Tag Archives: Captain Jack

Tying Up the Loose Ends

In talking about episode twelve of Doctor Who last week, I expressed the hope that we wouldn’t get a total cop out of a resolution to the Doctor regenerating cliff-hanger – so what did we get? A total cop out of a solution where the Doctor directs his regeneration energy into his hand in the jar. If the Doctor is able to partially heal and then stop the regeneration by redirecting remaining regeneration energy somewhere else, why hasn’t he done it before? It’s not as it it hasn’t been established that the Doctor has special healing capabilities before – the climax of Frontier in Space leading in to the beginning of Planet of the Daleks for example – however it wouldn’t have had quite such a big climax to lead into Journey’s End if they had done that. The regeneration energy is also needed as a vehicle for the creation of another Doctor from the hand in the jar, and to give Donna the abilities to save the universe, but also the reason why she must leave the Doctor.

Sadly, much as with last year, the cop outs extended to the way that the threat of the Daleks is dealt with. As the Doctor and his companions are trapped by Davros and the Daleks it becomes clear that Davros is very much not in charge – however this idea once started is just abandoned as the whole plan to destroy reality is defeated by a technobabble based solution revolving around a convenient machine in the Dalek base that allows Donna, now embrued with all of the Doctor’s knowledge having touched the hand in the jar, to remotely disable all of the Daleks, and for the half-human clone of the Doctor to destroy them all.

The previously unknown powers that might have been useful previously pop up again after this with the TARDIS hauling the planet Earth back home (although don’t thing too much about the effect of the Earth vanishing and then being hauled back into place might have on the rest of the solar system) and then in the final scenes the Doctor seems to be able to telepathically erase bits of Donna’s memory, again something that has not been seen before. This scene is equally frustrating because it is just rushed through – indeed it could be argued that Donna was mentally violated by the Doctor in that she is not given any choice about what happens – whether to die as a result of the effect of the merger with the Doctor’s mind, or to have those memories and all her memories of the Doctor removed, but to live. Certainly I think there would have been more pathos to the whole thing if Donna herself had to choose.

However, like much of the ending, it was rushed, as there were quite a lot of farewells to get in. First off, Sarah Jane heads off, then Jack heads back to Torchwood apparently taking Martha and Mickey with him. Rose and her mother are deposited back into their parallel world, along with the clone of the Doctor – when you think about it, a bit of a lousy consolation prize for the girl who has declared undying love for the Doctor, being left with his potentially unstable clone. All of this then leaves the Doctor heading off alone once again, as he has done at the end of each season aside from the first.

I think what bugs me most about this, is that much as with last year, and probably more than episode twelve, this is a reminder that Russell T Davies was a childhood fan of the show, and through his series finale episodes in particular he produces the kind of massive spectacular stories that most childhood fans produce. But having to produce a vaguely coherent story he then has to resolve all of these spectacular ideas, which is where the whole thing falls down. When you look back at episodes such as Midnight it is apparent that he can produce a good story, however all to often he goes for the big spectacle ideas that end up coming over as being not much more than fan fiction with a budget. When looking back at the last four years it is interesting to note that the well respected writers such as Steven Moffat and Paul Cornell are the ones that are producing stories that push the format with new ideas, and who generally avoid dealing with established characters or monsters. Whether Steven Moffat will continue to eschew established monsters, and especially avoid the kind of end of season spectaculars we have come to expect remains to be seen. If he doesn’t, we can only hope that Steven Moffat will realise that at the heart of the story we still need a coherent plot.

So were there any redeeming features? Once again, Julian Bleach delivered a fantastic performance as Davros, and certainly I hope he gets the opportunity to reprise the role, perhaps with a bit better plot to work with. Bernard Cribbins again gave a good performance in the closing scenes as the Doctor returns his granddaughter. Certainly you can’t help wishing that perhaps the character would have got at least one journey in the TARDIS during his time on the show. There were a few laughs during the programme too, with a running joke between Donna and Jack, and the return of characters such as Jackie and Mickey giving the opportunity for some reminders of previous relationships.

All in all, with the departures of Phil Collinson, Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner, this was very much a swan song episode for the three of them, tying up a load of loose ends and finishing up the stories for characters created during their era in charge of the show. Much as in the past, when the next full series returns in 2010, I’m expecting that it will feel rather different, as Steven Moffat makes his mark. Whilst there may be elements that will be carried over, certainly other things will be rather different – getting rid of fanfic style finales for a start we hope.

Can You Keep a Secret?

Back when Doctor Who was re-launched, after a well received opening, the whole thing was very nearly derailed by the shock news that Christopher Eccleston had resigned from the role that leaked out after just one episode. Following on from that debacle they’ve always tried to keep the big shocks secret, although that didn’t stop rumours about the return of the Master last year, nor did it stop the Sun from printing a picture of Davros in the run up to the finale this year. However, I’m certainly not the only fan who was rather surprised when this happened at the very end of last nights episode…

So what exactly is going on? It was announced ages ago that David Tennant was signed on for the specials next year, indeed he has apparently been seen filming the show for Christmas already. Only last week there were reports that the BBC was offering him £1.3 million to stay in the role. About the only high profile “David is leavingâ€? came from Catherine Tate back before Christmas. So has the BBC finally succeeded in keeping something secret from fandom? We’ll have to wait until next week to find out – certainly the trailer is giving nothing away, and the press office release is still only listing Tennant in the part.

Anyway, what about the rest of the episode? I’d mentioned last week my fear that it would be a return to a traditional Russell T Davies episode in that all the numerous guest stars would crowd out elements such as the plot. Certainly from the blink-and-you-miss-it nature of the opening titles, plus a further list of names captioned over the opening scenes, it was clear that there were a lot of big names to fit in. But to some extent, looking back at the episode as a whole although there were a lot of strands there wasn’t really that much of a coherent plot, indeed although we establish that it is the Daleks who have Stolen Earth, by the end of the episode we really have no idea of why the planet has been taken, it having taken most of the running time of the episode for the Doctor to even find where the planet has been taken.

To do this he first heads off to visit the Shadow Proclamation. After being mentioned throughout the series over a number of years, their appearance was frankly rather a disappointment, after a great looking external shot the actual location looked like an office foyer. From an action point of view the Doctor and Donna effectively explain the back story that has been building up, so we get a list of missing planets which alongside several from the new series includes Calufrax Minor, the name being familiar to people who remember the Douglas Adams story The Pirate Planet. Ultimately it is the missing bees, which have been mentioned in throwaway lines that leads the Doctor to a way to locate the missing planets, and takes the TARDIS to the Medusa Cascade, referred to in Last of the Time Lords as the location of a time rift sealed by the Doctor during the Time War. However when the TARDIS arrives, there is no sign of the missing planets and the trail goes cold, leaving a despondent Doctor.

Most of the action is occurring on the Earth, with Torchwood, Sarah Jane and Martha ultimately being brought together through a secret communications network by Harriet Jones in an attempt to contact the Doctor. (It’s worth noting at this point that in a surprising lapse the BBC have missed a trick by not having the phone number used linked to something – 24 for example linked up a special surprise for people who phoned Jack Bauer’s number after it had appeared on screen.)

Once the signal is boosted enough to break through to the TARDIS and Harriet Jones is discovered by the Daleks and apparently exterminated – although note that we don’t see her die. Torchwood again are discovered by the same means, and Sarah Jane ends up face to face with two Daleks too. However it seems that the Daleks are well aware of the Doctor’s allies. Davros it is revealed has been saved from his death during the Time War by Dalek Caan who having escaped at the end of Evolution of the Daleks has broken the time lock around the Time War to save his creator, albeit at the cost of his sanity. Davros however has kept him alive as he now seems to be able to predict the future – making vague predictions about the arrival of the Doctor, the death of his most loyal companion, and the arrival of the Dark Lord.

The one factor that doesn’t seem to have figured in the plans – and indeed is someone never seen by the Daleks is Rose, who despite the Earth being shifted is still quite able to transfer in and out of the stolen Earth at will. She and the Doctor finally meet again at the climax of the episode, shortly before the Doctor is floored by a glancing hit from a Dalek gun, and the apparent regeneration process begins.

So what is going on? There are lots of strands to connect, and quite a few throw-away lines that I’m sure will come back to be significant – in particular the mysterious Osterhagen Key that Martha is given as she escapes New York, but later told never to use by Harriet Jones. The fact that Dalek Caan has broken the time lock around the Time War may yet prove to be significant, along with the stolen worlds being hidden outside the normal flow of time. I’m sure that there will be some more significance to some of the things that Dalek Caan has said too.

In all it was an enjoyable episode, but with some classic Russell T Davies techno-babble to hurry the plot along. I’m more inclined to credit the crisp direction from the highly experienced Graeme Harper that rose above the script for the final result. It wasn’t only the good director that made it enjoyable, there were also some fabulous performances from the extensive guest cast – Julian Bleach being a particularly creepy Davros, and some great moments from Bernard Cribbins reliving his earlier encounter with the Daleks with some well aimed paint gun pellets. The crossover elements relied somewhat on knowing the other programmes, and certainly there were lines in those scenes that would be totally lost on people who hadn’t watched them, however nothing that really required that you had watched. As you can no doubt gather from my comments further back, the ending was a real surprise, and certainly if David Tennant isn’t leaving I hope we don’t get a total cop-out of a resolution.

They have now released a trailer for next week – needless to say it doesn’t really give that much more away:

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.

“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…

“Excuse me, have you seen a Blowfish driving a sports car?”

There have been a couple of sequences from the first episode of the new series of Torchwood, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, floating around the internet, which do seem to show the changes to the programme for the new series, and perhaps much more of a humorous spin than we’ve been used to. Obviously there are going to be spoilers watching the clips – the second one especially, so be warned before you hit play!

The first clip is the opening sequence, featuring the whole team and a Blowfish in a sports car…

The second clip comes from later on in the episode, and features the main guest star for the episode, James Marsters, and be warned again, a bit of a spoiler…

For those in the UK, the full episode can be seen this coming Wednesday, January 16th, at 9pm on BBC2. It looks like those wanting the pre-watershed repeat will have to wait a whole week, although apparently the usual slot for those will be 7pm on the day after the full version, also on BBC2.