Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Torchwood: One Rule written by Joseph Lidster and directed by Barnaby Edwards

What's it about: It’s been three weeks since the Mayor of Cardiff was killed by a shop dummy and the fight is on to see who will replace him. Yvonne Hartman is visiting the city to retrieve an invaluable alien device. She's in charge of Torchwood One, she's saving the British Empire and she doesn't care about local politics. But she is going to find herself caught up in that fight. There’s a bloodthirsty alien stalking the streets and there’s a special offer on at the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. It’s the 26th of March 2005 and it’s the day that everything changes.

I Wish I Hadn't Killed Her Off: Thus speaks the great Russell T Davies when he realised what a fabulous character he had in the shape of Yvonne Hartman, especially in the hands of Tracey Ann Oberman. She's probably the living embodiment of sass in the Doctor Who universe, River before her time without any of the outrageous sexism, overdone sexuality and crazy violence. With Yvonne, she commands your attention simply with her word and her attitude. The joy of these Torchwood audios is that it is a chance to re-visit old characters that worked extremely well without mucking up any of established continuity. It does as well to remember that Torchwood was initially set up in Doctor Who (back when arcs were there to add colour to a season rather than the beating heart that keeps them alive) and not an entity in it's own right and Yvonne was at the heart of that. She thinks that Torchwood Three is very retro and the staff are very cute. What an awesome idea, bringing Yvonne to Wales to comment on the state of affairs there. Her 'I'm from London' says everything you need to know about her patronising attitude. I couldn't help but wonder if she was going to get a rude awakening. When someone tells her she has a big ego she merely retorts that they are very observant - you've got to admire that level of self confidence. Yvonne is privvy to information about the sort of threats that are attempting to topple the Earth and it's terrifying. Torchwood keeps it quiet because it knows that the population cannot cope with that information. New Years Eve 1999 and Yvonne hadn't been working at Torchwood for long, the phone rang and she listened whilst the head of Torchwood Three killed his team one by one and raved about something coming and everybody having to be ready. It would be enough to drive anybody away from the organisation, rather than encourage you to keep fighting. Yvonne recognises that Torchwood has to be strong and ready and she is just the woman for the job. She's not the sort of person who calls for help whenever she is stuck and she has an ability to get people on side by simply charming them. Yvonne threatens to have somebody shot for suggesting that she is a drag queen. The only Queen that Yvonne has anything to do with is the reigning Monarch that she has tea with twice a week. She knew things had to change when she took charge of Torchwood London, she didn't understand why they had access to so much alien tech but they didn't utilise any of it. Of course Yvonne knows about the Committee. She's practically blaze about it. She has to make a choice between Barry having a nasty accident and getting his just desserts or having somebody in power in Cardiff in the palm of her hand. With a heavy sigh she realises for Queen and Country it is better to sell her morals and take the advantage. It's a cracking scene because you can see that Yvonne would do pretty much anything that will give her an advantage. But she'll still stab him in the leg for his troubles, for screwing with her. Wow.

The Crew: Ianto was a member of Yvonne's team in Torchwood London and her unusual method of staff relations might mean that she is responsible for all of his heartache to come with Lisa (I do wish people would stop referencing that terrible episode).

Standout Performance: Some top quality Welsh accents in this tale although if you aren't a native English speaker you might find some of them a little indecipherable.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'Torchwood Cardiff. Excellent as an emergency backup system but they're not really professional.'

Great Ideas: I'd forgotten the sort of Doctor Who continuity that could be played about with in Torchwood and the mention of a Dravhan scanner really made me chuckle. Something or someone is killing off potential Mayors of Cardiff. Hardly the sort of emergency that Yvonne is used to dealing with. There's a wonderful moment where Yvonne examines the human condition, the ability to skip over traumatic events with the pointless humdrum of everyday life because that is easier to deal with. There was an invasion of Earth three weeks ago? Who cares when we are missing the latest episode of Strictly! Just like the government, Torchwood Cardiff and Torchwood London don't really get along.

Audio Landscape: Birdsong, a hulking great monster growling, takeaway music, screaming panic, taking pictures on phone, rock bar atmosphere, bar fight, a bottle being smashed, sirens, throwing up, toilet, hair dryer, rainfall, Helen being torn apart.

Standout Scene: The reveal of the killer was a genuine surprise, especially because he was treated as such a joke throughout.

Result: A whirlwind tour of the best of Cardiff, featuring clubs, pubs and toilets. What is this? Unbound Exile, the sequel? No, it's a rough and ready character drama penned by Joseph Lidster and featuring the gorgeous Tracey Ann Oberman as Yvonne Hartman. She's hardly shown Cardiff at it's best (certainly this was not my experience of the city when I visited) but it gives her plenty to sneer at which is delightful to experience. There is a reason that the character section is bloated and the great ideas section is so empty, this is heavy on character and pretty light on plot (it's there but it doesn't dominate in the same way) and it gives Yvonne a chance to truly come to life in a setting that is out of her comfort zone. Oberman is so good that I would actively encourage the producers to give her another shot at this and I would love to see more of Torchwood London. I would suggest that Lidster is given the brief too as he clearly understands exactly what makes her tick, making her enough of a diva to be the same person that appeared in Army of Ghosts whilst including moments of humour and sympathy. It's a story that feels less robustly plotted than those that it follows but I don't think that is really the point. The idea is to stick close to Yvonne and to experience the story as she does and to simply revel in the awesome way she has of getting things done. Personally I consider that a very good use of an hour. The director drew more attention to itself this time around and it doesn't surprise me to see this was the work of Barnaby Edwards, always a reliable pair of hands. I liked how the Committee was slipped into the story too, during the moment of the biggest surprise. The Committee puzzle pieces are starting to assemble and it's clear they have been around for a long, long time. An intriguing one off and a very enjoyable one. Yvonne Hartman rules: 8/10


Otter d'Arc said...

>>without any of the outrageous sexism, overdone sexuality and crazy violence
As if it a bad thing

Ed Azad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

And to think there was a time where the kiss in the TV Move had people screaming with anger...

Tango said...

This was a missed opportunity to show the dark side of Torchwood, and their hundred year mission to capture the sworn enemy of the British Empire. Yvonne Hartman was more intimidating on screen, she was not afraid to admit that his team shot an innocent spacecraft to steal its technology. She is a villain in my book, I do not care that the writer has made her sympathetic. Kate Stewart deserves to have tea with the Queen, and not supposed to be the same Queen who closed Torchwood One when it was revealed?

Yes, River Song had outrageous sexism, overdone sexuality and crazy violence. And she was "Crème de la crème" of Capaldi era for me and the companion could be for that Doctor, had it not been for the Christmas special I would have stopped watching the "show Clara Oswald and his old dad". Seriously, Capaldi was more "Doctor" in the Christmas special than in his two years being overshadowed by Clara Oswald. I miss the strong Story Arcs, now are almost nonexistent and the "hybrid" is almost as laughable as the "Martha" of Batman Vs Superman.

Anonymous said...

i wasnt crazy about this audio but i love yvobne. i hope they make more with her.

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