on audio is how it flits from era to era, from the gothic tinged tales of Queen Victoria’s original reign to the schemes and counter-schemes of 1950s Soho, the cool supremacy of the Torchwood One era, and the rag tag fugitives of the present day. But beyond all of those lies the 42nd Torchwood Archive, as originally seen in Doctor Who’s The Impossible Planet. It’s a place Big Finish have only visited a couple of times before, but Torchwood: Odyssey feels like the first proper sequel to this team’s terrifying beginnings.
Claire Rushbrook returns as Ida Scott in a story which builds on the hints provided in that original story. “Still running from Daddy,” said the Beast. And here Daddy is: Odysseus Scott: brilliant scientist, inventor of the Ood’s translation spheres, mercurial control freak, and neglectful father. But most crucially right now: terminally ill with a degenerative cognitive condition. Ida’s sought him out at the Spire, an ancient citadel of long dead alien race the Resilient, where he’s undergoing experimental treatment with the Resilient’s gravity control technology. Ida thinks it’s all alternative therapy nonsense and wants to bring him to a more traditional hospital. And so, Odyssey draws the lines for a battle of wills.
Odyssey feels like a true sequel to The Impossible Planet, with Ida once again plunged into the ancient terrors of a world that shouldn’t exist
Naturally, there’s a lot more going on than family politics. The hidden mysteries of the Spire echo those of Krop Tor so much, in fact, that The Impossible Planet 2 would have been a suitable title. The Spire literally stands on another impossible world, after all. It’s on a planet the Resilient supposedly sang into existence with their gravity magic. Meanwhile there are answers deep below the surface, and an Ood given to making disturbing comments while doing the dusting (“Open the mouths to see if they shall scream.”) More than that, Blair Mowat’s music and Shane O’Byrne’s sound design work together brilliantly to evoke the original. Mowat’s soundtrack vibrates with the same eerie sound of a violin haunted by the ghost of a western gunslinger. And with the Spire’s living spaces patched up with spare parts, O’Byrne recreates the sinister atmosphere of a Sanctuary Base to unnerving perfection.
But none of this skill would matter if this was just a retread. Instead, it’s a worthy successor full of horrors uniquely its own. Underpinning it all is a devastatingly powerful performance by Claire Rushbrook. That same beguiling mix of strength and melancholy that made Ida such a central part of her Doctor Who appearance is here. Only it’s yet more effective thanks to her new lead role. She’s ably supported by Silas Carson. Here he pulls double duty as both the disturbingly polite Ood, and the irascible old goat who gave them voice. The Ood wouldn’t be one of Doctor Who’s must successful 21st century creations without Carson’s perfectly judged voice work, and he relishes every line of a script that shows the tentacle-faced aliens at their creepy best.
Torchwood: Odyssey is highly recommended fireside listening on a long winter night
There are threats from beyond time and body horror enough to put you off your tagliatelle. All ensconced in an atmosphere so chilling you may want to move your chair closer to the fire before hitting play. But almost as impressively, in a genre where surprises might be limited by familiar tropes dating back centuries, writer Patrick O’Conner provides just enough red herrings to stop things being too predictable.
Halloween may be behind us. However, Odyssey provides a science fiction twist on some MR James style chills, and can be highly recommended as your Doctor Who ghost story for Christmas this year.
Ida Scott has spent her life running from her father. But now she’s come looking for him.
The Spire is an ancient relic left behind by The Resilient – a mysterious race who warped both gravity and time.
Odysseus Scott lies dying in a bed in The Spire. He believes it will cure him. But are The Resilient really dead?
Torchwood: Odyssey, written by Patrick O’Connor, is now available to own as a collector’s edition 1-disc CD (+ download for just £10.99). You can also purchase as a digital download only (for just £8.99), both exclusively here. Big Finish listeners can save money long-term by pre-ordering Odyssey as part of a six-release Torchwood – Monthly Range bundle. The buncles is priced just £60 (collector’s edition CD + download) or £50 (download only). A 12-release Torchwood bundle is also available for just £110 (collector’s edition CD + download) or £96 (download only).