Torchwood's Army of One

Audio Now that, for various reasons, Torchwood’s taken an understandable “pause”, AudioGo have taken the relatively bold step of releasing a series of continuation audiobooks, investigating their world post-Miracle Day. The first, Ian Edginton’s Torchwood's Army of One, edges itself into the gap between a potential cliffhanger resolution and whatever else Russell T Davies has in mind, visiting Gwen and Owen within a few weeks of Rex Matheson becoming a second fixed point in time, making the most of what's left of the institute's assets and trying to decide on their future.

Meanwhile, a serial killer's on the streets, and although the victims are all in roughly the same condition, “dried-up, dessicated husks” as the box synopsis repulsively has it, they’re different ages and genders, blurring the MO.  The chief headscrather assigned to the case, Lucas Avery, the kind of special agent who wanders around US prime time shows with an acronym in the title, decides Gwen and Rhys will be just the people to deal with this particular spooky-doo and before long it’s business as usual with the added pressure that the former has encountered this particular accident of the Whoniverse before, back in Cardiff.

In Edginton’s story, not much happens, but busily, packing plenty into its entertaining seventy-odd minutes.  The resident alien, while a not entirely innovative creation, somewhat like the monsters from Day One or Angel’s Lonely Hearts without the psycho-sexual angle, has been forced into their position as a result of Miracle Day as we finally discover how the usual denizens crawling about this version of our planet were effected by that man-made event, bringing to mind too the current comic post-magic Buffyverse.  There's an excellent line about how human's are willing to accept everyone not dying but not creates from another world.

There’s also an absurdist vein running through the story with what could have been relatively bland locations and plot-twists rendered with a style not unlike Stephen Poliakoff, in which reality is viewed through synecdoche shaped lenses.  Edginton also like the drop the listener in the middle of a scene, providing initially a poetic turn of phrase which runs counter to many of these AudioGo readings which can border on the prosaic, noting the older age group these must be designed for.  It goes without saying that like it's parent series, this not suitable for younger listeners.  Some of the descriptions of deaths are just creepy.

The writer's clearly comfortable with these characters (having previous written for the comic strip embedded in the official magazine), especially Rhys who’s truer to loveable form here than the psychopathic nitwit he was reduced to in the latter stages of Miracle Day.  Eve Myles would also relish the material Gwen’s given as she’s once again allowed to be kick-ass and still a parent, her boggle-eyed fear intact (even if some listeners might have issues with how certain dominant ideologies are also protected).  Special Agent Avery is a bit bland, but that seems to be a feature rather than a bug, Edginton pushing the cultural contrast as high as it will go.

All of which is helped immeasurably by Kai Owen’s reading especially in the scenes between Gwen and Rhys were he ably voices their stoccato niggling and flirting. Now and then he-becomes-very-pronounced-in-his-performance but usually it’s because the information he’s annunciating will be of vital import later. Once again the clash between Welsh brashness and Washington efficiency is prominent and he very much enjoys those scenes when Rhys gets one over on the Americans, who once again greet him with a mix of curiosity and superiority.

Overall, what Army of One demonstrates, just as the Radio 4 plays have, is that Children of Earth accepted, Torchwood's still works best in a thingy of the week format, a kind of adult version of The Sarah Jane Adventures or The X-Files in the Whoniverse, local law enforcement authorities calling in these experts whenever something weird wanders into their jurisdiction. Whereas I spent most of Miracle Day laughing at the show, I spent much of Army of One laughing with the characters again and I can't wait to hear the rest of this series. That's quite an achievement.

Torchwood: Army of One by Ian Edginton is published by AudioGo and is out now.  Review copy supplied.

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