The Dollhouse

Posted in Audio by - May 16, 2018
The Dollhouse

Released Aprill 2017
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

In the 1970s, three extraordinary young women keep the west coast of the United States safe as the faces of Torchwood Los Angeles based in the city of eternal hope and broken dreams in ‘The Dollhouse’ by Juno Dawson. So many young women come to the city looking for fame and success, for anything better than their previous lives; hile a select few may find that golden ticket, the vast majority simply fade away into obscurity, but Torchwood is about to find that everyone has a value at the heart of Hollywood’s darkest secret.

Queen Victoria, of course, founded Torchwood in 1879 to protect the British Empire against supernatural and extraterrestrial threats. While ‘The Dollhouse’ makes a quick mention of the fact that the US used to be a colony of Britain, the US was its own country for over one hundred years before Torchwood came into existence and the script thus never explains why an outpost of this British-centric organisation has been created in a foreign and rival country with wholly different aims. Staffed by Americans, the Los Angeles branch certainly has no intentions of using its power to subversively take down the United States either, meaning that the entire backdrop of this story is muddled at best and comes off as an unnecessary attempt to spread Torchwood’s name across the globe.

With none of the original television cast present, ‘The Dollhouse’ sets up Torchwood Los Angeles as a blatantly direct homage to Charlie’s Angels. This is fine in theory and certainly taps into a lasting element of pop culture to lend an air of familiarity to this new setting and its characters, but Charlie’s Angels was hardly known for immense drama and very much relied on the presence of its charismatic and beautiful leads to carry it stories. In audio form, the visual component is gone, and so the campiness and superficiality of this script become all the more glaring and result in what seems like a poor imitation of the source material. To be fair, the notion of the desperation of auditions being exploited to find young women suitable to alien beings’ desires for living dolls is fittingly dark, but the auditions, auction, and fallout of this plan never provide any sort of emotional insight or allegory to real-world events nor manage to strike the balance between darkness and humour that Torchwood usually finds with its more adult themes.

With an entirely new cast of characters in a plot that tries so hard to be a fast-paced and epic blockbuster, there’s no time to get to know these women in any meaningful way, the script relying on the fact that they work for Torchwood to assume that gives all of the characterisation needed. Credit must be given to Big Finish for contracting actors with American backgrounds, but the production is still filled with hyper-accentuated versions of regional accents that would rarely be heard in isolation let alone together, and the incorporation of awkward and anachronistic dialogue that relies on the shallowest of stereotypes is trying at best. It must be said that leads Laila Pyne, Kelly-Anne Lyons, and Ajjaz Awad all throw themselves into this material with gusto and certainly have the presence and charisma to carry a production, but ‘The Dollhouse’ is a horribly misguided attempt to blend America and Torchwood whether as a standalone tale or the beginning of a new subseries, its leads remaining relative unknowns and the superficiality and glitziness precluding any meaningful and lasting drama.

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