Torchwood – Release # 4
Written by: Joseph Lidster
Directed by: Barnaby Edwards
Performed by: Tracy Ann Oberman, Gareth Armstrong, Rebecca Lacey, Dan Starkey & Catrin Stewart
Duration: 60 mins approx
Chronology Placement: Wales, 2005 (after the events of “Rose”)
Synopsis: 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.
First appearing in the Doctor Who episodes, “Army of Ghosts” and “Doomsday”, Yvonne Hartman was presented as arrogant and officious in her role as head of Torchwood One, impeding the Doctor’s investigations into the Cybermen invasion of Earth. Not quite villainous, but clearly comfortable with performing immoral actions for the good of her country, Hartman was redeemed in her final actions as a semi-converted Cyberman protecting the Doctor and Rose. The character stood out due to her fierce patriotism, her dedication to her job and her sarcastic sense of humour – played to perfection by Tracy Ann Oberman, she made a sizeable impact as the “first lady” of Torchwood.
“One Rule” takes place earlier in her career, shortly after the events of the Doctor Who episode “Rose”, which saw the Nestene Consciousness use Autons to wreak havoc across the country. Writer Joseph Lidster does a great job at making use of the continuity of the time, establishing Torchwood One and Torchwood Three within the confines of the Season One continuity. As a massive continuity geek, I was grinning at references to Ianto’s burgeoning relationship with Lisa; Jack working alongside Susie and Toshiko in the Hub and the mayoral election that would eventually be won by Blon the Slitheen in “Boom Town”.
Initially, I was worried that Yvonne would appear as a caricature, sprouting her numerous snarky catchphrases but Lidster’s script actually developed the character surprisingly well. While we are given a deeper glimpse into the character’s motivation, there is no attempt to soften her edges and make her into a likeable figure, which actually made me like her all the more. Before I begun listening, I was unsure whether Yvonne Hartman would be strong enough to carry an entire adventure, but Lidster’s narrative and Oberman’s performance quickly put an end to any doubts.
Described in the behind-the-scenes interview as “a bad night out in Cardiff”, the adventure is largely a murder-mystery that takes place against the backdrop of various Cardiff eateries and nightclubs. The sound effects are really immersive and the story is paced extremely well, and while it may be somewhat obvious who the mastermind of the scheme actually is, Lidster delivers a thrilling denouement that had me on the edge of my seat and summed up Yvonne’s character to a tee. It was also surprisingly gruesome at times with numerous slurping noises and the tearing of flesh used to visualise the multiple murders.
Throughout the course of listening to this adventure, I did a complete 180-degree turn on my opinion of Yvonne Hartman – from thinking she was smarmy and unlikeable villain to finding her to be a compelling protagonist who deserves further investigation. Luckily, the guys at Big Finish agree and she has reappeared in her own Torchwood One spin-off series set before the destruction of the facility in “Army of Ghosts” and “Doomsday”. Smart and funny with a dark sense of humour running through it like a rift in Cardiff, “One Rule” is an absolute delight to listen to, and propels Yvonne Hartman into a leading lady role. I have a brand-new appreciation for the character after listening to this adventure and am already eagerly awaiting hearing her next adventures in the “Before the Fall” boxset.
Score – ★★★★
Torchwood: One Rule is available from Big Finish on physical CD or digital download. It can also be found on Amazon UK in the physical CD format.