Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Torchwood The Lost Files - The House of the Dead

Cheer up Ianto, it might never happen. Oh wait, it did...

The third and final Lost File is The House of the Dead. I was hoping it would be based on a popular arcade game that I pumped many a pound into during my student days in Cardiff. Here's the original The House of the Dead:

I'm sure you can all agree that it's a work of art. I could get to the final boss on one credit but could never defeat him for some reason. There's also a terrible movie version of The House of the Dead that I have never seen. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, an audio play that has nothing to do with the video above but shares the same title. Sorry I'm wasting your time here, let me get on with it.

This play is set in the most haunted pub in Wales and blah, blah, here's the official blurb:

"The brewery have called 'time' and it's the last night at The House of the Dead - the most haunted pub in Wales. Barry the barman has invited renowned psychic, Mrs Wintergreen, to hold a special seance to mark the occasion, and there's a big crowd hoping for the chance of seeing their deceased loved ones for one last time. But when Jack arrives on the scene, he's determined to stop them. Ianto is puzzled by Jack's behaviour, and Gwen is suspicious. Why is Jack acting so strangely? Then the ghosts start arriving - and all hell breaks loose."

It's difficult to discuss this play in much depth without spouting massive spoilers, there's certainly a lot to discuss around the final 15 minutes of the play but I don't want to spoil anything. It's a slow tale with an absolutely terrible name for the villain, it actually made me laugh when it was revealed. The name reminded me of my attempts at writing superhero fiction when I was 12. Still, terrible name aside the villain is a decent concept and provides a reasonable and rational amount of peril without becoming too silly.

Performance wise we once again have John Barrowman struggling to emote convincingly but he does put in a lot of effort in this play. I'm willing to overlook the dud delivery of some of his lines providing he sounds like he's interested and not just idly flirting and quipping. Eve Myles doesn't feature much in this play, I can only assume she was busy elsewhere or the writer decided not to use her. It's a shame because Eve seems to be the most comfortable audio performer. Gareth David-Lloyd puts in a good shift and handles his scenes very well, the writer gave Ianto plenty to do in this play and David-Lloyd steps up to the challenge. For all the good that the regulars do, the majority of the guest artists undo it by performing in the usual assortment of cod-Valleys accents.

This play is worth a listen if only to hear a decent Barrowman performance and a solid script that makes good use of character history and contains hardly any dialogue clunkers (apart from that villain name, what were they thinking?). The play can be found on YouTube but don't look at the comments as people can't resist posting spoilers.

It's a shame that the TV show appears to have abandoned the episodic format for its stories and moved onto ponderous season long storylines, because occasionally Torchwood can strike lucky and provide entertaining episodes. This episode and Submission before it prove that some writers can craft interesting plots and (reasonably) witty dialogue without turning the show into Carry On Aliens. Alas, Miracle Day and Children of Earth have been ratings hits in the UK so it seems that this collection of audio plays are perhaps the last of a dying breed.

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