Once upon a time – a time of big hair, big attitudes and even bigger stereotypes – there was a corner of an exceedingly American part of the United States that was forever British. And it wasn’t just the provenance that made it a very important corner, but that it was the last line of defence for the West Coast against the alien threat… this was Torchwood, LA style!
Hollywood beckons, but wannabe actresses are disappearing – not into obscurity but actually missing. Can Torchwood’s heavenly heroines uncover and challenge the true nature of the threat, and at what cost?
From the Charlies Angels opening, there’s a buzzing sense of fun to The Dollhouse, and it’s frequently hard to listen without a grin as the tale progresses. Moving along at a fair clip, the atmosphere is strikingly colourful and the sense of humour is infectious creating a psychedelic tale that is endearingly out there without losing a sense of still being Torchwood at its core.
Where writer Juno Dawson really hits the mark is in the laser sharp satire in both story and character – the Torchwood trio of Marlow Sweet (Laila Pyne), Gabi Martinez (Ajjaz Awad) and Charley Du Bujeau (Kelly-Anne Lyons) all initially seem to be giant stereotypes, but there’s some wonderful subversion in the details that is carried through the entire cast. In a time when displaying stereotypes before challenging them is susceptible to be misinterpreted and taking offense before the sedition becomes obvious, it’s a brave tactic but one that reaps its rewards as the story takes shots at the concept of the “casting couch”, personal grooming (in both senses!), consent, race and more – but never feels like it’s preaching.
The three leads are clearly relishing the material and are spot on the tone needed, and Guy Adams (no stranger to writing this range!) is wonderfully smooth as the British voice of briefing Mr Beamish. The rest of the cast are up to the task too, with Stuart Millican in particular bringing an impressive sleazy creepiness when needed.
The Dollhouse is certainly action-packed, and Lisa Bowerman’s direction and Rob Harvey’s sound design build a wonderfully visual tale – you can tell when these ladies employ their particular sets of skills they wouldn’t need 14 cuts to jump over a fence 😉 Blair Mowat appears to be having an absolute blast with the music and the results are an excellent blend of familiar Torchwood styling with a distinct 70s flavour.
Some may note that the reveal of the mystery involved may be a little more straightforward than other stories in the Torchwood series, but that doesn’t stop The Dollhouse as a whole from being a fresh and unique entry in an already diverse range and sets a precedent for even more variety of stories and settings in future too. Get out the tie-dyed shirt and coloured shades, and get into the retro vibe for an hour!
Torchwood: The Dollhouse is available now from BigFinish.com