One Rule

Posted in Audio by - May 04, 2018
One Rule

Released December 2015
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Going back to a time before the Tenth Doctor famously crossed paths with Yvonne Hartman and Torchwood London at their most fearsome height in ‘Army of Ghosts,’ Big Finish’s Torchwood highlights this leader in the much more familiar surroundings of Cardiff just three weeks after the mayor was killed by a shop window dummy, now with the fight for who will replace him in full swing. Hartman, of course, doesn’t care about local politics; her task is to protect the British Empire and to retrieve an invaluable alien device. However, with a bloodthirsty alien stalking the city streets, not even she can escape the political intrigue at hand in Joseph Lidster’s ‘One Rule.’

Tracy-Ann Oberman effortlessly steps back into the role of Yvonne after some ten years away, commanding attention with every word and an immense presence that transcends the visual limitation of the audio medium. She’s shrewd, confident, impudent, witty, and sassy all in one, and bringing her from London to Cardiff wonderfully allows her to comment on what she perceives to be the very retro and cute outfit running out of Torchwood Three. She knows all too well the threats that Earth faces both here and much farther abroad than the general public could ever imagine, and she has fully dedicated herself to Torchwood’s cause even after personally experiencing atrocities that would send others running. Perhaps understandably, she doesn’t consider Captain Jack Harkness to be true Torchwood given his alien nature and very unconventional ways of handling problems, and the contrast between the two with Yvonne in the forefront here works to wonderful effect while remaining true to the character as portrayed on television and still allowing for a range of emotional scenes like all good stories do. Yvonne is fully committed to Queen and to country, and the lengths she must go to and the morals she must sacrifice to ensure those priorities remain untainted while her hunt for a very particular time-traveling alien continue are written and portrayed wonderfully.

‘One Rule’ is filled with continuity references from all eras of Doctor Who and Torchwood to intrinsically link the events and technology under Torchwood’s eyes with previous material without ever becoming too overbearing. Unfortunately, although the setup of the story is strong enough as mayoral candidates are being murdered one by one when by themselves, there isn’t too much actual weight to the plot as it unfolds, especially in the first third that features Yvonne sneaking into Torchwood Three with its staff frozen in a time bubble and thus unable to interact with her. Even once candidate Barry Jackson allies himself with Yvonne after tragedy strikes and the alien menace makes itself known, the story never really goes out of its way to hide who the main culprit is even if Yvonne’s mission is the focus, and the alien never really comes to life as anything more than a plot device due to its quick appearances that see it rapidly achieve its one purpose. There are, however, some incredibly shrewd points made about the lengths people will go to in order to achieve power with both Gareth Armstrong as Jackson and Rebecca Lacey as fellow candidate Helen Evans revealing hidden depths to what intiially seem like fairly one-note characters having a particularly bad night in Cardiff, and Yvonne’s statements about what humanity is able to look past because of a new distraction that’s always on the way speaks volumes about society in general and resonates quite profoundly.

Oberman is unquestionably the star of ‘One Rule’ and rehabilitates a woman initially seen as a dedicated but misguided villain into someone immensely likable but still not always relatable, and the structure of this Torchwood series that allows any character and time to focus almost undoubtedly means that she’ll be back to star in further adventures in the future. The inevitable link to the Committee that features does feel somewhat forced and does take away from some of the mystique behind this shadowy organisation’s efforts given the very human face attached to these events, but this look into the past- although flawed- opens new storytelling pathways and nonetheless paints a promising picture of what may yet come.

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