Tag Archives: Torchwood

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:

“Surprise” Return?

The trailer for Doctor Who next week started showing tonight – I notice that aside from a fully lit shot (for that see the Sun) – they are not bothering to try and hide the “surprise” return of Davros much any more…

Also from the flashes of faces in the trailer, it does look like this is going to be a three-way crossover between Doctor Who, Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures – whether it will be brief cameos or something more we’ll have to see, but with that many people, and a load of returning characters from the main series I doubt there will be a lot of screen time for many of them.

Fingers crossed that in amongst the cross overs and guest stars RTD left room for a decent plot – it has got Graeme Harper directing which is a plus, and the trailer looks good though…

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…

Step Back in Time

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I’m probably tempting fate, but after a wobbly start, Torchwood series two seems to be shaping up quite well.

True, episode three was a bit of a sci-fi staple in terms of plot, with your classic temporal paradox, and there was one point where we were getting all the stereotypical ghost story clichés (didn’t you just know when Gwen turned on the light that the fluorescent tube would be faulty and flicker… 😀 ) however much as with last weeks episode, To The Last Man was just generally pretty well executed.

Again at the heart of the story was a character piece, this time focusing in on Toshiko, aside from Jack the only character to have crossed over from Doctor Who, and who quite often doesn’t seem to do much except come out with techno-babble to move the plot forward.

Here she is the main focus of the episode as she looks after a World War One solider that Torchwood has had in suspended animation for ninety years. Every year they wake him up to make sure he is still healthy, as files from the Torchwood team at the time say that he will be needed. Here though is the paradox in that they only know to take him as a result of his future self telling them to do so – something he knows because he’s been told to say that as a result of files left by the past Torchwood team for their future colleagues!

However, having spent time with Tommy, the solider, Toshiko falls for him – only to find out that in order to save the world he must go back in time to his death. In this respect it explores similar themes to Out of Time, the episode in the previous season where Owen falls for Diane a pilot whose plane appears through the rift, but who ultimately decides to leave. The big difference here is that Toshiko ends up having to persuade Tommy to go through with what has to be done.

Being a temporal paradox it seems as though the story is being told in flashback, as it opens with Tommy and Tosh appearing to the 1918 Torchwood team, and then you see how they get to that point during the rest of the story.

Much as with last weeks episode, without flashy guest stars, the episode seems to work pretty well. Alongside this things seem to be moving along with Jack and Ianto, and it does seem that in 1918 at least, Torchwood recruited all their operatives from public schools…