Category Archives: Torchwood

Torchwood Series Two Staggers to a Close

I actually thought the bulk of the second series of Torchwood wasn’t bad – the non-killing off of Owen annoyed me a bit, but generally the stories were pretty good, indeed the episode last week wasn’t bad, aside from the somewhat amazing fact that Owen – who lest we forget now cannot recover from any injury – somehow walks away from an exploding building without a scratch.

What we had in the final episode was pretty much an incoherent mess – dare I say it (and I’m sure the lower expectations I have are something to do with it) but I found that I enjoyed the episode of the critically mauled Flash Gordon that we watched earlier in the evening more than I did this mess.

The plot of Exit Wounds was fairly simple, Captain John returns with Gray, Captain Jack’s long lost brother. They capture Jack and cause chaos in Cardiff to occupy the rest of the team. Jack is taken back in time and is buried meaning that he will continually die and resurrect until he is dug up – almost one thousand nine hundred years later he is found by an earlier Torchwood who hide him away, and he reveals himself in time to save the day – however in the process Owen and Tosh apparently get killed.

Much as with the uninjured Owen thing last week, the major plot device of Jack being buried really wasn’t thought through. Although Jack doesn’t stay dead, unlike Owen he’s still living – it’s been established that he eats and drinks, and I’m assuming sleeps. He really doesn’t seem to be particularly affected either mentally or physically after nineteen hundred years buried – what’s he been eating all this time? What had happened to Gray was little explained, and strangely enough Gray called his brother Jack despite the fact that we known that to be a pseudonym. Essentially, the whole plot was a mess.

After all of that, we then have the deaths of Owen and Tosh. Tosh gets shot by Gray but whilst bleeding to death talks Owen through deactivating a nuclear power station. As always in these situations they just happen to be the only people around who can do this in much the same way as in a load of Star Trek movies the Enterprise is the only ship available. Having apparently killed off Owen once already in the series, apparently killing off Owen again really lost it’s impact. In reality I suspect they’d realised that they’d blocked themselves into a corner with the restrictions on the character following his resurrection, so it was fairly much inevitable that he’d go. Tosh hasn’t really been used that much either, so despatching her as the other character to go made sense. However, by the time you’d sat through the rest of the episode, rather than passing round the tissues at the characters sad passing, you really were left wondering why you were still watching it…

I See Dead People

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After the shock conclusion to Reset, and especially if you’ve sat through Russell T along with various of the other production team members going on about needing to kill a major character (as an aside it was decidedly amusing that all the cast, like me, still associate Alan Dale with Jim Robinson), the fact that Owen is pretty quickly up and about, walking and talking again is a bit of a let down. Having said that, a look at the “Next Weekâ€? trailer at the end of Dead Man Walking indicates that as with Suzie last year the resurrection glove is more of a curse rather than a blessing. There is also a comment from Owen towards the end of the episode where he questions whether the other deaths caused as a result of him coming back were worth it, but ultimately the impact of the death of a major character is not explored, and certainly not anything like what is discussed by the production team with reference to the previous episode.

Anyway, putting aside the fact that the producers lost, or maybe postponed their nerve in killing off a major character, the episode wasn’t too bad. The plot split broadly into two parts, the first being Owen being gradually taken over by the death creature, then the team hunting the creature as it goes on a rampage through the local hospital. Martha doesn’t get that much to do this episode, other than do the odd medical bit, and then get incapacitated by the death creature, but then it doesn’t take a genius to work out that Owen will be the one that will hold the key – I suspect most of the audience got it a long time before the team did!

There were some definite suspension of belief moments – how come nobody has noticed a Church full of sleeping Weevils in the middle of the city? However the episode did provide some amusing moments playing around with the fact that Owen was dead. It will be interesting to see if the ‘no blood’ sequence in the bar survives into the pre-watershed repeat. There was also a little bit of an exploration between Jack and Owen of the fact that one is a character that can never die, and the other is a dead character still walking and talking.

I think perhaps the final judgement on the episode should wait until we’ve seen the remainder of the story arc, as it’s pretty obvious that the episode was much more of a piece for the larger jigsaw.

Calling Doctor Jones

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It’s funny, however many times I see Alan Dale playing the bad guy, as he has done in a number of shows, and does again in the second of this weeks Torchwood episodes, I still think of him as nice old Jim Robinson from Neighbours

Anyway, in Reset, the episode of Torchwood that went out on BBC3 straight after Adam, he was anything but nice old Jim Robinson. Dale plays Aaron Copley, an ambitious research scientist who heads up the Pharm, a medical research company that have developed a drug called the Reset, that can cure any known disease instantly. Torchwood start investigating Copley and the Pharm after a random selection of people start turning up dead – with their medical records wiped. After some investigation they discover that one victim has been cured of his diabetes, and another person having survived her attacker claims to have been cured of HIV.

By this point, Torchwood have already called in the cavalry, in the form of Martha Jones, who has now completed her medical degree, and thanks to the Doctor it seems, is now a medical specialist for UNIT.

Working with resident medic Owen, Martha and he discover that the miracle cure is thanks to an alien parasite that hosts it’s larval form within the human body – a larval form that cleanses the body of anything harmful in order to protect itself. Unfortunately, the larval form eventually develops into a giant insect – hence the Pharm is going around assassinating the former test subjects and wiping their medical records before the insect aliens hatch.

The Torchwood team pay a visit to the Pharm, detecting vast numbers of alien creatures on the site – and opt to send Martha in undercover to obtain more information.

After the relatively character and concept driven Adam, Reset was very much back to the action with needle wielding assassins, giant mayflies, contact lenses worthy of James Bond, and with the arrival of Martha, lots of Doctor Who references for the fans to spot. There was even a big shock at the end, certainly one I wasn’t expecting…

In some ways the episode explored a similar theme to Meat in that it was showing humans exploiting aliens for their own gain – this time for medical and scientific advancement. What is interesting to note though is the change in Jack’s attitude this time around. Whereas in Meat he was very much for saving the giant alien whale, and seemed genuinely upset when Owen kills it out of mercy, this time Jack’s plan when faced with a research lab filled with exploited and in Jack’s words tortured aliens, he instead opts to destroy the whole facility, killing all the aliens in the process.

The big difference though is that in Meat the alien creature is being exploited purely for the financial gain of the humans involved. Here, Aaron Copley argues for the higher purpose – that the ends justify the means – as he is exploiting the aliens to provide cures for incurable diseases, to help humanity.

Torchwood certainly seems to have come a long way since the Welsh cannibals of last season…

“A Man is the Sum of his Memories�

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Thanks to a bit of schedule changing by the BBC, this week we got a double bill of new Torchwood episodes, as BBC3 take over showing the first run of the new episode every week.

First up we have Adam. Gwen returns after some time away with her fiancee Rhys to find a stranger called Adam working at Torchwood even more strangely everybody else seems to know him, and indeed to think that he has been working there for three years. However, then Adam comes and touches her on the shoulder, and suddenly she has the same memories as everybody else. Things get really odd though when she goes home and summons the rest of the team because there is a stalker in her flat – the stalker being Rhys who she now totally fails to remember.

As with so many episodes, this was a rehash of a common sci-fi staple, using a loss of memory, and an external character to play with the dynamics in the main cast – the Next Generation episode Conundrum being another example that sprung immediately to mind. With the Torchwood episode, unlike Conundrum it is not quite clear whether Adam has any kind of wider ulterior motive, aside from wanting to survive – although he seems to thrive off allowing Jack to recover his childhood memories – but equally he starts to destroy these by the end of the episode.

Adam is eventually discovered when Ianto reads back in his diary and discovered that Adam is never mentioned. At this point Adam tries to keep Ianto quiet by creating memories of committing three gruesome murders in his memory, and then creating the memory of himself helping Ianto to hide the evidence. This causes such a dramatic change in personality for Ianto that Jack checks back in the CCTV logs and sees what has happened. Jack then helps his team, and finally himself to remember who they were, and to forget the last forty-eight hours, thereby erasing Adam from existence.

As a vehicle for exploring the characters, Adam works pretty well. Adam has manipulated Owen and Toshiko into almost diametrically opposite personalities, and even planted the memory of an affair in Toshiko such that she is willing to go up against Jack in Adam’s defence. It also gives an opportunity to add a bit of backstory to Gwen and Rhys as they try to rediscover Gwen’s memories. Last but not least we get to see Jack’s childhood memories (although notice nobody ever uses his name – so that secret is still kept) on the Boeshane Peninsula.

On a more general level, it also explores how much people are defined by what they remember, good and bad – indeed to take them back, Jack gets the team to each focus on key memories that define who they are.

Talking memories though – memories of quite how bad the first series of Torchwood actually was seem to be fading fast – another good episode – quite how long they can keep this up I don’t know…

P.S. Bonus points for anyone who can use their Bradley Branning levels of obscure Doctor Who knowledge to identify the source of the quote I used as the title for the post…

Finding Out the Secret

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There is a plot device much beloved of writers, which is to have a character that doesn’t know some big secret, a secret which the audience is in on. More often than not it’s some long suffering partner or potential partner – Lois Lane in Superman, or Mary Jane Watson in Spiderman being prime examples. The problem is that sooner or later the audience starts to wonder why it is that this character hasn’t spotted, for example, the remarkable similarity between the guy in the fancy costume and their co-worker in the glasses. Either that, or the character is deliberately made out to not be all that bright in order to explain how they have missed something so obvious. The problem is for the writer though is that the longer it goes on, the more unsympathetic the audience will become to the character, and something has to be done to deal with the problem.

Since it started, Torchwood has had just such a secret, and just such a person, with Rhys long suffering boyfriend of Gwen Cooper, who until this week had totally failed to find out what his girlfriend actually did for a job – this despite most of the rest of the local population seeming to know about Torchwood. As a character he was very much falling into the not very bright category…

Russell T has stated that at the end of series one, that had originally intended to kill Rhys off, which is one of the traditional ways out of the situation. However, they had a change of heart, and what they did instead was this weeks episode of Torchwood where Rhys blunders into the middle of a Torchwood investigation, and at the end of the episode Gwen refuses to carry out the order to wipe his memory of what has happened, directly disobeying Jack in front of the rest of the team.

The actual investigation was into some decidedly dodgy meat that Rhys and his transport company were shipping and that was being cut from a large alien whale type thing being kept in a warehouse. Having said that, plot-wise, it seemed to generally be secondary to the need to bring Rhys in on the secret, and also open up the potential future conflicts with Jack and probably some issues with Gwen behaving differently with any investigation where Rhys is at risk – both of which came up in this episode.

It is always a risky move altering the relationships between characters, sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t. For an example of how things can spectacularly nose-dive, just look no further than what happened with Lois and Clark when the secret came out… The big difference with that though is that the relationship was at the heart of the story – here, the Rhys/Gwen dynamic is secondary, and hopefully will be used to focus on tensions and issues within the team.

In terms of how the series is shaping up, it perhaps wasn’t the best episode – but it is certainly kept my interest, and does seem to be keeping up the standards set in the past couple of weeks, hopefully boding well for the rest of the season.

Famous last words…