We only got a glimpse of Torchwood One in Army of Ghosts and Doomsday; a brilliant and morally questionable institution led by Yvonne Hartman in Canary Wharf. Now, almost 11 years after our visit, Big Finish is allowing us to go back and see what Torchwood One was like before the Daleks and Cyberman waged war on one another, in Torchwood One: Before The Fall. Today, I’ll be reviewing the second episode, Through The Ruins.
“Ianto, please. It’s all… it’s all gone wrong. I don’t know what to think any more.”
Away Days at Torchwood aren’t what you’d expect. Yes, there’s the forced camaraderie, the team-building exercises, and the chance for long-held rivalries to boil over. But Torchwood Away Days also have the potential to get very lethal very quickly.
Yvonne Hartman’s extremely worried by this year’s Away Day. But she’s got other things on her mind – something’s very wrong with Torchwood.
It’s not every day that you expect Yvonne to not be at her best; but after the events of New Girl, it’s more than understandable that she’d be in a bit of a pickle. It’s not Yvonne’s total honesty and desperation in the pre-title scene that surprised me though, it was more Ianto’s reaction. We’re used to seeing the somewhat hardened Ianto from the adventures of Torchwood Cardiff, but here we see a man who is unsure and more human. I like this Ianto.
The idea that Torchwood does away days is brilliant; especially in the Torchwood that we see in Army of Ghosts and Doomsday. A twenty-first century idea of team building for a twenty-first century Torchwood. Even if Yvonne didn’t know it was happening.
It seems as if this story is split into two separate plots; one which focusses on Yvonne trying to prove her innocence and restore order to Torchwood, and the plot of the away day. The main bulk of this story seems to be on Yvonne; some would consider that this is a character piece, and between Jenny Colgan’s plot and Tracy-Ann Oberman’s performance, I’m not complaining in the slightest.
We learn a lot about the Planet Triple-X, a species not too far from Earth that seems to be grumbling and potentially heading towards Earth. Yvonne seems to believe that Triple-X potentially is linked to whoever is framing her for the events of New Girl. I know it might be weird to say, but seeing Yvonne so alone and so vulnerable makes this one of her most powerful performances.
The away day seems to be getting more and more sinister, with the tasks becoming more and more deadly, even for Torchwood. Even the Torchwood employees seem to think that the events are odd. What’s even more strange is what happens when Rachel turns up.
Back with Yvonne, it seems that things are never straightforward, and it’s not long before she’s embroiled in yet another strange plot involving Planet Triple-X; it seems that Through The Ruins is creating more questions than it is answering.
Rachel’s leadership of Torchwood comes to the fore in the last act of the story, with her wanting to retcon everyone on the away day so they don’t remember certain events she orchestrated. (God, it’s hard to talk about the story without ruining key plot points.) I said it in my New Girl review, but Rachel’s character is exquisitely interesting. I’m glad we get to learn more about her.
The conclusion of Through The Ruins seems to be somewhat of a metamorphosis of Yvonne Hartman; we’re with her the moment she changes, not because she wants to, but because she has to. For the good of the world. For Queen and country. Sometimes, you have to do bad things for the greater good.
Overall, Through The Ruins is primarily focussed on Yvonne’s struggles and her quick intellect and brilliant mind. I know that I can trust Jenny Colgan to write a story that reminds you that, at the end of the day, the majority of these characters are human, and they’re flawed, and they have to do things they don’t want to do. The away day was a nice sub-plot that furthered the stories of both Rachel and Ianto, and I personally can’t wait to see what happens in Uprising.
Should you want to purchase Torchwood One: Before The Fall, it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £15 for a limited time on digital download, or £20 for the CD box set.