The Office of Never Was

Posted in Audio, Website by - May 18, 2018
The Office of Never Was

Released July 2017
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Big Finish’s Torchwood range has done miraculous work with reinvigorating the franchise and allowing both familiar and unfamiliar characters to take centre stage and develop in turn. Arguably no character has benefitted more from this format than Ianto Jones in the emotion-laden ‘Fall to Earth’ and ‘Broken,’ and Gareth David-Lloyd has risen to the occasion with two sterling performances that have epitomised the very real humanity of Ianto in heightened circumstances. Yet to be tackled by the range, however, is the fact that Torchwood Three is anything but a spotless and flawless organisation with members that improvise off of instinct and get things right just as often as not. With the penultimate tale of the third series, ‘The Office That Never Was’ by James Goss, however, Ianto once more steps into the spotlight and faces the very real ghosts of his very real past.

The plot starts off simply enough as Ianto takes it upon himself to investigate the abandoned Milne Futures in Cardiff that has become the source of local rumours and stories of strange lights and goings-on and faces pressed up against its windows. Of course, a simple investigation with Ianto’s surprisingly adept deductive skills turns into anything but as none of the system’s sensors and systems register his presence or commands and as a haunting voice incessantly calls out his name. When a lively young woman- played adeptly by Bethan Rose Young- appears and claims to be the security guard despite having no other memories or recollection of who she is, the tension amplifies immensely and an uneasy air of familiarity that Ianto just can’t place begins to manifest and add to the tone so laden with his uneasy apprehension in this eerie environment that the direction and sound design bring to life so perfectly.

As the former company executive, Oliver, appears and confronts Ianto, however, the seeming ghost story subverts expectations and goes in an altogether unexpected direction. There would be no way to incorporate the information that Oliver delivers so directly in a seamless manner within the story, but the past actions of the company using brain-enhancing substances from the alien Committee on its employees tie in nicely with the earlier Committee story arc and provide a logical context to explain why Torchwood’s reliance on retcon to make people forget failed so spectacularly in this instance and instead resulted in massive neural failure. Ianto is one of the most honourable people within the Torchwood universe, but he found himself unable to live with the guilt of his association with this tragedy and used retcon on himself, a fact that Oliver tries his best to remedy by manipulating Ianto into certain locations and circumstances to best trigger his memory. Even as the two figures eventually do confront each other in a truly emotional sequence through which David-Lloyd and David Shield excel, the story once more refuses to stay on the expected path and results in a rather poignant exploration of Ianto and just how he manages to cope with the repercussions of the less heroic and more harrowing deeds during his tenure with Torchwood.

Torchwood by its very nature is an organisation that can only hope to act for the common good but that must also accept that people will be hurt and even sacrificed because of actions that are either known or simply thought to be right, and ‘The Office That Never Was’ uses the softer Ianto to explore this harsh truth to great effect in a twisting plot laden in atmosphere and emotion that once more spotlights the range of Gareth David-Lloyd.

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