Torchwood might be predominantly based in Cardiff, but we all know that our Torchwood is only one of many. This month with Big Finish, we’re going to 1970s Los Angeles. The question is, will The Dollhouse be a groovy tale, or is it best to be stuck in the past?
1970s Los Angeles – the city of angels and broken dreams. Three remarkable women keep the West Coast safe from alien attacks– they are Torchwood Los Angeles.
So many young girls come to this city hoping for something better. For some, luck is just around the corner. For others that golden ticket never arrives and they just fade away.
But it’s not that simple. Everyone has a value to someone, and Torchwood are about to discover Hollywood’s darkest secret.
Big Finish and American accents have somewhat of a rocky history, with one of the most common criticisms being that the American accents that the actors use doesn’t sound authentic. I personally think that it’s an incredibly bold choice for Big Finish to release a story with purely American characters, and within the first few moments, I’m not sure if Valerie Fox’s voice (played by Eve Webster) has sold me. Although this is only the first American accent I’ve heard in The Dollhouse so far. It’s too soon to properly judge.
If you’re not a massive fan of Valerie Fox, don’t worry though, because it appears that she doesn’t stick around for too long.
After the first scene, (there’s no title music at all in this release) there’s some absolutely amazing music, provided by Blair Mowat (who also did the music for the Series 10 ‘Time For Heroes’ trailer), making you feel right at home in the 70s. The way that we’re introduced to this entirely new set of characters feels timely too, with a great soundtrack and a scene that made me imagine a mix between Charlie’s Angels and Ghostbusters, being narrated by a character known as Mr Beamish, a very eccentric British gentleman played by Guy Adams. (I’ve never heard of Guy Adams either, don’t worry.) We learn about Marlow Sweet, somewhat of a genius, Charley Du Bujeau, somewhat of a criminal, and Gabi Martinez, somewhat of a badass. This is what a trifecta of Torchwood should consist of; just look at Ianto, Jack and Gwen.
It’s rather clear from early on that The Dollhouse is going to be more of a detective style story than we’re necessarily used to in the Big Finish Torchwood range, and I personally don’t have a problem with that; it’s nice to spice things up from time to time.
There’s a great scene between two young people in a car, who are almost… canoodling, which doesn’t seem to be imperative to the main story but is a great addition nonetheless. There’s some great themes in that minute long scene about consent and respecting people’s choices that I’m glad Juno brings to the fore, even if it is just for a moment.
Charley gets sent to the titular Dollhouse, as it sounds like it’s a trap; and guess what? It’s a trap. Luckily, Marlow and Gabi aren’t too far behind, and they discover a UFO. Even though it might not feature any of the TV Torchwood cast, this most certainly is a Torchwood story.
I must admit that the revelation between exactly what the Dollhouse is is rather sinister and dark, even for Torchwood. There’s a very vague feeling that the motivation behind the evil in the Dollhouse is motivated by the 456 in Children of Earth. The themes of prostitution and human trafficking are themes that Doctor Who could never cover, so I’m glad that Torchwood allows it.
The conclusion to The Dollhouse plays out somewhat like an American Cop show, with a nice kick in the feels, the only problem with it is that I don’t feel like we knew enough about the characters for the emotional impact to be as hard hitting as it could have been.
Overall, The Dollhouse is a script with great potential, and even though the American accents might grate against some people, I personally didn’t mind them; Juno Dawson has produced a script that is so pro-feminism and has a cast of strong female characters, and as it’s her first script for Big Finish, I think that she shows promise for the future. Blair Mowat’s music was stellar, like I said earlier, I just wish that we got to hear more of it, as it really takes you back to the 1970s.
The Dollhouse isn’t the most perfect story, nor does it need to be; it’s something new, from a new writer and it has to be commended, the cast were all great and The Dollhouse has dealt with a lot of themes and issues that I don’t think any other Big Finish production has, so I have to give all involved kudos for talking about such themes.
My main hope, however, is that The Dollhouse will pave the way for being able to join other Torchwood branches throughout time and space to see what they’re up to from time to time. In the words of Nick Briggs, “just imagine”…
Should you want to purchase The Dollhouse, it’s currently available from Big Finish for £9.99 on CD or a £7.99 download which you can purchase here.