Review: Torchwood – Asylum

Worse than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick


In the UK: Wednesday 1st July, 2.15pm, Radio 4. Available for download until 7th July. Also available from

I feel violated. Violated and stupid. Don’t I learn? Am I no better than invertebrates or small yappy dogs? Couldn’t I tell that another Torchwood Radio 4 play was going to make the last one look like a work of art?

Apparently not, because I actually sat down and listened, live, to TorchwoodAsylum.

Well that’s 45 minutes I’m not getting back.

When PC Andy arrests a teenager for shoplifting, he thinks it is going to be a routine case. Then he sees the weapon she is carrying and decides to call in the Torchwood team.  

Was it any good?
I’d like to say that words fail me, but clearly they don’t because I’m still writing.

The story goes something like this: girl comes through the rift; she has an odd gun-like thing on her; PC Andy finds her, tells Torchwood; they investigate; they discover she’s from the future and that future Torchwood have sent her back.

Nothing too bad in that. Could be good even, at least by Torchwood standards. But being Radio 4, there seems to be some sort of rule that there be a political undetone to it, meaning that a slow-moving, well-meaning middle class person making the tea can lap it up in an unchallenging way and feel good about how enlightened they are.

So girl is in fact half-alien, the daughter of an immigrant, asylum-seeking alien (I’m not kidding) and future Torchwood have sent her back in time through the rift so that she can avoid an anti-alien backlash by being giving asylum in the past. The mysterious gun? It’s basically a TV remote control.

Oh dear. So awful.

Even given these terrifyingly prosaic undertones, there could have been a salvageable idea or two in there, but it’s weighed down by PC Andy and Gwen discussing bath water temperature and toast for most of the time, while Ianto and Jack drive around a lot, acting like twats.

John Barrowman, playing Jack like CJ from The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin or a high school principal from any teen movie, is very much on the periphery here, since it’s basically the alien girl/Gwen/Andy show, with PC Andy the voice of the alien-hating Daily Mail. As part of that, we get dialogue like this:

Frieda aka Alien girl (supposedly from future Cardiff): “This were ours house. I grows up here”

PC Andy: “It’s an invasion!”

Gwen: “Frieda, you do know you’re not human?”

Terrifying. And those lines all followed on from one another – that was part of an actual scene that.

Still, at least there was continuity in Asylum: yes, Jack, even when driving a motorbike around Cardiff, still leaves the keys in the ignition as per Countrycide.

I cannot describe for you how bored I was listening to alien girl and her future words, talking about “ghosties” every three bloody seconds. I thought I’d missed something when the play ended, there seemed to be so little actually going on. Worthier than Helen Raynor at her worthiest, stupider than Chris Chibnall at his stupidest: if you value your sanity, your happiness and 45 minutes of your time, do please steer clear of this.