The rehabilitation of Torchwood continues, to the extent that I actually enjoyed this one. I’m as shocked as anyone that the best episode of the series so far is the one that’s Tosh-centric. But this is a different Tosh to the one we’ve seen before; far more assertive and less cagey than she was last time she fell in love with the subject of a case. She’s very much a blank canvas for whatever the plot requires, and I still don’t feel like I really know who she is, but there’s an improvement there if this is how she’ll be from now on.
The team still treat her like the old Tosh to some extent – she’s always felt like an outsider that they all secretly pity, and this was evidenced by the patronising way they treated her when she set off for her date with Tommy. But their gentle courtship was nice to watch unfold – if this was the first series, we’d have skipped all that stuff and gone straight to the sex, and it would have been much more gratuitous. Thinking about it, I can’t recall anything in this episode that was unsuitable for pre-watershed, and yet it felt no less grown up.
Another thing that would have been very different last time round was Owen’s attitude towards Tosh and Tommy’s relationship – it’s hard to imagine Series 1 Owen showing genuine concern for Tosh’s happiness, or indeed about anyone but himself. He’s changed so much that he’s a completely different character, and he fucking needed it. I know where it’s all heading, of course; he needed to be softened so that the audience would give a shit when he died, but the side effect is that the show is so much better for no longer having a relentlessly stone-hearted misogynist as a main character.
But you can’t have everything with this show, and the plot was, appropriately, a load of old tosh. All the ingredients were right – the glimpses of an old Torchwood team, a tommy called Tommy who looked like a young Steve Coogan, Moffat-esque attempts at complicated timey-wimey stuff – but it somehow didn’t come together well. The team were passengers in the story, with all the decisions having been made for them, and all the actions that moved it along being provided by a series of plot devices. The set up kind of deserved better.
Still, the focus was on the characters and their emotions, and it did that element very well – better than any previous episode, in fact. Of course, Doctor Who can do both simultaneously, so that should be the standard to match, but considering just how badly off the tone was last time, I’m more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt now that I don’t automatically hate everyone and everything on the screen. I’m actually starting to not despise Torchwood.