Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)
1940, Nazi occupied Paris. SS interrogator Grau is holding a man in a hotel he believes knows more about the recent spate of deformed monsters who were once men running amuck on the streets, than he is letting on. He believes he knows about Madame Berber and her work to undermine the German plans. And more to the point he thinks this man knows more than he is letting on about Torchwood.
This story has some great elements. The setup of a man who claims to be innocent being tortured by a Nazi and us as the listener not knowing if he is or not. We just have to listen and find out. The idea of people being turned into monsters by some sort of weapon or virus. It plays a little like an Indiana Jones film meets a spy movie. There is also an undercurrent of the man traveling with his son and how that complicates things.
Then there is the casting which is done perfectly. Simon Russell Beale is a very natural leading man as torture victim LeDuc and has a great double act with torturer Mark Elstob as Grau. Great supporting actors in Emma Cunniffe and Aly Cruickshank as well.
My problem with this story though is the same as I had with the last stand alone Torchwood spin off they did in ‘Dollhouse’. It was a good story, but didn’t really feel like Torchwood. Whereas that play felt more like an episode of 'Charlies Angels' (by design I realise) where this one becomes a spy thriller I felt the Alien element was secondary. In main Torchwood or the Torchwood One spin off it’s sometimes a team which is missing here or it’s one Torchwood member investigating; which also wasn’t a main plot here.
As I said with Dollhouse this will work for some people and maybe if I wasn’t listening to it as a Torchwood I might be able to enjoy it for the story it is. But after two listens I still can’t get past the fact I’m looking for more Torchwood than I feel is present.
If you are after a good spy story, with a few alien elements in and you can go in not thinking too much of Torchwood then I think you may enjoy this however and I do credit Lizzie Hopley with having written a good story in that light. Scott Handcock as always does a great job of casting and directing.
For me I just want one Torchwood spin off that feels a little more Torchwood, but maybe this is the production team using the new teams to explore some other genre’s which, I think is a fair thing to do, if not for me.
You can buy the set on download or CD here https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-dying-room-1500