After last month’s trek 5 years beyond Miracle Day, it’s back in time for One Rule and a pre-Battle of Canary Wharf Yvonne Hartman.
Director of Torchwood One in London, we last saw Yvonne in the Army of Ghosts / Doomsday two-parter, (if you’re not familiar, now’s a good time to check out the two episodes… done? Yes, it is a striking resemblance between Martha and her cousin!) so she’s possibly not be the most expected choice of episode star for this series. It’s also the first time that Yvonne has appeared in a story under the Torchwood banner, so does One Rule manage to keep consistent quality with the previous stories?
Well, we’re a fair way from That London as Yvonne takes a surreptitious visit to Torchwood Three, but to her own surprise (and reluctance) becomes involved in local politics when it turns out that potential mayoral candidates are losing their heads – literally! Just how difficult is it to have a good massage with a decent Pinot these days?
Being the central focus, the characterisation of Yvonne is crucial, and writer Joe Lidster does a fantastic job of both capturing the immediate recognisability and delving deeper into her motivation and history. She makes even more of an intriguing anti-heroine now, and not just because we know rather important parts of her future. The Army of Ghosts Torchwood was up until The Big Twist set up as the potential arc threat of David Tennant’s first series, and setting prior to even that is an intriguing angle against the context of the branch we are more familiar with, even when its characters are out of focus. Sure, Torchwood One was no Forge, even back then (though there’s more than a hint of Nimrod’s organisation at times with Yvonne’s proclamation of “For Queen and Country”) but it was a far way from the ally that Jack has made Torchwood Three! These aspects are the big strengths of One Rule, and it is great both to have aspects of the universe fleshed out as well as opening up even more to examine in future.
Of course, that could very easily be undermined if the performances were not up to scratch, but Tracy-Ann Oberman has the bit between her teeth and it feels like she’s having an absolute hoot in her return to playing Yvonne. Supporting characters are solid, and there’s a wonderful (double) cameo to keep an ear out for, and the design and direction maintains the high bar set by Big Finish in creating a believable soundscape.
That all said, One Rule may ultimately end up being more divisive than previous episodes; and partly because of the nature of the characters involved. The stereotype-based humour throughout intended to reflect part of Yvonne’s world view – including of herself – can get very heavy-handed, especially early on, to the point where I did wonder if it had been script edited by Jeremy Clarkson! It may come down to the mood of the listener – I confess to finding it all funny and then later feeling a bit guilty for laughing at some of it!
There’s also the danger that more than half way through the series half of the episodes have been set before the first, meaning that progression regarding The Committee and their threat becomes necessarily limited when it is already established that they have been present and working behind the scenes for centuries. That said there is a telling hint about a specific role they could play come the climax – though I do hope it will pay off by episode 6 and not be held over for the second series!
There’s two episodes left for this first series, and Torchwood definitely has a solid home on audio. Now it’s time to see how the threads from the first four can start tying to together – whatever will the New Year bring when it heads to the Uncanny Valley?
Torchwood: One Rule is available now from BigFinish.com