It’s been over a year since we last heard from Toshiko Sato, played by Naoko Mori, in Torchwood. Last time she featured in the brilliant Instant Karma and finally, she’s back in another hugely enjoyable outing in the form of The Vigil.
Written by Lou Morgan, who has penned a previous Torchwood adventure in God Among Us 2, The Vigil is actually a shorter story that we are used to with the Torchwood range but that isn’t a bad thing as Morgan makes sure to pack the 50-minute runtime with plenty of entertainment and spooky moments. And while one might say that this story is about grief and how people handle it as well as alien-body snatching. What I took away from it was it is a story about feeling inadequate. It’s about how Tosh feels like a member of Torchwood and her onscreen characterisation of feeling undervalued. And that is never more played out than in her scenes with Sebastian.
Sebastian is a brand new character too and the whole story is set before the Torchwood team that we all know and love, with a couple of references to Suzie. Before Gwen came onto the scene, it seems like Torchwood wasn’t the loving team we got to know. Sebastian, despite a good performance from Hugh Skinner, was a character that I didn’t like. I know that was a lot of the point but in what is basically a two-hander-story, I feel you need to like both characters to get the best out of the story.
That isn’t to say though that Morgan did a bad job with the characterisations. Indeed, you aren’t supposed to like Sebastian and he is a nasty piece of work to Tosh, in many ways their relationship reminds me of when I started my job. I don’t run around chasing aliens, (I can wish though right?!), I work behind a counter but some of my ex-colleagues could be nasty-pieces of work if they wanted to be. Before the team that I work with now, there was a lot of backstabbing and shocking behaviour and it was nice to see that reflected in something like Torchwood.
Sebastian’s mother Madeline, played by Lucy Robinson, is also just as unlikable, in a good way. Her performance plays into some of the well-worn tropes between a grieving mother to her devoted son and while sometimes it feels like it’s going to into melodrama, Robinson keeps her performance from going over the edge of that cliff. What Morgan also does rather well is keep the attitudes of Madeline and Sebastian open-ended as to whether their devotion to their country, sexist attitudes and sometimes racist comments are a result of their environments or their upbringing. Morgan puts a lot of work into the background of Sebastian’s character, so I’m going to go with the latter.
Morgan also does a great job with Toshiko, playing around with her feeling of being inadequate and not needed by the team. In some ways, its quite a sad way to look at the character, but those thoughts and feelings were always present onscreen so it only seems fair to see them explored here. Plus Tosh does get some nice moments and I feel like this script would have made a great television serial.
Naoko Mori is excellent as Tosh though, instantly reminding me of why she was always one of my favourite characters on the show. She just falls easily back into that performance and it feels like she has never been away. It’s just a shame that I’m always reminded of her fate at the end of any audio-story from her. I would have been twelve/thirteen at the time and it is still one of those TV deaths that I’ve never gotten over…
Lisa Bowerman does a tremendous job on the direction too. She keeps getting the best of the actors she works with and squeezes the script for every great moment she can. Mind you, she’s always been a fantastic director so these things should be known by now. I always look forward to an audio that Bowerman has directed.
Overall The Vigil is a good Toshiko Sato story, if not an essential Torchwood listen. If you’re a fan of Tosh then you’ll probably get more out of this one than someone just here for a listen. Still, it’s a great way to spend 50 minutes and a great script from Lou Morgan, someone I look forward to hearing more from in the future, particularly if its a strong character piece like this one. Plus I absolutely love that cover!