Torchwood: The Five People You Kill in Middlesbrough is the latest monthly release. Fronted by the institute’s sometime head-honcho Yvonne Hartman, it gives us an insight into how she gets the job done.
Yvonne, the credited writer, tells us of her struggles dealing with the aftermath of an alien spaceship crash on Middlesbrough.
Handling first the Defence Secretary (repurposing the emergency response budget), then the media-obsessed Crisis Response Commander (managing the incident from arm’s length), Yvonne is at her devious best. She charms secretarial staff, blackmails politicians and diverts phones with prejudice. She even de-platforms a ‘truther’ journalist to keep her beloved Empire safe.
The satire here is very up to date; there is a detection app that alerts you to stay indoors and countless other allusions to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The language is current too, such as referring to Yvonne as “Queen of the Deep State”. This leads us to wonder quite when this is set… and which Yvonne Hartman this is? Although the original died in Doomsday, and has featured in stories set before that point, there’s also another Yvonne; slipping through from a parallel Earth. She appeared in the Aliens Among Us and God Among Us boxsets. Perhaps it does not truly matter.
The title is unusual too, possibly a play on Mitch Albom’s novel The Five People You Meet in Heaven? Although Yvonne’s victims do not meet their respective fates in Middlesbrough, they are certainly doomed because of what happens there.
A stellar cast
Joining Tracy Ann Oberman’s charismatic Yvonne is an impressive cast, most notably Denis Lawson in his Big Finish debut. Nathaniel Curtis (It’s a Sin) impresses as entitled truther journalist Lance, as does Sara Powell as Crisis Response Commander Mo Simister. Additionally, Timothy Bentinck and Kacey Ainsworth (Grantchester) are both hilarious as two very different sorts of ineffective politicians.
This is a wickedly funny tale with a dark heart; it is great to hear Yvonne Hartman cut a swathe through those standing in her way. It is also very much ‘of the moment’ in satirising the authorities’ response to the pandemic. And, while we know Torchwood is made for an adult audience, we do wonder if it is a shade too much, too soon.
Torchwood: The Five People You Kill in Middlesbrough is available on CD and download from Big Finish.