Audio Drama Review: ‘Torchwood: Death In Venice’’

by Rachel Bellwoar
Cover Art by Sean Longmore

Assigned by Torchwood to keep Ace safe, Mr. Colchester finds the job more challenging than expected.

Ace’s foundation, A Charitable Earth, is in trouble. More importantly, Ace is in trouble after an assassin tries to kill her on a plane. At least that’s what Mr. Colchester claims was about to happen before he invited her to join him in first class, but is it safe to trust Torchwood? That’s the question, and one which isn’t immediately answered.

“Death in Venice” is the second time Big Finish has paired up Ace and Mr. Colchester (“The Red List” was also written by James Goss), but while I would be interested in going back and listening to that story now (especially since it sounds like a very different situation, with Ace and Mr. Colchester stuck in one place instead of being constantly on the go as they are in this story), I never felt like I was missing anything (though it would also be interesting to know what their first impressions were of each other and to get that full arc of their relationship).

On a basic level, Mr. Colchester and Ace are a match made to butt heads, with Mr. Colchester putting comfort first and Ace wanting to be environmentally conscious (even while their main objective is staying alive). This leads to plenty of arguments and, since neither character is about to change their ways, some might find these conversations repetitive. Another way of looking at it, though, is Jed Mercurio’s Bodyguard except funnier (with Ace’s “oh” reaction to learning someone’s trying to kill her being especially humorous).

While I can’t speak to Mr. Colchester (who I’ve come to understand wasn’t on the TV show, Torchwood, but originated with Big Finish), Goss’ writing for Ace is spot-on. Especially if you’ve read Sophie Aldred’s book and are invested in Ace’s storylines post-Doctor Who, “Death in Venice” is an essential listen with real consequences that aren’t neatly resolved at the end.

That might be the most shocking part, honestly – the way things are left at the end, because while it’s one thing when you’re watching an episode of Doctor Who and not everything is resolved on the planet the Doctor leaves behind, it’s different when the person whose life has been upended is a beloved former companion. Maybe it shouldn’t be, and Goss definitely reckons with the Doctor’s habit of leaving communities quickly, but if A Charitable Earth starts out the story in trouble, it ends the story in trouble, too, and Ace isn’t a companion anymore, so there’s no guarantee that this storyline will be picked up in another audio drama (though there’s always hope with Big Finish).

None of this is a complaint, by the way. It’s just interesting to see the same rules applied to a story about Ace and suddenly the fact that many Doctor Who/Torchwood stories are standalone feels frustrating when it’s actually normal.

Death in Venice is a little over an hour long, and basically revolves around two characters, yet it’s full of action and wonderful moments of character development that hopefully result in a sequel.

Torchwood: Death in Venice is available to purchase from Big Finish.

Directed by Steven Kavuma

Starring Sophie Aldred (Dorothy “Ace” McShane) and Paul Clayton (Mr. Colchester)

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