I saw the pictures, I read those stories bout
All the good times in the Days of Old
Now look around you and see the legacy
Of all those empire that just-a went-a wrong
Now look around you and what do you find?
A civilization that just went-a wrong
No angry people? No decent senseless crimes?
Life was simpler in the Days of Old!
So, take your time to open your eyes
You know you might just get a few surprises
All those cheap and nasty sympathizers
Fall in love like it’s out of style
Are these your golden years? Oh won’t you tell me now?
You should be living them!
With Torchwood's 2009 output barely filling a week, those lost souls who made the 2008 audio (er... Lost Souls) decided to come back with a trifecta: three brand new, full-cast audio dramas set between Journey's End and Children of Earth. Of course, with the actors too busy Martha and Mickey have vanished without a trace (though this gives us the very amusing and completely credible thought of the duo telling Jack to take a running jump when he did his TW recruitment drive). However, it seems the authors noticed the way the Daleks wiped out all the world's military and 98% of UNIT, which is why Torchwood's remit now expands beyond the edges of the UK - disturbingly, the Welsh Wankers are the only remaining line of defence (ahem, apart from Sarah Jane Smith, ahem) and have gone GLOBAL!!
Investigating a widespread rash of mysterious teleportation vanishings, Jack, Gwen and Ianto uncover a retro gentleman's club - aka Torchwood India! Yes, Queen Vic wanted the Raj to be protected as well and the India organization dealt with all the fiddly business with Yeti spheres and yellow, one-eyed idols from the North of Katmandu. However, when it was clear the Empire was doomed, Torchwood UK sent Captain Jack to go there, seduce everyone and distract them as he stole all their xenotech and returned to blighty. Jack is, therefore, utterly horrified to find this branch of Torchwood not only still open, but run by the exact same people he abandoned over 80 years previously who haven't aged a freaking day!
A quick sidestep to marvel at the final kick in the bollocks to UNIT dating as The Abominable Snowmen is dated as 1924 or earlier. This means that The Web of Fear, some 40 years later, occurs circa 1965; The Invasion four years following occurs cira 1969; Spearhead from Space months after; and everything up to The Seeds of Doom ending prior to 1977. That means the only issue is Sarah being from 1980 but one should remember that she was talking about herself, not the UNIT era. So, now that's sorted out, fans will have a lot less to talk about. Poor them.
I have no idea as to the cast or authors of this story, and can only say that the Duchess who runs Torchwood India sounds incredibly like India (heh) Fisher. Could the Duchess be the remaining Pollard sister? Nevertheless, it comes to absolutely no surprise that not only did she and Jack shag like rabbits back in the 1920s, they were actually quite close - a relationship far more convincing than most Jack seems to experience. Finding his girl is as immortal and unchanging as he is shakes Jack, especially as he would dearly love to hang out with her but he knows her extended lifespan is wrong in every possible respect and - like all Torchwood operatives, it seems - the Duchess is a total nutter.
Golden Age is talky even as audio drama goes, mainly consisting of the regulars chatting with British colonial types as they wander around a rather luxurious hotel. The Duchess gets quite a bit of social commentary as she comments on the chaos and slaughter that has occured in India since the Empire folded - of course, her opinion doesn't count for much as Jack notes that India's put up with more cultural takeovers than anyone else. The Duchess' Torchwood-standard superiority complex combined with a hatred for the filthy locals is unsurprisingly linked to the disappearances, and the similarities to The Chimes of Midnight just reinforce my suspicion it was India Fisher playing her.
The others' acting is of a far higher standard this time round as well. Barrowman's fully acclimatized the audio medium (rather than continually sounding like Jack is idly chatting at a bus stop) and while Ianto and Gwen STILL sound like they're being edited in by afterthought, Eve Myles' has pulled out all the stops to make her character sound more adult and mature. I swear in some scenes you could believe she was maybe 17.
As a tale exploring the corruption of Queen Victoria's well-intentioned xenophobia, this story is probably one of the most important Torchwood stories to date. It's certainly a more believable, mature approach than Army of Ghosts' "We're like Spooks except we're all retarded and evil!" attempts to link Tooth and Claw to RTD's reheated Excalibur leftovers.
Once more, it's clear the most boring era of Torchwood is the present day, even allowing for horrors like Time Machination, the American comic strip where the evil lesbians from Fragments hunt down the Tenth Doctor when HG Wells betrays the Time Lord following the events of Time Lash...
...only to bump into a rogue Time Agent also after the Doctor so he can save the life of Magnus Greel from Talons of Weng-Chiang (indeed, we get the first few scenes of that story recreated in comic book form to pad out the issue once the Tenth Doctor sods off, leaving the Fourth and Leela to... well, act clueless).
And to think back in 2005 we were promised no more fanwank...
Next: seeking Asylum