Big Finish Review: Torchwood - The Vigil
The Vigil, featuring Naoko Mori’s first performance as Toshiko Sato in over a year, explores topical notions of entitlement and grief in a short but punchy audio episode of Torchwood by Lou Morgan.
Produced by James Goss and directed by Lisa Bowerman, Torchwood – The Vigil is available from the Big Finish website. Read the synopsis below:
Sebastian Vaughan is the brightest, newest recruit to Torchwood. He’s come from a very good family, an excellent school, and with a degree from the finest College. He’s the kind of person bred for Torchwood.
Sebastian Vaughan is exactly the person Torchwood needs. He’s charming, he’s smart, and he’s good in a fight. He’s taken Torchwood’s other new recruit under his wing. With his help, Toshiko Sato will make something of herself and fit in at Torchwood.
Sebastian Vaughan is dead. Toshiko Sato’s been given permission to bring his body home to give him the send-off he deserves. How will Torchwood cope without him?
The Vigil is a shorter story than the usual hour-long episodes in the Torchwood range, coming in at less than 50 minutes. Naoko Mori, as Toshiko Sato, kicks into gear only in the back half of the story, but once she does, it brings to the fore Toshiko’s feelings of inadequacy and being undervalued as a member of the Cardiff team. This theme of self-inadequacy, playing into her onscreen characterisation, is contrasted with her spry intelligence that makes her perhaps the most perceptive of the Cardiff crew.
Hugh Skinner guest stars as the self-centred Sebastian Vaughan, who is driven by a considerable ego and has been fed on the male entitlement of an entire lifetime. Skinner embodies the roguish and credit-stealing Torchwood Agent well. It’s uncertain whether his cringeworthy disdain and belittling of his meeker colleague Toshiko (whom he calls ‘Sato’) says more about him or the environment of his upbringing.
The intercutting of scenes from prior to and after Sebastian’s death serves to liven up the drama. Separately, this would either be a slow-burn duologue between Toshiko and Sebastian’s mother with vague haunted-house-in-the-country undertones, or a more conventional run-around action script with aliens and technology. Instead, combined the two elements create an interesting space where listeners are led to wonder how the two connect, how Sebastian dies, and why Toshiko is the one to accompany his body home after how badly he treated her on the job.
Lucy Robinson’s grieving mother performance keys into some common tropes of a mother’s love and devotion for her son, but quickly devolves into a twisted dedication to her family and her country. Ultimately, unless you’re a huge Tosh fan, The Vigil is not strictly essential Torchwood listening, but is still a respectable way to spend 50 minutes.
After a trailer for next month’s Smashed – which promises a very inebriated Gwen Cooper – director, producer and writer of The Vigil give a lively round-off to the story. They revel in recounting the “toe-curling horror” of guest star Hugh Skinner and experiences with similarly entitled men in their own lives.