Shades of Gray

Torchwood: Fragments

Fragments was a very interesting episode. The framing story of the team being sent to a building which then explodes and them later finding out that it was a trap set by Captain John, and that he meant to kill them, was not the main point of the story, rather that was a just a taster of what the finale was all going to be about and the mini-cliffhanger at the end really set up what looks like being an explosive end to the series.

What made Fragments an interesting episode was what it told us about the characters we had all grown to know and like (well in most cases anyway) and about how they came to join Torchwood, apart from Gwen who we had seen joining Torchwood in the very first episode.

What was interesting though was that Captain John only set four explosive devices. If he wanted to get rid of most of the team then why didn’t he just set five devices off?

Unless he wanted one of them to be able to find and try to rescue the others, of course, which is probably more likely as I don’t think that he wanted to kill them all, he just wanted a reaction out of Jack. Still whatever his motivations it certainly makes for an interesting final episode. What we did get in this episode were four stories of how Jack, Tosh, Owen and Ianto were recruited into Torchwood.

It started with Jack, who was captured by the 1899 version of Torchwood 3 (which appeared to be two tough, no nonsense, women) after they had witnessed him being killed 14 times and keep coming back to life, which they thought was a bit odd to say the least and something that Torchwood need to deal with. What they really wanted him for was to find the Doctor because they had heard him talking about the Doctor and as he was the main reason that Torchwood was set up in the first place you can understand why Torchwood were so keen to get their hands of Jack.

Although judging by the lingering looks they were giving each other, and the non so subtle comments they made, the two female members of Torchwood at the time were more keen to get their hands on each other, than they were on Jack. But as Jack was the sort of thing that they dealt with at the time so he had to be captured but instead of killing him they let him work for them. Rather a weird recruitment policy but this is Torchwood after all.

Interestingly enough the first alien Jack encounters whilst working for Torchwood is a similar alien to that seen in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, although obviously not the same alien as the one in this episode got his head blown off by one of the trigger happy Torchwood crew who were only doing it for the security of the Empire.

It is also interesting that Jack was pretty much forced into working for Torchwood and we now know that he was worked there for over 100 years. I did wonder if they kept him in suspsended animation for a while (like they did with Tommy) and only bought him back when they needed him over time. I mean he was not on the official photo of the Torchwood crew from 1918, unless he was away that day. Or perhaps Jack was never a full member of the Torchwood team until after the events in 1999 and spent most of the time away from Cardiff. This is not mentioned in this episode but it would explain a few things.

We then move forward one hundred years to the eve of the millennium, when Jack became the leader of Torchwood after the previous head of Torchwood, Alex, killed his entire team and himself, because they weren’t ready for what was coming in the 21st century.

Next was Tosh’s story. Poor old Tosh. She had to steal some secret plans from her place of work, by unnamed people who had her mother hostage, and was then captured and put away for what seemed like life by a very nasty U.N.I.T. (and not the cuddly version we had for most of the 1970s, but more like a real organisation like UNIT would probably be) for stealing official secrets, before Jack came to her rescue.

Again is seemed like Tosh was in some way coerced into working for Torchwood. The only other option for Tosh would be to remain locked away for the rest of her life, so it would certainly have seemed like a decent proposition for her. She still wouldn’t get to see her mother, but at least she would be able to have something approximating a life, which would be more preferable to spending the rest of her days in a very small cell.

Jack also said that if she worked for Torchwood for five years then he would able to wipe her record clean, which means that she is coming towards the end of that spell. What that means for the character of Tosh is unknown at the moment but I sure hope it doesn’t mean what I think it might do for her!

Owen’s story is probably the most interesting as we learn more about him than we do about any of the other regular characters in this episode and is actually quite heartbreaking. Owen had it all five years ago, he had a good job as a Doctor, and he was engaged to Katie and they were planning a summer wedding but then it all went wrong. His fiancée was diagnosed with early onset alzeimers disease, which thankfully turned out to be tumour, which then turned out to be an alien parasite. That in the end killed both her and the Doctor’s who were trying to operate on her to save her life.

To say Owen was heartbroken, angry and pissed off would be a understatement and Jack offers him a new life and a new job which, at that moment in time, when his life was in ruins and he had no idea how to carry on and what to do with his life after Katie that he was probably glad of the opportunity to get the hell out of where he was and start again.

I think that this really explains a lot about Owen and in particular his relationship with women. After having the one woman he truly loved taken away from him, he is unable to have a meaningful relationship with another woman, because the pain of what happened to Katie, and ultimately what could happen to her, are too much for Owen to get involved.

So when Diane came along and they fell for each other it must have shook Owen to his very core but what happens, she goes and leaves him as well. Not in the same way that Katie did but the end result was the same afterwards.

I also believe that him and Tosh were meant to be together but with the issues they both have, and that fact that Owen is now dead, mean that this will never happen, but I have always had my suspicions about his true feelings for Tosh but you can hardly blame him can you?

Finally we got Ianto’s story. Now we got quite a bit of this in Cyberwoman but this fills in the gaps, although doesn’t quite explain how he was able to get Lisa into the hub in the first place either.

It turns out that he is the newest member of the Torchwood crew (other than Gwen) in that he has only been there for 21 months, and that he effectively stalked Captain Jack and got him to give him a job in Torchwood where he knew he could hide his half cybernised girlfriend and possibly save her.

That does mean that in the time between the battle of Canary Warf and Ianto meeting Captain Jack, he had to be hiding Lisa somewhere but it was god knows where. I mean where do you hide half cybernised women? Is there a page in yellow pages specialising in that sort of thing? I suppose there must be one in Cardiff at least.

For me the Ianto story was the least interesting out of the four origin stories, but this was primarily because some of it was dealt with in the season one episode Cyerwoman, but also because I don’t find Ianto that interesting a character. Sure he has been quite funny this season and fits more into the team than he did before but apart from that as a character I just don’t find him that fascinating.

Fragments was an interesting episode of Torchwood, but more for the revelations about the main characters than for anything else, and I am really looking forward to the finale now!

Driftwood

Torchwood: Adrift

Adrift was the kind of episode that Torchwood should be doing week in week out, an episode that couldn’t be done in the Doctor Who universe unlike the previous episode, which with hindsight probably would have worked better in the parent series. I think the show works better when it does episodes that aren’t right for Doctor Who, but are right for Torchwood, otherwise you might as well have 13 more episodes of Doctor Who and have the Torchwood team in the main cast like UNIT were back in the seventies (which is something a lot of Doctor Who fans would prefer methinks!).

This is also one of the few episodes where the rift itself is central to the plot, and it is considered that the rift might not just let stuff in from other universes, but take people the other way as well. I would have thought that the chances of this happening were not as remote as they would have us believe, but perhaps nobody really noticed, or cared, until Gwen came along and asked the question? Well you never know!

One one level the story was just about a young lad who went missing and his mother’s unending search for the lad, and on another it is about the reality of life living on top of a space/time rift and the fact that sometimes it is better not to know the whole truth about things. After all they say ignorance is bliss and certainly by the end of the episode the boy’s mother was not full of the joys of springs at finding her son, rather the opposite in fact.

It was quite an interesting dilemma, because, on the one hand, Nikki (an excellent performance from Ruth Jones) wanted to know that Jonah was safe, but was not able to comprehend what he had turned into in, from her perspective, the seven months that he had been gone, rather than the decades that Jonah had spent on the other side of the rift, and she simply could not cope. I mean you do have to feel for her, as her kid was fifteen years old just seven months ago, and is now middle aged, scarred, bald and looks like the bloke who used to the paramedic in the first series of Casualty. I mean what would you do if that happened to you?

Captain Jack came across as a right bastard for most of this episode what with his indifference to Gwen’s insistence that it was the rift that had taken them, and that they hadn’t just disappeared. Note that he did not disagree that the rift might have had something to do with their disappearance at the time but his point about what could they do was a very valid one, because really, in all honesty, what could they have done, not knowing where they had gone or if they would ever return? The answer is nothing, nada, zilch.

Of course it turned out that Jack had known about it all along but had decided to keep it from the other members of Torchwood, well from Gwen at least. Perhaps the others knew about but wouldn’t have gone on a one woman crusade to reunite them with their loved ones like Gwen did, and I think that Jack knew that was what she would try to do, which is one of the reasons why he did it. He kept this fact from the rest of the team because he knew what might happen if they found out.

Once the place had been discovered he decided to let Gwen be hoist by own petard, as it were, and actually make things worse rather than making them better. His look at the end of the episode when Gwen was putting all of the files away spoke volumes. Jack is not the Doctor and sometimes he doesn’t have all the answers and can’t always help people, in the way that people think that he should be doing.

Chris Chibnall answered all of his critics with his script for this episode, which was the best episode he had written to date and easily one of the best Torchwood’s so far. I always knew that Chibnall was a good writer, and not the Anti-Christ as he has been to a lot of Torchwood and Doctor Who fans, and am glad that he was finally earned his spurs amongst fandom.

At the end of the episode when Gwen was in tears, so was my wife, and she was not the only one, as I found out when I looked on the Facebook Torchwood group the following day.

Jack’s On Film

Torchwood From Out of the Rain

If there was one writer who you expected to deliver the goods when you first heard their name mentioned on the writing list for the second series of Torchwood, it would have been Peter J Hammond. After all this was the man who created and wrote the peerless Sapphire and Steel and wrote some the best episode of Ace of Wands (not that I can really comment on that, having never seen Ace of Wands) and after his episode of the first series of Torchwood high hopes were held for this episode, especially when rumours were that he was to revisit one of the more successful Sapphire and Steel stories.

Do you remember the episodes of Sapphire and Steel where at the end this young woman was told that she would never be able to have another photograph taken ever and that she had to destroy all of the photographs that she had? Well this episode of Torchwood is a little bit like that but with film instead. I suppose there isn’t a great deal of difference between photographs and films except for the fact that film captures moving images rather than static images. Otherwise the basic principles are pretty much the same.

I enjoyed this episode and thought it was rather creepy much in the same way that Sapphire and Steel was. The character of the Ghostmaker was an interesting creation and was played with a lot of moustache twirling menace by Julian Bleach who has a very distinctive voice. The other main character to come from the film was the rather strange character of Pearl who didn’t really have a great deal to do but she did come across as quite menacing in her own way.

Like Hammond’s previous episode this one could have also been a rather effective Doctor Who episode, rather than an episode that only Torchwood can do. There has, I think, always been something inherently creepy about travelling shows and the people that inhabit them so it is a good place to see a nice creepy story, which this was, but not in the same way that the Sapphire and Steel one with the photographs was.

In this episode Ianto had quite a bit to do, and his local knowledge also came into play a lot here. Like Ianto, I have always had a thing about old cinemas and often bemoan the fact that there a very few old cinemas left these days that haven’t been turned into either bingo halls, theme pubs or nightclubs. These new multiplex cinemas have nothing on the old ones and often seem very soulless like there is something important missing from them.

It was nice to see yet another glimpse into Jack’s former life before Torchwood and it seems that he almost turned his hand to anything in his long life. He did hint to Ianto that he was there undercover for someone, but he wouldn’t say whom, leading to lots and lots of rumours and supposition about who Jack might have been working for in those days.

Of course there are lot of hints about Jack’s past that have never been followed up so there is no reason to assume that this one will be followed up any time soon, just like the fact that Jack had been married before.

The ending where it was said that as long as there are still pieces of film about then the night travellers are never truly dead, and Jack hearing the old fashioned travelling show music (something else that gives me the creeps), was not quite as effective as the ending of Blink, where it implied that every statue you see around might be a weeping angel, but it still worked in a rather less scary fashion. I quite like to think that all of these Doctor Who episodes that are lost might well have that footage of a travelling show running through it now and wouldn’t that really scare the shit out of some fans?

Something old

Torchwood: Something Borrowed

Something old,
Something new,
Something borrowed,
Something blue,
And a silver sixpence in your shoe

There was a change in tone in this episode after the ruminations on death and mortality in the previous two episodes with a wedding episode and a comedy episode to boot! As is usual in these situations a wedding in a television programme is never going to go according to plan, as this never happens on telly, and this episode of Torchwood is no different.

What is the worse thing that can happen when you wake up on the morning of your wedding if you are the bride? A sudden outbreak of acne? Two black eyes? Waking up next to the stripper from your hen night?

gwenbump.jpgIn the case of Gwen Cooper she wakes up pregnant, which was a bit of a shock considering she hadn’t shown any signs of being pregnant the previous night at her hen night, and hasn’t probably spent enough time with Rhys to actually get pregnant in the first place. Having said that she did have a thing with Owen in the previous season but Owen in his current state wouldn’t be capable of anything let alone getting Gwen up the duff!

In hindsight it was probably not the best of ideas to have the hen night the evening before the wedding, or in Gwen’s case, it was the not the best of ideas to go chasing after a marauding shape shifting alien. She probably should have had an early night and a cup of ovaltine, but that wouldn’t have been much of an opening to the episode would it?

Working for Torchwood does has it unfortunate side effects such as Owen being undead, and in the case of Gwen getting impregnated by an alien shape-shifter the night before her wedding! I mean was there even the slightest chance of Gwen’s wedding being an incident free zone? I think not.

We even got to meet the infamous Banana Boat who has been rather like “her indoor’s” from Minder, or Maris in Frasier, being an oft mentioned but never seen character. It probably would have been better if we had not met him in this episode and kept him as a character that works better by never being seen.

We also got to find out something about Ianto’s family with the never before revealed fact that his dad is a master tailor. That might explain why he is always so smartly turned out. By the end of the episode he had added dj-ing to the growing list of his hitherto unseen talents and he probably had the best line of the episode describing the life of a Torchwood operative as working to rid Cardiff of aliens by day and then becoming the wedding fairy by night!

evilmother.jpgIt helped that the alien’s were shape-shifters as that meant that absolutely anyone at the wedding could have been the alien. Poor old Mervyn the dj found out that to his detriment by trying to cop off with the alien. Still he didn’t know any better and she was quite attractive so you can’t really blame him.

Of course the worst bit of any wedding is the agonising wait after the words about is there anyone who had any just cause or impediment why you should not get married, because you just never know who might turn up at that moment. In the case of Gwen this was bound to happen and we weren’t disappointed when Jack bounded down the aisle and demand that the wedding be stopped.

exchangingrings.jpgLuckily in the end everything went to plan and Gwen did indeed become Mrs Gwen Williams. I just wonder if they will credit her as Gwen Williams from the next episode as I was half expecting that to happen at the end of this episode. I mean they should do, as that is now the characters name, unless she has decided not to take Rhys name, as there is no law that states that a wife takes her husband surname, it is just what most women tend to do. Also, didn’t Gwen look lovely in her wedding dress, with, or without, bump?

Aside from Meat this episode was Rhys’ best episode. He got to finally stand up to Captain Jack by punching his lights out after Jack called his mother an ugly bitch, kind of like what Marco Matteratzi said to Zinedine Zidane in the 2006 World Cup Final, and he got to marry Gwen. I think that you can call that a result.

For the second episode in a row we got a comedy great (who had also appeared in Doctor Who in the 1980’s) making a guest appearance in Torchwood with Nerys Hughes playing Rhys’ mother Brenda. Nerys Hughes had a bit more to do than poor old Richard Briers did in the last episode, and she even got to play the baddie, albeit for only a few minutes.

I thought Something Borrowed was a hoot, and was a nice change of tone from the previous two episodes, which were so dark and miserable! 8 out of 10!