The final Torchwood release of 2020, The Crown by Jonathan Barnes, sees the return of Queen Victoria in a chilling, Christmassy ghost story. It opens on Christmas Eve, with Doctor Gideon Parr (Derek Riddell) being called away to an asylum. There, he meets Victoria (Rowena Cooper), who tells him a story about a mysterious vagrant, a cursed crown, and the terrifying Ferryman…
This story reminded me a lot of the early Doctor Who Companion Chronicles, having both a main storyline and an overall framing device. It’s a nice change of pace for the Torchwood range, and Victoria’s narration creates a lovely Christmassy atmosphere, fitting for this time of year. There are also some nice twists towards the end of the story, and, as is common in this range, there’s a dark-yet-satisfying ending that will leave the listener thinking.
Rowena Cooper gets to put in a rather different performance as Queen Victoria this time around, showing the character’s more vulnerable sides incredibly effectively. Meanwhile, Derek Riddell gives suitable ambiguity to the mysterious Gideon Parr, flexing his acting muscles in the way he shows all of the character’s many facets. The cast is rounded off with strong performances from Gwyneth Keyworth as Parr’s amiable wife Henrietta, and Jonathan Blaydon as shadowy Torchwood operative Maddox.
Blair Mowat and Joe Meiners tackle music and sound design respectively, and both do fantastic jobs as usual. Not only do we get to hear Mowat’s brilliant Victorian rendition of the Torchwood theme, but he also gives us some great festive-sounding, period-appropriate music throughout. Meanwhile, Meiners brings Victorian London to life with his sound design, from the sound of horses and carriages on the streets to the sinister shuffling and groaning of the villainous Ferryman. All of this adds to the brilliant atmosphere this story creates.
Gripping and spooky, The Crown is an excellent way for Torchwood to close 2020. With strong central performances, a simultaneously spooky and festive atmosphere and a chilling M.R. James-esque script, there’s a lot to like her. Highly recommended.
Torchwood: The Crown is available now on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com