Tracy-Ann Oberman gives WOTAN a digital makeover as we return to Torchwood London.
January 2017 saw the launch of a new Torchwood spin-off from Big Finish Productions. While the adventures of its Cardiff branch was detailed in other releases, ‘Torchwood One: Before the Fall’ took us back to a simpler time – 2005. Prior to the Battle of Canary Wharf, Yvonne Hartman and Ianto Jones run Torchwood’s London headquarters with skill, precision and team bonding exercises.

Check out our review of Torchwood One: Before the Fall here.

Our next outing with Torchwood in the Big Smoke feels like less of a prequel and adopts a somewhat less serialised structure. As we revealed back in October, ‘Torchwood One: Machines’ features the return of WOTAN as its primary antagonist. However, these are spread across three distinct stories with common elements rather than one long mission.

The Law Machines by Matt Fitton

THE LAW MACHINES BY MATT FITTON
THE LAW MACHINES BY MATT FITTON

The story most overtly linked to WOTAN’s original scheme in 1966’s ‘The War Machines’, Fitton’s opening entry feels like a classic robots-gone-haywire knockabout. But, of course, nothing in Torchwood could be as lighthearted as that. The Law Machines are the new Bobby on the Beat, scattered around London and nigh-indestructible. But when a clever young programmer digs an decades-old bit of code out of the cloud, it’s up to Torchwood to send WOTAN back to its analogue afterlife while London burns around them. This type of story was a masterstroke from Matt Fitton for opening the set as it delivers plenty of action whilst also establishing how influential Torchwood is in the city. Speeches sometimes get overpraised in these reviews, but Yvonne’s cutting remarks at the Mayor is a sizzling mission statement for the series as a whole. It sets a great tone for the box set. I must also draw attention to Daniel Anthony’s superb performance as Julian. Anthony is an experienced actor, but this story proves that he’s got more to offer the Whoniverse than Clyde Langer. His role is very different and he acquits himself beautifully.

Blind Summit by Gareth David-Lloyd

BLIND SUMMIT BY GARETH DAVID-LLOYD
BLIND SUMMIT BY GARETH DAVID-LLOYD

Weirdly, it had never occurred to me to think about how Ianto had joined Torchwood. The baby-faced coffee boy from ‘Everything Changes’ looked like he’d just been hired for work experience and never left. It was only later on we discovered that he’s capable of much darker acts. Having played the role for over a decade, who better to give us Ianto’s origin story than Gareth David-Lloyd himself? In his second script for Torchwood after April’s ‘The Last Beacon‘, David-Lloyd’s talent for character is once again put to fantastic use. Naturally, we get a lot of insight into Ianto’s past and his personality before he became a Torchwood agent. But Yvonne is also given a lot of development too, something that was hinted at in the previous Torchwood One release. David-Lloyd has latched onto those seeds for a superbly double-edged character study. It’s not lacking for action either and the direction from Barnaby Edwards works in harmony with the script and Iain Meadows’s sound work to deliver a mind-bending experience.

9 to 5 by Tim Foley

9 TO 5 BY TIM FOLEY
9 TO 5 BY TIM FOLEY

If you’ve ever worked in an office, you’ve probably encountered the contractor. That person who comes in for a few weeks, then vanishes, never to be heard of again, once their time is up. Tim Foley’s closing script takes that to its logical sci-fi extreme in an imaginative romp which pays off elements from the WOTAN plot threaded in the previous stories. Jane Asher makes for a wonderful foil to Yvonne and keeps the tone light in a way that’s an unusual counterpoint to the dark subject matter. The office jokes from ‘Before the Fall’ are back but, in this context, take on a much more grim meaning. Though I think the chemistry between Stacey and Ianto could have been developed more in light of the resolution (which I won’t spoil), this proves a poignant closing note for the release. Niky Wardley, who you may remember as the Eighth Doctor’s companion Tamsin Drew, gives a touching turn as Stacey that serves as a much-needed emotional core to the cast.

Overall

When I reviewed the previous Torchwood One release, I described it as “more The Office than X-Files” because it mingled the shtick of a workplace sitcom with the biting humour and alien weirdness of Torchwood. That wasn’t a criticism, but I did think that there wasn’t much more they could do with that tone. ‘Torchwood One: Machines’ establishes its own identity as a sister series to the main Torchwood run very quickly and carries that across all three stories. Each one has a lot of imagination and carefully crafted scripts makes for a pacey listen. I can’t wait to see where Big Finish take the new/old Torchwood next!

Torchwood One: Machines is available to buy now from the Big Finish website.

Synopsis

This title was released in July 2018. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until September 30th 2018, and on general sale after this date.

Torchwood One – we defend the British Empire. We keep everyone safe. For your own good.

Something’s happened. Something’s twisted its way into Torchwood One. Something old. Something which should have been forgotten, wiped, abandoned. Something which has been waiting. Something which knows how the world should be ruled, how people should be used.

When humanity’s threatened, Yvonne Hartman is required.

The Law Machines by Matt Fitton

The Mayor of London is launching her bold new law and order initiative. The capital will be kept safe from crime, from fear, from terrorists. The Law Machines are launching. What could possibly go wrong?

Blind Summit by Gareth David-Lloyd

Ianto Jones has just moved to London. He’s broke, has no friends, no future. One day he loses the one thing he’s been holding on to, and suddenly people around him are dying. Could a mysterious woman really offer him salvation?

9 to 5 by Tim Foley

It’s Monday morning. Stacey loves Mondays. Stacey loves every day. Stacey lives to work. She’s a temp and she loves it. Only there’s a man in the coffee queue who has a terrible warning for her. Stacey is going to die today.

Written By: Matt Fitton, Gareth David-Lloyd, Tim Foley
Directed By: Barnaby Edwards

Cast

Tracy-Ann Oberman (Yvonne Hartman), Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones), Jane Asher (Elaine), Paterson Joseph (Matthew), James Wilby (Pascal), Adjoa Andoh (Fiona), Niky Wardley (Stacey), Daniel Anthony (Julian), Tim Bentinck (Tommy), Trevor Neal (Jason), Claire Wyatt (Tanya), Helen Goldwyn (Receptionist), Nicholas Pegg (Law Machines) and WOTAN. Other parts played by members of the cast.

Torchwood contains adult material and may not be suitable for younger listeners

Produced by James Goss
Script edited by Scott Handcock
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

2 COMMENTS

  1. Is the entire boxset set before Before the Fall, or is the Ianto origin story told in flashback, and the boxset is chiefly set after Before the Fall? Cheers! Great review!

    • Hi Neil, it’s unclear if this takes place before or after Before the Fall since only Yvonne, Ianto and Tommy appear in both sets. The Ianto story is told in an extended flashback. Either way you don’t need to have heard the first one to follow along this one.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.