This week on Torchwood: lesbians. I knew it would be a bad idea to watch Torchwood on International Women’s Day, but Owen wasn’t in it very much, so that was a blessing. This is the episode where we finally learn something about Tosh, and lo and behold, her entire motivation boils down to her feelings towards a man. Torchwood gonna Torchwood.
We also got an infodump courtesy of the daughter from off of My Family, who was pretty decent in the admittedly reductive role of the murderous seductress. It’s an entertaining enough story, if insubstantial, which is I word I find myself saying a lot recently. I actually quite enjoyed it at times; the thought-reading was interesting and well realised, and Naoko Mori is good enough to carry the extra burden of being in the spotlight, even if her character isn’t.
Tosh was so much in focus, and has been so peripheral so far, that it feels like a bottle episode, or like in the black and white days when one of the leads would go on holiday for a week or two. We barely see anything of Jack – he’s back in his habit of standing moodily on rooftops, then he just comes down at the end to save the day. Unfortunately, when he does turn up, he reels off a story about a transgendered friend of his that is at best insensitive and at worst grossly offensive. He equates Tosh’s behaviour under the influence of a malevolent alien to someone coming out as trans, and implies that both are a bad thing, something to be mistrusted.
Like Rose’s use of “gay” as a pejorative, it feels like something that wouldn’t happen today, even though it’s only been a relatively short amount of time. It’s also astonishing how strange and jarring it is when Mary sparks up a fag in a pub and a cafe. It’s been less than a decade since the smoking ban, but it’s enough to make this show feel like a product of the past. Also, Tosh makes a reference to John Hurt, by name, which is something else that wouldn’t happen today, as it’s too complicated to explain his existence in the Who universe. File it alongside Eastenders and Blue Peter.
I did enjoy this episode, despite the above problems and the continued unpleasantness with Gwen and Owen. But I think that my reaction to these episodes is being affected by what I’m comparing them to; the one after a stinker always seems half decent, because it’s being judged against the lowest possible benchmark.