TV The opening paragraph isn't a joke. I really did post this Torchwood review on the night before Christmas 2006, the festive season which contained not just three or four episodes of the adult spin-off, but also The Runaway Bride and the first hour of The Sarah Jane Adventures and lots of hours writing from me. In comparison to the upcoming desert, we were blessed, especially since, thanks to Noel Clarke's abilities as a screenwriter (and whoever else inevitably worked on the script, Russell or Chibs), Combat wasn't half bad. Don't expect this kind of service in the upcoming festive season. I will post a review of The Lion, The Witch and The Tardis or whatever it's called, just don't look for it on the 25th of December.
It's Christmas Eve, so let me keep this brief, and please understand that this isn't the spirit of the season talking, and really I can't believe I'm typing this .... but ... tonight's episode of Torchwood was quite good. From a perfectly written teaser that was both exciting in terms of setting up the mystery of the main story and important in reintroducing the issues related to Gwen neglecting her responsibilities at home to a perfectly paced script and story which gave everyone something to do and paid off well in its finale, this was the Torchwood I'd been expecting after the stonking first couple of episodes and somewhat suggests that this is a series that is only as good as its writers. Take a bow, Mr. Noel Clarke.
As usual, the concept was not exactly original but unlike usual the interpretation worked exceedingly well. For once, there was a real sense of an investigation in which the characters really looked under the belly of this fictional version of Cardiff to see the awfulness that is probably lurking there even if the truth was obvious to anyone paying attention to the brutality and whose read the Christmas Radio Times.
By holding off the secrets of the Weevil Club to the end, the audience was left in the state of imagining the worst which meant the reveal was bound to be disappointing, which in a sense it should have been -- more Robot Wars that Fight Club. In fact, most of the brutality in the episode on screen was committed my the testosterone filled men rather than the aliens, but unlike Countrycide, by placing both races in the same frame, the viewer was given a dreadful point of comparison.
It's very odd to be watching an episode of a series that for weeks you've had nothing good to say about and actually be enjoying yourself. Even the lurches between tragedy and humour seemed to work - for example the discovery of the body in the warehouse and the sudden deployment of the Crazy Frog ring tone which Jack actually had to explain wasn't his.
There was real sense to of an ongoing cross series story arc, something which has been missing for some weeks. Suddenly a thread can be seen through the whole series begun in the first episode with all the tech borrowing in which the job is having a corrupting influence on the main characters, slowly eating away at their souls - effectively they're all going Suzie. From Jack once again allowing a human to die through to Gwen employing the retcon on Rees it is almost as though each will have to reach the tipping point that both Ianto and Tosh have passed through before returning.
How refreshing to see an A-plot and B-plot running in parallel. Gwen's behaviour consciously recalled the opening episode, with her appearance in the hub with pizza and the aforementioned retcon of her boyfriend. It seems absolutely right that her attempt should fail, and the fact that he fell asleep so quickly demonstrates how strong her will was in those early days and how the job and chipped some of that away.
Even Owen's character began to look coherent, either through a natural viciousness or Weevil infection he's a very bad man and he knows it but he doesn't want to do anything about it. I might even watch last week's episode to see if what we were actually watching was temporary taming of a beast. Either this was all some grand plan, or one of Noel's tasks was to rationalise some of the wayward behaviour seen previously. When he chooses to actually enter the cage with the Weevil, although you're repulsed, it seems in keeping with previous behaviour. Suddenly lines like -- 'I was getting bored of your fuck-tricks anyway' look like characterization choices rather than simply poor writing.
Most of the performances were top notch, although guest Alex Hassell, even though he was supposed to be playing an asshole, hardly gave the subtlest of performances - though no doubt intentional he was a bit too Guy Ritchie mockney gangsta and it seemed to enhance Burn Gorman's various ticks when they shared scenes. But you had to be impressed by that ending when Gorman managed to contort his face to look exactly like a Weevil without any apparent prosthetics. I've seen gurning championships were he'd win first prize.
Unlike last week, I sat in silence for most of the episode my only murmur being 'Hold on - is it me or is this actually quite good. That can't be right..' to no one in particular. It's even put me in a positive mood for the season finale which looks excellent even though it does employ time travel which seems a bit redundant given the mother series. With the introduction of the other Captain Jack Harkness, it's only potential crime would be to ruin The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances by implying that Jack gained his current identity through nefarious means.
PS, On reflection, I'm not so sure about 'I was getting bored of your fuck-tricks anyway'