"Six months from now, she'll
Fuck Owen in a cupboard."
Happy now, Neil?
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.
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!
Speaking 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.
Well that was … disappointing. No I don’t mean the episode. That was proper television, somehow managing to do everything my series saving manifesto pleaded for, superlatives all round particular for writer J. C. Wilsher who also created one of the best cop shows ever, Between the Lines. RTD and the gang should be out right now celebrating over a Sex on the Beach or whatever the official Upper Boat cocktail is (Cerebral Hemorrhage?). No I was disappointed because of something entirely outside of their control. What I mean is that I wish that once again I could be tapping away this keyboard totally stressed out by the ending. Owen’s not dead is he? Really? Really? They simply can’t do that!
At the risk of doing a Charlie Brooker and chatting around the subject for a few paragraphs before actually reviewing the episode, I’m sick to the back teeth of spoilers. It’s not unusual for the BBC to knock out the following episode of a series on a digital channel – The Sarah Jane Adventures went to DOGville as has Spooks and Life On Mars briefly here and there. The problem is that those of us who don’t want to watch these things with a spinning or dayglow (or both) logo in the middle of the widescreen and with the majority of the nation, are fucked when it comes to spoilers especially if we’re in the target audience for the series -- in other words people who use the internets.
At the risk of doing a Charlie Brooker and chatting around the subject for a few paragraphs before actually reviewing the episode, I’m sick to the back teeth of spoilers.
So by at least last Thursday I knew that Owen was shot and killed. But then I noticed that even if you had managed to ignore all of the relevant blogs, dodged emails and played cold turkey from discussion board, Torchwood Magazine printed a bloody great photograph on its inside pages which is the kind of thing you’d expect from ironically named tabloids (who’ve ruined the end of the fourth series already I see) and not from the official publication which I saw in Forbidden Planet last Friday. Doctor Who Magazine’s so ass-tight it actually delayed publication once for a whole week so as not to spoiler an episode which had been postponed due to sport but their new cousins clearly haven't a clue what they're doing. Whoever they are.
Of course, students of the work of Mr. Whedon and Mr. Abrams and probably Mr. Hitchcock would have had some impression that Mr. Harper wasn’t long for this world, given the complete rewiring of his character to the point of making him bearable, quite tenderly agreeing to a date with Tosh, the one woman he spent much of the first series taking the piss out of. Despite the threat of an interloper to steal the show, this was probably Owen’s best episode so far and saving the day for a change is just the kind of thing someone does in television if they’re about to contract cancer, be involved in a fatal car accident or as in this case experience a fatal gunshot wound the chest.
Assuming he really is dead, at least he’ll have Suzie to spend his television afterlife with, rutting for all eternity. We’re yet to see the after effects (well I am anyway) but this should resonate more because we can see the kind of hole he’ll leave in the team. Who’s going to be the flirty twat that isn’t a Captain now? But to offer some random speculation for those of us who are watching it the slow was, really I don’t think he’s gone. Burn Gorman’s sticking around for cadaver duty and I can’t imagine Jack’ll stand by when he can borrow Buffy’s urn of Osiris and bring the mockney MD back to the land of the living – or what passes for it in The Hub.
Burn Gorman’s sticking around for cadaver duty and I can’t imagine Jack’ll stand by when he can borrow Buffy’s urn of Osiris and bring the mockney MD back to the land of the living – or what passes for it in The Hub.
And what of the interloper? It used to be the return of companions was the stuff of spin-off novels, spin-off audios and fan fiction – and with the exception of the eponymous Sarah-Jane Smith that’s largely been the case. In the coming months though apparently the Tardis is going to be like some intergalactic version of the hop-on-and-off City Sightseer red bus service, with Donna Noble sticking her hand out first of all. Martha’s back too and these episode of Torchwood are going to be setting the scene for that. Insert here another version of my discussion about how this series can’t ever be seen as totally independent from its mother.
Whispering (because this is heresy amongst some fans), apparently there are some people who don’t like Martha and with addition murmering, are looking forward to the return of Catherine Tate. They’re half wrong of course. Catherine Tate is going to be brilliant and despite her initial similarities to the expected model of what a Doctor Who companion is like these days – young, born in the shadow of the bow bells – Martha developed into an indispensable, adorable figure, completely free of the cockiness which derailed Rose’s character towards the end. Say what you like about the glowly floaty Doctor and Judeo-Christian undertones, we’re talking about someone who saved the world through the power of speech. What’s not to like?
Say what you like about the glowly floaty Doctor and Judeo-Christian undertones, we’re talking about someone who saved the world through the power of speech. What’s not to like?
Martha 2.0 is a useful extension of that. Having her join UNIT (who in a slight retcon are suddenly more important than Torchwood) means that all that travelling hasn’t gone to waste and in storytelling terms gives a perfectly valid reason for her to pitch up in the Hub, a story beat which could easily have been of an order not since Worf turned up on the Enterprise for no good reason in Star Trek Insurrection (‘I was in Cardiff shopping and thought I’d look you up – ooh is that an alien?’). She’s still a bit funny, still sweet but also exhibiting an intellect only hinted at before; if this had been Rose it’d be like Jo Grant returning from her trip up the Andies and sounding like Liz Shaw. But Martha’s a doctor, she has always been able to think on her feet and she used to learn from the Doctor all the time.
The disciples at The Church of AHistory are probably already scratching their heads though; judging by the weather patterns, the clothing, and probably the décor, this can only be about September and yet here’s Miss Jones talking like a copy of The New England Journal of Medicine. Is she fast learner or has something gone on between SOD U LOTT and this which we haven’t been privy to? Either way, squeevians were well served by a range of references to that earlier story, not least that Jack’s not very trusting of the folks at Whitehall these days, and a flash of the newspaper from Boomtown. But the most significant development about Martha, apart from the new boyf, was the revelation that the time vortex has mutated her blood (did this happen to every companion, ever?) and what looked like her resurrection. Is she in the Jack way?
All this and Jim Robinson. It seems only right that Alan Dale, who on leaving Neighbours received one of the most undignified deaths in soap opera history (face down under a kitchen table) should go on to forge a career in Hollywood playing slimy bastards only to return here and possibly get flashbacks of Hilary Robinson tutting over Jim’s corpse (even though that was filmed in Australia). Perhaps, since the episode had so much more to do, not least giving Martha the chance to share a scene with all of the main characters in turn – except Tosh oddly – delicious Dale didn’t have as much screen time as he deserved – but at no point did he seem like a single episode character – you don’t hire someone like Jim Dale for that kind of duty. Like a bad penny or the Delgado Master in the Pertwee era, he’s sure to be back.
the Mayflies were essentially the Wyrrn with standards
I’ll let everyone else tease out the thematic elements – that the only real difference between the bad people in The Pharm and the good people of Torchwood is that the former steals aliens and the latter their technology. The fact that Owen’s doodat was deus ex machina par excellence, only redeemed because it was misused throughout the episode and not simply whipped out at the end. That the Mayflies were essentially the Wyrrn with standards and that Martha’s contact lenses were one of the best sci-fi gadgets ever though truly a missed opportunity for comedy and speaking to the kids by using txt speak on her monitor: “kEp him talkin & try 2 git yorself inside” etc. Again I say, this was proper television and I’m delirious with anticipation for next week.
It even took time to throw in a probably coincidental reference to a Doctor Who spin-off companion. Tens of dozens of McGann fans punched the air.
Next Week: I don't want to know until next week. Lalalalalalalacan'thearyou.
I think it's disgraceful the way that people still find it difficult to see Alan Dale without immediately thinking of Jim Robinson. From the moment I spotted him in the role of the Vice President in 24 and spat my food so far across the room it hit a window, I have wished him all the best in his continuing career in the US and feel genuinely sorry for those small-minded people who insist on pigeonholing him as the patriarch from Neighbours. It is, of course, as Dr Forrest in The Young Doctors that he should always be remembered to the exclusion of any other role he may ever take again no matter how prestigious. I've always thought that Alan's rough no-nonsense exterior was partly down to the trauma of playing out the tragedy of Dr Forrest's wedding day during which his beautiful bride was electrocuted by a faulty table lamp. No man should have to see his pretend wife twitching on a brown carpet on what should have been the happiest fictional day of his life.
any number of dodgy quangos could have been set up
But if Big John Forrest - sorry Big Alan Dale - had decided to appear in the first series of Torchwood then he would certainly have been reminded of his days on a badly-written and woodenly-acted show like The Young Doctors. Instead he's chosen very wisely and joined Torchwood when it's actually good. His role as Dr Forrest does have relevance outside of my own petty obsessions though. A lot of people, once over the shock of Jim Robinson cropping up in The OC or Ugly Betty, were also surprised to see the avuncular Jim showing a mean and unpleasant side. Whereas people like me who saw him first as the single-minded and cranky Dr Forrest knew that menace was his strong point, and his casting as Aaron Copley suited him to a tee. Copley wasn't a particularly well-drawn character, which is why you needed someone like Dale to fill things out with some well-judged nostril flaring. I really enjoyed his scene with Barrowman - the "Check with Whitehall" comment and Jack's response was a welcome reference to the events in The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords . It certainly gave rise (in me anyway) to the idea that we still don't know exactly what the Master did during his time in power, and it doesn't seem out of the question that any number of dodgy quangos could have been set up when he was in charge of the Ministry of Defence. The Pharm could have been one of them, but there could be others and it would be nice if this idea could be expanded on later in the series. On the flipside there is the problem that reminding us about Saxon just reminds us that the team haven't mentioned the Himalaya expedition, and no-one seems to remember the President being murdered on Captain Scarlet's skybase. But we'll just have to let that one go.
Of course, this episode wasn't just about Dale. Good old Martha was back in action, and I thought her return was handled very well with about as little time wasted reintroducing her as could be done without being rude. It was nice to see her back, and the reasons for her return made sense even if she had gone from being a medical student to an all-round super genius in a matter of weeks. (Or is it months? Somebody go and check in AHistory and let me know.) But I suppose in her "gap year" as well as walking the Earth, reading Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon to Croatians and toasting marshmallows over the burning islands of Japan, she might have had time to cram in some extra revision. Despite this expertise, if she had shown up in the first series then she would have probably been shot and date-raped (in that order) before they'd added her to the coffee rota, but as it is she fitted in nicely with the new, team-like, Torchwood team. Indeed it's hard to know why they, or the producers, would be inclined to let her go again. I don't think Martha is the most exciting character in the world, but she would make sense as a regular on the show. So think on BBC Wales and get Freema to sign up now.
she would have probably been shot and date-raped (in that order) before they'd added her to the coffee rota
As if all this wasn't enough, Reset was written by the mighty JC Wilsher, a man who has been criminally (arf arf) underused since Between the Lines finished all those years ago. For those of you who haven't seen it, Between the Lines was a first-rate paranoid cop thriller for at least two series and if it doesn't look as impressive now it's only because so many subsequent programmes have copied it. Reset may not be up to Wilsher's best work, but the script was a lot leaner than some of the other, rather baroque, Torchwood episodes. The plot made sense on its own terms, I loved the eye cameras, and Martha's nocturnal prowl around the Pharm opening combi-locks and cracking computers was effectively tense in a "Mission Quite Difficult" sort of way. This bit of "very civilized" industrial espionage worked very well for the basis for an episode. And it was good to get away from the shouting and running for a change.
I have quibbles of course. Jack pontificating to Copley about a "war crime" was a bit much considering his behaviour this series and especially as he'd just been using weevils as instruments of torture. Pot kettle. And the alien menagerie did remind me a little of the climax to Paul Cornell's recent Primeval episode. Do the writers hang around in the same pubs, or just go through each others' bins? But this was such an enjoyable episode that even the new "nice" Owen being pumped full of hot lead couldn't dampen my spirits. I was sad to see Dale go out with a slug in the head, but hopefully that means the sad memory of his wedding day and the late Liz Kennedy has been extinguished forever. RIP Dr Forrest. Torchwood 9/10, tick, VG.
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
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
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
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.
Just when you thought things couldn't get any better in the vastly improved Torchwood 2: Electric Boogaloo, they just killed Owen Harper! Shot in the chest at point blank range by Jim Robinson from Neighbours, no less. He's stone cold dead - there's no way that he could come back from that. No, sirree! He is an ex-Harper, he has passed away, kicked the bucket, shuffled off this mortal coil, gone to join the choir invisible (do they let date-rapists into heaven?) and I haven't cheered so much since Adric popped his clogs.
There's no way that Torchwood would ever cheapen such an effective, shocking and completely unexpected twist by bringing him back next week. That would be ridiculous. So, farewell Owen Harper, you were a complete and utter twat. See that screen-cap above? That's my new wallpaper, that is.
Even before we were treated to the thrill of Owen slowly bleeding to death on a freezing pavement (the last time I wrote a sentence like that it was for some fan-fiction), Reset was yet another great episode of Torchwood. And it had a lot riding on it: the return of Martha 'moved sideways' Jones, for a start.
Incredibly, the parent show's naughty younger brother handled Martha with the utmost care and respect. She didn't swear; she didn't torture anyone; she didn't pointlessly wave a gun in the air; hell, she didn't even get nailed by a member of the cast! In fact, her insertion into the team imbued the Hub with some much needed warmth and camaraderie and I sincerely hope that she stays there forever. Even Jack went a little gooey inside, and the subtle nods to Doctor Who were beautifully done (even if they do hark back to some complete and utter guff).
I haven't cheered so much since Adric popped his clogs.
Martha is more confident and self-assured than ever before. Working for UNIT (under their new acronym SQUEE), she is now a fully-fledged doctor (she must have taken her finals in the middle of that book tour she did during the 'year that never was'). To demonstrate this fact she can can shake beakers and test tubes with such unflappable professionalism, even Owen can't help but admire her skills. Not only that, she's also an expert on extraterrestrial biology, probably because she talked to a couple of aliens in between fawning over a Gallifreyan last year. Either that or the Doctor's glowing reference to UNIT put Jo Grant's uncle to shame in the pulling strings stakes.
Anyway, Martha is following a trail of dead bodies who all got a sharp poke in the eye, and after a little running around and some Scooby-Do style detective work, our intrepid heroes discover that a sinister organisation called the Pharm are behind all the boo-hiss shenanigans.
After trying to get my head around Torchwood's relationship with wider society during Meat, the introduction of the Pharm muddied the waters even further. Exactly how many top-secret "beyond the police, outside the government" agencies are there running around Wales? We've got UNIT (the acceptable face of counter-alienism), Torchwood (pretty much the unacceptable face of anything, really), and now the Pharm: a government sanctioned bunch of Mehendri Solon wannabes who are trying to cure cancer by milking Zygons, pipetting Primords and slicing up Silurians. Or at least they did in the version that was running in my head. It would have been a damn sight more interesting than defoliating a Weevil!
a bunch of Mehendri Solon wannabes trying to cure cancer by milking Zygons, pipetting Primords and slicing up Silurians..
There was a lovely Pertwee vibe running through this episode: mad, chortling scientists dabbling in "things they don't understand" (not to mention making it up as they go along), aliens having their rights abused by shady military types, giant insects, plastic automatons (but thankfully Ianto's not in this one all that much) and sexy high-tech gadgetry.
Martha's contact lenses, which came equipped with built-in wi-fi, an mp3 player and 500 free texts, even managed to out-Bond Bond (especially now they've gone all boring and gritty again), and for once Torchwood felt like it was innovating rather than emulating. Great stuff.
Sadly, Owen's gadget made no sense whatsoever. In retrospect it would have been more interesting if Owen's inability to get it to work correctly saved Martha's life but killed him in the process. Jim Robinson even says something like "we all have to make sacrifices" just as Owen's about to pull the trigger. But no. He just works out how to use it properly in the nick of time. Oh well, at least they killed the hell out of him later, albeit in a less heroic (but still very welcome) way.
Torchwood is on a bit of a roll at the moment. In fact, this episode didn't put a foot wrong for me. The performances were great, the CGI was fantastic (poor ickle Mayfly) and the direction was bonkers brilliant. I loved it.
Next week: Team Torchwood join forces with a ultra-secretive organisation that are so secretive they - gasp! - don't even have their own website!
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.