Golden Age

Posted in Audio by - January 26, 2022
Golden Age

Aired 02 July 2009

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Following a dangerous energy field, Jack, Gwen, and Ianto head to Delhi whereupon they witness the disappearance of hundreds of people concurrently in James Goss’s ‘Golden Age.’ Shockingly, they find that the energy field is centred upon Torchwood India- which Jack himself shut down eighty years ago- and its own members who haven’t aged a day during that time. As the energy field continues to swell, they must discover the truth behind these mysteries before everything known is lost forever.

Being immortal as far as he is concerned, Jack has been a prominent figure in Torchwood for decades, and so discovering just how directly he interacted with other branches of the furtive organization so far in his past is a fascinating insight that instantly gives Torchwood India a sense of immediacy and familiarity. Of course, Jack’s last visit eighty years ago becomes far more resonant than he could expect when he finds the same group of people living like India is still part of the British Empire. To them, the British Empire was the peak of civilization, and while they are acutely aware of events that have happened outside of their building since 1924 such as the Second World War and the Partition of India, the many advances and successes of humanity during this time are easily overlooked in their quest to return to their own perceived age of glory. To Jack, it’s clear that he missed some piece of alien technology during his previous trip here to ostensibly shut this branch down as the Empire began to contract, and while Gwen and Ianto try to fight through forced pleasantries and diversions, Jack must directly confront the overt forthrightness and entitlement of British colonialism and the truly horrible extent to which these people are willing to go to see their dreams come to fruition. Jack knows that the technology sustaining these people will continue to require an increasing amount of energy as 1924 gets farther away, and the only fuel source available is as shocking as it is terrifying given the utterly callous disregard for so many people and the lives they have lived it entails.

Compared to the two previous BBC Radio audios, ‘Golden Age’ very much brings Jack into the spotlight, and John Barrowman gives what is easily his strongest audio performance yet. Jack is as confident, brash, and charming as ever, but being forced to confront the twisted consequences of his previous actions allows Barrowman to bring forth a very personal combination of determination and despondency as he explores much more emotional elements of the character that his outright bravado so boisterously shrouds. To that effect, Jasmine Hyde as the Duchess is the perfect counterpart to Jack as she boldly shows this woman’s own determination and vision through her mania to bring back what she believes is best, and the chemistry the two actors share certainly helps to sell the illusion that this relationship is one formed so very long ago. Still, Jack knows that this woman is not the same one he once knew, and the years trapped within this bubble have been unkind to the brilliant mind that is unable to move on with the world, creating a fascinating dynamic in which familiarity and unfamiliarity comingle and the very best and worst of humanity contrast.

In the end, ‘Golden Age’ uses Torchwood India simply as a vehicle to explore the dangers of living in the past with an unflinching look at the very worst of colonialism and entitlement, but its themes are powerfully resonant and- along with sterling performances and visuals- help to create the best BBC Radio Torchwood episode to date.

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