When Big Finish get it right, they well and truly hit it out of the park.
Three people are arguing about which train they are on when an elderly gentleman arrives. Noticing the train has stopped they believe the driver has had a heart attack and thus activated the “dead man’s switch”. The man suggests they explain how they got there one by one to help pass the time. What follows is one of the best Torchwood episodes from this current season.
After a rather disappointing last appearance in the monthly range, the character of Bilis Manger returns and is as menacingly charming as ever. Played expertly by Murray Melvin he is the central point of this well written and paced story. David Llewellyn has crafted a wonderful script that utilises a unique storytelling framework so the action never feels slow. Each of the three remaining characters come to the train via very different means and their stories are only connected by one person.
First there is antiques dealer Rowena (Maxine Evans) who buys a mirror from an auction and despite warnings about the nature of it and the powers it possesses, puts it up in her house. Then we have real estate agent and general wheeler-dealer Piers (Timothy Blore) who arranges to have a block of shops destroyed in the name of progress despite the cries of the elderly shopkeeper who is more concerned about the bats that inhabit the place than anything else. Finally we have hairdresser Zoe (Mali Ann Rhys) who is waiting to be moved out of a crumbling apartment block following the death of her daughter. Her elderly neighbour seems to be the only company she has apart from the squatters she believes are hiding a baby in the basement.
All three actors are outstanding in their performances, bringing much in the way of character believability. All three are very different characters and they not only shine in their own story but in their interaction with Bilis and the others on the train.
Scott Handcock is absolutely spot on with his direction this time around and the sound mix by Lee Adams, as well as the music by Blair Mowat, are exceptional. The bonus interview with the ensemble is also wonderfully entertaining.
While earlier release The Hope is still the best from this season, this release comes a close second. It is tense, exciting and very gripping. Listeners will probably guess the ending long before it happens but that does not diminish the quality of this release. One suspects that this not the last we will be seeing (or in this case, hearing) of Bilis Manger – the seeds are sown in the final minutes of the release for a meeting with the Torchwood team.
When Big Finish get it right, they well and truly hit it out of the park and this release is definitely one that is sailing over the ropes.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Distributed by: Big Finish Productions
Released: November 2019
Approx RRP: $19 CD, $8 Digital Download