Torchwood: Exit Wounds

It has become apparent over the last couple of weeks that I can’t have been paying much attention to Torchwood in early 2008. There have been so many details and plot twists that I’d completely forgotten about, which has pleasingly meant that I’ve been able to watch the stories unfold as if it were the first time. And I have to say that yes, I was duped into thinking that John was doing all this just to spite Jack. I guess it’s because I found the character so unappealing the first time round, I was prepared to believe that he’d be capable of such ridiculous behaviour.

I should have clocked something was up when the stakes were raised to ludicrous proportions – taking over the Hub and unleashing the odd Weevil is one thing, but blowing up half of Cardiff is a bit of an overreaction. Destroying a city is an expensive business, which is presumably why we never got to see any of the actual destruction, just the insides of a police station, a server room, a hospital basement and a nuclear bunker. It’s such a shame that it was all left to the imagination, because it really didn’t carry the weight and impact that something like the utter annihilation of the UK’s eleventh largest city ought to.

Then came the reveal that this wasn’t Jack’s ex doing it out of spite, but in fact it was Jack’s long lost brother doing it out of spite. Grey does admittedly have the excuse of being driven insane by torture as a prisoner of war, so this is better. But despite his ability to survive such horrors, and then to capture John, turn him into a bomb and force him to carry out his extraordinarily convoluted evil plan… he’s a fucking idiot for not realising that the ring John throws into the grave is going to end up being relevant to the plot.

Instead, he heads back to the Hub, shoots Tosh and then gets distracted by a mysterious knocking sound and runs head first into his eventual downfall. Thus proving that the inability to spot an obvious trap is a familial trait. I did like the twist of Jack having already been rescued by a previous Torchwood team, but it’s rotten luck that they didn’t set the timer for two minutes earlier, before Tosh got shot.

Yes, this is the episode that kills two ever-problematic characters with one stone. Now that their stories are complete, I can conclude that Owen did improve significantly in the second series, but not quite enough to redeem his earlier behaviour, and that while there was some fleshing out of Tosh’s character, it was still pretty thin on the ground and most of it revolved around her feelings towards Owen.

I couldn’t decide whether to be pleased or baffled by the decision to use some of Tosh’s precious final moments to resolve the question of why she was pretending to be a doctor in Aliens of London – I’m a fan of continuity tie-ups, but it felt tacked on, and it was hardly a question that was begging to be answered. Other than that, their deaths were both well realised and suitably sad, but neither character will be a huge loss to the show. There’s a reason those two don’t have shrines. (I mean, there’s no reason for Ianto’s shrine either, but more so for those two.)

So endeth the series, and indeed the first incarnation of the show’s formula, with the team 40% lighter but resolving to fight on. Which is all well and good, but meanwhile Cardiff has still been destroyed. Actual present day Cardiff, setting of many of Doctor Who adventure, completely fucked. And Jack has spent the best part of two millennia screaming and choking and dying in agony, over and over again, countless times, seemingly with little to no psychological effect. I feel like I’m far more aware the scale of the damage that’s unfolded than the show is – they barely seem to acknowledge the enormity of what’s occurred, and it makes for a flawed, but still fairly fun, finale.



  • Torchwood series watched: 2 of 4
  • Torchwood stories watched: 26 of 37
  • Individual Torchwood episodes watched: 26 of 41

Ahhh. I have enjoyed the second series a lot more than the first, but I’m still nevertheless extremely glad to be getting back to Doctor Who – it’s been wall to wall spin-offs and specials for so long now that the relative normality of a regular series is increasingly appealing. Even though I’m not a fan of the series in question, I’m looking forward to re-examining why.

Torchwood: Fragments

This was a bit more like it. In most series, a format-breaking episode is often a risky proposition, diverting from established best practices out of some practical necessity or the urge to experiment. On Torchwood however, it’s just nice to not have to watch another bog-standard episode of Torchwood, as we’re presented with four short origin stories, explaining how the band got together. I mean, ideally, this kind of backstory would have been useful to know a little earlier – say, more than one episode before half of them die – but you can’t have everything.

Let’s take those stories one by one, then…

Jack – It’s always good to see glimpses of olden days Torchwood, and this is very much the version of the organisation that Queen Victoria founded, with its zero-tolerance approach to the presence of aliens. Jack too is recognisably closer to the version from Doctor Who Series 1; the wise-cracking whilst in peril is one thing, but also the morally dubious decision to accept Torchwood’s bounty hunting missions is far more in keeping with the rogue Time Agent mentality than the version of the character we have today.

So the how-Jack-got-recruited bit was all well and good, but the bit explaining how he took command was a bit weird. It makes sense that it would come after every other bugger had died, but you’d hope for something a little more epic than one of the team going mad and killing everyone, following a glimpse at an unspecified future event. It seemed like it was mostly there to serve as an origin story for the notion that the 21st Century is when everything changes. In fact, given the date, there was a brief moment where I hoped it would be something to do with The Master pissing about in San Fransisco, but it wasn’t to be.

Toshiko – Yep, could very much have done with a bit of backstory at any point prior to this. We finally know why she’s there in the first place – she was just an ordinary woman who got caught up in some alien-related shit – although the way it panned out made it seem slightly less voluntary than you’d hope. Jack basically blackmailed by giving her the choice between working for him and rotting in a UNIT facility for the rest of her life. Since when did UNIT treat people like that anyway? They’re the good guys, always have been – it’s like someone was getting them and the pre-Jack Torchwood muddled up. The Brig would never have stood for that shit.

Ianto – We basically already knew Ianto’s story, as it’s all documented in Cyberwoman, if you can bear to look. Therefore, this was a much lighter and more comedic story than the others, and also the most enjoyable. Ianto basically fanboyed his way into the organisation by turning up and doing the job anyway, and it was nice to see the origin of the pterodactyl too, just to complete the set. Note how Jack didn’t relent and offer Ianto the job until after they’d rolled around on the floor and nearly snogged. The dirty get.

Owen – This was always going to be the tricky one – can they come up with a decent justification for this guy being a complete prick for the entirety of the first series? As soon as you saw him with a long-term partner, you knew it would end badly. I thought they were going to go down the route of her leaving him or cheating on him, thus setting him off on a spree of revenge against womankind. But actually, the story of her illness was a lot more touching and sensitively-handled that I’d have thought.

So ultimately it’s the trauma of losing a loved one that makes Owen like he is, which I’m not sure is justification for his rampant misogyny; the same thing happened to Ianto and he wasn’t a prick about it, plus if his experiences gave him an irrational hatred of anything, it should be aliens, not women. But at least there is now a reason to feel sympathy for Owen – some element of humanity to soften his personality and help us to accept his flaws. This was urgently needed about 23 episodes ago. Ah well.

Oh, and the reanimated corpse of Owen was completely fine after standing next to an explosion and being buried in debris, by the way, despite how we’ve previously been told that he might as well be made of glass. The framing device was perfectly standard Torchwood farewalk into a massive trap, nearly get killed, figure out who set the trap – but a decent way to set up the finale. Just a shame it’s Captain John again. The big bad of the series is not an alien invasion, or an all-powerful monster, or a power-hungry evil genius  – just a petulant git who wants Jack to give him some attention.


Torchwood: Adrift

I’m extremely surprised to discover, during my customary post-viewing Googling, that this is widely regarded as one of the better episodes of the series. I don’t disagree with much of the critical response – that it’s good to explore the emotional impact of what happens to rift victims and their families, and that it was interesting to present a situation that had no easy solution – but it left me completely cold, in spite of those things.

A lot of the reviews talk about how this is a great example of sci-fi and what the genre can do, which leads me to ponder how weird it is that I don’t consider myself a sci-fi fan particularly, despite my two favourite programmes (Red Dwarf and Doctor Who) being sci-fi. But I fell in love with those two shows on the strength of other elements – character comedy and the brilliance of the lead character, respectively – the sci-fi was almost incidental.

So while I obviously have an affinity with and fondness for the genre, I need something extra on top if I’m going to really enjoy it. With Doctor Who and associated programming, I’m often in it for the characters, the way they work together and how they love and care for each other. Therefore, an episode which is essentially a complicated cycle of people being complete dicks to each other is going to struggle to get me going.

I don’t like Jack keeping secrets from the rest of the team – I thought they’d got past that with this series. He’s supposed to be all-knowing, compassionate, always-in-the-right Doctor substitute that we gravitate towards – how are we supposed to do that if we can’t trust him? We’re told that Gwen and Andy are great mates, but she’s horrible to him throughout, and he can’t stop making digs about her husband. Speaking of whom, seeing a man scream “I fucking hate you sometimes” in his wife’s face is not a pleasant image.

We were supposed to be on Rhys’s side during that argument, as he points out that nothing’s more important than everyday people’s everyday lives, but The Doctor he ain’t, and the point he’s making gets muddled when he says that Gwen’s work doesn’t matter. What Torchwood do is important, and he doesn’t get that Gwen is sacrificing her own everyday life for the sake of everyone else’s. He comes across as a selfish manbaby, petulantly complaining that his woman isn’t giving him 100% of her attention.

Gwen’s self-sacrifice is about doing what’s best for the greater good, which feels like it should be the theme of the episode, but the dots are never quite joined up. Jack is keeping the victims hidden away from their loved ones so that they don’t have to witness their suffering, and their memories of them are preserved. That’s great, and I can see why that’s the right thing to do, but why exactly does he have to keep it a secret from the team? Why doesn’t he just explain his reasoning to Gwen, rather than allowing her to bring Ruth Jones to the island to see her mutilated son screaming for 20 hours a day? He’s ruined that woman’s life just so that he can say “told you so”.


Torchwood: Something Borrowed

And now for something altogether lighter: Torchwood‘s attempt at a Coronation Street comedy wedding, but with more murders and far fewer laughs. You could tell that it was all supposed to be funny, but it seldom managed to actually be funny. The only time I went so far as to laugh was when Jack steamed in and screamed at Nerys Hughes to “get back, you ugly bitch”. I think it was the shock more than anything.

The light-hearted tone did make a nice change, it’s just that this was slightly at the expense of a believable plot. Gwen’s determination to marry Rhys no matter what was nice, but it was there to provide an excuse for a farcical situation to unfold, and it was no more sophisticated than the worst brand of Get Me Hennimore! style sitcom contrivances. I love a good farce, from Fawlty Towers to Friday Night Dinner, but you either have to a beautifully constructed slow escalation, or go the Bottom route and just go balls out – not for the first time, Torchwood attempted to do something in between, and ended up falling short.

Speaking of sitcoms, the shape-shifting alien element obviously reminded me of Red Dwarf‘s various Polymorph-based episodes – there were two of them when this was made, but there’s since been a third. Series XI’s Can of Worms (reviewed by some handsome fellow here) is actually a much closer match than any of its predecessors, as it contains the added element of one of the shape-shifters impregnating one of the crew. Red Dwarf did the comedy better than Torchwood, but Torchwood handled the implications much more sensitively, which is not a sentence I ever expected to write.

Despite my reservations, it was again an enjoyable episode, continuing the now unexpectedly long run of Torchwood episodes that are pretty much alright. It all went a bit Hot Fuzz in the middle, plus, for the record, I was already thinking of The Evil Dead before Jack went and directly referenced it. The sheer chaos into which the wedding descends was ridiculous, but the fun sort of ridiculous that Torchwood is just about getting away with this time around.

But the old problems are still there, and so often I come away from the episode with nagging thoughts about things that didn’t quite work. As we see the reception in full swing, I can’t help but wonder why everyone looks so happy after they’ve all seen shape-shifting aliens shot to pieces, Gwen’s mysterious pregnancy mysteriously disappearing, and one of the guests being murdered and eaten.

OK, they were all retconned afterwards, but a) that doesn’t explain their behaviour before they were drugged, and b) it opens up problems of its own. What do they remember, if anything? It’s obviously lovely that Gwen and Rhys got married after all, but it’s not nice for them that none of their friends and family will remember a damn thing about their wedding day.

Also, fuck off with the weird sexual tension between Gwen and Jack – it’s bad enough when it’s on a mission or at the firing range, but on the dance floor at her fucking wedding reception? Stop being weird with literally all of your employees, Jack.


Torchwood: Dead Man Walking

I seem to have very little memory of this episode whatsoever, which is surprising considering some of the extraordinary sights it contains. I’d remembered that they find a second resurrection glove to bring Owen back, and that he somehow stays as a zombie for the rest of the series, but nothing else about the plot beyond that. I’d assumed, for example, that the “something waiting in the darkness” that Suzie mentioned was the big baddy from that year’s finale. Nope.

This was a mostly enjoyable exploration of an interesting idea – what happens to a corpse if a brain is brought back to life, but the rest of the body isn’t – but with an additional, more conventional monster-of-the-week story bolted on towards the end. It does the first part well; it’s entertaining, well thought through, and even well performed at times. But I wasn’t so convinced by the other stuff, and it weighed the rest of it down.

When I went through the list of common Torchwood pitfalls yesterday, I forgot one – comically stupid things happening. Things that are so bizarre and incongruous, and often so spectacular, that they’re the only things you end up remembering. You can have as much nuance and intelligence as you can muster for the majority of an episode, but it’s so frequently undone by one minute of madness.

It happened so often during this one that I decided to make a list. This is my list of the stupid things that take place in just one episode of Torchwood:

  • Captain Jack going to a speakeasy to meet a little girl, who tells him where to find the resurrection glove by consulting tarot cards.
  • Captain Jack strolling up to a church and kicking down the sign for no reason.
  • Owen being filmed exclusively in Sir Digby Chicken Caesar Cam for a full minute.
  • Owen projectile-vomiting an entire pint of Guinness.
  • John Barrowman attempting to deliver the line “I guess I was hoping for a miracle. I still am.” with a straight face.
  • The resurrection glove coming to life and attacking the team by flapping about at them.
  • Ianto attempting to defend himself using a hockey stick.
  • Martha getting Sara Kingdom-ed.
  • Owen projectile-vomiting the Smoke Monster from Lost.
  • Owen grappling with a giant smokey skellington.
  • Martha getting better again for no adequately explained reason.
  • The episode ending with Owen looking like he’s about to say something profound in response to Tosh asking what they’re going to do now, and then just not saying anything.

This episode was almost all nonsense, but hey – it was entertaining nonsense. I enjoyed it, and I’d take this over the po-faced, self-consciously serious nonsense of last year. I am, however, finding my tolerance starting to drop the longer this series goes on. It’s got to be nearly over now, right?


Torchwood: Adam

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.


Torchwood: Meat

Oh, the huge manatee. Strangely, this was not dissimilar to last week’s Doctor Who, with its giant alien space whale whose cries startled my cats. But rather than humans using its shit for fuel, this one was being butchered alive, which is an altogether more disturbing prospect. I’m glad to say the standard of the special effects have improved in the intervening years, as the only thing less convincing in this episode was John Barrowman trying to do serious acting.

This one felt like a little bit of a misstep after the steady improvement so far. Rhys and Gwen’s relationship took centre stage, which is rarely a good thing. I quite enjoyed having him as part of the team temporarily, and I hope that his newfound knowledge of Torchwood will lead to a new, less annoying relationship dynamic. Their arguments are so unpleasant that they’re like nails down a blackboard to me, and all they do is remind me of how terribly Gwen has treated him thus far. Her affair with Owen was somewhat of an elephant in the room whenever him and Rhys were on screen together, and the ending is undercut when you remember that she’s happily retconned him before, when it suited her.

So while it’s an intriguing development, it’s not quite there yet. They’re clearly trying to make Rhys less of a mug this time round – the presence of aliens in Cardiff really shouldn’t be that shocking to him considering all the extra-terrestrial activity that’s happened in Britain over the last few years, and he must be the last person to Cardiff to have heard of Torchwood. When he was following Gwen in his car, flabbergasted at everything he saw, he reminded me of Truman Burbank finally starting to figure everything out.

Meanwhile, I’m absolutely not on board with Tosh lusting after Owen again all of a sudden. It’s threatening to undo all the good work that’s been done to move the characters along, with Tosh reverting to type after the events of the last episode being particularly galling. While Owen is still nowhere near as twattish as he used to be, there were flashes of the old him when he had to act like a complete oaf, ignorant to her advances.

And once again there’s a plot that, to at least some extent, relies on the stupidity of the characters. The team themselves are off the hook for once, but the baddies are complete idiots. They find Rhys loitering around the premises, so they bring him in, show him around and tell him everything. They’ve got the brains to capture an alien species, keep it sedated and set up an elaborate meat processing and distribution system, but they don’t have the sense to keep it schtum.

One aspect that did seem to continue Torchwood’s slow stumble towards maturity was the insistence on using stun guns instead of real ones, and the determination not to turn the situation into a bloodbath. It seemed like they were deliberately distancing themselves from the likes of Countrycide, and with good reason. In-universe, perhaps Jack’s new found pacifism, along with the value he places on the creature’s life, are a result of his recent reunion with The Doctor – when you travel with him, he makes sure you know what’s important and what’s right.

But the best thing about the episode? Mary from Corrie is in it. She’s amazing, and seeing her flirting with Captain Jack was a joy.


Torchwood: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

Oh, yippee. I’m about to spend another fortnight on a guided tour of Cardiff’s rooftops. Yes, Torchwood is back, but is it any better? My memory says that there was indeed an improvement for Series 2, but that it was still prone to occasional bouts of stupidity and unpleasantness. In fairness, the show now seems to be acknowledging the element of ridiculousness at its heart, with the old woman who mutters about “bloody Torchwood” as they pursue a giant blowfish driving a sports car.

This pre-titles sequence, and indeed the episode as a whole, seemed designed to re-establish the idiosyncrasies of the series for new viewers, while also reassuring old ones that there’s been some development. Jack appears to have returned from his sabbatical in a much better mood than before, and even resembles the Doctor Who character of the same name at times. I hope this is permanent, although the foreshadowing about mysterious fellow Time Agents seems to suggest that he’ll have plenty to be miserable about as the series goes on.

There’s an attempt to nail down the characteristics of the rest of the team too, which is more than can be said for the entirety of the first series. The time they spent without Jack has allowed room for a spot of character development to take place, and they all seem a lot more confident and assured than they were last time. Ianto has a certain swagger about him suddenly, and Gwen’s engagement has presumably put a stop to her nauseating infidelity – it looks like she’s going back to being the caring, empathetic one, or so we’re told.

The other two characters have always been trickier, and it’s telling that when the blowfish goes through them all one by one, Tosh is defined by her coldness. But she did seem to be a little cheekier than before, and less prone to blend into the background, in the admittedly short amount of time we saw her. With Owen, they now seem to be painting him as some tortured anti-hero, absolving him of blame for his past actions, which I’m willing to accept on the condition that he stops being such a prick from now on.

In this episode, he was able to leave the borderline sexual assaults to Captain John, who was like Captain Jack, but as cool as Captain Jack thinks he is. I wasn’t a fan – this will be blasphemy to many, but I’ve never seen much Buffy, and so the James Marsters factor isn’t enough to distract me from the dickishness of many of the character’s moves, and the accent that seemed to travel between various parts of England.

Despite the slightly refreshed and improved team, and the palpable promise of a new beginning, the plot still relied on the team’s incompetence. Jack knows that John is a con man, and let’s not forget that he’s a con man himself – it takes too much of a suspension of disbelief to accept that the entire team would fall for such an obvious trap. Again. Until Torchwood gets past the necessity for its stories to be driven by its characters’ shortcomings, it will never be great, but in the meantime, this is an improvement on the first series, just about.


Torchwood: End of Days

The nightmare is finally over. The relief is comparable to when I finished my last recon, slightly tempered by the fact that there’s more Torchwood to come within a month or so. But for now, I’m finally free, and like Bilis Manger, I spent much of the last hour willing the team to hurry up and open the rift already, just so it would be over. But actually, it wasn’t too bad – it still had the trademark Torchwood stupidity and complete lack of joy, but it was fairly exciting and suitably ramped-up for a finale.

I hit it off with this episode early on, when Jack made the point of publicly bollocking Owen for breaking the world and generally being a twat. The glimpses of the chaos outside were good, but you could tell that they didn’t have the budget to show too much. The sequence in the hospital was great, but it was just a vignette – you could have had a whole episode about how to contain an ancient disease, but it was no more significant than the Roman soldier or the spaceships over the Taj Mahal.

The meat was in the visions the team experienced, and they were pretty effective. I may not have enjoyed any of the things that were back-referenced at the time, but I liked it all being brought back and tied up. It’s one of the few times this series where it’s felt like there was a coherent plan from one episode to the next; I think the show would have benefited from being as serialised throughout as it has been for the last few episodes.

Not that everything lined up neatly, of course. When Jack got shot, I was distracted by how long it took him to come back to life; it’s previously happened in seconds, but here they had time for a whole opening-the-rift montage. Also, I don’t really see how opening the rift prevented Rhys from being killed – fair enough that the people who’d been displaced from time just pop back, but his stabbing was merely something that happened at the same time as all this rifty stuff was going on, it wasn’t part of it.

I obviously enjoyed Owen being sacked – he didn’t deserve it on this occasion, but it’s like Al Capone getting done for tax evasion. I wish that just one person other than Jack had been able to spot that the whole thing was obviously a trap – I know that they’d all had their minds messed with by Manger, but surely this is exactly the sort of thing they ought to be trained against. But no, they have to go and Torchwood it up by doing the thing that they’d been told to never do, and what’s the result? A bad one. (Abaddon).

Yes, Abaddon, who’s The Beast from The Satan Pit, but without any of the interesting philosophical debates, or any of the tension in the build up, or just anything other than being a big stompy monster. It was all dealt with in around three or four minutes, which felt like a hell of an anti-climax and kind of undermined all the stuff about how catastrophic opening the rift would be. Pretending that Jack was dead-for-real-this-time was the very definition of false jeopardy – you know the whole way through that he’s going to wake back up, so why bother getting emotionally involved?

The excitement of the very ending, when the hand starts bubbling and we hear that oh-so-familiar noise, was extremely apt and made me empathise with Jack more than anything else this series – after hanging around with the Torchwood team for so long, I can’t wait to get back to The Doctor either. The strange thing is, looking back, that it doesn’t quite tally with the start of Utopia – it’s heavily implied here, with the paper flying around and the clear indication that Jack didn’t leave via the doors, that the TARDIS landed in The Hub and picked Jack up. Which would not have been as good an opening as Jack running over and clinging to the outside of the TARDIS as it dematerialises. Honestly, they can’t even tie in with the main show properly.



  • Torchwood series watched: 1 of 4
  • Torchwood stories watched: 13 of 37
  • Individual Torchwood episodes watched: 13 of 41

Torchwood: Combat

Mickey The Idiot gets a go at writing an episode, which I distinctly remember watching at the time – it was Christmas Eve, and the start of a very busy period for Doctor Who and its soon-to-be-multiple spin-offs. Unfortunately, I also distinctly remembered the big twist that this is Fight Club With Weevils, and can now report that if you take the mystery away, the bones are pretty bare.

I remembered it being fairly tense and exciting by Torchwood standards, but this time round there was nothing to distract me from the toxic masculinity that permeates the script. Owen is the worst thing about this show, and all of a sudden there’s two of him. Twin wankers. It’s unfortunate, but in the time between the original broadcast and now, the Tyler Durden-lite soundbites that the estate agent spouts have been appropriated by neo-Nazis and rapists. Add to that seven years of Tory government and I have very little tolerance for privileged middle-class men whinging about how hard their lives of luxury are.

A recurring problem with this show is that everyone’s a bit of a prick. I despise Owen, so I’m not going to feel sorry for him just because he finally met a woman who he couldn’t control, and his descent into despair is a total overreaction anyway. Elsewhere, the only other character to potentially empathise with in this episode is Gwen, and I’ve got big problems with the way her character has developed.

I’ve disliked her ever since she started sleeping with Owen, and the tale of the series so far is her slide from innocent naivety to immoral selfishness. She crosses the line once and for all here, as she drugs Rhys so that she can confess what she’s done, and then becomes slightly unhinged and begs him for forgiveness. I believe it’s called the moral event horizon – once a character has acted so despicably, there’s no going back.

You can say that it’s the influence of Torchwood that’s corrupting her, and she’s inevitably going to have a good old shout at Captain Jack about this at some point. But it goes back to another point that I feel like I’ve been making virtually every time – a belligerent organisation of arseholes who ruin every life they touch is not a good thing to base a series around.


Good news: Tomorrow, I don’t have to watch Torchwood. Bad news: Tomorrow, I have to watch Donna Noble.