Restricted Items Archive Entries 031 – 049

Posted in Audio by - July 26, 2022
Restricted Items Archive Entries 031 – 049

Released July 2022

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

All of the items deemed too mysterious or dangerous for Torchwood end up in the Restricted Items Archive, and the faithful and determined Ianto Jones carefully inventories each and every one, always by himself. In Maddie Wilson’s ‘Restricted Items Archive Entries 031 – 049,’ however, there is a secret lurking in the dark depths of the organization that will not be ignored any longer.

Stylistically, this story makes the incredibly bold choice of presenting its narrative as something of a stream-of-consciousness monologue from Ianto as he speaks into a dictaphone to record the particular qualities and histories of each enigmatic item before him. Fortunately, even though this amounts to simply listing off items, each carries enough intrigue to make the accompanying anecdotes wholly engrossing. Items such as a divination device that tells how many years of life one has left, an infinite set of Russian dolls, a mirror showing the past, a chair that incapacitates, a music box that takes one voice, and more are all more than capable of sustaining a story in their own right, and so it’s a shame that they are so cavalierly listed and passed on here without full exploration, but it’s this rapid-fire approach that allows Ianto as a character to really step into the spotlight. Ianto, of course, is the understated glue that holds Torchwood Three together, never quite accepted as a true part of the team but relentlessly toiling and doing the jobs nobody else wants to do to ensure the organization can persist and achieve its aims. However, at a time following the harrowing events of ‘Cyberwoman,’ he is without question a man who has been traumatized and who tries to hide so much of his pain, anger, and grief behind a professional veneer, and Gareth David-Lloyd superbly encapsulates the bursts of resentment, frustration, and impatience that his environment and colleagues bring out despite his best efforts.

Indeed, Wilson and David-Lloyd superbly emphasize just how dysfunctional Torchwood Three is, boldly walking into dangerous situations and then experimenting with and using found items without any understanding or fear of repercussions. In fact, this attitude makes the presence of a Restricted Items Archive somewhat surprising and uniquely cautious and shrewd, and it’s difficult to know just how bothered by not being included in each of the team’s activities and jokes Ianto who is so committed to his work truly is as a result. There is unquestionably a certain disdain for his team’s more reckless attitude, and though Ianto certainly does feel isolated, it’s also clear that he takes a certain solace in being tasked with this isolated task that allows him to speak and clear his mind even as items strangely go missing around him. This truly is a superb piece of prolonged acting from David-Lloyd in a story that could have fallen completely flat given the relative lack of plot and a bullet-point layout, the nuance and breadth of emotions providing a deep look at this character whom Big Finish is quickly turning into one of the most well-rounded in the entire Doctor Who universe.

Unfortunately, despite an intriguing enemy lurking in the shadows that slowly takes form through the acquisition of composite parts, nothing ever really comes of the Drifter being present. It does give further context to why Ianto is pouring such emotion into his log entries, but it also brings into question just how much of the emotion has been accentuated to draw the Drifter our before it is so quickly and easily dispatched. Like so many of the other individual items on display, there is so much more that could have been done with this creature, and perhaps more will be done in future stories; however, this foe and the quick conclusion does further entrench ‘Restricted Items Archive Entries 031 – 049’ as a story about a man trying to find himself and his way in the most extraordinary of circumstances, just one that often acts like a second-had clip show while sacrificing any substantive narrative or plot until the very end to do so.

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