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The Five People You Kill in Middlesbrough was the fifty-first story in the Torchwood audio series by Big Finish Productions. It was written by Tracy-Ann Oberman and Tim Foley using the pseudonym of the character Yvonne Hartman, which was played by Oberman.

Publisher's summary[]

When a spaceship crashes on Middlesbrough it’s very sad, of course. But we at Torchwood have long had a plan to contain such a disaster.

Only, nothing is happening. And the disaster is spreading. So, I set out to find out what’s going on. What has happened to The Icarus Protocol? Who launched a Moonstrike Missile? And why will no-one admit that there's a cloud of deadly particles sweeping across the United Kingdom?

My name is Yvonne Hartman. Don't come between me and my country.

Plot[]

A spaceship crashes in Middlesbrough, leading Yvonne Hartman to contact Alfie Scott, the Defence Secretary. Scott, a politician who prides himself on 'plain speaking', publicly appeals for calm and states that the British government has the situation under control. Yvonne confronts Scott privately and asks why the Icarus Protocol has not been activated. Scott tries to avoid Yvonne's questioning but eventually concedes that he has used the budget for the Icarus Protocol to construct a new road bypass in his constituency.

Yvonne is indignant that budget for an alien defence system was used on a political project but also finds upon further investigation and questioning that there is a link between the Middlesbrough incident and the Moonstrike missile program, which is also managed by Scott. Moonstrike is over budget and delayed, leading Yvonne not just to question whether Icarus funding has also been redirected to Moonstrike but also as to whether a Moonstrike missile shot down the alien spaceship in the first place. After one of his meetings with Yvonne, Scott phones a man named Casper Beacham and informs him that Yvonne is investigating the matter.

Yvonne, in contact with the Quarshi, an alien race to whom the spaceship belongs, tries to warn Scott about the risks of the spaceship engines exploding. The engines are leaking atoms and creating a cloud that can 'tear people apart' if they enter. However, Scott refuses to either evacuate Middlesbrough or work with the alien race to solve the crisis, fearing public unpopularity. In response, Yvonne laces Scott's tea with a drug that makes him even more stubborn than before. This results in Scott going for a midnight run along the bypass in his constituency despite fast traffic and as a result he is struck by a lorry. Yvonne appears beside Scott as he slowly dies, telling him she poisoned his tea with the drug because he wouldn't take action to protect the country and she needed him out of the way.

Yvonne next visits Mo Simister, the government's crisis response commander. Simister is more concerned with appearances on television and encouraging people to sign up to an app to track exposure to the photon cloud. Yvonne criticises Simister's slow response to the crisis, notably in that the government are still yet to set up a cordon around Middlesbrough and why they're spending billions on an unreliable app.

Simister defends her handling of the crisis but is unable to effectively answer questions from Yvonne about why her crisis response unit is based in Middlesex rather than Middlesbrough and why the private contract to construct the cordon has been handed to a company specialising in celebrity event management rather than genuine specialists. Once the Quarshi ships engines finally explode, the crisis worsens and Yvonne realises she needs to take quick action.

Simister receives an alert from the tracking app indicating that she has potentially been exposed to the photons and therefore is required to self-isolate at home. Yvonne reveals to her by phone call that she has taken charge of Simister's crisis response team and has put them to work on taking necessary actions to protect the people of Middlesbrough, to Simister's chagrin and protests. One night, Simister's phone repeatedly sounds alerts despite her attempts to silence or even destroy the phone. Yvonne visits the next morning to find a tired Simister, who accuses her of setting up the repeated alerts. Yvonne tells Simister that she cannot hear any alert sounds and reveals that Torchwood have technology which can implant repeated sounds in people's minds. Yvonne says that she needs Simister out of the way "for a long time" and leaves her distressed and screaming as the alert sounds intensify in her mind.

Lancelyn Green, a journalist and broadcaster who proudly defies conventional scientific wisdom and brags about being 'cancelled' by mainstream media, is the subject of Yvonne's next visit. Yvonne appears during one of Lancelyn's radio broadcasts and wishes for Lancelyn to stop telling the public that the Middlesbrough crash and photons are fake news. Lancelyn refuses, in spite of Yvonne telling him that his broadcasts are making Middlesbrough residents leave their homes in the belief that the crisis isn't real and thus die in the danger zones.

Yvonne responds by interfering with Lancelyn's media contacts so that they forget who he is and subsequently do not offer him any media appearances. Yvonne also has all episodes of Lancelyn's podcast removed and ensures that his submitted newspaper column is not published. Lancelyn is forced to protest outside the offices of his radio station and launch an internet fundraising campaign for himself after Yvonne's efforts ensure he loses his radio show. Finally, Yvonne even goes to the extent of making Lancelyn's mother, a longtime friend of hers, forget who her son is.

Upon finally confronting Lancelyn, Yvonne reveals she used an alien artefact that means Lancelyn is invisible and forgotten by everyone except Yvonne. Her justification for doing so is that she needed time to fix the Middlesbrough crisis without Lancelyn's unhelpful broadcasts. Lancelyn is unrepentant and Yvonne leaves him to continue to be forgotten.

Yvonne next visits Jill Kerr, the Leader of the Opposition, who is a dithering politician scared of both Yvonne and taking firm action against the government. Yvonne asks Kerr to support a cross-party plan, drafted by Yvonne and supported by numerous MPs blackmailed by Torchwood, to solve the crisis. However, Kerr continues to dither and is clearly scared of taking action that may cross Beacham and the government. Kerr tries using an excuse about Endangered species like slugs based in Middlesbrough as a way to avoid taking action, further infuriating Yvonne.

In response, Yvonne proceeds to visit various members of Kerr's Shadow Cabinet of the United Kingdom to gain support against her weak leadership. However, as a result of Kerr's dithering and the crisis worsening, Yvonne concludes she cannot wait for Kerr's colleagues to move against her. Instead, Yvonne incapacitates Kerr with a device that affects her cartilage and spine by transferring the spine to another dimension, meaning that Kerr is rendered speechless and unable to move. Torchwood agents enter and take the incapacitated Kerr away under the cover of a medical emergency as Yvonne says they'll solve the crisis in her absence.

Yvonne finally confronts Beacham, the chief advisor to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who is attempting to flee without his family to a nuclear bunker in Plymouth to avoid the rapidly spreading photons. Yvonne demands that the Icarus Protocol is activated whilst Beacham reveals that a post crisis inquiry will blame Torchwood rather than the government for the mishandled crisis. Beacham gets stuck in a traffic jam and confronts motorists in front of him who subsequently confront him for fleeing London.

As a result of being filmed, Yvonne says Beacham fleeing will be a news story imminently. After helping Beacham flee the traffic jam, the pair arrive at a Petrol station to refuel and Yvonne chastises Beacham for his actions in abandoning half the country to the dangerous photonic cloud and refusing to believe that the Quarshi ship engines would explode. Yvonne also reveals that she knows it was Beacham, rather than Scott, who ultimately cancelled the Icarus Protocol to put funding into the Moonstrike missile program, which brought down the Quarshi ship in the first place. Yvonne further tells Beacham that she knows he gave Scott orders to cover up the mistake, appointed the inexperienced Simister as crisis response commander, funded Lancelyn before he disappeared and gave Kerr reasons to avoid committing to a firm response. Beacham also removed the Home Secretary from being a competent rival in the crisis response by sending him on a boat into the English Channel as part of an operation to hunt for illegal immigrants, where upon the Home Secretary's boat vanished thanks to the photonic cloud.

Yvonne demands to speak to the Prime Minister as the photonic cloud approaches them but Beacham flees and leaves her behind. Yvonne later catches up to Beacham once he has a flat tire and incapacitates him with a nano-flare that temporarily blinds his vision. Beacham still refuses and says Torchwood will still fix the crisis anyway without him having to change course. Yvonne chastises Beacham for his incompetency and selfishness, to which Beacham finally seems to express remorse. Descending into insanity, Beacham drives off into the cloud whilst still blinded, killing him.

After finally solving the Middlesbrough crisis and stopping the spread of the cloud, Yvonne meets with the Prime Minister and says she has halted the spread of misinformation, ensured genuinely intelligent people were appointed to replace Scott, Simister and Beacham whilst also overseeing the election of a new, competent Leader of the Opposition. Yvonne informs the Prime Minister that she will continue saving the country at any cost and warns them to support her, implying they'll meet a fate similar to those of Scott, Simister, Lancelyn, Kerr and Beacham if not.

Cast[]

References[]

To be added

Notes[]

  • This story was recorded remotely on 8 March 2021.
  • Within the context of its production and release, The Five People You Kill in Middlesbrough has many clear references and allusions to the UK's response, over 2020 and 2021, to the COVID-19 pandemic. The script speaks to a frustration with the government's handling of the crisis and its initial response, as well as with its difficulties launching an effective tracking app, the media's role in the pandemic response and in public opinion, and a perceived lack of effective opposition in governmental decision-making.
  • Within this framework, the story's characters can be viewed as representing public figures and their response to the pandemic. In this view, Casper Beacham can be seen as satire of Dominic Cummings, Mo Simister as satire of Dido Harding, Jill Kerr as satire of Sir Keir Starmer and Alfie Scott as satire of Matt Hancock. Additionally, Lancelyn Green can be seen as satire of media figures like Piers Morgan and Darren Grimes.
  • Despite being called The Five People You Kill in Middlesbourgh the story is almost entirely set in London and the surrounding area.

Continuity[]

External links[]

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