Torchwood is back for its third regular series of adventures; every month from now until August we can expect an hour of Torchwood-y goodness. The first release of this series, Visiting Hours sees Rhys and his mum be the centre of an adventure. The question is, will Visiting Hours be a story to revisit, or is it best just left to die?
Everyone’s a little worried about St Helen’s Hospital. In many ways it is a miracle of the modern NHS. It has plenty to offer its patients. The problem is that a lot of them keep dying of natural causes in the night. And no-one can find the bodies.
People are beginning to notice. Questions are being asked. And there are rumours – the strange whispering figures seen at the end of the corridors, the electrical buzzing, the screams.
Also, Rhys Williams has come to visit his mother. Brenda’s had her hip done and is looking forward to a bit of rest and regular crumble. Rhys and his mam are in for a night they’ll never forget.
There’s nothing like starting a new series of Torchwood amidst one hell of an action sequence; especially when it asks way more questions than it answers. With it being Torchwood though, there’s always an undercurrent of humour, and the mother-son dynamic between Rhys and Brenda is brilliant right from the off. They’re on the run in a hospital, but we’re not quite sure from who, or why. It seems like Rhys and Brenda are in a bit of a pickle. The pre-title sequence is only a minute long, but I genuinely think it may be the most captivating pre-titles sequence in any Torchwood story, maybe even any Big Finish release. For anyone who may have been hesitant about a release that focusses on Rhys (I love an unintentional rhyme), I implore you to listen to the first minute; it will have you hooked.
It seems that the pre-title sequence is a flash-forward of the main events of the story (or most of the main story is a flashback, it’s a matter of perspective really) and we start with Rhys coming to visit his mam who’s just had her hip done. It’s a real testament to how the character of Rhys has grown, both in terms of the writing and with Kai Owen’s performance, that right from the off, he can sense that something’s not quite right at the hospital. Being involved in Torchwood obviously changes a person, for better or for worse.
Once we’re reacquainted with Brenda, it adds another level to the Torchwood family; it’s not often we get too see or hear how Torchwood affects the families of those involved, we got a bit of Ianto’s family in Children of Earth and we get some with Gwen, but having Rhys’ mam really anchors the story in some kind of normality.
Rhys’ realisation that something is awry in the hospital comes to head whilst he’s staying with Brenda, and it’s not long before he goes for a snoop; finding out that the hospital is doing something, and they’re planning to use his mam in whatever scheme this is. They have to get out of there.
For me, having Rhys be the main character of this story adds a different take on Torchwood; this story is highly personal, although I’m sure that there’s probably larger repercussions that’ll be clear later in the story, but it also is interesting to see someone who’s not a professional at the unexpected to try and rectify a situation the best he can. Whereas Jack or Gwen may well try and save everyone in the hospital with some elaborate plan, Rhys just thinks about Brenda, and doing everything he can to save her, even if his plan is somewhat haphazard.
There’s a scene later in the story where Rhys has to take a trip to the mortuary in order to find a body, I have to say that intentional or not, I found Rhys’ reaction to the corpses hilarious, especially once he starts apologising to the deceased. I don’t know if it’s just my morbid humour, but I’m glad that there was this slither of comedy amongst a rather bleak story.
After an unforeseen turn of events (although, it’s arguable that every event is unforeseen) it becomes a game of cat and mouse, with the mysterious doctors trying to hunt down Brenda and Rhys.
About two thirds of the way through the story we revisit the pre-title sequence, bringing the story full circle, but there’s still the resolution to come; we heard Rhys and Brenda in trouble, and I must say that the way they escape that particular struggle is rather satisfying.
If you thought that the Committee were an interesting, rarely seen but commonly heard force, I think you’ll be happy with the introduction of what could well be a new force that might well span this new series of stories.
The conclusion of Visiting Hours is truly heartfelt, it’s emotional and beautiful and makes you appreciate the things in your life. It’s one of those endings that makes you think, you really should give your mum a hug or a call more often; she’s probably more incredible than you can ever imagine.
Overall, Visiting Hours is a brilliant opener for the series, it’s incredibly spooky, incredibly personal and incredibly heartfelt. The fact it’s set in a hospital reminds me of the opening episode of Torchwood, Everything Changes. Kai Owen’s performance of Rhys and Nerys Hughes’ performance of Brenda are incredible. The chemistry is really evocative of a true mother and son dynamic and I hope that Rhys and Brenda are reunited again in the future.
Should you want to purchase Visiting Hours, it’s currently available from Big Finish for £9.99 on CD or a £7.99 download which you can purchase here.