TV "the face she makes when she cums" What was it with Owen's constant references to semen and sex faces? The following is about 10% Out of Time review , 90% explosive self-awareness.. I realise from the off that I'm probably blowing some of its narrative deficiencies out of all proportion, not least the three plots ending simultaneously, but can't help myself. I needn't have worried. This still wasn't great television. It made Spooks: Code 9 look like a stone cold classic.
It's always very helpful when sitting down review something when one of the characters within has actually explained what's wrong with the episode. There was Jack, sitting in the hub, looking up at Tosh and actually saying (I'm paraphrasing) "These are just three people who are lost who can't go home. We don't have an enemy to fight this time." As he sat there, it finally felt as though the story had ground to a halt. I looked up at the clock and noticed that there was another twenty-minutes to go and wondered what the hell they'd be filling those twenty minutes of screen-time with.
Thing is, I was strangely upbeat going into this episode. I told everyone here I was looking forward to it and a particularly good episode of The West Wing tonight ('Hi, Senator. Why don't you take your legislative agenda and shove it up your ass. ' 'She's a fine looking woman.' etc) put me in a good mood. The episode began rather well with the lovely landing of the plane and the appearance of the three strangers in time and the explanations and then ... Asda? Immediately it began to become apparent that episode would once again be demonstrating the legion of issues the series has had so far. Having selected to retread one of the old, old sci-fi standard, off the shelf, plot-lines, they decided to trot through all of the expected scenes without putting a new spin on any of them whatsoever. Oh for goodness sake.
I should temper this a little bit by saying that even that opening scene in the supermarket was as funny as these things usually are with the accepted standards of our time being put under the microscope of another -- the children's tv presenter on the lad mag, 'smoking kills' and the price of eggs (or in this case junk food). Such scenes were splattered throughout the episode as Emma misunderstood the advances of the man in the club and John had to deal with the pipe smoking ban in the pub. The problem is that after a while they become repetitious and perhaps more damagingly for Doctor Who fans not anything that doesn't happen whenever the Doctor's companion appears in another time -- that misunderstanding of new rituals for comic effect.
Throughout I wondered if there would be a twist, such as that they're all aliens or they somehow planned the time slip or that there would be a way home or that they weren't time travellers at all just faking it for some nefarious gain. Perhaps the twist was that there was no twist in which case -- wah! I'm sorry but narratively chaining each of them to the one regular character who was most likely to empathise with them and their plight in the hope of illuminating a regular just isn't enough. It's all very well presenting what appears to be a grand romance about loss and sacrifice but you still need proper jeopardy, something to fight for.
I can absolutely see that this is supposed to be the episode about character building -- Gwen talked once again about having two lives and is seen to question her relationship to Owen; Owen on the other hand didn't seem to think anything about their relationship as he realised he actually had the capacity to fall in luurv; and Jack continued to come to terms with the fact that he too is a man out of time, as we gained some confirmation that he might have dropped through the rift and that he is indeed born in the future. The problem is, because of what I'm going to continue to describe as the random characterisation of the series, none of this seemed like a progression -- just an emotion of the week which could change next time. I can't simply start liking a character such as Owen when he's been so negatively written in the past, especially when he seems to have a silly walk - the whole wide shoulder thing is becoming increasingly old.
As with so many of these episodes, there was a tension too between the really great performances and the embarrassing dialogue. Example: No Angels' Louise Delamere sparkles away throughout the episode proving once again that she's one of the nation's hidden treasures and (I can't believe I'm typing this) actually some of the scenes with Burn Gorman had a light romantic touch. Except they're in the middle of one of the endless bed scenes, just as we're actually beginning to fall for the two of them, he gives a speech talking about how he's obsessed with her clothes, her look, what she's thinking about and oh yes, the face she makes when she cums, which strands the scene as you're simply not able to listen to anything else as you try to deal with the implications of that. It might sound real, and I'm sure it's perfectly good pillow talk in some homes, but it kills the mood of the scene stone dead. Was there any need for it?
The inability to close out an episode satisfactorily continues. In a bizarre coincidence, all three of the time travellers (whose connection at no point had been explained) decided to make big life (or death) decision at roughly the same time. It was almost as though they could tell that the episode was coming to a close. Although all television dramas with multiple plot-lines suffer from this issue (see nearly every episode of Boston Legal) here it jarred because with perhaps the exception of Emma none of them seemed to have a reason to make the decision right there and then. Diane didn't fly off because she'd heard about the death of John for example which would have made sense. And speaking of John what are we to make of Jack's decision to let him kill himself and actually sit in the car and watch? I can't decide if I really hate Jack now. And what are his colleagues going to make of the decision? Watching the series you'd never know (although reading the website you might). I guarantee it won't be mentioned next week.
I wonder if I've entirely lost perspective and I'm just off looking for flaws and unable to enjoy the show for what it's purporting to be. Whenever I write these reviews I'm always analysing the storytelling, how it fits within the overall structure of the series, the disappointments. Perhaps when I rewatch this I will be able to pay closer attention to the incidental pleasures -- the reappearance of Rees, Owen's charm (for once), the great performances. But I can't sit here and lie and say that I enjoyed these fifty minutes when I spent most of them literally groaning and shouting at the screen like a madman or a football fan watching their team go down five-nil in the FA Cup.
I just keep hearing that opening introduction:
"Torchwood. Outside the government, beyond the police. Tracking down alien life on earth and arming the human race against the future. The 21st century is when everything changes... and you've gotta be ready."
And wondering when we're actually going to get to see that series. That series sounds great.
PS, Television still hasn't decided what to do with Louise Delamere. She'd be perfect for Wonder Woman but no one has noticed.