Yvonne, Ianto and the Torchwood One team return in Torchwood One: Nightmares, reviewed by George Hewitt
Torchwood One is back! After 2019’s Latter Days seemed like the last release in the series (it brought the series up to the Doctor Who TV story Army of Ghosts/Doomsday in which Torchwood One originally fell), Nightmares takes us back to 2005, the early days of Torchwood London, when Yvonne was relatively fresh and Ianto a total newbie. While the first two boxsets in the range followed a single three-hour story, Nightmares takes the same approach as Latter Days – while 2019’s set housed three stories all connected to the theme of retirement, this new boxset’s theme is memory, and it is explored in very different ways across the three stories.
1. “My Guest Tonight” by Tim Foley
Since 2018’s Machines, Tim Foley has been a staple of the Torchwood One range. He has a knack for character pieces, and that’s exactly what he delivers in My Guest Tonight. Uniquely for a Torchwood One story, Ianto and Tommy are completely absent from this story, as Foley chooses instead to focus on Yvonne’s relationship with TV talk show host Nigel Best.
Tracy-Ann Oberman as Yvonne and Jon Culshaw as Nigel are a dream pairing. They have an excellent rapport, and the story takes the listener down darker paths than may have been expected. Nigel is supposed to be interviewing Yvonne as part of his talk show, but things don’t go quite to plan.
Throughout the hour-long story, Yvonne takes Nigel on a weird journey through his life, with surreal imagery everywhere and Nigel’s only confident his driver, played by Gareth David-Lloyd. The cast is on top form, with particular congratulations needing to go to Culshaw, as Nigel is a character who can be believed right from the offset. Oberman gets to flex her acting muscles in this story, Foley’s script introducing us to a number of new characters, all of whom are surprisingly similar to Yvonne…
This is an excellent story, the best that the range has delivered so far, and while the focus is almost entirely on Nigel, the story allows us to see a more callous side to Yvonne than we’ve seen before. The idea of memory is presented through Nigel, and is developed very emotionally, with moments where you’re not sure whose side to be on.
2. “Lola” by Rochana Patel
The middle story of the set, Rochana Patel‘s debut Torchwood, is a more standard affair. Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd) thinks something’s up, and blames Yvonne. Tommy (Timothy Bentinck) thinks something’s up, and blames Ianto. Yvonne thinks something’s up, and doesn’t know who to blame. And just who is Lola?
This story is the one that takes the memory theme and runs with it the most, the main characters becoming increasingly confused as to why they’re remembering parts of each others’ lives. The cast are joined in this story by Blythe Jandoo as Kayleigh, and she provides a great foil for Ianto – as he is Yvonne’s assistant, Kayleigh is Tommy’s. They team up in this story, and I hope this isn’t the last we hear of their pairing, as they have a great chemistry.
As far as story, there are points where it drags a bit. While not bad, there are definitely some aspects that could have been paced a little better, but nothing that draws the listener out of the story. By following a more traditional formula than the other stories in this boxset, Lola does seem like the weakest of the three, but that’s only in comparison with the others – on its own it’s a fun adventure for the Torchwood One team, and I’m looking forward to hearing more stories from Patel – the more experimental elements of this story are written really well, so hopefully in the future she’ll be able to focus more on those aspects.
3. “Less Majesty” by James Goss
James Goss‘s Less Majesty is a first for Torchwood – an all-out farce. Following many of the tropes of this genre, the story takes place in a hotel room, where Yvonne has woken up next to a member of the royal family – and he’s dead. Ianto and Tommy are called in, and desperately try to work out what’s happened, while also attempting to deal with the constant interruption of Timothy Blore‘s Herman and Susan Hingley‘s Magda – two staff members at the hotel who infuriatingly keep bursting into Yvonne’s room. In this story, Goss proves that slapstick and physical comedy can somehow work on audio, and, though not always laugh-out-loud funny, there are some excellent comedy moments in this story.
The theme of memory comes up again, but this time it’s just that Yvonne can’t remember what had happened. As the story builds to its conclusion, followers of the Torchwood range will begin to piece together a reference to a threat first introduced last year – no spoilers here, but it seems that Goss is building up a new foe for Torchwood, and I’m excited to see where it goes next. Less Majesty is a great display of Goss’s comedy writing, and with excellent performances from the cast throughout, it rounds off a really strong set of stories, while also being unlike anything the Torchwood range has done before.
Nightmares is the best Torchwood One set so far, a trio of very good stories, with a slight dip in the middle. Blair Mowat‘s music is great, with particular highlights in some of the music from My Guest Tonight. This is potentially Scott Handcock‘s final outing as a director of Torchwood, last month having seen his final Monthly Range story. And what a boxset to go out on. I hope it’s a shorter wait before the next set of Torchwood One adventures, and the one thing I’d like to see more of next time is a story or two that makes more use of the London setting, as it was very much a presence in the first three sets. Bravo to all involved.
Torchwood One: Nightmares is available on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com