London, England, the 1890s. Queen Victoria, ruler of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India, has arrived for her annual inspection of the Torchwood Institute. This year, everyone is quite determined, nothing will go wrong.
Several minutes later a terrible creature is unleashed on the streets of London. No one knows where it comes from, what it is, or even why it’s on Earth. It’s ruthless, has no morals, and is quite unstoppable. Captain Jack Harkness is on the loose, and Queen Victoria is along for the ride of her life.
John Barrowman is Captain Jack Harkness in The Victorian Age.
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John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness)
Rowena Cooper (Queen Victoria)
Written by: AK Benedict
Directed by: Scott Handcock
Produced by: James Goss
Script edited by: Steve Tribe
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The Victorian Age kicks off Torchwood’s second Big Finish series with a fun romp through the brawling and smoky confines of 1890’s London as listeners get a glimpse into the early days of the Torchwood Institute. In a bit of a twist, Jack Harkness is the sidekick for this story as Rowena Cooper’s turn as Queen Victoria rightfully takes center stage!
The 19th century is when everything changes…and England is ready. Jack Harkness is assisting Torchwood London, based in the Natural History Museum, as they prepare for their annual inspection, performed with great scrutiny by the creator of their charter, ruler of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India, Queen Victoria. THIS year, nothing bad will happen and everything will proceed smoothly and without incident. No sooner does Jack tempt fate than an ancient sarcophagus cracks open, freeing the alien trapped inside. Soon the being is rampaging across London, bringing the gift of youth to the elderly while stealing the years from the young. Jack rides out to capture the beast, only to find Queen Victoria coming along for the hunt. After all, it is her responsibility to protect the subjects of the British Empire…
AK Benedict is a newcomer to both Big Finish and the world of fiction in general. She is the author of two supernatural crime novels, The Beauty of Murder and Jonathan Dark or the Evidence of Ghosts, with The Victorian Age serving as her audio debut as a scriptwriter. And it’s a solid script, serving up a whole buffet of goodies – witty dialogue, gripping chase scenes, pub humor, some quiet introspection, vicious monster attacks, and moments of bravery without dragging on or the need for jarring and sudden scene changes. From a dogged pursuit across Hyde Park to a final showdown in the London Underground, with a quick stop in a public house for some marinated pickles, Benedict’s script and the direction of Scott Hand combine to give listeners a story that’s very easy to listen to without getting bored or distracted, with the moments of melodrama (include a cameo from Louise Jameson as a concerned mother) an accent on the proceedings, not a distraction.
In the last audio to feature Captain Jack Harkness, Uncanny Valley, the character was regulated to the background for most of the story as it focused on the relationship between a crippled billionaire and his clone. In The Victorian Age, Jack isn’t a bit player in his own story, but he’s also not the lead. Instead, he’s the sidekick, or dare I say companion, to Queen Victoria! Veteran English actress Rowena Cooper (who admits in the behind-the-scenes feature that she’s never seen an episode of Torchwood or Doctor Who but always wanted to play Queen Victoria) absolutely steals this audio as the titular monarch of the British Empire. Yes, there is the stereotypical stiff-upped-lipped, absolutely proper, “we are not amused” queen to open up the story, but that caricature is quick placed to the side of the road the moment Queen Victoria hops on a horse and follows Jack Harkness, plasma pistol in hand, after the creature who would dare threaten the people under her rule. Cooper plays Victoria as feisty, regal, and someone who takes no gruff from anyone, even Jack Harkness. The banter and chemistry between John Barrowman and Rowena Cooper is amazing, as seen during a moment where Jack makes a reference to his…bait-and-tackle…in centimeters, and Queen Victoria retorting that if he was going to be vulgar, to please do so in Imperial measurements! An alien creature who steals the youth from the young is a interesting foil for a monarch who is reaching the end of her reign, one who sees what she has done as necessary but as all-encompassing. The alien steals years. She gave her years for country and empire, and although those years enable her (and her loyal subjects who have also given their years to Great Britain, for good or for ill) to defeat the alien once and for all, there’s still a sense of melancholy to Cooper’s final scene with Jack. The 20th century doesn’t need a Queen Victoria. It needs Torchwood.
The Victorian Age takes a first-time writer’s script and a first-time Big Finish performer and combines them with a veteran director and an experienced audio actor (along with an era-appropriate reworking of the Torchwood theme!) for a solid and grand “season premiere” for the second series of Big Finish’s run with Torchwood. Well worth the pick-up, if only for Rowena Cooper’s grand turn as one for the influential monarch’s in British history.
Cobi’s Synopsis – The Victorian Age is all about Rowena Cooper’s turn as the most famous British Queen not named Freddie Mercury as her and Jack Harkness chase an alien across 1890’s London in a fun, action-packed story tinged with just the right amount of melodrama.
Next up – They call it “Pulse” – a radio signal which has puzzled the world for 40 years. But now Toshiko Sato has solved it…
Naoko Mori is Toshiko Sato in…Zone 10.