Torchwood: Corpse Day review

Well, James Goss has been at it again with another fantastic, if dark [even by Torchwood standards] story in Corpse Day. Notable anyhow for being the first return for Burn Gorman as Dr Owen Harper, with Tom Price also appearing as PC Andy Davidson. It’s got a big cast, a powerful story and packs a real punch in only a single episode.

You want more? Well, make ready for Corpse Day…

Corpse Day – the story

The synopsis gives details, but not the story:

Glynn Lewis is just putting up a spice rack when there’s a knock at the door. A knock that will bring a brutal end to his perfect family.

PC Andy is very excited. It’s Corpse Day – the day when the local constabulary get help on dead cases from Torchwood. This year, he’s volunteered to act as liaison, and he knows he’s going to have a brilliant time.

For Dr Owen Harper, today’s just like any other. There’ll be bloodshed, screaming and murder. At the end of it all, he doesn’t care. After all, life’s just for the living, and he’s long dead.

The end tells the beginning. Owen is already dead, so this is late in his tenure, and today he has to put up with PC Andy, as part of the ritual of Corpse Day. Cue lots of exploration of how being dead has really impacted Owen’s life style. It’s all very droll, yet amusing as the two of them firm up just what case they will work on. At first glance it’s something standard with a twist, but soon descends into one of the darkest stories ever created for Torchwood on audio or TV.

Elements of the story are very contemporary, and the whole Torchwood / aliens and science fiction could be stripped out and there would still be a strong story about families, taboos and shocking circumstance where boundaries are crossed and there are no simple right answers. Add some alien complexity and the poignancy is raised to the nth degree and the moral dilemma is potent and its resolution surprising. The supporting cast of Nigel Betts (Glynn), Hannah Maddox (Angela), Alex Tregear (Jan), Oliver Mason (Sonny) and Rhain Blundell (Marta) help build the atmosphere and all convince in this brilliantly directed (take a bow Scott Handcock) story that lingers long after the final bars of the end music.

Burn Gorman’s thoughts in the interview are also worth a listen, and if they don’t tell us if and when Owen will return, they do help make us keen for more.

Ever since Big Finish started their Torchwood range the stories have gone from strength to strength in a wide variety of directions. Producer and writer James Goss should be very proud. Very proud indeed.

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