Torchwood gets a note
From their 1918 selves
Strapped to Hedwig's leg.
Torchwood: To The Last Man
Torchwood. Outside the Empire, beyond the Constabulary, above the Ministry Of Magic. Fighting for mugglekind in spite of its future, and doing a piss-poor job of it. The twentieth century is when the pink on the map changes. And you gotta be Rowling.
I bloody love the Georgian version of Torchwood. With just two members present for a limited amount of screentime, a box-camera time detector that sounds like frying sausages, a Camberwick Green message that could headline a million book covers and a tantalising backstory of imminent disaster (and honestly, you have to ask how many times the organisation can be wiped out before the powers-that-be give it up as a dead loss), Olde Torchwood totally embodies the uplifting infinite horizon at the core of Russell's tenure, as if they just stepped out of the parent show. Somewhere between Harry Potter's magical sense of wonder and the happy-go-lucky, high-adventure incarnation of Alan Moore's LXG. They're even led by Arthur Weasley, for God's sake. It's the grimmest period in European history, but here they cope with all the misery and suffering about them by having their eyes on the bigger picture instead of being self-obsessed or casually, cynically dismissive. And since they even manage to keep Tommy's annual day trips going during the dark years of World War II, it's a wonder the lad didn't manifest into a living symbol of indomitable British pluck.
'Just tell him you're a dyke and get it over with'
But I wish I could have loved the rest of the episode the same way. There's plenty more to applaud. Just look at how good the direction becomes when there are reams of empty white space to play with the camera. Watch how it creates an extra level of unreality through strange angles and perspective tricks, clever positioning of the actors within the tracking, and following up a tight, confining two-shot with a vast, agoraphobic overhead wherein the characters walk from one distant wall all the way to the foreground and out of shot, utilising the whole of the screen, to drive home the point. This isn't a hospital, this is the Civil War prison from Silent Hill 2 (where's Pyramid Head?). It's Andy Goddard properly fulfilling his remit to the viewers that we're in hi-def land, although - very occasionally - the camera movement does bring to mind the swirly 3D gimmickry in Dimensions In Time. Compared to this, Colin Teague on amphetamines is borderline unwatchable.
It's also a pleasure to report that the plot is more tightly structured this week (for once), and the usual gamut of logical flaws is reduced to either nitpicking or mere sloppiness that an extra line here or there would easily fix (but still demands some pointing out, given the effort Helen Raynor makes elsewhere with wonderful explanatory analogies like the screwed up sheet of paper). The blatant exposition whereby Tommy is introduced to us via Gwen, as though it were something new to the team when the plot makes it clear at the same time that it isn't (and Gwen surely must have been there for a year by now) is only mildly annoying, though it begs the question of why we never heard about this earlier, or why nobody came to the obvious if incorrect conclusion that Tommy may have been linked to any of the temporal shenanigans of season one. Still a couple of howlers though; pay close attention to that lingering shot of the calendar in Tosh's flat, because it's the only direct concession the episode gives of the preordained significance of this particular date, and if you miss that fact on first viewing it seems awfully convenient that the time spillage doesn't happen on any of the other 364 days that Tommy is on ice. Yes, it's obvious now that Torchwood knew the correct day and month in advance; but if they've never opened the sealed orders before, then how? The only possible answer is that Tommy told them, as he must have done with their 1918 counterparts during the time slip, though this is never said on screen. There's no other possible point either, as he loses his memory once he gets back into bed. But then, wouldn't he have told them the correct year as well (and presumably did, since the message box only opens on that exact date), in which case; why is there any mystery, and why is his annual wake-up necessary at all?
But here's the big catch. You've already got a fairly good idea that the relationship between Tommy and Tosh isn't likely to be terribly deep or profound (because all plucky British soldiers on telly have to be called Tommy, it's the law). But the chemistry between the two romantic leads isn't just non-existent, it's embarrassingly counter-productive. It's like neither of them has ever done this before and somebody had to thrust a manual into their hands, they're both self-consciously waiting for the other to properly make the first move, and every step afterwards is 'what do we do now'. Put bluntly, he's got all the looks, stiffness and sex appeal of Alan Partridge, while she exhibits so much visible ambivalence in return that I wanted to shout at the telly, "just tell him you're a dyke and get it over with."
It's the episode's deliberate structuring that makes this particularly bad. Unless you've got a really clever script or an interesting journey to relate to us, telling in detail at the start exactly how it's supposed to end is a bad idea. The script knows this, and to its credit, doesn't try to boondoggle us into believing otherwise for at least half an hour - as far as the team is concerned, this is a 'routine' exercise that will only have dire consequences if they get it hopelessly wrong. Which is where Owen's sudden apparent empathy really comes from, because I don't think Owen is in ANY other position to be offering up fuckbuddy advice. "You've only known him four days." Yeah, and you knew Diane a week, and look what YOU did. He's also got the creepiest smile EVARR. But anyway; what I'm saying here in a nutshell is that, effective spookiness aside, it's left to Tosh and Tommy to carry the drama, and they fail. Miserably.
And Christ on a bike, what was Jack thinking, detailing Tommy's doomed future to Tosh's face, and thereby jeopardising the entire mission?
At this point as well, I'm really starting to wonder if the script conferences for season two consisted of a big betting pool to see who could come up with the worst ending. With five minutes to go, the script suddenly realises that it basically blew it at the start and the boring 'will he - won't he' scenes aren't coming off, and hurriedly tries to paper over the cracks with the psychic-projection second ending so erroneous, so ineptly executed and so obviously made up on the spot that you half-expect the Borad to come lumbering by looking for directions to Loch Ness. Believe it or not, Helen Raynor is then proud of this ending from the way she has the cast try and sell it to us through fatuous wooden platitudes about saving the world. Not a hope; they know it's a lemon as well as we do, and I want my money back.
You half-expect the Borad to come lumbering by looking for directions to Loch Ness
By the way, there's still that clunking great Yellow Submarine rift key adrift in a foreign timestream, in case everyone's forgotten. It's not that big a deal, but Steven Moffat's timey-wimey nonsense is always scripted with a logical 'beginning' and 'end' and a root cause to give it all meaning, while Helen Raynor's is left unspecified. It would have been ever so vindicatingly satisfying if it was revealed that 1918 Torchwood playing with their new toy was what caused the time distortions in the first place.
You know, after Sleeper had left me equally unmoved, it began to occur to me that maybe I was taking the series too seriously to allow it to be any fun, or subconsciously divorcing myself from the experience of viewing through any preconceptions of quality. Thankfully, that notion was thrown straight out the window after a rewatch of Random Shoes, which still has the power to send me blubbing like a girl; likewise, the second viewing of To The Last Man proved to be substantially more enjoyable, once I could see past the lack of chemistry and find all the nuances and clever touches it had to offer. But I'm still going to have to give the episode a thumbs-down, as no amount of rewatching is ever going to take away the 'see Spot run' sentences of three sentences or less, the stilted performances or the bollocks song at the end of it.
Coming up: Rhys' haulage firm smuggles factory-farmed alien produce into Cardiff. Health and Safety are busy, so it's left up to Torchwood to pull Rhys' meat. Who are you, and what have you done with Catherine Treganna?
Torchwood: To the Last Man
The opening moments of this week's installment of Torchwood were genuinely terrifying. That's right, the name 'Helen Raynor' instilled more dread into me than a whole posse of abominable snowmen queuing for a loo in Tooting Bec. Don't forget, this is the woman responsible for the yawn-a-thon that was The Ghost Machine (an interminably dreary episode, saved only by Gwen's hilarious "stabbing Gareth Thomas" face) as well as the worst Dalek story ever committed to screen. And that includes The Chase. To say that I approached this episode with a sense of trepidation is something of an understatement.
Matters weren't helped by the fact that this week's guest star looked uncannily like a young Alan Partridge. When he flipped out towards the end I half-expected him to attack Captain Jack with a lump of Camembert ("Smell my cheese, Torchwood!") and I was marginally disappointed when chocolate mousse didn't put in an appearance during his final tryst with Tosh. Sadly, this hampered my appreciation of Anthony Lewis' beautiful (probably) performance, which might go some way to explaining why To the Last Man was, to me at least, the greatest love story never told.
"Smell my cheese, Torchwood!"
The concepts bubbling beneath this episode are quite brilliant. If only they had a couple of hours in which to explore the ramifications of Tommy and Tosh's predicament, then this could have been on a par with Somewhere in Time in the unrequited time-travelling love stakes. Sadly, Torchwood only has 45 minutes in which to deliver - and it has to factor in lots of pointless running up and down corridors and homoeroticism as well. They never stood a chance. But at least the plot hinged on an original premise and I was moved by it intellectually, if not emotionally.
All the really interesting things are left to the imagination: like, how did Tommy initially adjust to his unique style of "time travelling"? How long is he defrosted for each time? It it hours or days? And what's the rush to get him back in the box? If it's to make sure he's kept safe and won't screw up the time-line, by being run over by a bus, for example, then surely they wouldn't let him out of the base at all? What were 1980s Torchwood like? Admit it, you can't wait to find out. And what did Cardiff really look like as 1918 started to crash in on it; surely this is the worst example of 'tell, don't show' in Torchwood's short history? Just like last week's nuclear arsenal, Torchwood seem to have a handy "look at the threat!" machine that goes ping and keeps things exciting (and cheap). Where's TIM or ZEN when you need him?
Half of the problem with this show is that it's willfully schizophrenic. There's no real continuity of character or tone between any of the episodes: last week Ianto was a comedian, this week he's Eeyore again, Jack is now firmly entrenched in "git mode", conveniently forgetting that only two weeks ago he seemed to suggest that all of his angst had been washed away, whereas Gwen continues to oscillate wildly between droopy, teary-eyed bimbo and hard nosed copper. Three episodes into the second season and it still feels like the show doesn't know what it wants to be.
Having said all that, it was great to see Tosh being pushed to the forefront of the action for a change. She is, after all, the only member of Team Torchwood who is even close to being likeable by default; not to mention hot. My only worry is that she's going to become Owen's f**k-buddy now (surely a fate worse than death). Her affair also reinforces my belief that Jack is guilty of affirmative action, and only young and attractive bisexuals can find gainful employment in his organisation. Owen is simply there to throw people off the scent.
Last week Ianto was a stand-up comedian, this week he's Eeyore again...
And then there's the ending. It feels churlish to slam an episode for an utterly ludicrous denouement but this one really takes the proverbial biscuit.
I honestly thought Jack was going to go back through the rift, where he'd give Tommy a heroic pep talk and then get stuck in 1918. He'd eventually turn up back in Torchwood in 2008 having led yet another life (avoiding his other immortal self in the process; I can see the spin-off now: My Two Jacks - call me, Russell), and I'm fairly sure that a Doctor Who spin-off novel did something similar with the 5th Doctor once, where he was forced to sit out a century, quietly running a restaurant, or something. At least it would have given Jack something to do. Who knows, they could have re-booted his character one more time in an effort to make him vaguely likeable again.
Sure it would have been silly. Almost as silly as suggesting that Jack will eventually transmogrify into a giant face in a jar. But at least it would have spared us from Helen Raynor's DNA fetish. Why doesn't somebody stop her? I honestly thought that Owen's last-minute "let's-say-it-really-fast-so-it-sounds-almost-plausible" plan was a wind-up for a self-referential punchline. I can't even begin to explain (or accept) how some of Tommy's blood could allow Tosh to astrally project into the past so she could convince someone who wouldn't even remember her [for some reason that isn't adequately explained] to turn a key. I typed that really quickly and it still doesn't make any sense. It felt forced and wholly unnecessary, too. How much better would it have been if Tommy had chosen to follow through with the plan, not because some hot chick was asking him to, but because he knew it was the right thing to do? And how much more tragic would it have been if Tosh had decided not to go along with Jack's plan and it was Tommy that had convinced her instead? Anything other than the tosh (sorry) we got would have been a massive improvement. As soon as they wheeled out the mind-probe it was game over for me.
Owen's "let's-say-it-fast-so-it-sounds-plausible" plan sounded like a wind-up to a self-referential punchline.
What ultimately saves To the Last Man is its direction. Andy 'Jean-Luc' Goddard did a fantastic job here - no whip-pan madness and crash-zoom silliness, just lots of interesting angles and space for the characters to breathe. There's some excellent editing and lighting effects, and the production values as a whole are simply stunning (especially in HD). But it's the way in which Goddard chose to tell this story that really impressed me.
This is encapsulated in a beautifully understated moment towards the end of the episode. Torchwood 1918 are quickly leading Tommy away from the hospital, enabling "our" Tommy to take up his rightful place in the time-line, and as they leave the room Mr. Carter briefly looks back over his shoulder. It would have been so easy to cut to a bewildered (or knowing) close-up here, but instead the moment passes with an almost embarrassed silence. For some reason that I can't adequately explain, that really touched me.
And, for a short while at least, Torchwood actually felt like the best thing on TV.
Next week: Paul Cornell is back. And he's pissed!
Torchwood: To The Last Man
Isn’t it funny how precious we get about certain television programmes? Sometimes I envy Joe Bloggs; not for him the obsessive poring over minutiae, the quiet grumbling about seen-it-all-before cliches and derivative plotting, the frankly out of proportion need to judge each new episode as though it’s on a par with rediscovering the Dead Sea Scrolls. No, just sit back, kick off your shoes and wait to be diverted from the general tedium and worry of your life for an hour or so.
watching Torchwood has become a far less teeth-grinding experience
Watching To the Last Man I think I managed to realise just how Joe Bloggs manages to enjoy his television viewing. For once I didn’t care that I’d seen a fair proportion of it all before, I didn’t fret that huge chunks of the plot made little or no sense, and I didn’t insist on sitting there with my Who dunce’s hat on, screaming for the head of Chris Chibnall as ‘my’ beloved franchise was once again torn asunder in the name of so-called entertainment and a higher than average AI figure.
No, I just sat back and enjoyed it. And d’you know what - watching Torchwood became a far less teeth-grinding experience as a result.
There’s nothing in To The Last Man that is particularly original, startling or likely to remain in your mind’s eye long after the end credits roll. But it is very well made television, and that’s something I’ve not found myself able to say very often in these circumstances. I think if Torchwood ever found its niche last year it’s fair to say that the quieter, smaller stories were the ones most likely to have qualified. Random Shoes and Out of Time are in particular examples where the tedious, gun-toting fuck-buddying shtick of much of Season 1’s major flaws are - if not completely absent - at least barely noticeable. So I guess it’s no coincidence that To the Last Man matches those brief surges of quality pretty much pound for pound. Doomed love story of lovers separated by time? Check. Quiet contemplation of the futility of existence and the precious time of those for whom such a thing is most finite? Check again. Deus ex machina coda in which a well signposted McGuffin brings a somewhat heavy-handed resolution to events? Well, nothing’s ever perfect is it.
No doubt Naoko Mori will be reduced to spouting technobabble again next week
But what To the Last Man lacked in sartorial style and thought-provoking narrative it tried to at least make up in character-driven drama and (a pretty rare one for this show) sheer, unadulterated heart. Central to this was the utterly charming central performance from guest star Anthony Lewis as the doomed Tommy Brocklehurst (on which note, do I make this three episodes on the bounce in which this week’s ‘special guest star’ gets to steal all the plaudits?). Some critics have claimed an innate lack of chemistry between him and Tosh’s lovestruck pairing, but I for one thought their fumbled and genuinely convincing Brief Encounter (on which more homagising later) to be one of the undoubted successes of the episode; at last giving Tosh some meat to a character that has been little more than techno-geek boffin or lesbo-love interest for more than a year now. No doubt Naoko Mori will be reduced to spouting technobabble again next week, but on the evidence here such character development was good while it lasted.
And is it me or are Torchwood actually getting likeable all of a sudden? Even Ianto seems to have toned down the New Faces stand-up act, and Owen is getting positively pleasant; showing Tosh the kind of caring-sharing sensitivity which would actually have you believe the reasons that she had a crush on him last term. If there’s a poll for most improved character so far this year, then Burn Gorman deserves to take a large slice of the credit.
I so want to see the spin-off in which Brief Encounter meets Torchwood in a 1918-set tale of stiff upper lips and time anomalies
In amongst this gentle and rather touching story of doomed lovers, writer Helen Raynor has certainly done enough research on her subject to make last year’s Dalek-disaster seem more like a blip than a pattern. Following her layering of post-depression Hooverville misery for the inhabitants of New York, here she’s taking to the soap-box for the cause of World War I soldiers being branded cowards; as men who were little more than boys succumbed to shellshock and worse before being forced back into the trenches or shot. There’s a nicely angry moment where Tommy - poised to return to his pre-ordained fate at the hands of a firing squad - castigates Jack (and by extension Torchwood) for being little better than the generals of his own time; able to make the Big Decisions for king and country, but rarely willing to get their hands dirty themselves. This kind of subtle underplaying of the organisation’s frequently questionable methods has rarely been so well handled.
The direction’s top-notch too, all weird camera angles and - for once - a lack of reliance on sweeping zooms and dizzying pans in order to put across how slick and with-it this show is. The scenes of Gwen and Jack being menaced by ‘ghosts’ from 1918 are genuinely creepy, and as with last year’s more lacklustre episodes Andy Goddard manages to bring a sheen to even the most pedestrian of scripts. On which point (and just in case you thought I was getting soft in my old age) that whole McGuffin rubbish with the Griff manipulator really should have been dumped at an early redrafting stage. Along with the frankly unnecessary - not to mention rather silly - psychic projection business at the end, such moments where Torchwood reverts to type spoil what has been a more than enjoyable episode. And all I can add to that is how I so want to see the spin-off in which Brief Encounter meets Torchwood in a 1918-set tale of stiff upper lips and time anomalies. At least I think it’s the lips that would be stiff and upper…
Next Time: Meat is Murder, as Rhys (remember him?) takes centre stage and Torchwood risk alienating the vegetarian demographic.
Torchwood: To the Last Man
I can't have been the only person to feel a pang of disappointment when Gerald and Harriet were dangled tantalisingly in front of us only to be snatched away and replaced by the current mob. Surely we could have had a whole episode of Torchwood Gold involving some serious millinery, a cameo from TS Eliot as a bank clerk who's terribly important to the plot, and Harriet having a wild fling with Vita Sackville-West during a seance in John Maynard Keynes's summer house. I'd have watched it for one. Possibly the only one I grant you. I was also intrigued by what Tommy must have witnessed in his year-by-year forays into the Hub. Many changes for the better in employment law, massive improvements in filing techniques, but a saddening increase in red tape during his last nine or ten visits perhaps. The whole concept also opened up some wonderful opportunities for future episodes, and I will be very disappointed if we don't get an episode of Torchwood: AD 1972 with a louche Jason King-style leader who (with his glamorous assistants) tries to stop a group of space-vixens infiltrating the Workers' Revolutionary Party. But this will all have to wait because To the Last Man was a very good episode even allowing for the sadly marginalized presence of Gerald and Harriet.
all those queasy existential questions that in an odd sort of a way seem to be emerging as the raison d'etre of the show
A lot of that came down (as ever) to tone. Helen Raynor's script had none of the clumsy juxtaposition of heavy-handed humour with poignancy that so marred Sleeper, and in the main told a sad but simple story of two fragile people caught up in a chain of events that they had little power to alter. Like the better episodes from the first series such as Out of Time and Captain Jack Harkness it covered themes of identity, destiny, love and all those queasy existential questions that in an odd sort of a way seem to be emerging as the raison d'etre of the show. Indeed much of the sexual content of Torchwood can be seen in this light; as more of a desperate attempt to make a connection and assert individuality in the face of death than anything else.
While Tosh and Tommy's relationship was at the centre of the story, its inevitable outcome was always under the control of external forces. When Tommy resisted making his sacrifice he rightly pointed out that he'd been pushed around all of his life and that Jack and Torchwood were no better than the Generals, and this was also demonstrated when we saw Tosh obeying her orders in exactly the same way despite knowing that it would cause Tommy's ignominious death. And it's not just powerful organisations that control individuals, as here powerful forces such as the "greater good" must win out because the whole world is under threat. The individual voice is not doing awfully well in the Torchwood universe, and I suspect this is going to be increasingly significant as the season goes on. When we hear that Harriet died at the age of 26 and Ianto woodenly intones "It's always the way" then surely the odds on a regular death before the end of the season shortened dramatically. "Cannon fodder" is shaping up as the metaphorical equivalent of "Saxon" in this series, and it'll be interesting to see what's next after Beth's sacrifice in Sleeper, Tommy's execution and the end of Tosh's chance of happiness.
These wider concerns were touched on by some lovely details in the script. I really liked the way that Tommy reminded Tosh of some of her plans (such as learning Spanish) because for him she'd only made the plans in the last few days. For Tosh they were just long-forgotten ideas that had been swallowed up over the years by Torchwood, another example of her life being taken over by a greater forces. Tommy explicitly tells her that "You talk about your life as if you've got no control over it", and by the end of the episode despite her night with him there's no real sense that she has any control over her life, or indeed that humanity is worth Tommy's sacrifice. Thankfully, despite new touchy-feely Owen telling her she's "strong" Tosh's reaction rightly sours the usual sugary Torchwood homily.
The quality of the script is such that I couldn't believe it was written by the same woman who wrote Evolution of the Daleks. At least until some of the technobabble started. Jack's fluent info-dump about time and screwed up balls of paper was bad enough, but the complete gobbledygook at the end about psychic-projections into the time zone was just insulting and pointless. If Owen had simply said (while running around) "We need another five minutes or so of action to fill time - go and get that funny chair with the headset. That might help." it would have been at least more honest. But it's a tribute to the rest of the episode that for once this kind of sloppiness didn't bother me. There was so much good stuff in this episode, including some excellent direction by Andy Goddard, that it would be mean-minded to condemn it on the basis of a tacked-on ending too far.
I hope this indicates worrying days ahead for the Torchwood team
To the Last Man was certainly one of the best episodes of Torchwood to date, and this was mainly because it told a straightforward story that had a great deal of thematic resonance with the series as a whole. Long ago in the dreaded Cyberwoman Ianto called Jack "the biggest monster of them all", and there are signs here that this might finally be developed. Jack's behaviour has been terrible of late, and after last week's 'hilarious' torture he again covered himself in glory by physically trying to drag shell-shocked Tommy to his fate before Tosh told him to sling his hook. When you consider this behaviour alongside the dark comments about the fate of past Torchwood employees, I hope this indicates worrying days ahead for the Torchwood team, and more revelations about the organization's mysterious past. On the other hand, in two episodes' time the team could all be whooping together in a hot tub with all of this unpleasantness forgotten. I shouldn't get my hopes up. Forget it John, it's Torchwood.
Torchwood: To the Last Man
Sometimes high-brow culture channel BBC Four broadcast Spice World: The Movie last week as part of their season investigating pop music. Having not seen the film since it was released (a sentence which sees me admitting to seeing the thing at least twice in this lifetime) I noticed across the gulf of years that the girls' pregnant non-singing best friend is actually played by our very own Naoko Mori.
According to the imdb and wikipedia, it was only her third screen role but prior to that she appeared in Miss Saigon opposite one John Barrowman, which goes to show what a twisty-turny thing life can be. Of course the first time many of us noticed her was during Doctor Who's Aliens in London. She seemed oh so cool then and turning to a certain discussion board her agency portrait was already being circulated and some of us really wanted to know more about this two scene character, sanguine in the face of a porcine alien threat.
Of course that meant that when it was announced the character of Toshiko would be transferring to Torchwood it was one of the reasons to be excited. She looked oh so cool in those early publicity photos, chique-geek behind her bifocals. Alas, as with so many things wrong with that first series it totally failed to take advantage of the actress or the character largely relegating her to the background save to be insulted by Owen, left her out of the story altogether or most unforgivably having her play second fiddle to the guest star (but what a guest star) in, Greeks Bearing Gifts, the one episode which was supposed to focus upon her. They didn’t know what to do with her and only a few late series heroics allowed her to make any kind of a mark, to suggest she was fated to be anything more than a victim and vulnerable, writing messages in blood and whatnot.
New series, new focus episode and finally they’ve got it right. Whilst the main story in To the Last Man, (superficially similar to Doctor Who’s The Girl In The Fireplace and a few episodes from last year) principally took the usual approach to temporal anomalies that we expect from the series – not so much timey-wimey as utterly bollocksy - writer Helen Raynor was clearly more interested in the character beats and on that basis the episode really delivered, offering a very sweet, usefully problematic take on the impossible love affair, with Tosh finally being given the chance to save the world.
The main story in To the Last Man... principally took the usual approach to temporal anomalies that we expect from the series – not so much timey-wimey as utterly bollocksy
From the opening post-titles burst of energy in which Tosh made herself loverly onwards she seemed like a far more rounded character, not simply a one note stuttering nerd. Slow-way time traveler Tommy Brockless was basically just an ordinary lad, not more or less special that the many tens of thousands of young soldiers who died in those trenches. Beautifully played by Anthony Lewis, there was a perceptiveness though, an understanding of time passing. Despite the personally tragedy of outliving his parents he was clearly enjoying the chance of seeing years passing on a daily basis.
As with sleeper alien Beth’s plight last week, your appreciation of this episode probably depended upon the extent to which you bought this stuttering relationship. Some have already said that they thought the two lack chemistry but actually it’s probably that all too well they captured the desperation of the coupling, the strange inevitability of two people who understand each other but can never be together, nervously skipping a few bases because they simply don’t have time for them.
There’s undoubtedly some similarity with how the Doctor greeted a century of festive seasons in Paul Cornell’s short story The Hopes and Fears of All the Years, but each of Tommy’s new days were like Christmas even though he’d simply been seeing the price of beer shoot up within days and become one of the few people alive able to explain to Richard Griffiths that the films don’t ‘just keep getting better and better’ (how annoying is that advert for the showbiz slot on News 24?). As he spun about in Cardiff Bay he wanted to experience everything, and by the end of the episode he probably had.
how annoying is that advert for the showbiz slot on News 24?
Except, and this is were the real thematic weight of the episode descended, he was also able to see that men just like war even though history keeps reminding them that it doesn’t work in the long run. It’s a message which has been repeated time and again across the franchise and although Human Nature/The Family of Blood still has the edge in terms of sheer poignancy, isn’t it just refreshing to see Torchwood looking at these ideas and actually spending time over them rather than simply giving them lip service between some shouting and snogging?
After all, what we were seeing here was Tommy being given the opportunity to get his rocks off before returning to the front and certain death. Captain Jack Harkness covered similar territory last year, but then it was largely wrapped up in our Jack’s past life and the events which would lead up to him taking his identity, here the treatment was raw and Reithian with the material about shell shock underling how even the apparent ‘good guys’ did some very bad things when provoked.
it’s a drug which taking advantage of anomalies allows someone to travel back in time and into a particular human’s mind or some other jibberish
You could potentially argue that some of this was undermined by the fact that through another odd bit of business that didn’t quite make sense (it’s a drug which taking advantage of anomalies allows someone to travel back in time and into a particular human’s mind or some other jibberish) future Tommy forgot his future history lesson after stepping back in time, but that meant that for once Tosh could finally shine, convincing her lover to do the right thing, despite the very real cost which had been laid out to her.
Elsewhere, there were certainly chills as the Torchwood crew investigated the hospital their impression becoming ghosts of the past and vice versa, perfectly pitched by director Andy Goddard (clearly relishing a decent script after Countrycide and Combat) with composer Ben Foster in full Bernard Hermann mode. The rehabilitation of the main cast continued apace with Owen showing (shudder) empathy and happy Ianto clearly having dealt with loss of his girlfriend by snogging his boss, despite the fact that Torchwood, as this episode illustrated again, is the one place were Hub-based romances never end well.
happy Ianto clearly having dealt with loss of his girlfriend by snogging his boss, despite the fact that Torchwood, as this episode illustrated again, is the one place were Hub-based romances never end well
There were hopefully intentional laughs too, Gerald and Harriet of Torchwood yesterday clearly demanding a spin-off scripted by Mark Gattis, the kind of Georgian X-Files facing the fantastic with a stiff upper lip, steampunk technology in hand. The other highlight was the trailer for next week, Meat already looking like a classic bit of black comedy with only the potentially poor treatment of Rhys discovering the details of his wife’s day job to by the kybosh on things.
On the basis of this early run of episode though, that doesn’t look likely. Whilst the approach the series takes to time travel and some fantasy leaves a lot to be desired, it seems far more capable of looking at the real strength of an idea and making the most of it dramatically and in the case of Tosh finally allowing a character to fulfill their potential. I said some very nasty things about the series last year so it seems only fair to be redressing the balance here. Torchwood has turned into the kind of series that's a pleasure to watch rather than because you feel the need to since you’re incessantly reviewing it on a 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.