Torchwood Soho: The Unbegotten by James Goss (CD review)

The Torchwood team of misfits return and Norton Folgate (Samuel Barnett) is on a mission. He will leave no turn unstoned to get his man. Lizbeth Hayhoe (Dirvla Kirwan) whose world-weary tones are belied by an actual thirst for life is along for the ride, too. Sergeant Andy Davidson (Tom Price) ‘don’t laugh at me because I’m a fool’, the Norman Wisdom of the group has a nice new uniform.

Folgate has taken them to Mandeville Walk. They have temporary headquarters in a brothel. It’s quite noisy as the customers seem very enthusiastic. There’s a girl upstairs who claims they have taken her room but she’s got someone or something unpleasant sharing her attic. Mandeville Walk is reportedly haunted but there are other problems, too. Norton finds his ex, Gideon Lyme (Joe Shire) feeding the homeless with swede soup and he’s desperate to get him back. ‘The dog misses you.

‘The Unbegotten’ is a mystery story with an intriguing plot. It builds slowly using the six episode format to beguile the listener and create cliff-hangers inspired by 1950s serials. It relies heavily on character and included some misdirection, with hints and suggestions as to what the final outcome will be. Skilful voice portraits of various inhabitants of Mandeville Walk help create the right atmosphere for this ghost story. Interaction is the key, Andy as the ‘beat’ policeman meets a couple who live in a partially bombed-out house who are waiting for their son to come home from the war. They live an incomplete existence as if their lives have come to a full stop because he never returned. Lizbeth meets the landlady of the pub who is desperate to work out what Lizbeth’s favourite drink might be, a tentative courtship between the two women in a different age. The vicar of the local church lives with regret and his much younger wife who appears to hate him. In the church crypt, where Gideon is making soup there, are strange markings on the walls and rumours of the disappeared. Through it all is Norton’s desire to make things right with Gideon even though he is the worst self-saboteur of their relationship.

Norton, slippery as he is, doesn’t get away without some serious interaction as he drawn the attention of an agency of Government that has very particular ways of extracting information. Despite flirting with ‘our man’ with the corkscrew, Armitage (Greg Austin), Norton cannot charm himself out of his painful game.

It’s not over ‘till it’s over but sadly, at the conclusion of this story, that it is. In the extras, the cast discuss the fact this is the final outing for the dream team (say it ain’t so). The three extended adventures set in the 1950s have been most excellent fun. The setting and the sound design have been evocative and this story does finish the set off nicely. Thanks to inspired writing and casting, this has been a fabulous jaunt into the past with naughty Norton, who you can’t help but love. The team of four, including Gideon, are a mish-mash of hope and desire. For me, it’s been not only a skilful rendering of a story but helped open my eyes to the period in which it’s set. Many thanks to Big Finish for producing these stories as they have in rich in period detail. James Goss’ witty scripts, direction by Scott Handcock and high production values, make these audios always worth listening to again. It’s so much less stressful when you know the outcome.

Sue Davies

May 2023

(pub: Big Finish, 2022. 3 CDs 205 minutes. Price: £24.99 (UK), $31.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-83868-856-1)

cast: Samuel Barnett, Dervla Kirwan, Tom Price, Joe Shire, Greg Austin, Richard Clifford, Saffron Coomber, Amy Beth Hayes, Norah Lopez Holden, Ruth Lass, Shai Matheson, George Naylor, Homer Todiwala and Milo Twomey

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