Torchwood does a haunted house story. How did this take eleven years to happen?
Coffee-boy par excellence Ianto Jones is investigating an abandoned office block where strange sightings have been reported. But an amnesiac security guard and rooms with minds of their own soon puts Ianto on the fast-track to hell.
Gareth David-Lloyd headlines this Torchwood audio outing, once again reprising his role as fan-favourite Ianto. With the tea-boy back to his early days, David-Lloyd has ingeniously mixed some of Ianto’s early naivety into his performance. As with ‘Fall to Earth‘, Ianto’s first Big Finish story also penned by James Goss, David-Lloyd has his work cut out in the early scenes. There’s a long period where Ianto is alone with only creepy sound effects for company. If I had to compare this story to anything, I’d call it a haunted house. But, since this is Torchwood, it’s never quite that simple.
When the other cast members show up, David-Lloyd gets the perfect sparring partner in Bethan Rose Young’s character. The pair are written almost as kindred spirits – they have things in common and great chemistry. But Goss has made her motivations unclear so you never entirely trust her. David Shields does a good job though I would have liked to have spent more time with Oliver.
Of course, any haunted house story can’t be all dialogue. If you’ve heard the trailer, you’ll already be tormented by the sing-song elevator voice that appears throughout. It’s such a simple idea but it absolutely sets off the atmosphere of the release. In the later interview, Goss explains that it’s based on a similar lift voice in the old BBC Wales building. So it’s no wonder its previous inhabitants regularly produce such scary work.
All the sound effects seem to have been treated to imply a subtle wrongness about them, which is really well done. Throughout the story, Rob Harvey’s sound work and Scott Handcock’s direction keep the listener on edge. As soon as you’re beginning to become settled with the volume and pace, it turns on a dime. One particular jump-scare takes you from a moment of calm to a racket that makes this a risky listen in public. Trust me.
Making a Murderer
More than anything, ‘The Office of Never Was’ delves into sides to Ianto hinted at but never explored on TV. In particular, the episode ‘Adam‘ sees Ianto implanted with false memories of committing a murder. I can’t find a good copy of the clip but if you remember the shot of Ianto sobbing in the rain…yeah, that one. This story seems to imply that maybe there was more truth to what we saw than the episode let on. Goss shows us that Ianto is not above taking the easy, arguably the cowardly, way out of things. And that he can do potentially unspeakable things with an artificially-cleared conscience. I’m not sure how I feel about sweet, innocent Ianto being depicted like this, but I can’t say it isn’t exciting.
‘The Office of Never Was’ is a welcome return of Ianto Jones to the Big Finish world. Gareth David-Lloyd has turned in an excellent performance of a challenging script. Goss has taken a daring move with the character and crafted the perfect environment for it. This is an essential Torchwood story for your collection.
Blogtor Rating – 9/10
There’s an empty office block in Cardiff. That’s nothing special – plenty of businesses go under, clear out, cease to exist. All that’s left behind is an empty building. But there’s one office block that refuses to be forgotten about.
There have been stories about that building – strange lights, funny goings on, faces pressed up against the glass. Enough to get the locals worried. Enough to ask Torchwood to get involved.
It’s Friday night. Ianto Jones has better things to do with his time than look round a haunted building. But he goes anyway, and it turns out that The Office has been waiting for him.
Torchwood contains adult material and may not be suitable for younger listeners.
Written By: James Goss
Directed By: Scott Handcock
Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones), Bethan Rose Young (Girl), David Shields(Oliver)
Producer James Goss
Script Editor Steve Tribe
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs