One for 'completists' only. Casual fans may not get much out of this one.
In the middle of the ocean, Queen Victoria is stranded with Maharaja Duleep Singh. In an ancient fortress, one lone man is serving a sentence to guard something that the reigning monarch hopes her newly established group, Torchwood, will understand and contain. The trouble will be keeping it under lock and key until the group can get to it.
The penultimate episode in this season of monthly Torchwood releases takes us back to the beginnings of Torchwood – or rather its creator, Queen Victoria. As with all the releases in this series there is a small but excellent cast dealing with a script that, at times, struggles to maintain momentum. James Goss’ script has captured the feel of isolation well and has made his limited number of characters work well together, yet it does drag on, especially the long coda once the main story has fizzled out.
As Queen Victoria, Rowena Cooper embodies the ageing monarch who, at this stage in her life, is rarely frightened or fearful of her own life. She does however, seem awfully forgiving of her servant, Duleep Singh (played with much depth by Paul Bazely), who keeps repeatedly threatening her life and being wholly disrespectful to her! Their interplay works well, if a little strangely given their standing towards one another. Rounding out the cast is the wonderful David Sterne as Colonel Crackenthorpe who provides some real gravitas in his small but pivotal role.
Lisa Bowerman works wonders in the director’s chair and is aided by the always-excellent sound design of Lee Adams and the atmospheric music of Blair Mowat. There is a bonus interview at the conclusion of the one-hour episode.
The ideas presented in this release are perfectly good but the whole thing feels very wasted under the Torchwood banner. Whilst Big Finish always present their material well and cast their audio dramas impeccably, it seems that churning out this high volume of quicker releases is aiming for a quantity over quality model which may not be the most successful approach moving forward. With the announcement that the next season of twelve releases will begin after only a month’s break, that model does not look to be changing anytime soon.
This release seems to fall firmly under the for-completists-only banner. Casual fans may not get much out of this one and would to better to look elsewhere in the range for a more enjoyable fare.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Distributed by: Big Finish Productions
Released: January 2020
Approx RRP: $19.40 CD, $8 Digital Download