the knife-edge of taste Eric Saward was working under

TV As I write, there’s another #newsglastonbury with a special Question Time and a typical Newsnight filled with experts and people who think they’re experts attempting to explain the events earlier in the week. But since none of them will really know, none of them will agree on anything, and none of them will say anything that hasn’t already been said by someone else in the past couple of days I’ve decided to fall into my usual pattern for a Thursday evening and writing about the fictional atrocities of Torchwood instead. With apologies that this might not necessarily be the most detailed or even coherent analysis since I’m working through a category two designation (or wherever man-flu puts me).

Jane Espenson’s Categories of Life was supposed, based on the pre-episode hype, to be the “game changer” or the week in which Torchood’s Miracle Day began to build momentum. The terrifying secret behind the miracle would be revealed and we’d all be come terribly excited about what’s to come. And to be fair, some viewers have been. At the close of the episode, Torchwood was trending on Twitter for the first time in four weeks, and positively judging by the substance of the tweets and scoring highly at Gallifrey Base with at least a couple of reviews, with the likes of Gen of Deek heralding it as the episode in which the series finally went dark and “structured terrifically well”.

Well, hum. The structure was almost exactly the same as the previous two episodes – breaking into a place to get some plot-related information and like last week ended with someone being shot. In terms of it being a “game changer” we’re not any closer to knowing the terrifying secret behind the miracle rather that Phicorp is mortality cleansing which for all its Nazi parallels, somehow isn’t quite as powerful as the moment when Rocco was carted off in Turn Left (at least no one has used the words “final solution” yet) and certainly isn’t as creepy as using small children as suppositories for decades or the fact that I’ve just decided to rank these fictional atrocities in order of creepiness and thematic resonance.

Perhaps having watched Shoah, that episode of The World at War and studied that period in any number of ways, I find the concept of Torchwood employing that imagery a teensy bit facile and that’s undercut whatever suspension of disbelief I’m supposed to have that would lead me to care that this fictional version of reality is doing much the same thing. But I think it’s more likely that given all the hype, I’m actually disappointed that we’ve not been introduced to whichever spooky-doo is actually behind all of this, that rather than given us some new alien fiend to look at, or the Cybermen as I suspected, they’ve incinerated the boring doctor instead, a thinly characterised figure played however capably by Arlene Tur who was pointedly expendable since she didn’t merit a position in the opening credits with the apparent regulars.

Even Indira Varma as Suzie was gifted one of those. Perhaps if this had been a character we had a emotional connection to, Gwen’s Dad most likely, this scene might have pierced through by usually thin layer of cynicism. Since the scenes when the episode really seemed to find its centre were once again back in Cardiff, in tradition Torchwood territory. Look, there’s Andy saying something silly so he can be corrected with some important exposition. There’s Rhys being the most human character. There’s Gwen gaining entry to a place through sheer verbal dexterity alone. Vocal chords like a sonic screwdriver that one. Despite the dodgy NTSC transfer, whenever the show is set back over here again, it becomes more authentic somehow.

There’s plenty more sniping to be done, but since I’m showing every sign of my blue peg being replaced with a red, I’ll direct you to Iain’s review at Tachyon TV since he’s already done most of the good jokes especially about the awful Ralph and Colin, the latterday Jobel and Tasambeker which just go to prove the knife edge of taste Eric Saward was working under back then. At this point, despite all the best work of Bill Pullman and Lauren Ambrose, I don’t really care what happens next and to make matters worse it's looking like the final few episodes of Torchwood are going to overlap with the first few of Doctor Who which means we’ll be able to cruelly compare one show making a mess of the Whoniverse with another which is putting it right.

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