24 March 2017

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: David Llewellyn

RRP: £9.99 (CD) / £7.99 (Download)

Release Date: March 2017

Reviewed by: Dan Peters for Doctor Who Online


"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."

Last year the double dozen Torchwood stories that Big Finish realised were met with great acclaim, with some even stating this is the best form of the spin-off yet.

Torchwood is back and we’re all ready. The new audio series starts this month with ‘Visiting Hours’, when a hospital’s dodgy menu is the least of a visitor’s worries...

It’s often the case that secondary characters get largely overshadowed in television series, even one of the calibre of Torchwood. The structure of these releases, focusing on individuals, allows for personalities and backgrounds to be effectively fleshed out. Although Rhys is more than a spare part throughout the TV episodes, it’s clear that other half Gwen wears the trousers in the relationship.

Here, the attention is pointed at Rhys (played by Kai Owen) and he’s given an opportunity to shine. It would have been easy for writer David Llewellyn to have him acting the clown, blundering his way through proceedings, but after his brushes with previous alien incursions, Rhys has learnt quite a bit. 

Torchwood, like Doctor Who, seems to flourish in circumstances where the extra-terrestrial meets the mundane. For all its spaceships, aliens and megalomaniacs bent on invasion, the ‘brand’ (especially since its reboot) is very strongly grounded. It cleverly  focuses on individuals and their everyday lives. Most of this tale is set within the walls of a Hospital. With Rhys visiting his mam, but it’s not long before things turn eerie.

The brilliant Nerys Hughes returns as (the comparatively less fanged-up) Brenda from ‘Torchwood: Something Borrowed’. She portrays the older mother vibe perfectly. Nerys and Kai have a believable ‘’mam’ and son relationship. Essentially this story is about family, exploring  how far people will go in protecting them.

Ironically, stars of ITV2’s Plebs, Karl Theobald and Ryan Sampson, play foreboding henchmen, pursuing our heroes. Uniquely, they have strong motives for their actions over and above that of their ‘employers’ After the climax of last year’s series, which brought to an end the villainous committee’s escapades, mutterings of a similarly mysterious force suggests a running plot. 

The one element of the story that for me unfortunately let it down, was that the plot’s resolution didn’t do it’s lead up justice. It felt a bit like a sonic screwdriver solution, and would have really benefited from a little more time to establish.

On the whole, this is an excellent release, which rattles along at pace. It expands the background of a much loved character, containing some heart-warming moments, against an eerie impending threat.

The writers seem to be keen to push the boundaries and dynamics further at this point in it’s audio run. Next month’s release: ’The Dollhouse’ centres itself around the institute’s branch of female fighters in LA.



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