Torchwood Soho: The Unbegotten

Posted in Audio by - October 26, 2022
Torchwood Soho: The Unbegotten

Released October 2022


Norton, Lizbeth, and Andy come to Soho’s most haunted street in Torchwood Soho: The Unbegotten by James Goss. But as Norton looks to confront his own ghosts and Andy finds himself chased by demons, a government conspiracy comes to light that reframes every assumption about Mandeville Walk.

With Norton being particularly oblique about why Torchwood is here to open ‘A First Breath,’ Lizbeth takes on the role of psychic investigator despite not believing in ghosts while Andy happily assumes the role of policeman while eagerly considering the prospect of hunting ghosts given this locale’s reputation. Still, Torchwood’s records about this place that persists upon a bomb site from the war have gone missing, and the mystery and tension around Mandeville Walk quickly begin to grow as Lizbeth and Norton have the feeling they are being watched in their shared room and cannot find a source for the sounds coming from outside their door. Of course, being Torchwood Soho, Goss interjects a tremendous amount of humour into these situations that perfectly highlights the brilliant chemistry between Samuel Barnett and Dervla Kirwan as well the unique relationship between these characters, but he balances that humour with a growing sense of unease within this building and the street in general with a surprisingly profound bit of introspection from Norton as he finds Gideon working in a soup kitchen. It’s clear that the relationship between these two is still in a distinctly rough patch following events in earlier sets, and although he’s loathe to talk about his feelings out loud, his practicing how to apologize is a very human and relatable moment for a character who can often seem somewhat detached from events given the machinations and purposeful ambiguity behind so many of his actions. With superstitions about a crater demon dragging people to Hell a rich backdrop as a hidden figure watches a momentous first breath in the shadows, ‘A First Breath’ capably sets the scene for an intriguing mystery at hand culminating with Norton taken by strange spacesuit-clad figures.

Lamenting that he must be getting older because his torturers continue to get younger as ‘The Ghost Wall’ begins with a brutal scene, Norton soon finds himself in the position of considering working with the government despite their past differences as Torchwood may just be able to uncover more information about this area. The fixer Armitage knows that simply building over this area will not solve affairs here, a fitting foundation for the remainder of this set that feeds nicely into the events the other characters witness. For Gideon who fears that people who spend time around Norton will inevitably end up like him, he believes that there must be some sort of government conspiracy here to hide the fact that homeless people are going missing since there are no regulars at his soup kitchen, but it’s quite clear to everyone else that he is missing the bigger picture. Meanwhile, while Lizbeth commends the good work of a reverend keeping sanctuary alive and while Andy maintains an air of diplomacy and eagerness even in the presence of ghosts, Kirwan and Tom Price highlight their great chemistry together as well as the characters come to realize that Lizbeth’s earlier misgivings about this room and the feelings of being watched were correct. Indeed, after finding a young girl who seems to suggest that there are people present that not everyone can see, Andy’s strange midnight thoughts lead him to uncover that same body within their room’s wall. The plot itself may not be quite as prominent as the preceding instalment, but ‘The Ghost Wall’ features incredibly strong and often poignant performances while slotting key pieces of information into place in this increasingly atmospheric and dangerous location.

Norton came to Mandeville Walk to reconnect with Gideon but is coming to realize that he may have to decide between Gideon and the government with which he his tentatively working in ‘The Taken.’ Taking his job quite seriously and dressed in protective garb that Gideon finds less than amusing, Norton begins to warn everyone that there is a lethal radiation continuing to spread through Mandeville Walk and that they must evacuate immediately. Norton appears to be acting in complete earnest with no hidden motivations, and that tone underscores the danger of this area as the very grounded Gideon continues to worry about the people going missing. Of course, while Andy is understandably horrified about the prospect of having to share a room with a corpse, the continuing investigations of Andy and Lizbeth reveal that the population is completely lacking in memories following the conclusion of World War II. A burgeoning romance of sorts between Lizbeth and Mia allows Kirwan to delve into a slightly softer side of her character, and the apparent rampant amnesia and the teddy bear picnic with invisible stew served raise concerns that just possibly this is a Torchwood coverup. One of Norton’s main reasons for investigating anything, after all, is to revisit previous Torchwood investigations and miscues. Nonetheless, in a story that slows the pacing down, the screaming of ghosts, the breathing of an unknown figure, the presence of shadows moving across the ground, and an enigmatic voice asking for visual updates around it continue to build the intrigue and tension, and the graceful inclusion of genuine emotions in support continue to lay the foundation for the amplifying danger and personal investment for all.

In ‘Afterwards They Came,’ The Unbegotten finally begins to reveal some of the answers behind the strange going-on in Mandeville Walk. Discovering that Torchwood of old is still present in an unexpected capacity, the current iteration finds that the army detonated what they believed to be an unexploded Nazi bomb that landed on the street during the Second World War. The destruction of what, in fact, was an alien device triggered the apparent paranormal activity here, and Norton has found himself directly at odds with the supposed crater demons looking to drag these denizens to Hell. As certain relationships between the citizens come into focus, Andy tasks himself with trying to understand more of the truth while knowing that going into the darkness is never a good idea, a testament to his character as he goes to an old church to search for any clues about the past to put these affairs into greater context and something that will assuredly mesh with Gideon’s desire to discover more about the famed wartime air raid shelter from which people would mysteriously disappear. While the locals’ lack of memories is perplexing and frustrating for Torchwood, each members takes the difficulty finding answers relatively in stride, and Kirwan continues to impress as a slightly more flirtatious side of Lizbeth comes to the fore as she probes Mia for more information. However, as Norton continues to liaise with the government and Armitage, he comes to understand that a missile strike is poised to take out Mandeville Walk if nothing is done about this situation. Pieces are quickly being put in place with two parts left in this six-part narrative, and the intriguing visuals and tense atmosphere of the previous entries now have a stronger narrative foundation for Torchwood to begin to explore.

The missile strike has been ordered on Mandeville Walk in ‘Confessions,’ and the clock is ticking for Norton and company to uncover the truth and find another solution. This is a story laden with exposition to give context to everything that Torchwood has seen to this point, and Norton and Lizbeth come to realize that the bevy of people they have seen ascending the steps of the brothel have not come back down, the incessant sexual intercourse to the point of death continuing to provide power of sorts to the alien device while the creature reforming in its midst. Shockingly, the collective amnesia of the citizens here is due to the fact that they have been dead for years, their lives likewise being used to fuel the creature that has been lurking in the shadows to this point. ‘Confessions’ is a very visceral and visual story, and although the prospect of this creature having used everything available to it and needing to move beyond Mandeville Walk is a frightening one, the tense scenes detailing the Reverend being haunted by the ghost of his wife as well as the young girl’s corpse being walled up and the changes the alien device wrought are all the more impactful given the strange and enduring state of affairs here. Yet it’s these very affairs that allow the regulars to shine, particularly Norton who believes that he must be selfish and make difficult decisions so as to avoid sharing Lizbeth’s fate. He’s unafraid of threatening Armitage with the information he has accrued, and Barnett gives his strongest performance of this set yet as Norton drops all pretenses to try to find a workable solution. Likewise, Kirwan gives another great performance alongside Saffron Coomber’s Mia as Lizbeth wistfully suggests that nothing beautiful can last, and although it’s disappointing that Andy and Gideon are more or less sidelined for this instalment, the strong background and intriguing character work offered capably set the scene for what is sure to be an intriguing finale.

‘Mandeville Walks’ closes out The Unbegotten, highlighting Norton’s immense character growth from the start as he chooses his friends over power as the missiles continue their approach. Through it all, Gideon has been the one character who can break through Norton’s masterful façade, and he experiences heartbreak each and every time he sees Gideon to the point that he wonders if he may also be fueling the alien creature’s rebirth here. Fittingly, Gideon has had the same thoughts, and these mutual feelings finally allow these two to once again have a genuine conversation and even some laughs to allow for a surprisingly happy ending as they truly open up to the potential of love once more. Of course, Norton has one final bit of manipulation up his sleeve regarding the impending missile strike that allows for this happy ending to unfold, but even this highlights a growth of character and implicit determination that will hopefully continue to serve Norton well in future stories. The resolution is a little more abstract than is typical for Torchwood, however, especially after the highly visual and evocative buildup of the previous five stories, and though the visage of a being akin to the Invisible Man certainly continues the theme of strong visuals here, the idea of a sentinel long ago sent to observe Earth but who was hurt and so wants to rebuild the world in his image is somewhat lacking in a certain immediacy like so many other threats Torchwood faces. Nonetheless, ‘Mandeville Walks’ proves to be a very emotional story highlighted by the brilliant but devastating truth behind the raid shelter and the people that went missing from within, and those emotions bleed through to Lizbeth as well who here must try to come to terms with the fact that the woman she has so deeply connected with is not truly alive and who begins to wonder if she even knows how to be happy. Given the brevity of these episodes, this finale that makes the most of its consistently strong sound design just like the preceding stories is a surprisingly introspective one that paints a rather unique trajectory for Torchwood and, in particular, Torchwood Soho. The Unbegotten may not be quite as audacious or frenetic as the preceding sets in this range, but it highlights the versatility of Torchwood Soho and just how incredibly engaging this unique combination of characters continue to be.

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