Big Finish Review: Torchwood – The Hope
After July’s fun and energetic Serenity, August sees the Torchwood audio series steer directly into the grim overtones for which the Big Finish has made it well-known in recent years. Owen Harper (Burn Gorman) and Andy Davidson (Tom Price) reunite in The Hope, a fitting follow-up to the previous downbeat release featuring the pair, 2017’s Corpse Day.
Written and produced by James Goss, Torchwood – The Hope is available from the Big Finish website on general release until October 31st 2019. Read the synopsis below:
Megwyn Jones is one of the most hated women in Britain. She used to run a home for troubled children in an isolated part of Snowdonia called The Hope. For a long time there were rumours about what was happening there, and then one day it was realised that the children had gone missing.
Ever since, Megwyn’s kept her peace. Is she innocent? Is she guilty? Where are the bodies?
The years have been long and hard on Megwyn and on the families of the children. But now Megwyn’s dying, and she’s agreed to go back to The Hope, to reveal the horrible secret she’s kept all these years.
Owen and Andy team up for a second time in the Big Finish Torchwood monthly series to go undercover as a doctor and guard at a prison where the notorious Megwyn Jones is retained. The story quickly veers into an exploration of the accused’s guilt and the lengths to which observers will go to obtain retribution.
Renowned actress Siân Phillips plays Megwyn as a kindly and frail old woman just as convincingly as she does Megwyn the repulsive and apathetic character, one who is hated across the country for her barbaric actions. Phillips conveys the soft, subtle menace intimately, drawing the listener in past the old-woman-dying-of-cancer exterior to a more brutal core.
Megwyn’s characterisation is reminiscent of the psychopathic, unhinged individuals who became infamous after widespread kidnappings or murders, whose low-reactive psychological states make them prone to apathy. The Hope leans into these pessimistic themes and conveys an overall downbeat attitude, with minimal light moments.
Sergeant Andy himself takes a strong moral view and a definite stance on Megwyn’s guilt, whereas Owen begins to take a more flexible perspective on her innocence. These differing character perspectives reveal the moral ramifications and ambiguities of guilt of Megwyn’s actions. The way the story delves into this is also reflective of Owen’s grey moral standards, his less stringent hold on the boundaries of “bad” and “good” that work to make him a multi-faceted character. The Hope accurately portrays the darkness and that characterised much of Owen’s involvement on screen, and his rapport with Andy, although not the focus here, develops further.
TV news spots and interviews with police flesh out the broader story, but the drama is most effective when it stays close to Megwyn, Owen and Andy. Indeed, the story could have worked well as a three-character chamber piece. And yet, exploring the impact of Megwyn’s actions on the families of those she murdered is a smart choice, as is the episode’s refusal to rely on references to alien influences or technology for most of the runtime.
The end-of-disc interviews portray an all-round enthusiasm from the cast for working within a science fiction world at Big Finish. Siân Phillips’ forays into the Star Wars and Dune universes are engaging listening. Tom Price also expounds a mock horror at the inner workings of writer James Goss’ mind.
The Hope, contrary to its uplifting title, is a bit of a downer (intentionally) when it comes to plot and character interactions – but in a strong, dramatic fashion that makes for an uncomfortable hour of Torchwood.