Torchwood: Another Life (2007) by Peter Anghelides

Peter Anghelides writes what you’d expect from this range, at the time three novels published a week after the first series finale of Torchwood, set between the third and fourth episodes of that series. As the raunchier, gorier, ostensibly darker and more mature post-watershed spin-off of Doctor Who, perhaps one could reasonably assume its tie-in novels would be similarly positioned, but in actual fact they take after the Doctor Who tie-in novels of the time, both in content (short novels, young adult type prose and storytelling) and form (particular large page size). There’s a tonal discrepancy with the series but then, the first series of the show had little in the way of set tone, being an madcap exploratory dive into what kind of show it could be, before the second series would settle what kind of show it was (for a year…).

The broadest strokes of the characters from the show are maintained but a lot in lost in translation. Grounded Gwen speaks awkwardly wordily (”If you exaggerate the context, of course’s nothing’s significant”), meek Tosh randomly banters before the point in the series where she’d be comfortable doing so (”The temperature’s unusual for this time of year. Low 60s. Like Owen’s IQ”), and would-be-macho Owen is characterised in a bizarrely dorky, video-gamer tone. Ianto and Jack fare better, presumably because their characters were ciphers at that point in the series. Perhaps if you read the first series scripts for Torchwood the dialogue would feel similarly awkward and performatively quirky, and what worked about it came down to the cast but, alas, that’s not much help to a novel. Perhaps the antagonist of the novel, a being effortlessly slipping through different lives and identities, can represent the vague wrongness of writing with the main cast with such broad applicability.

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Anghelides tries to give Owen a legitimate backstory here, one that doesn’t work well with the on-screen backstory he’d be given the next year. It sees Owen as a scared-by-commitment type running away from a girlfriend in the same profession, who he’d later come to encounter in a video game and try to convince to join Torchwood. Those video game sections of the novel have the odd Bidmeadesque feel of the author being fascinated by something and putting it into the story for that reason, but lacking the Bidmead touch of actually thematically integrating it enough to work.

The novel works, it’s not fundamentally broken or anything, but lacks the madcap exploration of the actual televised first series, and doesn’t execute anything well anything to be much noteworthy besides. What you’d expect from a tie-in range like this, for better or worse. Two gloves and an online avatar.

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