The second season of Torchwood recently started on television and the BBC is stepping up a gear with the release of several spin-off audio books on CD. Unlike previous CD releases, these stories are exclusive to this medium and have not been previously published elsewhere. The stories are both about two and a half hours long, and each come in a two-CD case.
Hidden was written by Steven Saville (author of the Von Carnstein trilogy and of a re-imagined Sláine as well as writer of a few Doctor Who short stories) and read by Torchwood’s Toshiko, actress Naoko Mori.
The seemingly unconnected deaths of a number of people eventually link in to Torchwood, as all of them seem to have known Captain Jack. Can it be that he really is the killer? And if so, what would have motivated him? What are the connections between a recent archaeological find and a fertility clinic? And who will not automatically figure out the not-so-mysterious mystery the moment genetic engineering is mentioned, together with details about a medieval alchemist who purportedly discovered the secret to eternal life?
Okay, so we are not exactly talking about raising biblical figures (in actual fact, this concept even gets spoofed in one of Owen’s sarcastic remarks towards the end of the story). But the concept of this plot is too similar in vein with a whole string of recent novels and blockbusters that most of the story’s developments carry very little surprise to the listener.
Naoko Mori manages to do a very good impersonation of Jack’s faux American accent. Strangely enough she doesn’t succeed all that well when it comes to recreating her own character, Toshiko. For most of the story Toshiko is away from the action and quietly taps away on her keyboards. I guess this is one way of ensuring that the listener won’t get too confused between listening to Mori as the narrator of the story as well as one of the main characters.
This issue isn’t quite that prominent in the second audio book on review, Everyone Says Hello by 2000AD writer and Doctor Who short story scribe Dan Abnett, and narrated by Burn Gorman aka Owen. Gorman’s narrative voice is quite distinct from the voice of his Torchwood persona and as such his character appears to be better represented in this audio story. On the other hand he clearly can’t be arsked to even attempt to recreate Jack’s accent or that of any of the others in the group.
All through Cardiff people suddenly become friendly with each other, stop and say hello to everyone they meet and share often intimate details about themselves with complete strangers. What else but an alien life force seems to be behind this fiendish scheme to turn the Welsh into a nation of friendly self confessors on the way to the next reality TV talk show?
Hidden had attempted to recreate some of Torchwood’s famous adult approach to science fiction by adding dashes of splattering gore into its narrative. Trouble is that visceral gore is better served up visually and doesn’t come across all that well in the audio format.
Everyone Says Hello on the other hand has come up with an ingenious solution to audio horror. Without having listened to the show it is hard to imagine how creepy it is to repeatedly hear a monotonous “Hello” followed by a personal introduction. It took me a while after listening to the show to get rid of this weird feeling any time I heard someone say “Hello” to me in real life. Hearing people congregate around characters in this story with what is otherwise a friendly greeting was just as effective as watching, say, a bunch of gore drenched zombies on screen and Abnett has clearly come up with a clever idea to adapt these kinds of stories to the audio format… at least for the first CD.
For the second part of the story he unfortunately reverts back to some more generic chase sequences that soon become quite monotonous and don’t translate all that well to the audio format.
Overall, both are decent enough productions for the Torchwood fan, though I can’t help but suspect that the results of further BBC audios would improve if either the entire cast was involved in the narration or if indeed the relevant stories would concentrate exclusively on and predominantly feature the narrating actor’s proper Torchwood character. as opposed to having one person double for all of the five characters including their own.
HiddenEveryone Says Hello