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 â€œNext 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.
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…
So after all the speculation, we now know what happens. The Master has been defeated and is dead (or maybe not), Martha is back with her family, Jack is back with Torchwood, and the Doctor is back travelling the universe.
As the episode opened, time had moved on by a year from the cliff-hanger at the end of A Sound of Drums. The Master and the Toclofane have absolute control of the world, enslaving the human race to build a fleet of war rockets to take over the universe. The Doctor, having been aged by the Master has been kept almost as a pet, humiliated. Meanwhile Martha has been travelling the world on a mission to save the world.
One of the big questions outstanding from last week was who or what were the Toclofane. The answer was perhaps the most straightforward, especially when you remember that the Doctor said last week that the Master could only travel between the twenty-first century and the end of the universe. The Toclofane were all that was left of the human race – not surprisingly Utopia wasn’t an escape, and the Master had travelled to the far future and offered to ‘save’ them by bringing them back in time. This also explained the paradox machine created by the Master which was needed to hold everything together as the Toclofane changed their own past. Ultimately it was the paradox machine that held the key to resolving what had happened – with the machine holding the paradox removed, everything reverted to normal.
As with last season and with many series, the major plot was resolved relatively early on in the episode, giving a chance to ‘reposition the pieces’ ready for Christmas.
Having captured the Master, there is a nod to Scream of the Shalka which included an android Master – voiced by Derek Jacobi – who lived in the TARDIS in that the Doctor decides that despite what the Master has done, he can’t allow him to be executed, and as the only other time lord, the Master is his responsibility, and he is going to imprison him in the TARDIS. However this plan is curtailed by Lucy Saxon, the Master’s wife, who shoots her husband. Whilst the Doctor begs his enemy to regenerate, the Master appears to deliberately stop himself from regerating, and dies in the arms of the Doctor. The interesting comparison to this is a scene mere moments before, when the Doctor has grabbed the Master as he attempts to escape using Jack’s vortex manipulator. Having failed to escape, and finding themselves near the fleet of rockets, the Master then threatens to blow the ships up killing both himself and the Doctor. However, the Doctor calls his bluff, saying that the Master would never do it because it involved his death. The Master hands over the control to destroy the rockets, and returns with the Doctor. Then moments later he is goading people to shoot him, almost as if he wants to die – and when someone actually shoots him, he doesn’t regenerate all a bit odd…
Alone, the Doctor takes the body of his former enemy and places it on a funeral pyre. However, then the odd behaviour and rocket scene make a bit more sense. In a scene reminiscent of many classic sci-fi serials you see a woman’s hand retrieve the Master’s ring from the pyre, and hear a familiar chuckle. Perhaps, as he has done before, the Master has cheated death, and by letting his time lord body die (remember the Doctor appeared to know the instant the Master became time lord again two weeks ago) managed to evade the Doctor to return again.
That is not the only revelation in the last few minutes. I’ve commented a couple of times on the paradoxes included in this series. Back in episode 1 there was a minor paradox when Martha meets a future Doctor, then in the Shakespeare Code, the Doctor has to leave in a hurry as he is chased by troops for something his future self has done. Blink also includes a paradox that is key to the whole story. However as the Doctor drops Jack off in Cardiff they discuss the fact that he is ageing but will never die, and then Jack comments that in his home era living on the Boeshane peninsula, he became a poster boy, and was known as the Face of Boe – perhaps explaining how the Face of Boe knew how many times he would meet the Doctor, and also the fact that the Doctor was not alone.
After that revelation, there was one final twist as Martha decides that she is not going to leave with the Doctor. Whilst he tries to act as if nothing has changed, having spent a year away from the Doctor, she knows that everything has changed. Having said that, she apparently isn’t out of the series, and may well also be appearing in Torchwood too. This neatly arranges everything for this years Christmas special, where the special guest companion is apparently going to be Kylie Minogue. Much as with last year, we also get a Titanic cliff-hanger – as it appears that the ship has smashed it’s way into the TARDIS.
All in all I found it a really enjoyable episode, and a definite improvement over last week. I was a lot happier with the characterisation of the Master too, with the zany moments of last week toned down. The relationship between the Master and the Doctor being at the heart of the episode, and some very moving scenes between the two. There were also some great references back to previous battles with both time lords mentioning the Axons. Amusingly after a whole series of moments where I expected the Master to not be dead, the moment where the hand picks up the ring and you hear a familiar laugh did produce a big smile. Also the reason for having Jack around became clear – although I don’t think I can cope with a million years of Torchwood waiting for him to age…
I commented a few weeks ago about how bad Torchwood was getting – thankfully it turned out that in general the episodes improved a good deal, so the final double episode we sat down to watch as part of post-holiday catch-up was really rather good.
Interestingly, although shown as a double episode, this was really two separate episodes shown back to back. The first, Captain Jack Harkness appeared to be primarily a character piece where whilst investigating reports of 1940’s music coming from a derelict dance hall, Jack and Tosh find themselves pulled back in time to a dance in 1941 – a dance attended by the real Captain Jack Harkness the day before he looses his life in the war – the man whose identity Jack has assumed. However the episode also introduces the character of Bilis Manger, who is the manager of the dance hall back in 1941, and also the caretaker in the present day – looking no older. In both cases he has the same, clock filled office. He also, back in 1941 has a file marked ‘Torchwood’ and is also taking pictures with a Polaroid camera that hasn’t yet been invented. Subsequently he sabotages a plan by Tosh to leave equations to safely open the rift to bring them back, trying to trap them in the past.
Meanwhile in the present day, the team are arguing over how to bring Jack and Tosh back, and when they discover that the equations to open the rift are incomplete, Owen opens it anyway, despite being shot by Ianto in the process. This brings Jack and Tosh back to the present day, but Bilis Manger is not captured.
The opening of the rift leads directly to the events of End of Days. Having incorrectly opened the rift, fractures in time start to occur – UFO’s are sighted over the Taj Mahal, soldiers from the English Civil War, and Roman times are appearing in present day Cardiff, and bubonic plague breaks out at the local hospital. Various of the Torchwood team also receive visions of dead loved ones, all suggesting that opening the rift fully would be the way to fix the problems. In amongst this, the mysterious Bilis Manger appears again, this time in his shop, ‘A Stitch in Time’ which sells antique clocks and time pieces. When questioned, he suggests again that the rift should be opened, and also confirms that he can move through time as easily as walking into another room. He demonstrates when Jack tries to take him into custody.
Jack leaves, but Gwen goes back, and meets Bilis again. He shows her a vision of the future where her boyfriend has been brutally murdered. This convinces Gwen to bring Rhys to the safety of the Torchwood base, however Bilis appears and murders him in the cells. This leaves everybody in Torchwood except Jack convinced that the rift should be opened. The reason why everybody needs to be convinced becomes clear – to open the rift fully requires authorisation of all the Torchwood staff via iris scans. Utterly convinced that they need to open the rift, Owen shoots Jack dead to obtain the scan.
As we have previously learnt from the episode Everything Changes, Jack cannot die – however he takes time to recover from any experience such as being shot, so he is unable to stop the rift being opened. Although all the anomalies, including the murder of Rhys resolve themselves, the opening of the rift also releases Abaddon, a Biblical demon that, like the Beast in the Satan Pit has been trapped beneath the rift – indeed the creature is referred to as ‘the son of the Beast’. It transpires that Bilis knows of the presence of the demon, and has been manipulating events in order to release him.
The giant Abaddon stalks Cardiff, killing anyone who falls under his shadow, and Jack realises that only someone who cannot die such as himself can defeat the demon. He goes to face him alone.
As with the other victims when the shadow of the demon reaches Jack, he is affected, but he doesn’t die immediately eventually white flows of energy form between Jack and the demon, and it appears that the energy that is keeping Jack alive, is too much for the demon, and Abaddon dies. However it leaves Jack apparently dead too. Most of the Torchwood team are convinced Jack is now really dead, except for Gwen, who keeps vigil by his side. Gwen is proved to be right, and after many days, Jack wakes up, weak and shaken, but alive.
We then get an intriguing epilogue. With Jack catching up on paperwork in his office, he has a conversation with Gwen. He again suggests that he ‘needs the right kind of Doctor‘, to help his condition. Then the hand that has been kept throughout the entire series, the Doctor’s hand from The Christmas Invasion starts to glow, and a familiar sound is heard, that of the engines of a TARDIS landing. Jack runs towards the sound, whilst Gwen stands shocked. When she gets over her surprise she follows, but Jack is gone.
It is well known that Jack is due to return to Doctor Who next season, in the eleventh episode Utopia. However the exact details of how and why he returns are not yet clear. From the end of End of Days most people are assuming that it is the Doctor who has just picked up Jack. But why pick him up so quickly without stopping – and if he is able to pick Jack up so accurately – knowing exactly where he is, why hasn’t he done so sooner? On the other hand, could it be accidental, the TARDIS briefly appearing, and Jack jumping on board – the last time Jack met the Doctor he looked somewhat different, so there doesn’t seem to have been time for any sort of discussion of the change of face.
However what is intriguing is that although you hear a TARDIS materialise, you never see whether it is theTARDIS, nor do you see the Doctor. All you see is Jack running towards the sound, and subsequently being gone – could it be a kidnapping? Remember also that Bilis Manger was again not captured or destroyed – Jack’s apparent immortality was a closely guarded secret, not known to even all of the Torchwood team. Certainly I would not be surprised to find that Bilis Manger is more than he seems, so maybe a careful watching of the details of Utopia is in order. A number of Doctor Who forums are discussing theories (including the fact that ‘Mister Bilis Manger’ is apparently an anagram of ‘I’m Master, bring Lies’), although the opinion that people are reading too much into it all seems to feature pretty prominently too – I guess we’ll have to wait to the spring to find out!
Thoughts from, and the lives of a Canadian and a Brit living in Southern England.