Meat.



India Fisher (voice over): Next, Rhys, a haulage firm manager from Cardiff sees if he can impress the Masterchef judges with this pan fried alien served in a French mirepoix sauce with a krynoid garnish.
John Torode: Well Rhys, how do you think you did?
Rhys: I dunno – I didn’t think I’d get this far in the competition. I only ever cook for my fiancĂ© when she manages to get home.
John Torode: Let’s take a bite … nicely cooked meat although there’s a slight smell of chlorine, I like the sauce although I’m not sure about the krynoid garnish.
Gregg Wallace: It seems to be growing … erm … Rhys I don’t think you gave it enough time in the pan … oh … I think we’d better vacate the studio … aaaaaagh!!!!!
India Fisher (voice over): For now, they can relax …

TV Wasn’t that a fortuitous bit of scheduling? A cookery programme just before Torchwood’s satire on the meat industry narrated by a Doctor Who companion. Luckily, the closest any of the cooks got to red meat was some lamb, so it will be possible for me to look at a steak again without making the juxtaposition. Oddly enough, carnivarianism isn’t a perennial subject of our favourite genre with only Buffy’s disappointing Doublemeat Palace in recent memory. So well done to this series for at least attempting to tackle the subject in an interesting and innovative way and for the most part this was another exciting, funny not to mention bittersweet episode.

Unfortunately it was largely spoiled at the climax which was a victim of the golden rule about massive alien beasties – do not show the whole thing and especially in motion unless you’re entirely happy with the design. Again we defer to mad Mat Irvine on the Warriors of the Deep commentary when trying to excuse the Myrka -- it has to be lit properly and you just need to see flashes of the thing. Up until then, the realisation had been very effective, particularly the eye, its opening and closing in the face of humanity reminiscent of a similar scene in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home when Kirk greets George and Gracie at the aquarium tank.

Alien Sadly, after the fourth or fifth pan across its glorious CG hide, all this dimension hopping, time traveling behemoth reminded me of was a cross between an elephant, a sperm whale and the pictured meanie from the old Bubble Bobble arcade machine. As it thrashed around, its front edifice opening and closing in my head I couldn't stop thinking about a quote from one of the truly great dvd audio film commentaries, Camille Paglia on Basic Instinct: ‘That of course is the phallus …’

My sympathy was blown. Of course we should be surprised that Owen is being a humanitarian in putting the beast out of its misery (and my suspicious mind wonders if Owen's niceness and total change of character isn't part of some story which is yet to be told) but in the final moments when everyone stood with their hand against it became slightly creepy not to mention hilarious at just the moment when us meat eaters are supposed to be reaching for some celery, renouncing brisket forever. Moby Dick indeed.

Catherine Tregenna script was a fascinating piece of work. I’m sure there have been other stories about the farming of alien meat but this is probably the first time we’ve seen it on television and to have the cowboy equivalent of Dewhursts involved and not some corporation was part of the thematic thread which reaches through much of Torchwood, that its always the oh so very common man of Cardiff who’ll get mixed up with these alien interlopers and their technology.

Many wonderful touches, such as said butchers getting the sharp end of the very thing that usually ends the life of a cow in an abattoir and the gaudy details of the semi-slaughter at hand -- you couldn’t help but squirm at the mention of the chemicals being pumped into the meat (although better that than the additive described in Fast Food Nation, the book and the film). Ianto's constant jappery still works ('And guess who'll be the one to feed it...'). He's turned into Chandler from Friends and look - he didn't even burst into tears when he was captured this time.

Last year Rhys was largely in the role of the harassed bystander, much of his time spent calling Gwen at inopportune moments. It seemed a forgone conclusion that at some point he'd manage it in person but his ensuing bravery was a real surprise -- well done to the writers for not simply putting him the position of a male damsel. The long awaited confrontation with Gwen was as explosive as it needed to be, potty words flying, shouting, screaming and a definite sense of a relationship shattering.

I think this is some of the best work we’ve seen from Eve Myles and Kai Owen finally demonstrated why he was cast in the first place, very much able to carry drama as well as comic relief. About the only disappointment was the non-addressing of Gwen’s fling with Owen from last year, but there’s plenty of time for that given that they’ve taken the bold move of not giving Rhys the white pill. How long to you think it’ll be before he’s out having a skin full with Dav and decides to tell about the things he’s seen?

Other than that only a couple of scenes of non-coupling between Owen and Tosh really failed to convince. It seems like a retrograde step for the latter after last week’s ‘awakening’ and a disappointing example of the writers still trying to have it both ways in terms of character arcs and stand alone stories with a personal focus. Also director Colin Teague though managing to carry off the action scenes pretty well this time, still favours the interesting camera angle -- what the hell was going on outside that door in the corridor?

It wasn’t that far away from that old Russ Abbot gag in which the camera spins to reveal exactly how Batman could walk up walls and if it had been like that any longer I’d have been like a team caprtain on A Question of Sport with my head cocked to the side. I would say though that he was largely to blame for the over indulgence with husky slug features presumably assuming that the audience needs to see the thing after all the build up having probably missed the fable about the wise blind men and the elephant at school.

Next week: Torchwood remakes the old Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Conundrum …

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