Torchwood: Lost Souls was produced by BBC Radio as part of its ‘Big Bang Day’ event to commemorate the activation of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Supposedly, CERN scientists went over the script to check for scientific accuracy, though I think they were a little lax in their duties.
‘Lost Souls’ takes place between series two and three, shortly after the death of Owen and Toshiko. Unofficial part-time member Martha Jones is working as a UNIT doctor at CERN when she calls in Torchwood to investigate several disappearances, including that of her friend, Julia Swales.
Once there, the Torchwood team finds that a previous test firing had allowed an alien entity to come through to Earth. That entity is now posing as dead people in order to lure in its victims, from whom it consumes their neutrons.
Despite being a radio play, it’s little different in execution from a normal TV episode. They may describe things in slightly more detail than they otherwise would, but there’s no narrator, and I was never lost as to where everyone was or what they were doing.
The writer, Joseph Lidster, has worked on Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures before, and the entire original cast is present, giving the episode a level of legitimacy that most tie-ins don’t; and yet, weighed against the rest of the series, ‘Lost Souls’ comes up a little short.
The plot is generic. A monster posing as a dead loved one has been done many times before in sci-fi, and this iteration offers nothing new to the formula. The recent death of their friends is the dramatic underpinning of the story, but is played in a very heavy-handed fashion. Throughout the episode, the cast pairs off in various combinations and talks about it, and they all say the same thing: they’re sad.
Jack feels responsible for Owen and Tosh’s death, either from immortal-based survivor’s guilt, or the fact that he’s always hiding what he knows about the future, but we’ve gone over that character trait of his before, and more effectively.
There are a few humorous bits in the scripts, the team’s cover-story and Ianto with his bike, but for the most part it’s a straight forward, stick-to-the-facts, utilitarian plot structure. It feels a bit more like ‘Miracle Day’ than it does the BBC series.
The acting is good, as you’d expect, with the minor exception that Jack (John Barrowman) sometimes sounds a little less than sincere. I think it might have to do with Barrowman having such an expressive face, that divorcing his voice from it leaves it a bit hallow sounding.
As a Torchwood episode, ‘Lost Souls’ is one of the lesser ones; but it is still a solid, if uninspired sci-fi story, and a nice way to pass the time if you have an hour-long road trip.