Review: Torchwood – Lost Souls

And now for the science bit

Lost Souls

JACK: Okay, listen up fucktards. It’s Torchwood here. We’re below the law, beside the government and over the top and we’re here to educate you about the Higgs Boson.


JACK: Yes, you idiots. You know nothing about CERN or the large hadron collider or really difficult science things. So Radio 4 have asked us to come and educate your asses for Big Bang Day.


JACK: Shut it or I’ll make you smell my coat. I haven’t washed it since I first got it and I was buried in peat for 2,000 years.

GWEN: Ych y fi, Jack!

JACK: Right, the Higgs Boson. It’s… Hmm. Anyone know? Gwen?

GWEN (ON PHONE): Can I phone a friend? Rhys? Oh, Rhys man! What are you doing? I loves you. You knows I loves you!… But Rhys… Why her?…

JACK: Maybe not then. Tosh? Oh sh… she’s dead. Owen. Oh sh… he’s dead too. Christ, they were the only ones who knew anything. Martha?


JACK: Ianto?


JACK: Guess it’ll be me then. Erm, it’s a thing that you, like, see. Erm, inside rain drops. Protons? Are we clear yet?


JACK: What do you mean Torchwood know sweet FA about science, so much so it’s embarrassing? Oh…Look over there. It’s an eagle. No really. Look! Look!


JACK: Quick, Ianto – the rear entrance!

Excerpt from Torchwood: Lost Souls


“Somewhere out there in that chaos of darkness and light, of science and protons, of gods and stars and death… somewhere there’s an answer.”

The Torchwood Institute was founded by Queen Victoria in 1879 to protect the British Empire against the threat of alien invasion. By 2008, all that remains of the organisation is a small team based in Cardiff. And now, following the tragic deaths of two of their colleagues, the remaining three – Captain Jack Harkness, Gwen Cooper and Ianto Jones – have to protect the human race against another unknown force from the darkness.

Martha Jones, ex-time traveller and now working as a doctor for a UN task force, has been called to CERN – the world’s largest particle physics laboratory in Geneva – where they’re about to activate the Large Hadron Collider. The LHC is a particle accelerator, which has been built deep underground in a 27 km tunnel under Switzerland and France. Once activated the Collider will fire beams of protons together recreating conditions a billionth of a second after the Big Bang – and potentially allowing the human race a greater insight into what the Universe is made of. But so much could go wrong – it could open a gateway to a parallel dimension, or create a black hole – and now voices from the past are calling out to people and scientists have started to disappear…

Where have the missing scientists gone? What is the secret of the glowing man? What is lurking in the underground tunnel? And do the dead ever really stay dead?

Is it any good?

It was woefully bad. Really a true stinker of epic proportions.

First, the acting. If you’ve ever listened to any other Radio 4 afternoon play, you’d know that it wasn’t too bad, surprisingly, and certainly if you’ve ever subjected yourself to the worst of Big Finish’s output, you’d be thanking your lucky stars that Sylvester McCoy didn’t turn up, for example.

All the same, you could tell that this wasn’t a familiar medium for the majority of the cast, particularly Gareth David-Lloyd, who needs to work on being convincing when expressing any kind of emotion. And Sweet FA? Pretty much as she is on-screen. Oh dear.

But the biggest problem was the plot. Now, poor old Joseph Lidster, who has, on occasion, turned out some good stuff (eg A Day in the Death, The Mystery of the Missing Hour, The Reaping), had something of the remit from hell here: write a 45-minute audio play that’ll work for both Radio 4 afternoon play listeners and Torchwood fans; that has something to do with the large hadron collider and explains the Higgs Boson; that features the Torchwood cast, except halfway through writing you’ll learn that two of the cast are leaving; and all on a Radio 4 budget.

It’s not an enviable task, and it’s one that would have stumped many a writer.

Which it did this time. This was sucky. The biggest problem – apart from the fact it’s another “mulling over death” effort from Joe and the frequent references to Owen and Tosh that would have mystified the standard R4 listener, despite Joe’s best attempts – was the science.

Normally, we cut Torchwood a little slack on the science front, since that’s not really what it’s all about. But on a supposedly part-educational play about science, we have to pull in the slack and give the writers a short leash. Certainly, talking absolute bollocks is strictly off limits.

So in a play about the Higgs Boson, not actually explaining what it is (it’s the particle that gives things mass. See, not difficult was it?) except in terms of “it’s inside things” and “it’s the life particle” is particularly woeful. But having a villain that sucks the neutrons out of the nuclei of people’s component atoms? And all they end up doing is glowing instead of vaporising into hydrogen? WTF? And let’s not even go into the actual basics of how the CERN accelerators work (hey? Let’s repurpose this accelerator to do something completely different! But wait, there’s no off button!), because the horror was real there, too.

While there were some funny lines, as you’d expect from Mr Lidster – particularly Gwen and Ianto pretending to be Welsh ambassadors in a Ferrero Rocher advert – we also get some odd ones where the words “The Doctor” appear to have been crossed out on the script and replaced with “Jack”. Jack gassing on about how “you humans” are so great and so clever and so keen on investigating the universe and how that’s so great. Okay, you’re immortal now, but when did you opt out of the human race, dude? But then, having a character standing around going “Aren’t we humans just brilliant? Oh we’re so smart? Oh, what do you mean we don’t understand the Higgs Boson?” would have shown up just what a silly idea that is on either show.

Leaving aside the extreme scientific illiteracy, choosing to place the most emotional moments on the shoulders of the cast members who can least support them and choosing to overlook Gwen for anything decent, there was little in the play to recommend it to anyone. It was rubbish for Torchwood fans, bar dealing with the aftermath of Owen and Tosh’s deaths; even then, it couldn’t deal with that properly since regular listeners wouldn’t have had a clue or cared. And to the average Radio 4 afternoon play listener , I can only imagine the whole play was like being happy slapped by a hoodie and about as comprehendible as well.

On the whole, not the most notable of outings for team Torchwood. Interesting that they gave it a try, but all the same, a laughably bad 45 minutes of audio play.

Another fine review is available from Stu. If you’ve reviewed this play, leave a link to it below.

PS Am I worried that Gareth David-Lloyd appears to be too young to have watched the original Ferrero Rocher ad to know how to pronounce ‘excellente’ correctly?


Available for free until the 17th September

After that, available for download from the BBC audio zone for £3.60 without bonus material or on CD for £9.99 with Torchwood: All Access.


John Barrowman

Freema Agyeman

Eve Myles

Gareth David-Lloyd

Lucy Montgomery

Stephen Critchlow

Writer: Joseph Lidster

Producer/Director: Kate McAll


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.