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3.9 out of 5 stars50
3.9 out of 5 stars
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Torchwood: Department X (audio story. Run time 2 hours)

For those who have lived isolated in a box for some years. First there was Doctor Who on the telly and in one recently aired episode the origin of the Torchwood Institute was revealed as Queen Victoria inaugurated it to defend the empire from alien powers. Torchwood became the telly spin off from Doctor Who featuring the (literally) indestructible Captain Jack Harkness and his team based in Cardiff fending off said aliens with gusto and wit. I have enjoyed both televisual serial delights, if anything enjoying Torchwood more, largely because it doesn't rotate around one central character (The Doctor) but features team interactions which seem to give more scope for the plot lines. If you only remember Doctor Who from the 60's with clunky scenery and ham acting you should stay in more and catch a current episode of both Doctor Who and Torchwood, both have sumptuous visual effects and are now very slick.

The visual delights of these two, now great, sci-fi series are undoubtable but how good are the stories without the visuals? I confess I have never had the desire to read any of the available book adventures so it was with some trepidation that I approached "Torchwood: Department X" on CD. Written by James Goss and read by Kai Owen (Gwen's husband in the series) it is a well crafted and somewhat spooky story of the alien incursions into our plain of existence as manifested in the fading glories of a Cardiff department store. As Queen Victoria must have hoped alien incursion equals arrival of Torchwood and in this case an intriguing addition of another organisation vying for the prize of sorting the situation out. The promotional blurb gives more of the story than I am willing to; I hate spoilers!

After the initial (and completely unreasonable) irritation that the story was read in only one voice and not with the voices of all the cast members (remember this is a first for me) I settled into the story well. Kai Owens voice with its melodious (and pertinent to the plot)Welsh accent is soothing, he reads well and although a Welsh man attempting transatlantic accents grates at first by then you are so into the story that you let it drift by. Only the evil alien's voice (featuring the special sound effect) is difficult to hear as the special effect makes it indistinct, a pity seeing as we approaching the denouement point when this voice arrives.

The story is fast moving and engrossing. The descriptions of the fading Cardiff store are particularly good and conjured for me all those great stores of your youth or at least mine that now appear as comic as Grace Brothers in "Are you being served". As always, the touching relationships of Gwen with her Husband and Jack with his lover Ianto are well played, the later being gently done and not over played. Evident too is the humour and wit which gives so much warmth to the characters and the story lines in all episodes I have seen on TV.

I was engrossed. My mind added the visuals while I listened and ironed (ironing while listening is obviously optional) and yes I would purchase and listen to other Torchwood stories. Enough said.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is an excellently paced audio adventure featuring the later, smaller Torchwood team of Jack, Gwen and Ianto. It spans two CDs and is excellently read by Kai Owen (who plays Gwen's husband Rhys in the show). As you'd expect, he voices the Welsh characters perfectly. At times you'd swear it was Gareth David-Lloyd voicing Ianto, so perfectly has Kai captured his clipped way of speaking. But, God bless him, he can't get anywhere near Captain Jack Harkness' accent at all - in fact it's so far away from John Barrowman's voice that you could well believe John Barrowman's voice must have taken a restraining order out against him.

That didn't matter to me though, because the central premise of this story thoroughly makes the most of something I'm sure most of us have discovered at one time in our lives - that old, past-their-prime department stores are spooky. The excuse for visiting such a location is that Jack is determined to solve a mystery that has long bothered him about the Cardiff store of G. R. Owen before it finally succumbs to the inevitable and closes. As Gwen and Ianto go undercover as new staff, Jack does what no episode of Torchwood would be the same without - he dies and then comes back to life even more determined. Though this is a read story rather than a play, the creepy music is excellent and keeps on building tension.

I know it's out of date now with the series chronology, but it's a good story and it should tide the fans over until Torchwood: Miracle Day premieres (yes, there is a new TV series on the way!) later this year.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Set somewhere between series 2 and 3 of Torchwood, "Department X" as a story has a feel much like a series 2 episode, balancing slightly darker than Doctor Who sci-fi with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour.

It doesn't break any new ground and it's not got too many surprises in store, but nevertheless it works well as a good run-around romp.

Kai Owen does a mostly excellent job in the reading, sounding like he's genuinely enjoying himself and engaged in the story. The variety of accents prove to be a bit of a struggle though, with the Welsh-Canadian accent turning out different for every line. Also, in the production the sound effects are rather overdone at the end, with a somewhat corny deep voice effect used for the monster. I'm of the opinion that full cast audio dramas can have all the effects and layers, but if you're going to have an audiobook read by one actor you should keep the background noises to a
minimum and let the performance carry it, so this was a bit too distracting.

As a Cardiff resident I'm surprised at how obviously the fictional department store "GR Owen" parallels a certain old real department store in the city centre (whose name has several letters in common), with its out of date stock and its struggles to attract custom away from the new shopping complex built opposite. All James Goss has done there is change the name of the store- oh, and put a mysterious murderous alien in the basement, obviously.

Pretty decent but not innovative enough to be outstanding.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a talking book based on the TV series Torchwood. It tells an all new story for the characters from the show that hasn't been heard or seen before in any other medium.

It's set between the second and third series of the tv version.

And it's read by actor Kai Owen, who plays Rhys on the show.

Minimal sleeve notes give production credits and advertise other bbc audio products.

And the story is spread over two discs. The first runs for one hour and ten minutes approx, and the second for sixty three minutes approx.

There are no breaks in these two discs other than the usual chapter ones, so basically this is two long episodes. With a cliffhanger ending to disc one.

The story sees Torchwood investigating GR Owen. The last old style department store in Cardiff. Jack has sent Ianto and Gwen to work undercover there, because the failing store is about to go into administration and it's also the site of one of Torchwood's oldest unsolved cases. Jack thus wants it cleared up whilst they still can.

But the administrators seem to have an agenda of their own. And the race is on to find the Department of curiosities, which nobody has seen in a very long time...

This is double the running time of recent Doctor Who talking books, but the extra length does work to the advantage of this story as it gives it the time to add in a lot of depth. There's lots of talk about changing times and how old fashioned stores like this have become outmoded in the face of new shopping centres. There are character moments galore, giving all the regular characters the chance to do what they do best.

And a well worked out plot that does unfold at just the right pace, with a few twists and turns and surprises along the way.

Talking books like this can't do anything to change tv continuity so the story can't be anything of great consequence. But it's a decent enough effort and that, coupled with a good reading from Kai Owen, results in a decent piece of work that should keep fans of the programme happy.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Read by Kai Owen,this spin from the Torchwood TV, is entertaining and well done all round production. The story is about a Department store in decline, possible Aliens and people disappearing.Unlike some Audio CD's that leave the listener thinking 'was that all? The sound effects are not bad and not overwhelming.

This episode is set after the deaths of Toshiko and Owen and precedes the Children of Earth story. I must admit it is not one of the best Torchwood stories, but that said Its worth a listen and the Amazon price is not bad.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
First of all, it almost goes without saying that if you don't like Torchwood on TV you won't like this, so the real question is how will it go down with Torchwood fans? As an avid watcher of Torchwood myself I have to say that I rather enjoyed this, but not totally.

The story is quite good, mostly well-written, and well-read. The characters all behave and interact in the right way. My biggest complaint is about the sound effects and occasional incidental music. This is not a radio play, but a reading of a Torchwood story. Incidental music and sound effects would enhance a radio play, but I found them annoying in a book reading. If the story was weaker or the reading less accomplished then it might need such gimmicks, but this did not need any help.

Kai Owen (who plays Gwen's husband in the TV series) has a pleasant reading voice and puts plenty of emphasis, variation and emotion into the reading. He doesn't do impressions of Capt Jack, Gwen and Ianto as such, but does characterise them quite well as well as other characters. It really is worth listening to this just for his portrayal of Gwen's shopgirl colleague.

When ripping to computer the file details need a little tidying up because the two discs have a slightly different way of labelling them, but nothing too confusing.

I found it an entertaining way to spend a couple of hours.
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VINE VOICEon 5 May 2011
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Torchwood (if it's alien, it's ours) operatives Gwen Cooper and Ianto Jones are working undercover (cosmetics, and gentlemen's clothing) at GR Owen, Cardiff's ageing department store in the last throes of decline with a brand new shopping mall next door nailing the lid on the coffin.

As GR Owen is threatened with takeover and being turned into flats this is Captain Jack Harkness' last opportunity to solve one of Torchwood's oldest mysteries, the disappearance of the eponymous GR Owen, original owner of the store, and the location of the Department of Curiosities. It doesn't help that the building itself keeps trying to kill him, pitching him down a lift shaft, dropping a chandelier on him, but he keeps coming back.

Firestone bank has brought in the administrators and within the claustrophobic confines of dated bedding department, gentlemen's wear, home furnishings, and behind the scenes among a labyrinth of unsold stock the tension racks up bit by bit. A great version of the haunted house story, narrated by Kai Owen, the actor who plays Gwen's wonderful long-suffering husband Rhys.

Good story, and great narration, a quality bit of entertainment. Not suitable for young children, probably young adult upwards, given the black and adult nature of some of the jokes in the older sibling Doctor Who spinoff series.
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VINE VOICEon 17 May 2011
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was a bit dubious about this at first on two counts. Firstly because it is a narrated story and I feel Torchwood works better as a full dramatisation. Secondly because it starts off slowly with Gwen and Ianto working undercover in a department store. However, I needn't have worried on either score.

The narration by Kai Owen, who plays Gwen's husband Rhys in the TV programme is perfect and the characterisations are spot on.

The story, from a slow start, builds up at a natural pace and is very entertaining. It is impressive that a complete two hour story can be set in one location, a department store (albeit that some of it is interdimesional) and still thoroughly entertain.

The story is set after the deaths of Toshiko and Owen but before Children of Earth so Ianto is still present. This does give a feel that you know that the main characters are going to emerge unscathed. In most series, that is a given but with Torchwood you never know. The author probably overdid the Jack getting killed and coming back to life bit though.

This is not the best Torchwood adventure but I found it entertaining. A full cast recording might have earned a full five stars but a good story and a fine narration by Kai Owen means that you won't be disappointed.
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VINE VOICEon 16 May 2011
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is not a full production, but a story read by a Torchwood cast member, albeit a fairly minor one. Because of this last fact, I was almost put off ordering this item. I'm glad I decided to give it a go, however, as Kai Owen, Gwen's husband in the series, does a sterling job. He keeps the narrative flowing nicely over the two hours that this story runs: my interest never flagged.
It involves one of Torchwood's oldest, unsolved cases, that of G. R. Owen, the last of the old department stores in Cardiff. Customers have disappeared, as has the owner himself, G. R. Owen, & not only is Jack searching for him, but also for The Department of Curiosities. The store has gone into administration, so the Torchwood team has to solve this long-standing mystery before the take-over happens. But who are the Administrators? Are the new managers, perchance, aliens? And what happens at night when the store is closed?
It's an entertaining, original plot, with sly adult humour & twists & turns & surprises aplenty. Essential if you're already a Torchwood fan, but give it a go even if you're not.
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VINE VOICEon 4 May 2011
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Having listened to a few audio books i have to say that i did not enjoy this one very much. Firstly it felt as though the narrator thought he was reading a kids book, he seemed to have the tone and inflection that gave me this impression. I also did not appreciate the funny noises going on in the background, if you're reading a story with the proper tone then the extra noises should not be necessary to give atmosphere. The american accents seemed to get better and worse over the course of the story, the narrator also seemed to have trouble with his own accent at times sounding more like he was from Liverpool rather than Wales.

The actual story was not bad, it was a typical Torchwood plot and i could imagine it being very well done if it was on TV. Unfortunately this did not entirely translate onto an audio CD. Maybe the writer was a little confused as to whether they were writing a book or a film script, it seemed to come somewhere inbetween.

Overall, i have to say that i won't be listening to any more Torchwood audio CDs i think i'll stick to watching it on the TV.
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