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February 24, 2008

Doctors In Distress

"Six months from now, she'll
Fuck Owen in a cupboard."
Happy now, Neil?

Torchwood: Reset

Reset_dave One look at that cheery face and bubbly personality and all the fond memories come flooding back. The strings pulled to get her into UNIT. That platonic crush on the Doctor. Handsome men swooning over her wherever she goes. The personal involvement in trendy public concerns of the day. Making a total hash of the very first spying mission she barges her way into. Getting locked up, escaping and immediately recaptured again. I am of course talking about Jo Grant, whom they brought back to write this episode. It's the only way to rationalise all of the above with the complete botch-up of GCSE biology on show today.

Just for openers we're asked to accept that one sunny-side-up injection of Mayfly eggs will retroactively heal anything - ANYTHING - that could conceivably endanger a host organism of any kind. Cancer? Doddle. AIDS? Piece of piss. Mad moo malady? Two fingers and a bright green 9,999 to that one too. Ebola? They'll stick their fingers down its throat, make it cough up all the flesh it's eaten and then beat the virus over the head with it, so there. Chula nanogenes? Ponces, the lot of 'em. You name it, these little winged commandos can restore any living being to its full absolute pinnacle of health. Dan da da daaaahhhh. Buy all the playsets and toys.

Chula nanogenes? Ponces, the lot of 'em

So how do they know? Where does this incredible Wirrn-esque ability to absorb any host's genetic pattern, Google up the universal database of every species ever and compare it against what's supposed to be 'normal' for that particular template, come from? Why is the Mayfly a galactic parasite instead of final conclusive proof of Intelligent Design? Because no natural processes of evolution, not even the ones that failed to spot that the Fendahl might have been a bad idea, would EVER have placed this godlike level of instinctive genius inside an utterly inappropriate shell and life cycle without the Devine Creator having strapped them down and applied several dozen cosmic Mickey Finns first.

Not only would the Mayflies have to be pretty unlucky to get lumbered with a host succumbing to cancer or AIDS, it's hardly likely to matter a spit unless the unspecified gestation period is months or even years. What about stepping out in front of a bus? Can they cure this? If you found out you were infected with these things and were going to die a hideous lingering death while your innards were eaten away, wouldn't suicide be the more preferable option first? The zero survival rate could just be a tiiiiiiiiiny little clue. Wouldn't all this magic Curaga laying-on-feelers effort be better spent on developing a body that wasn't so otherwise completely helpless, vulnerable and short-lived? Healing themselves might be a good start. What if they were to infect some one-of-a-kind mutation, like Leonard Betts or Eugene Tooms? Normal flies lay their eggs in decaying fecal matter; these ones create mountains of shit all on their own.

A single Mayfly offspring that stands about as much chance as K-9 And Company of keeping the family tree going

Anyway, the flipside to being so incredibly brainy and hard is that once exposed to the elements, the grown-up Mayfly must have about point oh oh three two picoseconds to find a brand new host for its offspring before it keels over dead from, I dunno, air pollution. Allergy to sunlight. Green kryptonite. Kennyitis. Anything. They can't have been called Mayflies for nuttin'. So with such a limited adult lifespan to show for it, you'd think the species would maximise the number of chances to keep the life cycle going, right?

Nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnope. It must be titanically boring to be a baby Mayfly, they apparently have nothing else to do but knock hell's bells out of each other in between watching reruns of Fight Club, Survival and The X-Files: Ice until only one winner remains. In short; an adult Mayfly requires canon-defying biological resources to finish up with one single offspring that stands about as much chance as K-9 And Company of prolonging the family tree.


Bug This isn't bloody frog spawn, most of which will be eaten by ducks or dropped down your sister's neck long before they have to worry later about jam jars, straws and the French; nor is it the African Savannah where survival of the fittest actually matters. Even if it were, beyond JR Hartley or whoever the bloody hell it was deciding halfway through that they fancied a big John Hurt gut-bursting scene, what prompted Mayfly development to settle upon this wacky reproductive cycle which ensures that the combined population can never increase, only go catastrophically down? We're talking SERIOUS negative entropy here - this is a selective breeding program of which Mao Tse Tung would have been proud. Is this the best they can do? What was the alternative, eating broken glass? How has the species survived even this long? What's happening to the host body while they happy-slap each other into oblivion, does it think "ooh, he kicked"? And mating, what about that? Is the adult expected to find a partner in that precious time against all the known laws of probability, or does it reproduce asexually, like regular insects categorically don't? If you told a Mayfly to go fuck itself, would it do it? Would it have time?

Seriously, don't start asking questions; you'll never ever stop. It won't take you many seconds either to come to the conclusion that if it weren't for these ridiculous writer-imposed restrictions, no power in the cosmos would be able to stop them rampaging across the entire universe. You remember the old Friz Freleng short where the little buzzing insect munched away the Pink Panther's house in a matter of seconds? That's what a single Mayfly would do. Now imagine a colony with MILLIONS of the buggers. It makes The Invisible Enemy look like the bastion of common sense.

Apart from all that, I lapped Reset up with a big, beaming smile on my ugly mug. I bet half of you were only watching for Martha anyway. Her job is basically to galvanise everyone - she's not even through the door and Jack's flirting, the dirty bastard. Inconceivable as it sounds, Martha is truly a more comfortable fit within the confines of the Hub than she ever was in the TARDIS. Coupled with this, the asides to Doctor Who don't come over awkwardly or forced for a change; they bloody well ought to, given the three-course meal of fanservice being rammed down our throats compared with the more oblique references we usually sup on. Even if it's just for the next couple of weeks while Martha is on board, you can truly believe now that the two shows belong to the same universe. It's all non-stop, goofy, infectious (sorry) fun. Would it be too much to ask for some more of the UNIT backstory, please? I still want to know what Owen did to get himself kicked out. And getting hold of a UNIT cap is easy; the hard part is finding a uniform Nicholas Courtney won't hate.

Getting hold of a UNIT cap is easy; the hard part is finding a uniform Nicholas Courtney won't hate

Could somebody tell me whose idea those strange corpuscular bumper animations were and why they thought it was a good idea to nick the trick from Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law? It's good that we have a show that's not afraid to experiment with its own visual style, but this is the one directorial touch that absolutely doesn't work this week (Ashley Way seemed to think so too as they noticably disappear about halfway through). It's like a 'MEANWHILE...' or 'LATER...' caption box in a comic; it serves no function except to break apart two individual scenes, and thereby forcibly remind the viewer that the whole world on show is made up. Mat Irvine - the same model maker with no dignity who gimbaled his way through the Weird Science DVD feature with the barely-animated Professor Karensky that fell into his own time accelerator and had to be hung up on wires - states in the Warriors On The Cheap commentary that however flamboyant it may be, an effect should always pass by unnoticed as an effect. It's a lesson which Torchwood steadfastly refuses to learn. Quick! To the Jackcave!

CydoniaSpeaking of whom, the Jack Pack, as always, still find the time to indulge in their usual 'Who Can Be The Crappest' contest. If only he'd stop thinking with his cock for more than three seconds at a time, Jack would kick himself for not realising straight away from his own TARDIS-related exposure to all sorts of alien gubbins and background radiation that Martha and her ming-mong midichlorians should have been the very, very last choice on the planet to try and infiltrate some Umbrella-dodgy medical research facility that's going to take blood tests as a matter of course. Meanwhile, Tosh slips back so effortlessly into her trademark Pavlovian cardboard-cutout deer-in-headlights response the moment anyone else mentions love or romance, she'd be a shoe-in for The Manchurian Candidate. Ianto, alas, disqualifies himself with his platonic love for that stun gun. However, Owen fails so hard while simultaneously banishing Neil's worst nightmares about him and Martha to the Nine Netherhells, that it's double-win. And he doesn't half do a good impression of the Cydonian Face on Mars, for a bonus. You know, the one that came to life in the truly tragic season one X-Files episode with all the stock Space Shuttle footage. LOL POWENED.

If we're going to be at all frank though, that last-minute Big Shock Ending is really about as 'shocking' as the average Phoenix Wright denouement if you've been paying any attention whatsoever. Let's leave aside the obvious question of how, after Suzie, anyone could think Owen's death could be anything other than a cheap gimmick, lacking as this series does the back-to-the-wall desperation that characterised Blake's 7. But looking back at the softening of Owen's character, and particularly the complete about-face in Adam coupled with Adam's own Suzie-like Hamlet impressions about the great void, Owen's 'death' has been at least as heavily signposted thus far through season two as Olag "ooh, I'm out of shape" Gan's was in Pressure Point. The problem is not so much the prospect of the show jumping through mandelbrot sets in order to bring him back, but that either they'll succumb to temptation and make him a 'reformed character' from his experience (and how the buggery is that supposed to make any sense?), or just say 'sod it' and replace him with somebody nicer. Either option amounts to a cheap and nasty writing-off of the Owen of the first dozen or so episodes as a dead loss, without in turn giving us any reason why we ought to give a shit. You'd never have believed you'd hear me saying this after Countrycide, but bring him back now, we won't take less.


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