Hey, Red Dwarf had an episode called Out of Time first, and theirs was significantly better. Nevertheless, this is probably one of the better episodes from this series, where the pattern has been almost uniformly alternating between half-decent efforts and absolute stinkers (the pretty good They Keep Killing Suzie following the sort-of-alright Greeks Bearing Gifts being the only exception). I worry that I’m being too kind to the mediocre episodes, but then I also think I might be kicking the shit ones when they’re down, so I guess it balances out.
I’ve cracked the formula for this series now. Take a sci-fi/fantasy concept that’s been done a thousand times before, and then don’t put a unique spin on it. Tell it in the most straightforward way possible, pausing only to interject a spot of swearing, sex, angst or misogyny. The wildcard is whether or not this is done with any degree of competence, and this episode was one of those that just about passed muster. It can’t be considered great in the context of the Doctor Who universe, because of the aforementioned lack of originality or ambition, but it’s fine.
It was a simple tale of three people brought forward in time from the 1950s, and the three different paths they take from there. It worked because Torchwood, as a team at least, took a back seat – nothing for them to investigate and no threat to be vanquished, so it becomes all about the guest stars and how their fate is determined by which individual team member takes a special interest in them. It’s interesting how you can tell so much about the main characters from what happens to their particular time-traveller.
Gwen’s one is the most straight-forward and broadly positive story. She has to meet Caz from Coronation Street, which is a shame for her, but then after that she gets the happy ending – leaving Cardiff. Typically, Jack’s one is the guy with all the emotional burden and the harrowing downfall. The scenes with his son were nicely handled, the scene of his Jack-assisted suicide not so much. In what was, on paper, an enjoyably morally-ambiguous bittersweet ending, I was just distracted by the fact that Jack should die too and then be resurrected, not just sit there seemingly immune to petrol fumes.
And of course Owen shags his one. Of course he fucking does. It’s a shame, because her character was by far the most interesting of the three, but all she gets to do is dance on the roof of a car park with him in his cheap suit thinking he’s James Bond. A fate far worse than death. Their affair was thankfully free of any of the overt misogyny that we often see from Owen, but I didn’t need to see quite so much of the act itself, and therefore his simian-like sex face. Or Rhys’s arse for that matter, although the joy with which he delivered his “morning glory” line was probably the highlight of the episode.
Oh, and Ianto’s only purpose was for a bit of light relief in a big Asda, and Tosh might as well have not been in it at all. Everything you need to know about the Torchwood team in just one episode.