The Torchwood Archive
Written by: James Goss
Directed by: Scott Handcock
Performed by: John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Gareth David-Lloyd, Naoko Mori, Indira Varma, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Kai Owen, Tom Price & Richie Campbell
Duration: 122 mins approx
Chronology Placement: The Torchwood Archive, 4421
Synopsis: The Torchwood Archive is a forgotten asteroid in the centre of a great war. Jeremiah is its first visitor in many centuries. He’s come to learn something very important. And the ghosts of Torchwood are waiting for him.
Released as part of Torchwood’s tenth anniversary celebrations back in October 2016, The Torchwood Archive is a two-hour long audio special that looks back across the fictional history of the organisation. Using holographic reconstructions of key events, the futuristic archive reveals hidden secrets to the audience through a number of short vignettes and monologues; both of which serve to retroactively establish the Committee and Object One as recurring threats to Torchwood. This allows Big Finish to canonise its original ideas as part of the Torchwood legacy and also clarifies the chronological placements and continuity of the initial twelve monthly audios in the series. Listening to The Torchwood Archive provides some much-needed clarity to the Committee storyline, not only revealing secrets behind the organisation’s origins but also showing how each of the preceding stories relate to each other.
Almost all of the twelve audios in the first two ‘seasons’ of Torchwood’s monthly audio range had some reference to either the Committee or the Red Key / Object One, and to be quite honest, it was disorientating at times as the releases weren’t released in chronological order and were often oblique in their references. The Torchwood Archive picks up on all of those loose plot threads and manages to weave them together into a surprisingly cohesive plot that takes place throughout multiple eras. While it isn’t essential to have listened to each of the preceding audio releases, it certainly enhances the experience as the short vignettes showcased in this adventure feel like deleted scenes or post-credit sequences that connect the dots between stories.
The framing story of this adventure takes place in the far future and features new character Jeremiah Bash Henderson visiting the futuristic museum dedicated to Torchwood to discover more about its origins and that of the Committee. Greeted by holographic representations of recognisable Torchwood employees, Henderson is shown excerpts from history that reveal information about the conspiracy that lies at the heart of the Torchwood Archive. It’s a really clever concept to have Jeremiah and the holograms discussing each of the vignettes, adding a layer of commentary over events and allowing the narrative to seamlessly transition from Victorian England to mid-2000’s Cardiff within minutes. As a result, there is an undeniable sense of scale to this adventure as it spans centuries and countries to tell the complete history of Torchwood.
Adding to this epic feeling is the expansive ensemble cast of actors crammed into the one release. Literally every actor that appeared in one of the preceding twelve adventures made an appearance in this special release, although this means that Owen (Burn Gorman) is curiously absent as he hadn’t made his Big Finish debut at this point. Tom Price has the biggest role as the PC Andy hologram, talking to Jeremiah through the majority of the audio drama, but there are plenty of scenes with all of the returning actors to make it feel like a genuine Torchwood adventure. It was also nice to see Julian Lewis Jones back as Alex Hopkins, reprising his role from the “Fragments” flashback and revealing the story behind the mysterious locket he was holding in his hand before his New Year’s Eve murder-suicide. Object One was the most interesting element of the audio as the “bad penny” that kept appearing through the rift and causing catastrophes for whichever branch of Torchwood ended up with it.
Packed full of short sequences, the plot bounces from era to era, but never loses track of its narrative throughline. I particularly liked the scene with Emma Reeves’ Eve Trent making a confession of her involvement with the Committee. It was perfectly bittersweet, and I was amazed at how much personality the character had in such a short space of time – it was a great example of script and actor coming together to create something impactful. Each of the vignettes were fantastic at conveying the right emotions in short bursts, whether it was the regal stiffness of Queen Victoria, the backstabbing treacheries of Yvonne Hartman and Norton Folgate, or the well-meaning tragedies of Toshiko and Gwen. I also liked how James Goss’ script continually tied Object One into key events from the show, such as hinting it was responsible for the creation of Weevils and the destruction of Torchwood One.
The Torchwood Archive works brilliantly as a culmination of the story-arc running through the monthly releases up to that point, as well as the tenth anniversary celebration of Torchwood’s debut on BBC 2, way back in 2008. Packed full of nostalgic references to the show, The Torchwood Archive is a love letter to the fans in every sense of the word. As someone who has been invested in the ongoing Committee storyline since the release of “The Conspiracy”, I found it immensely fulfilling to get this informative guide on them and to see just how embedded they are within Torchwood. With this new context in mind, I am looking forward to re-listening to those original twelve adventures to appreciate them in a different way. The Torchwood Archive is extremely rewarding listening for long-term fans and an essential chapter in enjoying Torchwood’s story with Big Finish.