Torchwood One: Nightmares

Posted in Audio by - April 24, 2022
Torchwood One: Nightmares

Released April 2022

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Three nightmares have manifested in 2005 London with Torchwood One at their core.

‘My Guest Tonight’ by Tim Foley opens this Nightmares set with the intriguing premise of Yvonne Hartman appearing on Nigel Best’s talk show and being asked about Torchwood of which he should have no knowledge. Events quickly spiral, however, as Nigel starts becoming unaware of how time has passed and continues to interview Yvonne sporting different visages and names while only faintly aware of a familiarity. Of course, Torchwood at its core is a collection of stories about characters, and the story of Nigel that unfolds is a poignant and depressing one fronted incredibly impressively by Jon Culshaw. Nigel is clearly a man who has taken advantage of others to achieve his status, and his willingness to flaunt his success is a stark reminder that his larger-than-life persona and ego is anything but an act reserved for the stage. Yet as Yvonne continues to flit in and out of his life, he must begin to confront certain truths and uncertainties from his past, and his humble beginnings and the reason he was able to seemingly cheat his foretold fate and to become such a rousing success is intimately revealing and speaks to the unique filters that can be used to describe certain actions in childhood and those that continue through adulthood with no conscious change on the individual’s part. Using others has rarely taken on such a literal and visceral meaning, and the many people who have paved the way for Nigel’s rise is genuinely frightening when considering the vast amount of potential the world has lost as a result. Of course, Nigel’s continued refusal to accept any blame for his actions or to even attempt to apologize when presented with the facts of his life is the most damning indictment of his character, and the subtle inclusion of Torchwood with Yvonne’s many appearances is a brilliant twist that certainly subverts expectations by re-framing everything that has occurred to this point. Culshaw and Tracy-Ann Oberman share a great chemistry together that allows one mystery to feed into another with a great pace and emotional weight, and although the threat shown here is hardly the largest that Torchwood One has faced, the very intimate nature of its presence and its effects make for an engaging and very character-driven opener to this set.

When traces of Retcon are found on a coffee cup and nothing is quite as it should be, suspicions and conspiracies abound in Rochana Patel’s ‘Lola.’ This is a story that expertly highlights the intuition and incisiveness of Ianto who is willing to bypass the usual chain of command to best ensure his investigations continue unimpeded. Joining with the equally proactive and perceptive Kayleigh, the two soon confirm their very worst suspicions that nobody can be trusted amidst a malevolent presence spreading. Gareth David-Lloyd and Blythe Jandoo capably lead this production as Ianto and Kayleigh must navigate the incredible emotional turmoil that false memories and false assurances from colleagues present, and this unique toxin wreaking so much havoc on Torchwood serves as a fitting reminder of just how precarious the organization’s relationship with alien technology, species, and even waste is when so much remains unknown and unknowable. The spreading hive mind of sorts is presented chillingly well and imbues a strong menace that becomes all the more prevalent as time progresses, and the repeated refrain to announce its presence is concise but wholly effective. Yvonne is utilized more sparingly here than in most Torchwood One stories, but Oberman’s scenes and performance are vital to enhancing the overall atmosphere and the seeming inevitability of this organization’s fall. With Damian Lynch as Kieran Frost and Timothy Bentinck as Tommy Pierce, ‘Lola’ offers a very rounded look at the inner workings and staff of this iteration of Torchwood One with Tommy in particular helping to drive the initial investigations into the missing Retcon and the misguided hope that it would be investigated no further after a convenient piece of evidence and admission. This is another surprisingly intimate story that emphasizes the memories and thoughts of its characters, and its intentionally claustrophobic confines expertly enhance the tension and menace as nothing can be assumed to be factual. Again, this is not the type of story than Torchwood attempts often, but the very introspective focus proves to be an unqualified highlight that allows more of the organization to come into focus as well as the very human element and perpetual hope that remain at its core.

In perhaps the most audacious opening scene of Torchwood to date, Yvonne wakes up in a hotel room next to a dead member of the royal family in James Goss’s concluding tale ‘Less Majesty.’ With no memory of how either of them came to be here, Yvonne and eventually Ianto and Tommy must try to piece together this mystery and the perfect stabbing that threaten so much. ‘Less Majesty’ makes no secret that it is a pure farce, and the resulting investigation is superbly timed and realized without the aid of a visual component to make this a truly impressive accomplishment. Yvonne’s own personal life and motivations are so hidden that neither of her colleagues will absolutely assume or say that she is innocent, and Tommy is quite inclined to believe that she is fully capable of this act given their own fraught history. However, with the liberal employment of a calming spray, each is given plenty of opportunity to voice his or her own thoughts and concerns without ever taking any actions that are too rash even in the face of an overly persistent and intrusive hotel cleaning and service team. As stories change and the corpse is hidden over and over again while awaiting the arrival of more Torchwood One members, the three are constantly drawn back to the seemingly perfect wound and eventually come to uncover a much more nefarious plot that threatens all of Torchwood. Indeed, ‘Less Majesty’ makes great use of the fact that Yvonne is a very public figure and the front of an organization that is otherwise so secret, and this Unity plan is a suitably impressive one that plays on the very human emotions and natural inclinations of anyone faced with any personal horror. Goss wisely keeps the actual villainous plot as something of a background focal point compared to the very overt comedic stylings of the Torchwood examination, and Oberman, David-Lloyd, and Bentinck show a magnificent energy and timing to make this confined audio storytelling gamble a tremendous success.

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