Torchwood: Countrycide

Countrycide blew me away. I knew Chris Chibnall was a good writer, but this was something spectacular.

At a point about one third of the way through, I remarked that even though it was daylight, it was still bloody scary. I didn't get a chance to say much after that. I've heard other people who saw the old Doctor Who when they were kids talking about hiding behind the couch. I gave it some consideration myself, and was still twitching slightly about an hour after the episode was over.

What struck me more than anything else was the atmosphere. Even with Owen wise-cracking his way through the first third, it was very clear from camera work, music, and general feel that this was not going to be a nice episode. There were a few parts - Toshiko running through the woods, the bit where the head cannibal had his huge machete against Ianto's throat, and where the woman smiled when she brought Tosh and Ianto in - that were really, stunningly effective.

And no aliens. The team speculated that there was alien involvement, or the influence of the rift, but there wasn't - just people. The whole episode was about people, really, and the sometimes incomprehensible things they do, from the cannibals though to Owen and Gwen at the end (should have seen that coming, really, but I didn't). Running an episode of an alien/supernatural show with nothing supernatural or alien before they're even halfway through the first season is an interesting move as well.

I'm very, very interested to see where things go now - particularly in the area of Gwen's involvement in Torchwood, and how things are going to go with Owen, Rhys, and Jack. If Joss Whedon were writing Torchwood, I'd put money on either Owen or Rhys dying or having something really unpleasant happen to them by the end of the season. I can't predict this one yet, though.

I'm beginning to wonder if I'm not being fair to Russell Davies, in that he's clearly constrained by Doctor Who being shown to kids as well as adults. This episode is one that simply could not, ever, have been part of Doctor Who, and I'm starting to suspect that the boundaries that can't be crossed are to blame for a lot of the poorer quality of the core series. In essence, Torchwood is what Doctor Who wants to be when it grows up.

Posted by Drew Shiel at November 20, 2006 8:24 AM

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No Dr Who is much better than that episode. Countrycide was a silence of the Lambs rip off. OK it was scary but anyone can do that. It was obvious base Hollywood cheap thrills no subtlety and disgustiung gore.

Posted by: Chris at November 20, 2006 10:22 PM

I beg to differ. :) There was excellent character development (which is one of my hallmarks for quality, and one Doctor Who often misses), good suspense, and I don't honestly think it could be further from Silence of the Lambs while still having the same principle. The reason SotL was - and still is - so popular is that cannibalism is one of the most horrifying concepts most people can imagine. It's perfectly possible for other dramas to tap into that fear without ripping off SotL, and I think Torchwood did it very well.

Indeed, the head cannibal refers to Silence of the Lambs himself when he's chasing Tosh - watch it again for the tsp-tsp-tsp noise he makes, while grinning.

Scary isn't easy to do - pure gore will just turn people off. This struck a very fine balance.

Posted by: Drew Shiel at November 21, 2006 10:21 AM

Who the hell is Rhys? Have I missed somthing? I don't remember sombody called Rhys. I'm sure there is sombody but I can't think who that is. Help!

Posted by: Dr. Phil at November 21, 2006 7:15 PM

this episode generally scared me and i had to switch of around just over half way through can anyone update me on the ending?

Posted by: kat at November 21, 2006 10:35 PM

Copied (or modernised?) the old film 'Monster Club' (1980), specifically the village of ghouls; so don't give me any rubbish about it being comparable to the works of Joss Whedon. This series is (so far) just one step up from Doctor Who (& I say that based on the outcome of the Fairy episode).

Posted by: Dr Phibes at November 22, 2006 3:07 AM

yes you have

Posted by: o.h.w.r.o.t.c.o.d. & fos at December 1, 2006 7:55 PM

You people are all insane. Countrycide was laughably, pants-pissingly bad. But that's basically Torchwood all over. "I knew Chris Chibnall was good"? Where, precisely, is this proof you're speaking off?

Good God, what a predictable and obvious Texas Chainsaw rip-off this episode is. They even nicked the soundtrack, which gave the game right away.

Owen is the worst character ever. Date rape, anyone? And the Owen/Gwen idea is horrifyingly ill-conceived.

Oh, what's the point. There'll always be someone who likes it.

Posted by: Gareth at April 16, 2007 8:43 PM

Yes Gareth, and there will always be someone who doesn't like it too...
Countrycide was fantastic. I loved the idea as mentioned above that an alien series featured an episode so early that only featured ordinary psychos. The most effective scene for me was the end when Gwen kept pressing the killer on why he did it. You could tell how relatively easier it must have been for her to pass off all of the other stuff in earlier episodes as coming from 'aliens', but when confronted with real people doing horrible things, she started to fall apart. Excellent episode in an excellent show.

Posted by: Phil at November 20, 2007 6:30 PM