A growing number of people are ending up in Cardiff’s hospitals, trapped in a trancelike comatose state. These victims all have one thing in common: they answered a random phone call on a vintage business phone. While Jack can understand retro chic, he doesn’t understand how the outdated phones could be having this effect. A trace reveals that the same number was responsible for all of the victims to date. Jack calls the number and gets no answer, but when he gets a call back from that number and answers the phone, he joins the ranks of the victims. Ianto and Gwen call on the expertise of an old flame of Jack’s, neurologist Stella Courtney. She’s familiar with Jack and with Torchwood, but hasn’t been involved with either since the 1970s. With Rhys helping out, Gwen tries to track down more information on the phones responsible for the wave of incidents. Ianto stays at Jack’s bedside while Dr. Courtney tries to learn more by watching Jack’s brainwaves. Torchwood needs to work fast, because the effects are soon no longer limited to a specific set of 30-year-old telephones…
Cast: John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper), Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones), Kai Owen (Rhys), Dona Croll (Stella), Eiry Thomas (Jan), Matthew Gravelle (Bob), Brendan Charleson (Tyler)
Notes: This made-for-audio Torchwood adventure was produced by BBC Radio 4 for broadcast on July 3rd, 2009, days before the premiere of Children Of Earth on BBC TV. The Dead Line was written specifically to accomodate an extremely tight recording schedule for John Barrowman, hence Jack’s absence from much of the story. Phil Ford has scripted TV adventures for both Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures.
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: The Dead Line is yet another radio adventure for Torchwood that doesn’t suffer for existing in the audio medium alone, and yet is good enough that one wonders why it couldn’t have been done on TV. Of all of the Torchwood radio plays, this is the one that feels most like the TV series. Surprisingly, the lack of Jack – a plot development necessitated by John Barrowman’s schedule – doesn’t negatively impact the story. Ianto and Gwen (and Rhys, in his first radio appearance) get their chance to shine and to solve the mystery without Jack’s help for once. Even when Torchwood is stripped down to two people and one rather befuddled “associate,” it can save the world.
The Dead Line successfully captures the “feel” of the TV series in a number of ways. The characters’ relationships are all addressed – Gwen and Rhys are quite a team here (a hint of what they’d wind up doing in Children Of Earth: Day Two, and the Jack/Ianto relationship is addressed fully here, both humorously and maturely, presaging Ianto’s fate in Children Of Earth. The Dead Line was first broadcast mere days before Children Of Earth, and it’s clear that an effort was being made to tie some strands forward into the television series’ new season. There’s also a little hint of things to come in the form of an alien menace that can effectively neutralize Jack without his resurrection ability saving him – because he’s not dead.
The Dead Line is an incredibly effective wrap-up to a trio of radio adventures that almost helped to make up for Torchwood’s truncated third TV season – almost, because the radio stories were so good that it was easy to wish that these stories, too, had been told on TV.