Torchwood – “Forgotten Lives”

Torchwood – Release # 3
Written by: Emma Reeves
Directed by: Scott Handcock
Performed by: Eve Myles, Kai Owen, Phillip Bond, Valmai Jones & Sean Carlsen
Duration: 60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-78178-920-9
Chronology Placement: Wales, 2016 (after the events of Miracle Day)

Synopsis: It has been five years since the Miracle, and Gwen and Rhys’ lives have gone back to normal, very normal. They’re raising their daughter (they’ve got pictures they’d be only too happy to show you), they’re living in a nice house, and they’re almost on top of the laundry. Captain Jack Harkness has been missing from the world and their lives for a long time. But late one night the phone rings, and they’re summoned to an isolated part of North Wales. The Bryn Offa Nursing Home contains a dark secret, an alien threat, and someone who really shouldn’t be there. Gwen and Rhys are about to discover that Torchwood stays with you for the rest of your life.

The third release in Big Finish’s Torchwood monthly range, “Forgotten Lives” has the distinction of being the first adventure to be set after the fourth series “Miracle Day” since the 2012 novel, “Exodus Code“. While I enjoyed the retro feel to the previous two stories, “The Conspiracy” and “Fall to Earth”, I’m glad that Big Finish are moving ahead and telling new tales that develop the continuity of Torchwood beyond the televised adventures. With the recent release of an ‘official’ Season Five in the form of “Aliens Amongs Us“, it is clear that the future of Torchwood resides with Big Finish and much like the lead characters, “I am ready”.

The title of this story “Forgotten Lives” is a nice play on words, referencing both Gwen and Rhys’ return to a life of adventure, as well as the debilitating effect that dementia can have. Writer Emma Reeves weaves a surprisingly emotional tale about the loss of identity and there are some interesting parallels between Gwen and Rhys’ situation and that of the residents of Bryn Offa nursing home, as they work to rediscover their “true personalities” throughout the story. Reeves ensures that the plot flows along nicely throughout the hour-long audio, peeling back the various layers of her mystery in a very satisfying manner.

Without spoiling too much of the story, the central mechanic of the narrative involves body-swapping and as a result, new actors are given the opportunity to portray familiar Torchwood characters. Philip Bond is given the difficult task of recreating an iconic role, and it is jarring to hear that particular character voiced by an elderly man. Obviously, this is the desired effect as the idea of someone’s consciousness being transplanted into the wrong bodies will cause confusion. There is also a sequence where an elderly lady reverts to a child-like persona, which is meant to create drama at a key moment, but sounds slightly ridiculous when listening. It’s one of those moments that may have had a greater effect if it had been shown on-screen, rather than using audio only.

Eve Myles and Kai Owen manage to recapture their chemistry as Gwen and Rhys, and the friendly bickering between the married couple as they attempt to thwart an alien invasion is one of the highlights of this audio drama. Reeves absolutely nails their relationship through her dialogue, through little moments such as Gwen noting the sacrifices Rhys has made for her in giving up his haulage work, and Rhys begrudgingly enjoying himself in a Torchwood role and signing up for future adventures. I was also struck by how similar the dynamics of their relationship is to that of Amy Pond and Rory Williams from Doctor Who, and I wonder if there is a connection between Rory and Rhys given that they share a surname, albeit one of the most common ones out there.

Emma Reeves’ script revisits an aspect of “Miracle Day” to better align the series with the current continuity of Big Finish’s audio range, establishing its mysterious Committee of Erebus as a greater threat to humanity, and one that remains at large. There’s a few hints for the future too, with Gwen and Rhys focused on resurrecting the concept of Torchwood in order to protect Earth, and on a more personal level – their daughter. After years of uncertainty over the future of Torchwood franchise, it is very reassuring to listen to an adventure that begins to set the scene for a new generation of heroes. After the cataclysmic events of “Children of Earth” and “Miracle Day”, the organisation has been in tatters and I hope Big Finish intends to restore it to its former glory.

Forgotten Lives” is a solid entry into the Torchwood mythology which focuses on the emotional core at the heart of the clandestine organisation – Gwen and Rhys. It feels very fitting that the pair are involved at the beginning of a new chapter for Torchwood, hopefully overcoming the mistakes of the previous incarnation. Emma Reeves’ script crackles along nicely, showcasing the best elements of Gwen and Rhys’ relationship and building a strong foundation for future stories. Eve Myles and Kai Owen are clearly enjoying their time back in those roles, and their enthusiasm is really infectious when listening to the story. As a vision of the future for the Torchwood series, this adventure has me calling rushing to the nearest secret weapons cache, calling “shotgun” for a front-seat in the SUV, so I can be ready for when “everything changes” again. This adventure is essential listening for fans of the show, especially those eager for brand-new stories that advance the series beyond “Miracle Day“.

Score – ★★★ ½

Torchwood: Forgotten Lives is available from Big Finish on physical CD or digital download. It can also be found on Amazon UK in the physical CD format.

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