Showen Of The Dead.
Where's Nick Frost and Simon Pegg
When you need them most?
Torchwood: Dead Man Walking
We've got it all together for a brand new show,
Owen Harper's undead and away we go!
While Captain Jack is haunted by some past-life ghost,
Martha's doing nothing 'cos she's aged the most!
So come on get involved, till the plot holes are resolved,
Hang around for spooky-do!
Well look, they can't kill him off for good without having to remaster the voiceover segment with him in it all over again, now can they? Even so, ninety seconds before the magic solution is pulled out of thin air has got to be some kind of world record. And off Jack goes with his one-legged cameraman to the derelict church in the middle of the night (because they can't simply park Owen in the cryogenic deep-freeze for a few hours until daylight when the place will be SAFER, the prannets. And why is it always St Mary's thingummybob in these kind of shows that attracts all the nutters anyway?). You don't actually see the animated George Harrison from Yellow Submarine singing 'tiptoe through the Weevils' during this bit, but we bet you will now that image is in your head.
You don't actually see the animated George Harrison from Yellow Submarine singing 'tiptoe through the Weevils' in the church, but we bet you will now that image is in your head
Being dead plays hell with your social life. Channeling Jon Pertwee's mirrorlon Inferno gurning while the voices in your head growl 'Mel Gibson' out loud is quite the party piece until they realise you're not putting it on. But before you know it you've timeslipped back to 1984 in the bar, and your whole sensory perception is of a swirly Duran Duran video gone horribly wrong as the pubgoers mindlessly incant 'Torville and Dean' over and over again in the background. So nothing different there then.
And now Owen Harper is Arnold J Rimmer, right down to the magnetic attraction towards every one-liner in the script. Goalpost Head, meet Crossbar Mouth. I said last week that simply writing him off or bringing him back a changed man would have utterly diminished the character beyond all credibility, so an appreciative nod is in order to the story planners for instead opting for the one legitimate solution that makes the scenario work, as overused as it is. Owen is placed in a position where it's impossible for him to enjoy his existence, all the power he's abused in the past has been totally stripped from him, and there's not a thing he can do except learn to lump it (and more than likely acquire a completely new set of powers along the way). No food, no sex (even Jack doesn't want to go there), not even any morbid pranks with decaying body parts which might have made the whole thing tolerable. This was the man who, after being told life was shit, decided on a whim to climb unarmed into a Weevil cage, and the quality Owen Harper has that made him special over 560 prior stiffs and four idiots amounts to nothing, bar one poxy security code. (Outside of the wonderful Random Shoes there is little competition, but the implication that your career life is worth less to your boss than the information he could write on a post-it note is the single greatest moment of black humour in the programme to date.) Neither Owen's death nor his near-instantaneous resurrection are at all important, it's the subsequent journey that matters; and even with a sociopath of this magnitude who still acts like an utter dork now that he has bottomed out and is literally unfeeling in the worst possible way, if this experience doesn't drastically shake up his entire personality, nothing else on the planet is going to. And even the Weevils are laughing at Owen now, when Jack gets them both carted off to the nick.
Goalpost Head, meet Crossbar Mouth
So you'd think there'd be enough journey material to sustain more than half an episode. Unfortunately, once he's been poked with the sharp stick as a reminder to bung in a bit of danger and alien wazzery, Matt Jones doesn't fill his alloted screentime any better with a single episode than he did with his Impossible Planet / Satan Pit two-parter, which had some good setpieces and nice character moments, but otherwise was a virtual retread of Pyramids Of Mars but with Sutekh and his release almost the entirety of the plot. Dead Man Walking has much the same problem - there's not enough to it and it's almost like watching the pretentiously shambolic Day One again, gas cloud and all - and without an alien planet, a hefty budget or a few pitched gun battles to sustain it, the later half is one big boring 'meh'. The visuals mirror the script for much of the time, lurching ungainly from each focal point to the next, usually with a long period of 'what now' sitting around in between, and far too often taking up a tiny portion of the available great open set space, bringing to the fore the pervading feel of emptiness. So the story just washes over you, leaving you to muse upon little irrelevant things instead; Owen may have lost his gag reflex, but I bet Tosh hasn't after that snog attack if his lips and tongue are cold. Even the gross-out black comedy in the prison cell and the Addams Family glove's unintentionally funny facehugger impresssions can only liven things up so much.
But look kids, it's Hedorah the Smog Monster! Yes, it's time for another arbitrary 'surprise' appearance by an extra-dimensional end-of-level boss we've never heard of before and more than likely never will again, of the sort they never bother to think through properly. This one needs a Baker's dozen (sadly not the good one with the scarf) of human souls to achieve Real Ultimate Ninja Power. Any thirteen will do apparently, which comes to roughly 0.0000002 percent of the current population of over six billion. And it couldn't even manage that the last time it manifested in plague-torn Wales, until clobbered by a corny religious metaphor about faith (and I bet you all groaned at the seeming certainty of it being dusted it off again for the climax). They actually managed to make the Grim Reaper, the single most feared symbol in the history of human expression, rubbish. What is the matter with this series that it has to make its entire plethora of unkillable omnipotent deites so unfathomably wick in order to contrive them into their respective episodes? Banished to limbo with your only hope of release a trenchcoated woofter with a Tarot fetish? If Sutekh could move, he'd be pulling faces under that mask.
They actually managed to make the Grim Reaper, the single most feared symbol in the history of human expression, rubbish
Durok was such an unthreatening presence that I couldn't have cared less about who would survive the tete-a-tete at the end, no matter what the incidental music was desperately trying to tell me. The fight was so static and badly staged that I wasn't watching Death; I was 'looking at' the CGI placement guy with the ball on his head, against whom Burn Gorman was doing such a rotten job of acting towards. Mortal Kombat it wasn't. Perhaps it was also the fact that a hospital isn't the most intelligent place to stage a life-or-death battle for survival when half the victims are on the critical list and unlikely to make it anyway. Smith and Jones leaves this third act in the dirt; it's not anywhere near as exciting or scary as it thinks it is, and with the indestructible man and the walking corpse in the middle of it all, it never feels as though there's any personal stakes involved apart from Martha's (even as a pickled prune she outclasses them all), making Jack's immortality speech in the cell about not having anything to lose jarringly prescient now. Owen finding the will to un-live from a cancer patient with a PSP is as insulting a character manipulation gesture as any the show has deemed fit to beat us over the head with. Besides, there's always the option of pulling an Eldrad and walking into a nuclear furnace, so you might as well knock it off with the self-pity anyway.
And suddenly, finally, everyone's exhausted their ideas and they dither about without any clue where to go next - cast, crew, writers, the lot. To go with the premise explored in the first act, this sort of non-ending would be conceptually perfect if the total lack of overall substance didn't leave it resembling a Spike Milligan sketch where the cast abruptly runs out of material and shambles zombie-like towards the camera chanting "what are we going to do now?" over and over again. It's like a deliberate metaphor for season one. You might almost call it 'postmodern', if postmodernism wasn't unbearable media wankspeak for 'get your own fucking ideas'.
Next: A Day In The Death. This time last season, the grand majority were hoping for one giant final clashing chord as the SERIES ENDED.
Torchwood: Dead Man Walking
Of course I knew he wasn't really dead. I've been a geek for far too long to have expected anything else. Even before the bizarre autopsy (call it a hunch but I reckon that the cause of Owen's death might have been a bullet flying through his chest, but what do I know, you'd better just slice him open with a saw!) I knew it was all a big fat lie. Owen was clearly only dead in the sci-fi sense of the word; just ask Spock, Sheridan, and Starbuck. How utterly predictable and depressing. My only hope was that Torchwood would take this hoary old chestnut and do something original and interesting with it.
Oh sod that. Just stick an episode of Buffy on instead.
Frustratingly, Dead Man Walking flirts with greatness before it pisses it up the wall. I loved the idea of Jack bringing Owen back so he could get the code to a filing cabinet (however, you have to wonder about Torchwood's security protocols at this point), and I honestly thought they were going to drag Owen back for an utterly perverse last-gasp good-bye. Maybe Burn Gorman and RTD weren't lying through their teeth during Torchwood Declassified. Maybe the episode title was designed to throw us off the scent. Maybe this would be the twist to end all twists. Now that would have been inspired.
What we actually got was a perfunctory, vague, plot-hole ridden Spooky Do. Or as they so eloquently put it on the Doctor Who Forum: "6/5!!!"
Owen was clearly only dead in the sci-fi sense of the word; just ask Spock, Sheridan, and Starbuck...
Forget alternative dimensions, Death looked like he'd shuffled in from a completely different programme. One of those Supernatural/Charmed/Ghost Whisperer/Fit Chick With Magical Powers type programmes that are still riding the tails of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Ah, Buffy. Her shadow looms ever larger over this season; from the Church of the Evil Weevils to the tarot card bollocks and a girl called Faith, this episode felt like a trip back to the 1990s. However, when Buffy dealt with the ramifications of someone dying and coming back "wrong" they did it as a musical number. And it still displayed more gravitas and profundity that this throwaway fluff.
The spiritual mumbo-jumbo, especially the 13-souls guff, felt like the kind of plot you'd find in one of those straight-to-DVD Zed-movies that Kim Newman always ends up reviewing in Empire magazine. And is anyone holding out for Matt Jones' next contribution to the franchise, where someone Sarah Jane vaguely knows will end up wearing black contact lenses and spouting gibberish about the boogeyman or Death's second cousin twice removed. The kids will defeat him with their innocent ickle faith, and there will probably be a wizard in it. What ever happened to this franchise's mandate of debunking superstitious magic with science and rational thought?
Two teenagers at a school youth club fighting over a packet of crisps...
I was laughing my head off when Owen had his little dance with Death. What should have been an epic, moving and terrifying confrontation looked like two teenagers at a school youth club fighting over a packet of crisps.
BUT at least it meant that Owen was really going to die this time. All that was missing was Jack yelling 'Owen! Nooooooo!!!!" in slow motion as he banged on the glass. Oh yes! Owen's sorry life would finally be given meaning and his noble self-sacrifice would imbue his character with some much needed dignity. It may have been the longest and most hamfisted death scene in history but at least we'd get to see Owen croak it twice in a fortnight. I was willing to forgive just about anything at that point.
I've got to give it to Torchwood. They really had me going this time. I didn't expect for one second that the show would just COP OUT AGAIN! It now looks like we are doomed to endure Owen Harper: the Series (especially if next week's trailer is anything to go by) and, just like John, I'm pretty much Owen-ed out. I have been since Day One. The vagueness at the end was almost insulting. Martha - who is rumoured to have been in this episode - tells Owen that he could "live" for another 30 minutes or another 30 years. Just like everyone else, then. At least Sheridan had a 'best before' date stamped on his forehead.
And what's up with all the THIS IS IT!!! music all of a sudden? I remember the days when those aching strings actually meant something profound and important was going to happen. I dunno, something like one of our heroes dying. They may as well bang out that track on when Ianto's making a cup of coffee for all the good it'll do now.
I don't know. There might be a great story waiting to be told about the consequences of Owen being brought back from death's door but this derivative drivel certainly wasn't it. But don't worry, they can always have another go next week...
Torchwood: Dead Man Walking
One of my favourite television moments ever is during the Quantum Leap episode The Boogieman. It happens right at the end when time travelling hero Sam Beckett realises that his holographic guide Al, who for much of the affair has been omitting certain truths and thoroughly misleading him, is actually a much darker force and might well be the devil working to stop him from carrying out his angelic aim of making right what once went wrong.
It literally makes my flesh creep and that mostly has to do with Dean Stockwell’s performance, a friendly face turned sour, a glint and his eye and some twisted facial muscles suggesting that our friend simply isn’t there. But it’s also because it suddenly increases the narrative landscape of the series, that he isn’t just being buffeted by the time winds but also the whims of metaphysical beings.
It seems probable that Dead Man Walking was supposed to have much the same effect, since the team literally bring Death (or some version of it) to Earth and although there was some idle discussion of whether it was from another dimension unlike much of Doctor Who, no real scientific, however fantastical, explanation was offered (which is something of a change for a franchise which up until now has mostly existed within a rational albeit sometimes magical universe).
The newly resurrected Owen was being used as a conduit for old boney to walk among us and they were following the instruction of an ancient manuscript in order to vanquish it. So far so Buffyverse. To some extent it worked, helped by a wonderful realisation of Death, eschewing the usual cloak and scythe for a gas which was far more reaper 2.0 than the opening titles of Dead Like Me.
The problem was that the bringer of block capitals didn’t push itself through the consciousness barrier. He was dragged into our world by the apparent heroes after bringing their friend back for a quick goodbye and grabbing of a security combination, men and women who on the basis of their previous experiences really should know better. After run of episodes in which have very clearly demonstrated which side of the moral debate our heroes stood, we’re back in the grey area that threaded through the first series and made it so difficult to watch. Unlike Quantum Leap, the forces of darkness in this series might well be the very people we're supposed to care about.
Jack’s always had a certain ambiguity with a very specific idea of how the greater good (the greater good) should be served. Giving up that child to the aliens in Small Worlds being a prime example. Except on this occasion Jack brought Owen back from death because he could, without as far as we could tell knowing what the consequences would be. Which might have been fine had his action not ultimately led to the death of twelve people. This puts us in the position of having to sympathise with heroes who’ve dropped off the moral compass, become the boogeyman (or woman) and I’m not sure that we can or should have to.
Perhaps I’m just touchy and I know this has nothing to do with wanting my heroes to be whiter than white. Even the Doctor has grey areas. And Batman for that matter and that might be what they’re going for. Except the Doctor and Batman materialize or swing into these grey areas for the greater good (the greater good). You could argue that the Torchwood team did exactly what any human being would do, ignoring the wider picture and making the most of the tools available in order to save a colleague. Except, y’know, twelve people. What about their families and friends, eh?
We should applaud the writers trying to be different, for attempting to put the audience on the back foot, since they’ve put us in the position of having to root for characters that have been doing the kinds of things which villains have a tendency to do, in other words, Torchwood reverted to type and became exactly the organisation the Doctor wrinkled his nose at in The Sound of Drums. Notice that in the middle of everything Martha (in about the only scene which justified her presence in the episode) tore a strip from her pal, thereby keeping her on the right side of right, almost ring fencing her from responsibility. But however well written the speech was like perfume within the moral vacuum.
The conclusion of the episode was almost being played out as though the team were battling an entity which they’d had no responsibility for, which had entered into our reality through some other means. The intention seemed to be to portray the team’s detached professionalism, but at least to these eyes it had all the hallmarks of psychosis of the kind some murderers apparently go through when they’ve bumped off a loved one and enter grief.
But I don’t know if that was the intention, that the writers were being that clever. What probably niggles is that I can’t be certain that writer Matt Jones made those kinds of psychological connections (certainly this interview suggests not) and if he did he’s asking an awful from us viewers looking for a bit of excitement on a Wednesday night. It’s ironic that ITV1 began showing the quasi-cop show Dexter later on in the evening which portrays a similar situation. Except in that case, the writers are very careful to make is victims people we’d dislike anyway.
Perhaps I’m just pissed off that just as it looked as though the production team had done something truly exciting like killing off a main character, he’s still walking around and brooding about what it is to be alive, flying about rubbish night clubs in the visual style of Harvey Keitel in Mean Streets. Perhaps it might have worked better if the team had shown a less flippant attitude to his immortality, instead of giving the impression it was just another day at the office, all breezy and business-like.
Perhaps after a run of excellent episodes, I'm disappointed to we're suddenly back in the territory of the first series, with its nervous tone, reliance on Weevils for scares and portrayal of what's supposed to be a professional team as idiots. Not since the truck was nicked in Countrycide have we seen a more cloth headed decision than leaving the glove lying around like its some medical instrument in order to produce an action sequence.
And what was going on with Jack's antics in the teaser? At a time when we should have been mourning the death of a character, we were offered something which looked like a live action adaptation of a Warner Brothers cartoon with the Captain in the Daffy Duck role, wonky camera angles included. I wouldn’t be too surprised if the episode lost my interest and investment right there. All it needed was a mousetrap to be in the box instead of the glove.
With an average episode I probably would have been applauding the treatment of Owen’s predicament particularly the fact that the internal systems related to digestion and erections had shut down. The scene in that police cell was a neat bit of writing and acting, up there with the similar male bonding scene in Utopia (even the projectile vomiting was a bit funny). The episode was well directed too, with only the odd Teagueian camera angle to pull us out of the action or confuse things.
Despite largely having nothing but exposition to say this time, Ianto once again had the funniest moment as he faced down the glove with a hockey stick and Martha, despite being horrendously underused still managed to demonstrate how missed she’ll be not travelling through time in the next series of Doctor Who. Even the Tosh and Owen material was sweet right up to the Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan moment at the end.
Which is probably where the epicentre of the problems I had with the episode lay. From Propp to Campbell theorists on the heroic trajectory have noted that for a story to be totally satisfying, if the hero succeeds through morally ambiguous means, there has to be a penalty (cf. Father’s Day). In order to create closure and for the actions to have consequences, for narrative reasons Owen had to die once and for all at the end during his struggle. But this kind of series television rarely allows for those kinds of absolutes and we’re also back in the situation of not really understanding what the production team are trying to do.
Mr. Gorman’s still under contract, still listed in the main titles and since Martha’s only around for three episodes isn’t going to be replaced any time soon. He’s technically still dead though (and good luck with dealing with that in continuity terms) and judging by next week’s episode has magical powers. Perhaps he’ll finally be offed next week and prove me wrong but I don’t think so. But now that the series has a family friendly version you have to wonder if this is sending mixed messages to kids about human mortality. Why can't they just be content with Torchwood giving us the weekly bit of clear cut good vs evil? Its served Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures quite well so far.
Torchwood: Dead Man Walking
So, hands up who really thought Owen was a gonner following the cataclysmic finale to Reset? I bet you feel a right lemon now.
Sure, the man is dead. He has ceased to be. He is an ex-Owen. But hey, this is science fiction and all the normal rules of life and death don’t apply, right? Yeah right, ‘cept now and again we at least expect some of the circumnavigation of these basic laws of nature to make a smidgen of sense. And there’s little in Dead Man Walking that is even on speaking terms with sense, let alone going down the local for a couple of pints and a few games of pool with it.
I was actually willing to let a lot of this slide because for the main part Dead Man Walking is a curious beast; part macabre rumination on the sudden permanence of death, part black comedy in which a walking, talking cadaver muses about the inconveniences of being deceased (the cold skin, the lack of blood flow, the need to projectile vomit several pints of beer rather than let it out the natural way). All whilst being periodically subjected to some pretty disturbing jaunts into the hall of mirrors from some mad bastard’s worst nightmares. Wherein Burn Gorman’s already pick-and-mix features are made to look even more bizarre than they already do. No small achievement this, given that not even a hint of CGI is involved.
Dead Man Walking takes homaging into the script-writing equivalent of an Olympic sport
But at about the midway stage it’s as if the Torchwood sages suddenly realise that we can’t just have a little offbeat story about life after death and the theoretical realities of coming back from the great beyond. And decide that, of course, what we really need is some Apocalyptic gubbins about Death being an incarnate force that, once thirteen disparate lives have been claimed, will suddenly hold all dominion over the whole world. I mean, it makes the leftfield appearance of Abaddon seem like a well-planned story arc by comparison.
Needless to say that after the almost hyperbolic quality of both Adam and Reset this is a soul-grindingly inevitable return to desperately contrived form for Torchwood. And once again it all comes down to a simple failure to heed the basic rule of good script-writing: keep it simple. How much of this is down to Matt Jones’ fault and how much is as a result of needing to shoe-horn in details that it seems will now inevitably build towards the season climax is unclear. But it has to be said that Jones and the boys and girls in Cardiff have been here at least once before. The Satan Pit was allegedly heavily rewritten against Jones’ behest and the amount of stuff that gets crammed unnecessarily into the admittedly thin plot here suggests that this could be a case of deja-vu. At the half-way point it looks as though Season Two’s big bad is gonna be one of the members of Team Torchwood itself, given that ambiguous climax (not to mention Owen getting all Dark Willow in the trailer to next week’s episode). And on which point, even by Torchwood standards Dead Man Walking takes homaging into the script-writing equivalent of an Olympic sport, ripping off so many Buffy and Angel episodes in the space of just fifty minutes that it would take a separate review just to cover them all.
not since Marty Hopkirk first gave art to the afterlife has so little thought been put into the actual dynamics of death
Speaking of wasted time, what a shame that Martha is suddenly the fifth wheel of the team having fitted in so well last week. All she gets to do now is spout technobabble, make half-arsed threats on behalf of UNIT and get to wear the silly old age make-up that David Tennant seemed to be turning into a cabaret act in last year’s Who. And why exactly does the Beast with Five Fingers choose Martha to suck the lifeforce out of, when if it’s unlimited energy it’s after Jack is practically giving it away? But then if it hadn’t the script writers would have had to find her something useful to do for the last twenty minutes besides auditioning for The Nichelle Nichols Story.
And don’t get my started on the ‘science’ of it all, seeing as it would have even the late Fred Freiberger coughing up a doughnut in disbelief. Okay, so Owen comes back as a result of death itself wanting to hitch a ride into the all-you-can-eat buffet that is mankind. So why following his expelling of the Grim Reaper’s rather sooty-looking essence doesn’t he just drop down dead somewhat like Marcus Scarman does after Sutekh has no further use for him in Pyramids of Mars? And if Owen has no digestive system to process food or blood flow to maintain a stiffy, how does he manage to walk (and indeed run) around like a normal living, breathing person? No doubt the ‘energy’ he is slowly dissipating come episode’s end holds some explanation, but not since Marty Hopkirk first gave art to the afterlife has so little thought been put into the actual dynamics of death. And at least he was a ghost…
Torchwood are left with a lump of flesh threatening to start the Apocalypse again
But if you thought the science was bad, check out the faux emotion of it all. Tosh gets to spill her guts about loving Owen, then it’s treated like it’s just a normal grief reaction when he comes back from the dead. And that’s not even the worst part, as Owen’s triple-hanky moment with leukaemia kid goes to prove. Hey, death’s a piece of piss when you’re already dead, boys and girls. So wipe away all those tears and try not to get too down about the fact that all your hair’s falling out, cos it could be worse. You could be dead already. Which is a bit like saying that death only matters when you’ve got nothing else to lose. Which it doesn’t. And no amount of quoting from Proust is going to convince me otherwise.
So what we’ve got here is perhaps the longest death scene in television history without any emotional payoff. And instead the rest of Torchwood are left with a lump of flesh that used to be a colleague threatening to start the Apocalypse again at any moment. Where this all goes from here is probably anyone’s guess, but I for one hope they avoid the cliché of having Owen become the enemy within that redeems himself at the last moment. At least Willow’s arc in Buffy had the addiction and grief metaphors; Owen was a bit of a wanker before he got offed so where exactly do you get any novelty out of him shooting the shit out of stuff and generally pissing off Jack and co.? I mean, we’ve already had one Buffy-aping season climax in which two characters embrace one another while the one says ‘I forgive you…’ And I for one am not sure I could take another.
Next Time: Bad to the bone, b…b…b…baaad. Owen tests the theory that tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life by going postal, getting sacked from Torchwood and… threatening Richard Briers?!?
Torchwood: Dead Man Walking
Doctor Who is such a heavily documented programme that even octogenarians who once worked as doormen in the Acton Hilton are considered fair game for lengthy interviews. So it's not surprising that some fans consider Matt Jones to be the Thomas Pynchon of Doctor Who just because he hasn't done an interview in DWM yet. There are rumours that this reticence is because his scripts for The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit were heavily rewritten before production started and he either took the hump or doesn't feel he has much to say about the changed scripts. The fact that he's cropped up as the author of Dead Man Walking seems to indicate that there isn't a major rift between Jones and the denizens of Upper Boat, and judging by the contents of all three scripts I'd suggest that he's only so quiet because he's darkly brooding somewhere. The man is clearly obsessed by the elemental forces of darkness. First he dealt with Satan, and now he turns to Death itself. He probably sits scowling in his living room with Bergman's The Seventh Seal on a continuous loop, trying to ignore the messages on his answerphone from Tom Spilsbury. Unfortunately I felt almost as glum as him by the end of this episode.
I know that the Church of England has some problems with dwindling congregations, but this is ridiculous
The whole scene went ill from the off. Why exactly were all of the Torchwood team standing around waiting to watch Owen's autopsy? I've had some workmates that I didn't like, but I wouldn't want to stand around and watch while someone cuts them open and hefts their inner organs. And they were supposed to like Owen. Then Jack remembers the other "risen mitten" and sprints off to the pub to get a tip from the youngest landlady in Wales. She points him in the direction of the local church where a load of weevils (what is the collective noun for weevils? An evil of weevils? A snarl of weevils?) are so far behind with organising the next day's jumble sale that they are sleeping on the premises so they can get an early start. It looks like it'll be a mediocre event anyway; lots of action men for sale, but hardly any records. I know that the Church of England has some problems with dwindling congregations, but this is ridiculous. Of course it is, it's Torchwood.
I think that the "tone word" for this episode must have been "cheap". It was essentially a character piece for the regular cast with few locations and a CGI smog monster. In fact it makes you wonder just how big Alan Dale's fee must have been to leave them this hard up. It's probably safe to assume that Matt Jones was given a fairly tight brief for the episode, but whether that excuses the mundane plot and awful dialogue depends on how charitable you're feeling. Apart from anything else a lot of tension was defused by the fact that both Owen and Jack, for different reasons, were pretty much impervious to any kind of peril. It was asking a lot of the audience to feel sad about Owen jacking up with formaldehyde when only ten minutes earlier we'd seen him shot and resurrected. There's only so much concern you can have when death is unlikely to be the end. This was writ even larger during the climax when Owen staggered around with a camera, supposedly grappling with death. Jack and the others looked very worried. Why exactly? He's dead. Even the dialogue wilted under the ennui: "What happened when Death walked among them?" came the question, "They died" came the scintillating response. Well duh!
portentous homilies are slapped in front of the audience like fish onto a slab
Maybe some of the dialogue was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, but I doubt it. This episode was very much in the mould of those unbearably pompous first series episodes such as They Keep Killing Susie and Ghost Machine where portentous homilies are slapped in front of the audience like fish onto a slab. Such po-faced material always teeters on the brink of hilarity anyway, but the hospital evacuation sent me right over the edge. The team blundered around shouting "This is Torchwood" which yet again raised the whole question of exactly how meaningful this phrase is supposed to be for the average patient. If Torchwood is a covert organisation (which it seems to be in at least some episodes) then they might just as well have walked around shouting "This is Bonanza Tampon. Please leave the building." for all the sense it would make. Still I was pleased to discover that Jack, while spending sleepless nights in the Hub, evidently keeps up to date on the evacuation procedures for all the public buildings in the vicinity. "Please go to Assembly Point B in the Car Park". I certainly felt cheated that there was no coda scene with Jack at a fire marshall debriefing agreeing action points that would speed up evacuation the next time a crappy embodiment of death invades the wards.
At least Dead Owen wasn't
reset, but rather than leave his uncertain state bubbling away in the
background it looks as if we'll be treated to another Owen-heavy
episode next week which (for me at least) is just too much Owen. I'm
Owen-ed out. We were offered the prospect of a show without Owen and
now this prize has been snatched away. His prominence seems especially
harsh on Martha as her last episode is coming up, and Reset aside she's been a bit of a makeweight. So I was a tad depressed by Dead Man Walking but nevertheless I'm much much cheerier than Matt Jones. Hopefully he'll follow Paul Cornell's lead and take his unique style to Primeval next year. Thirty minutes of Douglas Henshall brooding in the ARC before he takes on a dark necromancer disguised as a diplodocus. I can't wait for the absence of an interview in Primeval magazine come 2009.
Behind the Sofa is a collaborative blog dedicated to the long-running British SciFi show 'Doctor Who' and its spin-offs. Intended for mature readers only.