Torchwood: One Rule Review
Gustaff Behr gives his spoiler-free verdict on the fourth Torchwood audio adventure.
Yvonne Hartman isn’t on my Doctor Who favorites list. In truth, she’s actually on the “other” list. For that reason alone, this title was the one I was looking forward to the least. Even less than UNIT: Extinction. But we all know what happened when I listened to that box set! So could Big Finish do the unthinkable twice and redeem Yvonne Hartman in my eyes?
Torchwood: One Rule is a substantial improvement over last month’s forgettable Forgotten Lives, but that isn’t to say it’s perfect. It’s not. If I had to sum up the plot in one sentence, it would be: Yvonne Hartman has a bad night in Cardiff.
It somehow sounds too mundane to be a Torchwood story and truth be told, this instalment I felt tries too hard to dazzle listeners with continuity references, forcing them in left, right and centre even within the first scene. Ianto still working for Torchwood One, the Torchwood Three staff are seen, but don’t speak. Shop-window dummies in the street. It feels like this story is trying to convince you its set in the same universe as everything else with these constant references, even though we already know it is and all it’s really doing is telling us obvious things we already know.
Not only that, but the first twenty minutes of this story is unbearably boring and slow. It wastes time on a subplot involving Yvonne sneaking into Torchwood Three, allowing for Captain Jack Harkness and his team to appear, but not really “appear” before getting to the actual plot, which is much more entertaining, not only from a storytelling perceptive, but also for Yvonne Hartman as a character.
If there is one thing fans are going to love about Torchwood: One Rule, it’s the head of Torchwood One. Tracy-Ann Oberman steps back into the role with such pomp and circumstance that I found myself enjoying this “bad night in Cardiff” plot a lot more than I expected to because One Rule takes a character who is used to being in control and completely robs her of it. It is a fantastic character study into Yvonne Hartman which manages to highlight all the personality traits that made fans fall in love with her during the Series 2 finale. I confess that the more I listened to the story, the more I liked Hartman. Even if you couldn’t stand her on television, you’ll probably find yourself enjoying this piece nonetheless. If you enjoyed her on television, you’re going to love her in this.
One of the highlights of this story is seeing just how different Yvonne’s style of problem solving is to Jack Harkness’. It’s no surprise that she doesn’t consider him “true” Torchwood, but seeing her method of dealing with the story’s antagonist marks a distinct change in modus operandi, but still manages to match Yvonne’s portrayal in Series 2. It allows for a lot of cool, funny and sometimes dark scenes that is just the sort of thing Torchwood fans loved watching on TV.
Speaking of dark thing scenes, the monster threat isn’t noteworthy. It’s more of a plot device in storytelling terms, but One Rule manages to mix it with mundane politics and weave an entertaining enough storyline, though the link to The Committee, the force behind the Three Families in Miracle Day and most of the events in this audio series, feels quite disjointed here, very similar to their connection in Forgotten Lives. In truth, One Rule would’ve scored higher if it didn’t try so hard to force Yvonne Hartman’s night in Cardiff to The Committee.
But can I recommend this story? Yes, I believe that smashing my expectations (well, maybe bending them to inhuman lengths) permits it to be suggested. It is not as great as The Conspiracy or Fall to Earth, but it is miles ahead of Forgotten Lives and one of those stories you can listen to all day and never grow bored.