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Audio Book Review


Red Skies


Author: Joseph Lidster
Read by: John Telfer
RRP: £10.20, US $24.95
ISBN: 978 1 4458 7196 7
Available 03 May 2012

Captain Jack Harkness is in need of a holiday. He wants to get away from Torchwood, away from the human race - and where better to get completely away from it all than on Cotter Paluni’s World, a planet that is surrounded by deadly scarlet lightning and cut off from the entire universe? However, there are some shocks in store for Jack. The “Devil’s World” might be completely isolated and inaccessible, but its inhabitants worship Torchwood - and before he can find out why, or how this is even possible, he finds himself arrested for murder. It looks as though someone on the planet knows who Jack is - and they are out to get him...

Owing to its alien setting, Red Skies may seem more like a Doctor Who adventure than a Torchwood tale. However, the now defunct organisation is name-checked several times, more so than during Miracle Day, so if Miracle Day can go out under the Torchwood banner, then surely this can too.

More importantly, this story spotlights the character who is for many the essential ingredient of the series, Captain Jack Harkness (or Harness, as he is referred to on the back cover). Writer Joseph Lidster explores the ideals and desires that drive this character: his vision of what Torchwood stands for, and his guilt over the many deaths that have taken place on his watch. This involves numerous flashbacks to his days at the Hub, particularly the 1999 segment of the episode Fragments.

However, it would appear that John Barrowman was too busy to record this talking book, so in a departure from AudioGO’s usual policy of hiring actors from the show to narrate these audio exclusives, the company has turned instead to talented voice artist John Telfer, who previously narrated the audio version of The Men Who Sold the World. He mostly succeeds in capturing Barrowman’s wry style of delivery, and provides a truly unsettling voice for the main antagonist.

Despite being isolated from the rest of the cosmos, Cotter Paluni’s World proves to be curiously Earth-like, with humanoid (but grey-skinned) inhabitants, who speak English (though perhaps Jack has some kind of gadget or gift for translation, as the Doctor does), a police station, a pub, and a barmaid called Heather. The author ultimately explains all of this, but I find it strange that Jack doesn’t comment on this upon arrival. Conversely, I’m not sure why Jack is so surprised to find that homosexuality is forbidden on this world, when it is far from being completely accepted in our own supposedly more advanced civilisation.

Unlike the writers of Miracle Day, Lidster remembers that Captain Jack is bisexual (indeed, omnisexual) rather than simply homosexual. Jack is just as happy to flirt with women (a tour guide and a barmaid) as with men!

I’m not certain what point the author is trying to make with the conclusion of his story, apart from “religious oppression is bad, mmkay”, but the telling of it is diverting enough. With a revelation about Gwen that will presumably be followed up in next month’s Mr Invincible, these post-Miracle audios are shaping up into quite a promising little mini-series. Red Skies at night (or indeed during the day) may prove to be many a Torchwood fan’s delight.


Richard McGinlay

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