Torchwood: To The Last Man

To The Last Man is the obligatory Toshiko episode. Like the previous seasons Greeks Bearing Gifts, the episode features the computer expert having a doomed relationship, which will end in tears for poor Toshiko. That is however where the similarities between this episode and GBG end, because this is a much better episode and quite easily the best episode of the series so far.

It shares themes with Out of Time and Captain Jack Harkness from the previous year and like those episodes the plot is more about character than the story. I think that this is where Torchwood seems to excel with these more intimate character based episodes rather than the more over the top action packed plots which, although fun to watch, are often not as satisfying as these less showy episodes.

I have always had a soft spot for Toshiko and it was nice to see an episode featuring her as the main character as I think that she is often underused, and she is now more of a rounded character (although if you look at her she is already quite rounded in her own way) after this episode and you feel that you know a lot more about and I, for one, can emphasise with her more than I can any other character in the series.

The love affair between her and Tommy in this story was much more believable than her affair with Mary the previous year and it has nothing to do with the fact that this was a heterosexual affair, rather than a lesbian one, rather that it made sense and was actually believeable. It was rather touching in fact and the resolution where they knew that they would never see each other again was actually almost heartbreaking as you wanted them to settle down together because they just seemed to be the perfect couple.

Witness the scene when Tosh and Tommy first go out after he has had all of his tests and the rest of the team remark how sweet it was that they were going for a drink, followed by a movie and then possibly a pizza. It was almost as if the rest of them were proud parents watching their offspring go out on their first date. Bless.

One of the other really good bits about this episode was the pre-credit sequence featuring the 1918 Torchwood versions of Jack and Gwen, Gerald and Harriet, who were ever so British and stiff-upper lipped, all speaking with perfect received pronunciation, with their rather incongruous technology for the time period. I mean Torchwood had cryogenic technology in 1918, which I am certain didn’t exist in that time, although I am willing to stand corrected if I am talking rubbish.

Of course this is Torchwood and they are always going to have more hi-tech technology than the period due to the rift and all of that. It was nice that we saw a glimpse of what Torchwood was like in the past because we all know that Torchwood was founded in the Victorian era and has probably been in Cardiff since the first known rift activity from The Unquiet Dead, but have never been shown, or had even mentioned, previous Torchwood crews, so that was a nice change and shows that Torchwood does in fact have a history, and quite an interesting one at that.

There was even a line when Jack said that Tommy had been there longer than any of them and then corrected that to any of you so how long had Jack been involved with Torchwood? We know that Jack had been on the Earth since the 1890’s but he certainly wasn’t part of Torchwood in 1918, or he would have know about Toshiko’s involvement and he would have been in that photograph of the 1918 team.

Of course, we now know why Toshiko was recruited to Torchwood because they always knew that she was an important part of it, a very important part in this case. I wonder if that were the case with the other members of the crew or just with Toshiko.

It certainly does make you wonder and opens some wonderful possibilities for future episodes and fan fiction exploring these previous incarnations of Torchwood. What about the original incarnation of Torchwood Cardiff, imagine what that would have been like, or the 1960s incarnation where they all wore mini-skirts (were they all woman in that time I wonder), the possibilities are endless and I have no doubt that on various Torchwood blogs and communities out there fiction is being written featuring Gerald and Harriet as I write these words.

Helen Raynor gave us a fine script, a more impressive offering that her first Torchwood episode and her Doctor Who two-parter last year and shows that she has grown as a writer during that intervening time and does make her Sontaran epic in series four a possible story to watch out for if she turns in a script like this one.

It seemed quite convoluted at first but in the end it turned out to be deceptively simple and by the end it generally made sense and told a simple story well. We don’t know quite why Tommy was taken by Torchwood apart from the whole time paradox thing as if he hadn’t been taken by the 1918 Torchwood lot he would never have been able to tell the 1918 lot to take him in the first place.

As Pertwee would have said they were trapped in a temporal paradox and had no choice but to do what they had to do, in order for the fabric of the space continuum not to collapse in on itself, as it might have otherwise done or something to that effect. So the fact that it was a temporal paradox was a perfect explanation for why Tommy was taken but I guess for some people that wouldn’t be enough. For me though that explained the whole thing and I am happy with it.

A friend of mine said it was a bit of bad continuity that there was still power in the hospital, even though it was about to be demolished. I am not sure that this is a plot hole in itself but perhaps it could be something to do with the time shifts or the rift itself, rather than a health and safety concern on behalf of the demolition company or a fault on the part of the writer and script editor.

A lot of the scenes set in the hospital with the ghosts appearing at random intervals were rather reminiscent of Sapphire and Steel, which I appreciate as a fan of that particular show. It is no wonder that P J Hammond seems attuned to the format of Torchwood when you see episodes like this one, it is almost a spiritual relative of it.

Torchwood is going from strength to strength this series and, hopefully, it won’t be long before a third series is commissioned.