Doctor WhoMusic/Audio

Torchwood Soho: Parasite by James Goss (CD audio story review).

‘Torchwood Soho’ is a series of Big Finish Audios where we meet the teams who worked in Torchwood in the 1950s when it was based in London. Norton Folgate (Samuel Barnett) after some unacceptable behaviour has been relegated to Room 13. He’s in disgrace which is his natural state.

The Man From Room 13 

Norton Folgate (Samuel Barnett) is unhappy. He’s been stashed in Room 13 working for scientist Lizbeth Heyhoe (Derva Kirwan) whose own career also seems to have hit the buffers. He’s trying to make his mark but he’s mostly answering the phone to talk about dead Nazis. People are dying in the smog but he’s not allowed to investigate. Lizbeth is biding her time to a safe retirement after quite the life so she’s not happy for him to rock the boat.

On his lunch break, Norton meets and mostly insults a cub reporter he finds attractive. Gideon Lyme (Joe Shire) may not be everything he seems but Norton is smitten. Gideon: ‘Oh my God you’ve just solved racism.’ Best line.

The smog is a killer but everyone just thinks it’s Battersea Power Station and no one’s heard of climate change here. Then there’s the package he’s been looking for; something to do with the Nazis as well. He connects with Belle, who has an interesting reputation as the oldest Teddy Girl in London. She can find that package and Lizbeth is just the woman to receive it.

It all sounds so straightforward but this is Torchwood and nothing is as it seems.

This first of six episodes starts the story almost in the middle. The snippy dialogue is perfect for Samuel Barnett and the plot thickens very quickly.

Meet Mr. Lyme 

Gideon Lyme (Joe Shire) finds he’s not as welcome as he thought he might be. The colour bar is well and truly closing all doors. His story is one we might recognise. Reaching out from his homeland in Tobago, he has been offered a job by a national newspaper in London. Everything goes wrong from the moment he arrives, the job offer evaporates when they see the colour of his skin and his landlady withdraws the offer of accommodation. Welcome to the 50s.

Then he has a bit of luck and suddenly the doors are opening wide. Someone wants him to investigate Torchwood.

Norton’s luck means he escapes with his life from a dire situation. He’s going to need all the help from his new friend Gideon and an old one, too. Its times like these that you need a Sgt. It’s time to get naked with Andy. Not again!

The Mould 

With Andy (Tom Price) and Norton together again, it’s another classic opener from James Goss. It had me in stitches and I can only imagine what it was like to record. Better stop imagining that…

Norton’s pad needs redecorating and there’s nasty patch of something on the wall. It’s empty due to the mysterious demise of the London gangster that lived in it. The ambiance is to die for. Just what is the smell? Norton, Andy and Gideon are in the room but can they actually get out of it? I’m not sure I’ll ever eat a mushroom again.

The Spread 

Gideon is quite upset that they might be about to die. Norton thinks it’s a good idea to take him and Andy for a drink but this pub should be shut and the regulars are all in fancy dress and where’s Norton gone?

It’s full on Torchwood now as the plot is like the peasouper at this point. Norton’s off to be a hero and Andy is enjoying the salt your own crisp scenario.

The Dead Hand 

In a meanwhile scenario, we learn about Lizbeth’s career and how she has ended up in a Torchwood bunker watching people die.

At the end of the Second World War, the scientist Lizbeth Heyhoe is on a mission in Berlin. What she discovers is more horrific than she could have imagined.

After the war, she is consistently inched out by another civil servant, Rigsby (David Troughton), as he pushes himself up the ladder and pulls it up behind him. But Liz is part of Torchwood and she’s dedicated to her science. She just can’t help wanting more.

Back in the bunker, she talks movingly to Rigsby as they contemplate their existence. These kind of intimate conversations are why audio drama works so well.

The Liberty Of Norton Folgate 

I love it when a plan comes together. Norton saves the day, of course, but we are no nearer knowing whether he’s angel or devil. His two friends are essential to the operation but are they also just cannon-fodder? There’s a sting in this tale.

A great sequence of stories starring the irrepressible Norton Folgate whom I’ve only just discovered is named for a street in London. It’s also a story of love and friendship with some very poignant moments along the way. The comedy elements are superb, too, with witty dialogue to lighten the mood. The character of Norton is a patchwork of neuroses combined with the scheming mind of a sociopath. The introduction of Gideon Lyme is a way of expanding Norton into someone who might form a loving relationship is a clever one. He’s an innocent abroad at the start. Then there’s Sergeant Andy, who never fails to get us involved. He’s the companion to Norton and the yang to his yin. Andy is the eager Boy Scout who just wants to do the right thing. The combination of Norton and Andy is irresistible and whatever Andy might think he’s not the one in control.

Sue Davies

February 2023

(pub: Big Finish, 2020. 3 CDs 192 minutes 5 stories. CD & download: price: £24.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78703-955-1. Download price: £19.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78703-956-8)

cast: Samuel Barnett, Dervla Kirwan, Tom Price, Joe Shire, David Troughton, Stephen Critchlow, Ellie Darvill, Christopher Harper, Alfie Shaw, Liz Sutherland-Lim and Franchi Webb

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