Given the recent news about Big Finish picking up the official continuation of Torchwood in the wake of television’s Miracle Day, a continuation to be overseen by series creator Russell T. Davies himself, this latest release focusing on a single member of the team is likely to undergo that little bit more scrutiny than normal. Happily, other than the allusion to the programme’s not exactly stellar final TV outing in its title, Corpse Day will rest regular fans assured that the series is in the best of hands.
Set somewhere between Dead Man Walking and Exit Wounds, Corpse Day sees minor character PC Andy Davidson promoted to next-to-centre stage for this one-off hour-long episode, in which as part of a traditional laid down by Queen Victoria, a member of the local constabulary gets together with a member of the Torchwood team to pick over an old, unresolved investigation. A cynical Owen Harper is convinced there’ll be nothing to find, while an eager Andy is simply looking forward to an exciting day as a nominal part of the Torchwood team. Neither of them is remotely prepared for what’s to come.
In terms of where this sits in the Torchwood canon, Corpse Day is probably closest to Countrycide as regards its mood and themes, essentially uncovering one of the more sordid aspects of human nature and, as the programme was so readily wont to do, taking it to an extreme and inimitably “logical” extension. It all starts so lightly too, Andy’s eagerness countering Owen’s pessimism in a sequence of amusing passages that see the investigation getting underway – but that come back to haunt the unlikely duo later on as the truth begins to reveal itself.
Much of this is deliberately shocking and some of it very adolescent, but considerable thought has been given to where the two characters stand at odds with one another. Owen’s un-life is a constant motif and very important sub-text of the episode, and the two characters gain a greater understanding of themselves and each other – and we in turn of Torchwood itself.
Tom Price is terrific as PC Andy, the limelight allowing us to get a new perspective on the series through his unjaded eyes. But “Bren German”, perhaps the actor whose star ascended highest after the initial broadcast of the series, is astonishing as Owen, by turns glum and insightful and the centre around which the narrative unfolds. Kudos to Big Finish for finally getting him back in the fold, and here’s hoping that’s where he stays.
Torchwood fans will love Corpse Day; it’s traditional Torchwood in the peculiar way that is unique to the series and it’s at least the equal of its television counterpart.
TORCHWOOD – CORPSE DAY / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / DIRECTOR: SCOTT HANDCOCK / WRITTEN BY: JAMES GOSS / STARRING: BURN GORMAN, TOM PRICE, NIGEL BETTS / RELEASE DATE: AVAILABLE NOW FROM BIG FINISH, ON GENERAL SALE FROM 1ST AUGUST