We are in Paris in the 1940s, and if Nazi occupation isn’t enough to deal with, there’s the little matter of a plague turning people into monsters. Cue SS Interrogator Grau (Mark Elstob, Number Six in this month’s The Prisoner release) and his hunt for Madame Berber (Emma Cunniffe). As he seeks his quarry, and information on her involvement with Torchwood, he has to satisfy himself with M LeDuc (Simon Russell Beale), the last person known to have spent time with Berber.
The plot is simply drawn, and in many ways is a means of drawing together two threads: the torture of LeDuc by Grau, and LeDuc’s flashback memories of meeting Madame Berber. In the background the sounds of the period help paint a very stark reality of everyday life in wartime France.
The torture scenes are unpleasant, and writer Lizzie Hopley doesn’t make it easy for Grau to identify just what is happening, even though she does leave perhaps too many clues as to what is going on. The inevitable plot twist, when it comes, lacks a bit of punch but this is made up for by the quality of the cast. The Big Finish Torchwood range continues to flick through the possibilities, and opens up lots of avenues for potential exploration, but this particular tale feels more disconnected than most.
As ever, director Scott Handcock pulls together some powerful performances, and the overall feel is unsettling and a dark reminder of a grim period of history.
One day there will be stories told of World War II, and the involvement of Torchwood, the influence of aliens, Nazis and the development of technology. While this gives hints of that, listeners may well come away wanting more. Instead we have a powerfully performed character piece with Torchwood more implied than present.
TORCHWOOD: THE DYING ROOM / AUTHOR: LIZZIE HOPLEY / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / STARRING: SIMON RUSSELL BEALE, MARK ELSTOB, EMMA CUNNIFFE, ALY CRUICKSHANK, DAVID SIBLEY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW