Torchwood has always retained an odd relationship with history, or the idea that it is a centuries old organisation. Often set exclusively in present day, few stories truly stopped to look into past eras or what they had accomplished. However, The Victorian Age shows just how much potential can be found in exploring past eras.
The British Empire’s anti-alien defence organisation stands on a knife-edge. Queen Victoria herself is set to inspect Torchwood’s headquarters and many know this could easily be a death knell for their efforts should anything go wrong. Naturally, a vicious alien chooses this exact moment to break loose into the streets of London. It’s now up to Jack Harness to halt it, with Queen Victoria in close pursuit.
The story embraces the full on insanity and brimming energy of the television show, and as a result it’s less Children of Earth than it is Something Borrowed. There’s an inherent quirkiness to having Queen Victoria wielding a plasma gun and helping hunt down an alien in ye olde pub, and Benedict makes fantastic use of that. It’s spun into brief moments of humour, which help give events an oddly light-hearted feel, while still easing itself into solid moments of drama when needed.
Given that there really are only two core characters here, the chemistry and performances of Rowena Cooper and John Barrowmen help to seriously elevate this tale. While Barrowman slides back into the role of Harkness with little effort, it’s notable that Cooper can stand out against him, with all the loud and lively behaviour the story needs. The repartee between the two creates an engaging narrative, and it’s obvious everyone involved was having immense fun playing out events. This allows the drama to overcome a lot of the usual bug hunt tropes and stand out well on its own.
Still, there are some frustrating moments which stem largely from The Victorian Age’s extremely streamlined nature. A few critical moments are skimmed over, and are described rather than actually depicted, meaning the audience misses out on the action. This is only made all the more notable thanks to the script following the Matt Smith era approach of “damn the first act, get to the good stuff!” Very little time is taken to establish any story points before jumping right into the action, and it’s easy to throw a listener off balance at first.
Still, the flaws here are ultimately minor ones and with great drama and humour alike, The Victorian Age gets a glowing recommendation. It’s a fantastic example of what Big Finish is capable of with this franchise, and a must buy for any avid Torchwood fan.
TORCHWOOD: THE VICTORIAN AGE / AUTHOR: AK BENEDICT / DIRECTOR: SCOTT HANDCOCK / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / STARRING: JOHN BARROWMAN, ROWENA COOPER, YOUSSEF KERKOUR, LOUISE JAMESON, AARON NEIL / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW