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February 21, 2008

Animal Pharm

Torchwood: Reset

Given the fact that BBC3 afforded us the chance to watch this straight after Adam, I’m tempted to start by saying that this was very much a game of two halves, Brian. On the one hand a touching and contemplative mediation on the power of memory, on the other a half-arsed mix of Spooks and Torchwood’s usual runaround nonsense; welding on a fairly spurious metaphor about animal experimentation and the dangers inherent in offering oneself up for clinical trials. But to do so would be to do Reset a grave injustice. Sure, it’s a rather startling change of pace from the previous week/fifty minutes (delete as per viewing preference) but if you can see past the ADHD-afflicted direction from Ashley Way and the occasional descents into Friends-style gadding about by the Jack Pack there’s much to both enjoy and stimulate. And that’s before we even get to the leftfield cliff-hanger.

I mean, what’s not to love about an episode that sees both the return of Martha Jones and Jason Donovan’s Dad playing a mad scientist? Yup, despite Amy Winehouse’s warnings to the contrary, dear Dr. Jones has been co-opted by the Torchwood gang to investigate some mysterious deaths in which all  the victims have traces of ammonium oxide in their blood (bleach, to you and me) and pin-prick size holes in their eyeballs. And whoever said that life after travelling with the Doctor could only ever be dull?

fake ID that wouldn’t fool a particularly slack cigarette-peddling newsagent

Reset_sean But without further ado, let’s hear it for Freema Agyeman, who breezes back into our Whoniverse lives as though she’s never been away. Reminding us in about three seconds flat what made Martha such a tonic following the Tennant/Piper smug-fest that was Season Two, Agyeman makes out like she’s been in Torchwood since day one; flirting shamelessly with Jack and Owen, whilst rubbing up Gwen and Tosh the wrong way until even they realise that she’s got more talent than the average medically-trained Torchwood monkey. So with Jack showboating for Martha’s attention like a love-sick puppy and Owen trying out all his best lines in post-rohypnol date-rape chat, it’s left to the newly-qualified Dr. Jones to take matters into her own hands when Torchwood requires a plant to subterfuge itself into the mysterious Professor Copley’s pharmaceutical farm.

At which point things get very Spooks, and before you can say 'espionage thriller' we’ve got Martha being kitted out with James Bond-issue camera contact lenses, Ianto inventing fake ID that wouldn’t fool a particularly slack cigarette-peddling newsagent and Owen and Tosh monitoring Martha via the medium of steadicam, finding time to clumsily arrange that date that they’ve been building up to for the last three episodes.

an industrial-sized insect that would seriously piss you off hanging around your pint on a warm summer’s day

Reset_sean2 Oh, did I mention James Bond? Well, just to ram the point home we’ve got a particularly mad bastard in the shape of ex-Neighbours patriarch Jim Robinson, who appears to have discovered a way of curing all known disease with the aid of some genetically modified mayflies. Trouble is the test patients for such procedures have a nasty habit of either copping it from toxic shock syndrome or getting all John Hurt  and spewing out an industrial-sized insect that would seriously piss you off hanging around your pint of Magners on a warm summer’s day. Seems that Martha has unwittingly made herself the ideal test guinea pig as well, seeing as her immune system has been enhanced a hundred fold from her time travelling with you-know-who (that’ll be the Artron energy, dontcha know).

So far, so good. And it must be said that Alan Dale is a revelation away from the shrimp-on-the-barbie confines of Ramsey Street, exuding the kind of cool menace that only the truly megalomaniacal can maintain and showing up Jack for the double-standard, cheesy-grinned tosser he has mostly been since returning from the year One Trillion. Captain Twat is back on fine form after a week off emoting and playing hypnotic regression with his comrades, using a weevil to torture a suspect into (literally) spilling his guts and shutting down Copley’s operation as though government-approved facilities are his to do with as he will. Seems like Jack is even more cocksure (with the emphasis on cock) of himself than ever in these post-enlightened times. Though his oblique reference to the Master at one point was kinda neat.

for one brief second I was quite literally stunned by Torchwood

Reset_sean3 And just when things seem to be getting tied neatly into a Torchwood-style bow, there’s that finale. Now, I don’t suspect for a minute that it’s permanent, nor am I convinced by the opening shots of next week’s episode that we’re in for anything more than a seen-it-all-before resurrection. But for one brief second I was quite literally stunned by Torchwood. What a brave, unexpected and downright shocking thing to do with one of the regulars. And what a perfect time to do it if it does indeed turn out to be for keeps. No, scrub that. They wouldn’t. They couldn’t. Could they?

All of a sudden I can’t bloody wait for the next episode. And if you’d said that to me just a month ago I’d have eaten my weevil.

Next Time: Get me the resurrection glove! Pass me the Risen Mitten! Oh sod it, just get Jack to call on some beastly force from God-knows-where to bring on the Apocalypse. Again.

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