Big Finish Productions have, rather successfully, tried to get every actor they could for this release of the popular Doctor Who spin-off series. It spans characters and backstories from the original television show, BBC radio plays, BBC audiobooks and Big Finish’s own range of full-cast audio dramas.
The fictional Torchwood Institute was established in 1879 by Queen Victoria in a 2006 episode of the hit British science fiction series Doctor Who. Its mission was to investigate and protect the Earth from alien invasion and has, in its time, fluctuated between a protector of our planet to a political pawn used to restore the British Empire to its former glory.
Granted its own television series, where the Wales branch of the Institute was headed by the immortal Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), the series has garnered a loyal following. This ode to the past 10 years of Torchwood stories across many medium is a fitting tribute for fans and newcomers alike.
For fans, The Torchwood Archive is a fond and thrilling trip down memory lane, with many past characters returning for a last hoorah! The story is set in the distant future where Jeremiah, a member of The Committee (a foe introduced in one of the Torchwood novels), enters the Torchwood Archive on an asteroid, where he accesses the history of the Institute with his own, deadly intentions in mind.
Returning cast members include John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper), Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones) and Naoko Mori (Toshiko Sato), with Rowena Cooper doing a remarkable take on Queen Victoria (originally played by Pauline Collins in the TV series).
The story by James Goss comprises a series of vignettes that tell the story of Torchwood from its inception to the present day, well beyond the television series. It requires concentration because each of the short tales add to the over-arching story which results in an unexpected and breathtaking finale. If you listen while distracted, it’s easy to lose the plot.
Director Scott Handcock provides an intriguing conclusion to the Torchwood storyline, although we can only hope there will be future stories set before the end. Kudos also to sound designer Steve Foxon who brings the play to life without drowning out the action.
The Torchwood Archive is not an easy listen, although it’s highly enjoyable. It requires focus. The payoff is worthwhile and brings together all the disparate storytelling mechanisms used to date to keep the Torchwood Institute alive so far.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis with notes by Leon Varghese
Rating out of 10: 8
Released by: Big Finish Productions
Release date: October 2016
RRP: $22.82 CD or $11.99 digital