New rule for the Who universe: if you find yourself teamed up with someone called Adam, you’re best off not trusting them. I love the idea behind this episode, and it’s well seeded with glimpses of Adam turning up in a slightly altered pre-titles. It’s the kind of premise that could pan out in any number of ways, and this episode chooses to use it to explore what’s fundamental to each of the main characters, and turn them on their heads. As this is Torchwood, the results are mixed.
Perhaps the most successful strand is Gwen and Rhys, which is surprising considering past form. Crucially, he came out of it pretty well, and it was an opportunity to clarify what they see in each other, and what they mean to each other – Gwen can often do with a reminder of what’s important, and the stall seems to be firmly set out that theirs is now a happy, stable, positive relationship. Finally.
What Adam does to Ianto is deeply disturbing, but again a fascinating idea. It’s well-written, but it’s slightly marred by the fact that I can’t take Ianto’s big crying face seriously after the ridiculousness of Cyberwoman. I quite like him when he’s the slightly sarcastic tea boy, and also when he’s being a useful member of the team, but I think they resort to putting him through intense emotional distress a little too often, and I struggle to avoid finding it comical.
The same goes for whenever John Barrowman tries to be super serious. Those flashbacks to the Boeshane Peninsula are supposed to be scary melodrama, but it’s just hilarious to see the adult Captain Jack – another one whose face is a size or two too big – steaming around in there, shouting for his daddy. He has never been the most convincing leading man, but it’s getting a bit embarrassing now, and it’s detrimental to the show. He’s really poor here.
Then, as I so often find myself saying, there’s the other two. The two whose personalities are constantly being rewritten all the time anyway, so it was always going to be tricky to explore such inconsistent characters. Owen just switches from an alpha male to a geek, via the medium of a cardigan and glasses, which is mind-numbingly unoriginal. Tosh gets to be confident and sexy once more, but Adam forcing her into a sexual relationship with him made me uncomfortable; it’s tantamount to rape, which is something that the show didn’t see fit to comment upon.
But the further issue with what they did with these two is that when it’s all fixed at the end, they go back to normal – Tosh is timid and self-conscious, and Owen is cocky and a bit of a prick towards her. How is this better?
Mind you, I did find the ending interesting – the team wake up with no memory of the last two days, and all the records have been wiped, including one of their diaries. It could have been the starting point of a whole other story, where Tosh discovers that someone’s finished her jigsaw, Owen and Ianto get broken feet, and there’s a gravestone dedicated to the memory of the memory of Adam Smith.