The Crown

Posted in Audio by - December 20, 2020
The Crown

Released December 2020

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Following in the footsteps of ‘Fortitude’ and ‘Save Our Souls,’ ‘The Crown’ by Jonathan Barnes highlights Rowena Cooper’s Queen Victoria for a third time in 2020 as the earliest days of the Torchwood Institute and its founder continue to become more developed. On Christmas Eve, Dr Gideon Parr is summoned to a local asylum to check in on a patient, a woman claiming to be the monarch haunted by a terrible curse.

Charles Dickens long ago provided the template for providing the perfect marriage between haunting yuletide tales and the Victorian era, and ‘The Crown’ expertly taps into the atmosphere and more intimate ambience of this era to reveal its story. With an ominous poem about a mysterious figure known only as the Ferryman providing the backdrop, Cooper showcases an immense range as she recounts the events that have led her to this asylum, hinting at something not being quite right about the Queen but determinedly focused on presenting an inner strength and fortitude that is wholly befitting of the woman she has developed to this point. Intriguingly, the story she tells about just three words from a wayward woman that precede dark and portentous dreams, a bell-adorned figure in green, and an aged crown deftly touches upon the inherent class structure of the times and what being born into royalty means and entails from those on either side of the divide. The Queen Victoria of Torchwood has always been one to keep her secrets and experiences close at hand with only brief snippets slipping through, but the continuing look into her inner thoughts as she deals with a much more personal danger coming ever closer with more profound effects on both her and how she is perceived by those around her is a true strength of this instalment.

Naturally, not everything is at is seems with Victoria at the narrative helm, and although the twist that reframes almost everything before it doesn’t necessarily feel completely earned from Dr Gideon’s standpoint, it still makes sense within the context of these characters and is certainly the expected route for events to take given the small cast and the propensity for events to rarely unfold exactly as they initially appear to be within this franchise. Nonetheless, this twist presents Victoria at her finest and most resolute, and Derek Riddell likewise gives a powerful performance throughout as Gideon’s own interests and motivations are slowly revealed to make him a dynamic character in his own right who comfortably sits alongside his patient. However, in what seems like an odd complaint for an audio adventure, ‘The Crown’ is extremely reliant on its dialogue, and although the subtle soundscape and haunting visuals certainly flesh out this setting and the curse that has taken hold, the pacing is extremely methodical with little to break up the lengthy conversation that covers a host of topics that still effectively develop its two main characters. In some instances ‘The Crown’ almost feels like it is stalling for time with little forward progress being made and with preceding events almost completely the focus, and the final act somewhat validates that sentiment as the assumed present is shown to be anything but. Still, pacing issues aside, the morality tale that features is an undoubted success that proves again how much Victoria can offer to this franchise even if Torchwood itself remains in the background despite being of obvious importance, and this dark ghost story is a fitting Christmastime affair that ends 2020 on a highly memorable note.

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