Doctor WhoMusic/Audio

Torchwood Soho: Ashenden by James Goss (CD/download review).

What a time to be alive. It’s the swinging 1950s and London is full to bursting. Someone has a great idea to build some new towns but before the joy of the roundabouts of Milton Keynes there was Ashenden. There’s a reason you haven’t heard of Ashenden.

This is presented as a six 25 minute episodes with a genuine cliff-hanger at the end of every episode. It’s revealed in the extras that the writer, James Goss, took the Quatermass format as his inspiration and it works well here.


Sergeant Andy Davison (Tom Price) is back in the 50s again and he knows it’s all down to Norton Fulgate ( Samuel Barnett). Lizbeth Hayhoe (Dervla Kirwan) also arrives and she should be dead. She’s feeling pretty chipper for a corpse. They are in Pimlico, still being cleared due to Word War Two bomb damage, and catch a glimpse of Norton shortly before his car blows up. They are herded toward Gideon Lyme (Joe Shire). He seems really pleased to see them but who are the grey-suited, crumbling men who claim to be the last of Torchwood? Just what is Norton up to now?

O Little Town Of Ashenden 

Andy and Lizbeth decide to go to Ashenden, after all everybody is talking about it. Gideon is a part of the welcoming committee and thousands are visiting just in time for a lovely picnic with pork pies and everything.

The National Health 

Andy’s in hospital and he doesn’t know how he got there and what’s wrong with him. He does know there is something very wrong with the hospital. The needles keep getting bigger and his chances of survival are getting smaller.

Rivers Of Blood 

We dip back into the recent past. Lizbeth takes charge of the tracking station at an obscure place called Ashenden. She hopes to make a difference and she certainly does.

Now Is The Time For All Good Men 

Lizbeth thinks she should go straight to the top but the yes men are spreading and she’s out of options. London is a hostile place for everyone and Andy is all alone.

The Hour Of The Hollow Man 

Back in Ashenden, our group of investigators are running out of options. Despair is high on the agenda but surely there might be a happy ending?

I cannot stress enough that this is simply brilliant. The previous series, ‘Parasite’ was also brilliant but this takes it to another level. It’s a fairly small cast with the bulk of responsibility going to the four leads. They slot in together like a beautifully cut jigsaw. James Goss has uses their character traits and weaves a complex storyline that makes sure you are paying attention. The 1950s setting with 21st century sensibilities works really well. We can only listen, helpless as Lizbeth Hayhoe, frustrated by her bosses, seeks to take control but falls for the tricks of the aliens. Her desire to prove the authorities wrong drives the plot. Norton takes over after her death but he’s stressed and makes another fatal decision. They both fail to see the bigger picture and it’s not just the aliens who take advantage but a government who seek a solution to its economic problems and turns its face away from the truth.

Ashenden has, at its heart, some very dark ideas. The idea that the new town will take the unwanted and fill in the gaps in the welfare state sounds very worthy but all this has happened before and vested interests are there to exploit human vessels. In the real world, the vested interests are often private enterprises that choose to exploit people who cannot fight back. The overwhelming message in this tale is to be vigilant. Don’t accept things at face value. Don’t accept a house in Ashenden.

Sue Davies

March 2023

(pub: Big Finish. 3 CDs 207 minutes 6 stories. Price: £24.99 (UK). ISBN: ISBN: 978-1-83868-775-5. Download: £19.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-83868-776-2)

cast: Samuel Barnett, Dervla Kirwan, Tom Price, Joe Shire, Rachel Atkins, Russell Bentley, Daniel Brocklebank, Jacob Dudman, Raj Ghatak, Diveen Henry, Shvorne Marks and Laura Riseborough

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