Writer AK Benedict kicks off the second series of Big Finish Torchwood with the subtly brilliant The Victorian Age. Set in the 1890s, twenty years after the founding of Torchwood in Tooth and Claw, this story is packed full of surprises, and mad memorable moments. It may throw some listeners in terms of the direction it takes, but for me it opens the door to another rich vein of stories [apologies for the mixed metaphor].
First to the product page:
London, England, the 1890s. Queen Victoria, ruler of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India, has arrived for her annual inspection of the Torchwood Institute. This year, everyone is quite determined, nothing will go wrong.
Several minutes later a terrible creature is unleashed on the streets of London. No one knows where it comes from, what it is, or even why it’s on Earth. It’s ruthless, has no morals, and is quite unstoppable. Captain Jack Harkness is on the loose, and Queen Victoria is along for the ride of her life.
Simple then. Everything goes wrong and Queen Victoria is dragged into everyday Torchwood reality and it’s a story about protecting the Queen and fixing things at the end. That’s what Jack thinks, and it’s wrong. This is a story about the Queen diving into the hunt for an alien and embarking on a mad ride through 1890s London, telling a little of the story of the era and shooting at an alien with high-tech weapons.
On the way she learns some of Jack’s secrets, and we learn about a Queen nearing the end of her reign and still fiercely determined to do what is best for her Empire.
The secret to this story is hidden in plain sight in the title. If Jack is somewhat toned-down in this story, it’s because it is the story of Rowena Cooper’s Queen Victoria. AK Benedict has bled as much modern Torchwood as is (just) possible into the 1890s and this is a reverse steampunk story (ie modern tech in the 1890s, not extended Victorian tech into the future) paced like a comic book. There are a few cameos (including one from Louise Jameson) and while this gives this a large cast feel than the first series, it it still the story of Queen Victoria getting to understand Captain Jack and making sure Torchwood is still fit for purpose.
It is very different from both expectations and others in the series so far. That’s a good thing and producer James Goss is to be praised for the breadth this series has encompassed so far, and Scott Handcock admired for his direction. There’s even a wonderful new mix theme tune by Blair Mowat.
All in all highly enjoyable and I have just two wishes – announce a second Queen Victoria story, and have writer AK Benedict write more Big Finish!