George Hewitt reviews the latest Torchwood story: Infidel Places!
Una McCormack‘s first contribution to Big Finish‘s Torchwood range is an excellent story about sexism and misogyny, told through Queen Victoria’s visit to Cambridge University, which allows for the welcome return of Rowena Cooper to the role.
It’s clear from very early on in this story what the focus is going to be, and the story delivers excellently. McCormack uses the set-up of Queen Victoria investigating an alien incursion at Cambridge to push the story forward, while the main focus of the script is on sexism – the Queen isn’t at Cambridge on just any evening – it’s the night before a vote on whether the University should allow degrees for women. Here we meet Onora (played by Jade Gordon), a mathematician at the University, and who is campaigning to allow degrees for women. We also meet a number of men who are against equality – most notably Jon Glover‘s Sir James, Onora’s uncle.
What follows is a brilliantly written conversation about gender equality, interspersed with alien “demons” coming through portals and killing various Cambridge dons. The performances are fantastic from every member of the cast, and accompanied by Blair Mowat‘s music and Richard Fox‘s sound design, the Victorian-era setting is incredibly well-realised. This is a story that makes the listener think – it’s insane to imagine that there was a time when women could study at universities but never be eligible to actually get a degree, and the story’s focus on this is definitely its strength. I almost think that the alien sub-plot is unnecessary, although it is tied together with the ending – a twist that many will, no doubt, see coming.
Overall, this is a very strong debut from McCormack, and from the behind-the-scenes, it’s clear that she researched the era well. Lisa Bowerman, when directing, always gets brilliant performances, and this release is no exception. The only thing that brings it down is that the sci-fi aspect of the story feels a little superfluous at times.
Torchwood: Infidel Places is available on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com