Torchwood kicks off its third series under Big Finish with a superb bottle episode starring Kai Owen as Rhys Williams. The long-suffering hubby takes time out of helping his wife resurrect Torchwood visiting his mum in hospital. But when he discovers time-travelling surgeons with an preemptive attitude to organ donation, the race is on to save more than just Brenda’s hip.
“What would Gwen do?”
This is the first time we’ve seen Rhys tackle an alien threat on his own. Though he’s had his fair share of hero moments over the years, it’s usually at the behest of his missus. Without any way of contacting Gwen, we get to see Rhys fending for himself. It would’ve been easy to have him blunder his way out of trouble, but they take a different approach. His decade of Torchwood dealings comes into play and he thinks up some clever ways to elude his pursuers.
Interestingly, writer David Llewellyn has taken it further by showing Rhys driven to extremes. He comes close to doing something that would have been unimaginable for the character on television. It’s perfectly in-character, given how protective of his family Rhys has always been, but it’s still a surprising moment. Rhys has always been Gwen’s humanising influence. In her absence, we get to see that this cuts both ways. It’s a great character moment and delivered perfectly by the cast.
“This is my last job and then they’ll save her!”
Though the story has a clear villain, it’s the henchmen, played by Ryan Sampson and Karl Theobald, who really stand out. Like Rhys, they’re shown to be driven to extremes for their families. Rarely are henchmen given such clear motivation or moments that make them sympathetic. It’s an excellent inclusion on Llewellyn’s part.
That said, the plot runs up against a complaint I’ve had with several past Torchwood releases in the rushed ending. While the plot does reach a climax, the escalation of the threat that it was apparently building up to is suddenly dropped. While it’s possibly setting up for a future story, it leaves this outing feeling a bit incomplete.
“Funny the things you’ll do when it’s family”
Nery Hughes returns as Brenda, who she’d previously played in the Torchwood TV episode ‘Something Borrowed’. You get a sense of her character right from the opening scene. She’s a fairly stereotypical elderly mother: fussing over her son, admonishing his bad language, referencing childhood mischief. Brenda might have ended up a bit of a predictable character were it not for Hughes’ terrific performance. She and Kai Owen have a natural rapport that is essential to the heart of this story. This carries over into the absolutely hilarious bonus interview that comes with this release.
“We’re just their puppets”
With some exceptions, all the Torchwood audios to date have, in one way or another, involved The Committee. That plot was mostly resolved in October’s ‘The Torchwood Archive’ but this story implies there’s more going on. Whether this will be The Committee or something new remains to be seen though certainly the hints are tantalising. But given series three looks to be heading back into Torchwood’s history, we may have a bit of a wait.
It’s a credit to everyone involved that Rhys has developed so much as a character over the years. Going from a recurring role to someone Big Finish can confidently launch a brand new run of Torchwood with. This opening story is a perfect culmination of that growth and exploration of the character. With tight pacing, constant tension and complex characters, this is definitely a strong outing for Torchwood’s beleaguered other half.
Blogtor Rating – 8/10
Everyone’s a little worried about St Helen’s Hospital. In many ways, it is a miracle of the modern NHS. It has plenty to offer its patients. The problem is that a lot of them keep dying of natural causes in the night. And no-one can find the bodies.
People are beginning to notice. Questions are being asked. And there are rumours – the strange whispering figures seen at the end of the corridors, the electrical buzzing, the screams.
Also, Rhys Williams has come to visit his mother. Brenda’s had her hip done and is looking forward to a bit of rest and regular crumble. Rhys and his mam are in for a night they’ll never forget.
Torchwood contains adult material and may not be suitable for younger listeners.
Written By: David Llewellyn
Directed By: Scott Handcock
Kai Owen (Rhys), Nerys Hughes (Brenda Williams), Karl Theobald (Mr Tate), Ryan Sampson (Mr Nichols), Ruth Lloyd (Nurse Brown), Stephen Critchlow (Dr Fletcher)
Producer James Goss
Script Editor Steve Tribe
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs