Torchwood: Consequences is a collection of five short stories by authors known to the Doctor Who/Torchwood range. It’s the first time we’ve seen a short story anthology in the Torchwood series of novels, and it’s a welcome addition that will, I hope, become an annual tradition.
As we’re dealing with five individuals, though vaguely linked, stories, it seems only fair that I write five short reviews. So, here goes:
The Baby Farmers by David Llewellyn
Set during the Victorian era of Torchwood, we are re-acquainted with Alice Guppy and Emily Holroyd, introduced in the Torchwood episode Fragments, as they investigate an orphanage and the bizarrely named Mrs Blight. Needless to say, there are aliens, murder, fighting and intrigue in a tightly plotted story that ends with Captain Jack, at odds with Torchwood Cardiff, doing bad things to make things right.
There’s an element of body horror in this story, as we’re given the idea of alien cross breeding. Llewelyn handles it well and it would be interesting to see this story inspire an on-screen adventure. Could the TV series carry off an episode entirely set during this era? I think it probably could.
It’s an interesting start and benefits from not focusing on Captain Jack, allowing us to see a different side to Torchwood, particularly during the Victorian era. Llewellyn crafts an intriguing story that is well paced and quite interesting.
Kaleidoscope by Sarah Pinborough
Far and away the best story of the anthology, Kaleidoscope starts in a dark place and ends in an even darker place. My favourite lines are, “He curled into a ball and wished himself away as he waited for the second (punch) to land. There was never just one. As it was, Danny’s dad took a while to calm down.” Seriously, this left me cold, but in the right way.
In Kaleidoscope, we see the consequences of Torchwood re-acquiring a piece of alien technology that has given an abused teenager, Danny, an almost perfect life. Whilst Torchwood struggle to get back the hardware, they seem oblivious to the impact that their quest could have on the users. Set after Captain’s Jack’s disappearance at the end of series one, we get a glimpse of Jack-less Torchwood doing their best to keep the Rift in check and struggling as they have to choose a new leader… and the choice is unexpected.
Kaleidoscope is the best story in the collection. If there was one complaint about it, it has to be that it’s too short!
The Wrong Hands by Andrew Cartmel
Ah, Andrew Cartmel is a name instantly recognisable to Doctor Who fans. He’s the man responsible for the Masterplan, who wanted to bring mystery and intrigue to the world of the Seventh Doctor. He’s also responsible for the short story The Wrong Hands, and there are definitely signs of a bigger story here than could be told in the handful of pages that Cartmel has here.
In The Wrong Hands, we get a bleak story of a deadly alien weapon, a baby seeking someone to love, a teenage gang filled with rage and an unwilling mother trapped by the baby she doesn’t want or need.
It’s a gritty story, set on a Welsh council estate, in which we see the Torchwood team of Jack and Gwen take on the teenage gang as they attempt to acquire a deadly heat based weapon that has been used to take out some petty drug dealers, only to discover an abandoned alien baby that drains the will of its surrogate parents.
As I said earlier, though longer than Kaleidoscope, this is definitely a story that feels like it could have benefited from a higher page count. It would definitely be interesting to see if Cartmel can do a full Torchwood novel.
Virus by James Moran
Following directly on from the previous story, Virus sees an angry father return and unleash a devastating virus on Gwen and Captain Jack, leaving Ianto to go all Bruce Willis in search of a cure. It lets us see a darker side to Ianto, though not necessarily a believable side. It’s not the fault of Moran that he’s made Ianto more interesting than he was in the TV series, though some episodes have hinted at a darker Ianto.
The story may not do anything to restore Ianto’s reputation as a member of Torchwood, but gives us a gangster selling alien technology, which was a rather interesting idea.
Consequences by Joseph Lidster
Told by Nina Rodgers, Consequences is a story-within-a-story and tells the tale of a woman who has encountered Torchwood on many occasions before and is finding her memories resurfacing thanks to an alien book that was secreted in a library during The Baby Farmers.
As Nina’s story unfolds, we get nods to previous Doctor Who, Torchwood and Sarah Jane stories, showing that the consequences of these adventures are felt in the world at large (well, in Cardiff) which is quite interesting. The finale takes place in Skypoint, which is fast becoming the Torchwood novel go-to place and is now definitely a shell of its former self.
Consequences is a fine way to end the anthology and is definitely worth reading. The twist at the end isn’t a big surprise, though it works far better in print than it would on the screen and reminds me of Big Finish adventure The Wormery.
All in all, the collection is a bit of a mixed bag, but definitely a good one. Each story is worth reading, though the change of pacing can sometimes leave you thinking that a story is dragging. It doesn’t get much better than Kaleidoscope, and it has to be said that there isn’t a bad story amongst this lot.
Torchwood: Consequences is out now.