Friday, July 03, 2009

Torchwood Radio Plays

The Fooligans, no doubt, are familiar with the fact that the BBC has started producing Torchwood radio plays. Last year they released one called Lost Souls around the time of the Large Hadron Collider upstart and I forced a couple of them to listen to it with me, despite the fact that none of them had watched Torchwood at the time.

My dad has always been a big influence on my likes and dislikes, especially my like of old things. Old cars, junky old rotary phones... the kind of stuff that my dad might have salvaged from his parents or grandparents garage as a young kid. This includes the old fashioned radio play.

I've listened to a few of them before, but I'd never reviewed them. Old books and old movies still have a chance of being watched. Old radio plays? Not likely. So it didn't even occur to me to review Lost Souls.

This past week BBC Radio 4 has released three more Torchwood radio plays. As these three are both excellent and likely to be listened to by my meager audience, I thought I'd give all four a review.

Lost Souls

During the preparations for the switch-on of the LHC, people on the crew start disappearing, including a friend of former Doctor's companion Martha Jones. Martha makes a call and Torchwood 3 comes to the rescue.

This radio play is not an example of a great radio play. It's fun if you're a fan of Torchwood, but the dialogue is a bit shaky and the introduction is horrible. The science involved is fanciful at best. Since my last listen, I've done a lot and exploring the Torchwood character development and this particular radio play really does a poor job of continuing the development.

But it's a silly bit of fun, if you're a Torchwood fan.


Asylum is the first of the three radio plays presented this week.

Our dear friend PC Andy is called to arrest a young girl for shoplifting. He finds her with a strange gun and, in true PC Andy fashion, he makes a call to Torchwood for an investigation. The girl doesn't remember where she's from or why she's different, but when Jack finds something odd in her blood...

I have to say that the best thing about this play is PC Andy. One of the plot holes in the show is that the team is constantly giving little clues about Torchwood away to PC Andy, but they never retcon him. This play adresses that a little bit, which is great. Also, Andy gets to actually work with Torchwood to help this girl instead of getting brushed off. He's a real character in this play, especially when he gets all up in Jack's face about Torchwood's treatment of peaceful aliens.

There's a lot less Gwen and Jack big personality squabbles, but there's also a lot less Ianto. Trouble with Ianto is he's a very visual character. That doesn't translate to radio, unfortunately, but you do get some of his snappy one-liners.

Overall, there's some great voice work and it's a great Torchwood story.

Golden Age

Mysterious energy nets and disappearances across India? A branch of the British Empire that never really shut down? Torchwood Cardiff's on the scene.

This play is a great look into the British Imperialism that we caught a glimpse of in Torchwood One on Doctor Who. We know One was in London, Two in Scotland, and Three in Cardiff (suspecting Four in Ireland), but unknown to Ianto and Gwen, Torchwood used to have a headquarters in Delhi. In 1924, Agent Jack Harkness was sent to shut it down; the Empire was crumbling and Torchwood India no longer had jurisdiction.

And it's still there. Exactly the same as Jack left it. Exactly.

It's a play about change and why we shouldn't cling so tightly to the past. Good message, good acting, good story. What's not to love?

Dead Line

One man gets a phone call in the middle of the night and he falls into a trance, seemingly brain dead. Twenty more people answer a phone call and fall into the same trance. Doctors don't have a clue what it is, so Torchwood starts up an investigation. Jack answers a phone. With Ianto sitting steadfastly by his bedside, it's up to Gwen and Rhys to figure this puzzle out before the whole world answers their phones to the same result.

I always love it when Rhys gets involved in Torchwood cases. More often than not, he sees something that the others miss because they're so used to the madness of it all and he surprises everyone with his capacity to understand what's going on. Anything Torchwood with Rhys involved is a good time.

But my favourite thing about this play is Ianto's monologue. The doctors tell him to talk to Jack to see if it helps. Ianto rarely says more than a couple of sentences and never talks about himself, so this was a great look into his character. It addresses some of his fears about Jack leaving him, about his worry for their job, and how important their relationship is to him, which is something that the show is incredibly inconsistent about. The music for this segment is absolutely amazing.

If can only listen to one radio play, listen to this one. It's absolutely lovely.

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