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!

The Miserable Life

Torchwood: A Day in the Death

Yet another Owencentric episode, another episode where Owen is moping around and unhappy with his lot. Although to be fair since he is dead, but not actually dead; alive yet not alive, it is no wonder he is a bit pissed off with everything and everybody.

I mean he now can’t die but unlike Jack it seems he also cannot do any of thing things that would count to him as being alive such as eating and drinking etc. He can watch daytime TV but that isn’t really the same is it? I suppose he could spend his days and nights playing games of his ps3 or X-Box or watching every series of 24 as he doesn’t need to sleep either.

Luckily by the end of episode he had found absolution of sorts by persuading a woman that it was not worth jumping to her death from the top of a building when there was the slightest, smidegeon of a chance that things could get better and not be as bleak and dark as it could be.

That was the one moment of the episode that suggested that things might not be as bad as you think they are, in a rather bleak episode written by first-time television writer Joseph Lidster. I mean you thought the last episode was grim and bit depressing but that had nothing on this episode.

I do begin to wonder why Freema bothered to get out of bed to make this episode as she had so little to do you didn’t really notice that she was there till the end of the episode when she had her nice farewell scene and promised that she may come back to Torchwood one day (read that as will return in the 3rd series probably). She had even less to do than she did in the previous episode and she was hardly in that one either.

I do wonder why they bothered having her in three episodes when there was only one that would feature her character in the main. She was in the background like Tosh normally is for the previous two episodes. I mean even Tosh had more to do in this episode and that is saying something!

There was some light relief in the episode courtesy of sitcom legend Richard Briers trying to come on to Tosh (I mean who wouldn’t?) and the knowledge that Owen really hates Tin Tin. Come to think about I always thought there was something funny about Tin Tin as well. It did seem a little wasted to get Richard Briers in and to have him play such a small part but he was very good in this small role as eccentric millionaire and collector of alien ephemera Henry Parker.

I think it would have been a nice touch if we had seen a picture of his wife in the house somewhere and it being someone like Penelope Keith or one of his many sitcom wives from over the years. That would have been quite amusing in the same way that they used a publicity picture of Briers from the Good Life, to show a younger Henry Parker, was. There was also the sight of Owen getting used to using the coffee machine which was also quite amusing!

The sub plot of Owen trying to talk a woman out of throwing herself of a building on her wedding anniversary after her marriage ended just as it had started with the death of her husband after mere hours of marriage, was a nice little extra layer to the episode but did seem to be a bit more important that what I assume was the main plot involving the Richard Briers character and the energy spike that was emanating from his property. Or perhaps it was meant to be the other way around. I am not too sure.

It was nice that it turned out to be nothing more dangerous than a reply to the messages sent from NASA in the seventies but I do wonder what it actually did to Owen and all we got in the way of an explanation was that it sang to him. Perhaps that is explanation enough.

A Day in the Death is probably the weakest episode of the series so far, and is not one that would benefit from repeated viewings, and it ended the Martha trilogy of episodes with a whimper rather than a bang, but it is still better than most of the stuff on TV today.