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< 17. The Office of Never Was

18. The Dying Room

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Reviewed By: thisoldcanReview Date: 8/12/17 6:19 pm
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In Torchwood: The Dying Room, Monsieur LeDuc (Simon Russell Beale) as been detained by SS Interrogator Grau (Mark Elstob), and interrogated about Torchwood and his recent encounters with the mysterious Madame Berber (Emma Cunniffe). A plauge is sweeping through Paris, targeting German soldiers, and Grau thinks that Berber, and Torchwood, are behind it. Grau is determined to get to the bottom of this plauge and stop it, but before the night is done, Grau will find out all about Torchwood. The Dying Room is the final story of a season that has taken risks with it's storytelling, largely to varying degrees of success. It concludes the series with a fairly straightforward tale, of an encounter between the Nazis and Torchwood, albeit in a roundabout way. For a first script by Big Finish's Dark Shadows actor Lizzie Hopley, it's a decent way to start off one's career. The cast, especially Simon Russell Beale, shines, breathing life into Hopley's story throughout. Yet, the story feels flat because it's fairly obvious what's going on, and it's a pretty tired idea, having things from the Doctor Who universe encounter the Nazis.

Simon Russell Beale stars as Monsieur LeDuc, the professor who has come to Paris for some rest and relaxation, but is secretly a Torchwood agent, looking to destabilize the Nazi regime in France. Beale plays the part extremely well, especially given his status as a Torchwood agent at the end. It wasn't exactly a surprise, given the way these stories usually go, but Beale still sold the hell out of his character with his performance. He portrayed Beale perfectly; slightly bumbling, but with all the confidence an old man possesses. His reaction to Gabriel (Aly Cruickshank) being shot by Grau is excellent, made all the more brilliant by his reaction a few minutes later that Gabriel, "...will be fine", delivered with a cool detachment. It's a great performance, and one of the best parts of this story.

Mark Elstob also stars in this story, as SS interrogator Grau. Elstob, star of Big Finish's The Prisoner series, gives an enjoyable, if stale, performance as the scary Nazi interrogator. Scary Nazi interrogators are a dime a dozen quite honestly, and it's quite hard to shock me with these performances. Nothing in Elstob's performance really shines out too much, which sucks, because Elstob always gives such a brilliant performance as Number 6, but here, he's relegated to a role that's been done over 1000 times already, and it's a damn shame to hear him have to try and make it interesting. Emma Cunniffe and Aly Cruickshank also star in this story, in smaller roles as Madame Berber, a mysterious woman who Grau thinks is part of Torchwood, and Gabriel, the seemingly sickly son of LeDuc, who is, in reality, a Torchwood agent engineered to overwrite the DNA of anyone who touches him. Both have small roles in this story, but both do a good job with what they're given; Cunniffe is fun as the loud, slightly boozy, yet mysteriously skilled marksman, while Gabriel is interesting, though moreso after he dies.

Lizze Hopley, star of several of Big Finish's Dark Shadows stories, takes a turn in the writer's chair for this story, delivering a decent first story. It plays upon the tried and true themes of World War II and Nazi stories a bit too much at times, while absolutely nailing the character of Monsieur LeDuc. The story itself is a pretty common one; some shadowy government organization comes in to destabilize the Nazi regime, framed by an interrogation scene between the SS officer and the person who insists he's absolutely, emphatically not a member of this shadowy government organization, until his friends show up. What makes Hopley's story so interesting though is the introduction of Gabriel, a Torchwood agent genetically engineered so that those he touches turn into hideous monsters, or, as LeDuc calls it, having the inner evil boil up to the surface for all to see. That's the most brilliant part of the story, but the biggest issue is that it takes nearly 45 minutes to get to that point.

The biggest issue with Hopley's story is that all the effort seems to have gone into making the character of Monsieur LeDuc as brilliant as possible, something she succeeds in. But as such, the story suffers for it, leading to a rather boring story. To start, it feels like we've had thousands of stories very similar to this one, save for the invention of Gabriel and his ability to overwrite DNA. There have been countless stories featuring SS interrogators trying to tease out secrets about secret government organizations, only to die when their prisoner is revealed as a member of that group. Beyond that, apart from a single scene midway through where Grau and LeDuc grapple, as LeDuc tries to escape, there's not really much tension. Grau's flat "good cop" routine ensures that apart from that single scene, and the ending, there's never any dramatic tension. It's all just Beale's LeDuc telling a story, rather than creating something engaging for the entire cast.

Overall, The Dying Room ends the season on a rather boring note. While Simon Russell Beale is brilliant as Monsieur LeDuc, and the character of Gabriel is a brilliant creation by writer Lizzie Hopley, the rest of the story falls rather flat. Mark Elstob's deeply disappointing Grau never rises about the stereotypical SS interrogator, while Emma Cunniffe and Aly Cruickshank do a passable job, if nothing else. The story is the most disappointing part, giving a rather flat Nazi story that feels so familiar, because it's been done thousands of times over. It's ends what has been a somewhat inconsistent series of stories on a bit of a sour note; all I can hope for is a return to form with the next series of Torchwood stories.