TV Back to incoherent ranting for Torchwood's Random Shoes. During the oft referred to rewatch, perhaps because I was a little bit older and not approaching each episode with anything like the same level of anticipation I managed to enjoy this on its own terms and even be touched by it, even during the still too long funeral scene. For the third week running the supporting actor is the main point of interest, Paul Chequer living up to his name and banking a rather wonderful turn even if he's slipstreaming Marc Warren like he's chasing the ghost car during a time trial mode on Ridge Racer.
"Life's full of disappointments…" Yes, yes it is. Every Sunday at 10pm on BBC Three (or as it appeared tonight briefly Children's BBC). Really must I? Can't I just say 'What Sean said' and move on? This isn't going to be half as entertaining or perceptive. I've just spent the past week writing this critique for my own blog for various reasons describing the main thing wrong with Torchwood and here's an episode that generally ignores my criticisms and creates a whole bunch of others. I could hate it just on that basis, but that wouldn't be fair so it looks like I'll have to make up a special list for this one. It's eleven o'clock at night, I should be thinking about going to bed or running another episode of Spaced which I'm watching once again. Have you seen the end of the paintball episode lately? It's like a forward homage to the Doctor Who episode Fear Her with 'There's a storm coming' and a crane shot and everything. Or are they both Terminator references?
I mean what the hell was that? Do the production team not think that we're not sitting at home thinking - 'Hold on - this is a bit like Love & Monsters…' or 'Is he a ghost? Out of phase with the rest of reality? A non-corporeal clone? What?' or 'Is she in wrap or idle whilst she talking to Gwen - isn't she thinking about her weekly stats - what kind of a call centre is this?' or 'Jesus Christ that's a horrific music cue… what a winy voice … is this supposed to be a joke' or 'That's the original A For Andromeda. Don't pan away, I'm watching that!' or 'Will that man please stop singing? This funeral scene has gone on long enough … what it's still going? How many bloody verses are there in 'Danny Boy' and apart from anything else what the hell is he doing singing it in Wales?' or the many thousands of other niggles that flopped through my brain as I tried desperately and should have been engaging with the story.
Eugene seemed a nice enough bloke, but his plight wasn't enough of a mystery to stretch out over twenty-five minutes let alone double that time. The episode seemed to be copying the structure of Citizen Kane which followed the steps from childhood forward to death in order to reveal a mystery -- it's about how a man lived being revealed in flashbacks and whatnot. Here it felt like the montage sequence from The Ghost Machine slowed down across a a whole episode but instead of the main character discovering information such as Eugene's early childhood it was shown to the audience first. Which meant that when it was revealed to Gwen later it lacked dramatic impact.
It just seems very wrong to me that on such a regular basis, that the so-called regular characters are given so little to do. Ianto's back to saying basically nothing and Tosh is simply asking questions. They're supposed to be main characters and yet they're being sidelined - it's Classic Star Trek all over again. The trouble with this episode was that it wasn't Gwen's story it was Eugene's with the maths 'genius' using her to discover what happened because he pushed her forward - too often she would walk into a scene and sat listening as characters described another bit of the plot. This wasn't really detecting because she wasn't allowed to put the clues together herself -- Eugene was motivating her, revealing his memories, the final moments being his success. Eve Myles was sidelined in her own show.
There wasn't anything actually wrong with the story, but surely it's the kind of thing you trot out in season three when you've established all the characters and you want either give them a week off or you're double banking and have some fun with them. Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Lower Decks is a prime example, as junior officers became the focus and we got to see the regulars from their perspective. Here, Eugene basically followed Gwen around because he lurrrved her and didn't really regard any of the others. During The Hub visit, he seemed more interested in The Doctor's hand (we get the joke already) than anyone else in the hub which seemed a waste.
Eugene was also a bit talky though, given to half quoting everything from Douglas Adams through to Ferris Bueller's Day Off via Monty Python's Galaxy Song, all very poetic, probably thematic, but slowed what little drama there was even more. Unlike Love & Monsters, however, it never felt like the ramblings of a half normal person, seeming more like it had been brought in because the story was being adapted from a novel and the screenwriter was too afraid not include the author's winning material. I'd also argue that the fact that Eugene was both describing events in both the past and present tense confused the point of view still further.
Paul Chequer is a talented actor and even though the character felt like a rehash of his character in As If, even with the Hitler quiff, he still managed to be sympathetic and appealing despite that wordiness. Once again, Eve Myles somehow managed to make Gwen seem like a normal, appealing figure even if her job on this occasion was to largely sit there and listen. The performances across board in this episode were good if not excellent amongst the guest cast although this has always been a problem with the series - the regulars are just less vivid and unloved in the face of the populace of South Wales.
The special effects too were very nice all of the wizzing around the solar system and galaxy, presumably representing Eugene's imagination, giving the episode a scale others have lacked. It was just a shame that they couldn't stretch to more than one moment in which he actually put his hand through someone. He was still walking around at normal speed with doors, such as the ones in the hub, waiting for him to walk through. This quirk could have been worked into the episode - perhaps providing Gwen with proof of her feeling that someone was about but instead it looked like an inconsistency waiting for a nitpicker like me to point it out.
Other oddities -- have Gwen and Owen split up is that what all the arguing is supposed to imply? Why just imply it, why not just say it? And why the hell after all the lovely scenes earlier in the series haven't we seen a proper break-up scene for Gwen and her boyfriend? The show seems determined to reduce every character to a plot point or cypher. Are they allergic to giving the characters convincing private lives? Most of the problems with this episode could have been solved with a reduction of the influence of Eugene's character and the introduction of a B-plot about Jack or Tosh or even Ianto.
Marks were gained for the use of 'Starman' instead of 'Life on Mars', but what the hell was that thing during the autopsy sequence in The Hub? (and as a side note if they had cut him open wouldn't they have found the eye?) Well I know what it is thanks to Outpost Gallifrey - 'Hope There's Someone' by Antony and The Johnsons and in a different context I might have liked it, but here it just ruined the mood and was completely out of context. Love & Monsters had a coherent musical structure but this was just a mish-mash.
But taking the episode as it stands though, it simply wasn't as touching as it should have been even with all of that music layered in, for the reasons already listed and that bloody funeral scene at the end. You really have to have worked hard in the body of a drama to earn something like that and they didn't and as that poor actor graveled his way through even more of Danny Boy I was screaming at the screen for him to stop when I know I should be crying and didn't matter how much sob music was layered in afterwards, they'd lost me again.
Next week: It's more Star Trek plots as TNG's The Neutral Zone and Voyager's The 37ers are given a run around. Once again, we're left wondering what the premise of this show is actually meant to be.
PS, Proto-Skins, As, If still hasn't had a dvd release thanks to the relaxed attitude to musical licensing on first broadcast. Luckily, this YouTube user has uploaded the entire thing.