2019 has proven to be a strong year for the Torchwood range of audio adventures. We’ve seen the team facing off against some of the worst Doctor Who villains including Autons, Fendahl, Slitheen and giant Maggots and BOSS. Last month’s adventure reunited Jack and Lanto and for this release, we get the excellent pairing of Owen Harper and PC Andy, following on from their last outing together in Corpse Day in 2017.
Let’s get this out of the way right away, The Hope is disturbing. But it’s great because it’s supposed to be. You are supposed to be creeped out by the whole thing and shocked at what the characters do. But its also amusing and funny, with some great one-liners and an excellent sense of false-security. Author James Goss has done a tremendous job here.
The story concerns Megwyn Jones, dubbed Britain’s most evil woman, who supposedly killed a number of children she was caring for 30 years previously. Since then she has spent all her life in prison but with Owen diagnosing her with terminal cancer, she is ready to give up the location of the bodies. They are buried out on The Hope, a region of boggy marshland near Snowdonia but they aren’t the only things out there.
For fans of a certain age, this story might hit a little close to home in terms of real-life incidents of a similar nature. The news has often covered murders of this vein and as such, The Hope certainly feels like one of the bleakest Torchwood audios ever attempted.
Goss, however, makes sure to keep things unpredictable. Just when you are pretty certain you know what direction the story is going to go in, Goss pulls the rug from under you and gives us a twist. But that is half of the fun of this story, never fully knowing what is happening and certainly not knowing what is going to happen next.
Making the most of this script is the excellent cast. Burn Gorman is just fantastic as Owen here, bringing Owen’s usual sardonic nature to life brilliantly on the audio format. But he is also really funny, some of the lines he shares with Andy are great and really help to liven what is otherwise one of the darkest Big Finish adventures I’ve ever heard!
Tom Price as PC Andy is a brilliant addition to the story and the pairing of him and Owen is inspired. In fact, the pairing here really allows both characters to grow. Andy is ever the optimist so his happy outlook on life forces Owen to look at things differently and occasionally rub him up the wrong way, and Owen’s dour outlook on life also grounds Andy a little, especially in a story like this. It really feels like both characters go on a journey in this adventure and the pair of them come out all the better for it.
But undoubtedly this story belongs to Sian Phillips, as Megwyn Jones. She is just excellent in the role and you never know what side Megwyn is on. This is perhaps where Goss’s excellent use of wrong-footing the listener comes into play brilliantly. You really feel like Megwyn is trying to turn a new leaf before she passes away and her treatment by her fellow prisoners, also following real-life events, help to hammer home how desperate she is. But it is never clear if she did murder the children or not and that really adds to her character, especially by the time the third act rolls around. She isn’t out-and-out evil and while that makes her harder to pin down, it also makes her feel completely human. Torchwood was often good at making humans monsters and that is a trend that continues here to great effect and Phillips’ performance is award-worthy.
The Hope is another classic from James Goss and Scott Handcock and one that I will look forward to listening too in the near future. It’s dark and human and a story about the evil we can do. It’s grimy and gritty and funny and great fun all at the same time and its impossible not to get caught up in the web that Goss has woven here. I’ve no doubt this will go down as one of the best Torchwood audio adventures and stories to ever come out of the television series! It’s superb from start to finish.