Torchwood Retrospective: Episodes 5-8

This is a guest column by Katherine F, and the second part of three.

We continue with Katherine's retrospective of Torchwood's first series:

Part 1 - Torchwood Retrospective: Episodes 1-4

5: "Small Worlds"

Written by: Peter J. Hammond Also Starring: Lara Phillipart as Jasmine

The One With The Fairies. A superbly creepy tale from the acclaimed writer of Sapphire and Steel, in which Torchwood meet an enemy too powerful for them to fight. This episode provides us with a glimpse or two into Jack's convoluted past -- which only serve to confuse matters further, as it's not at all clear when in Jack's personal timeline he met Estelle, or went to Lahore. Whether this is frustrating or intriguing will depend on how tolerant you are of unresolved mysteries. The fairies are unfortunately much less impressive once we actually get to see them -- the corner-of-the-eye approach used in the early parts of the episode produces a far more effective sense of menace than the green CGI monsters we see at the end.

Cock-ups: Torchwood are rendered utterly ineffective by the sheer superiority of the fairies' powers. They don't really achieve anything.

Post-Watershed Moments: This episode is relatively low-key, though the way the fairies choke their victims on rose petals is pretty unpleasant, as is the paedophile who tries to pick up Jasmine -- though, actually, he's nothing like as creepy as Jasmine herself. We get a nice shot of Jack without his shirt on in the opening sequence, and an extremely pregnant moment between him and Ianto. I'm not sure exactly what's going on in that scene, but you can bet something must have happened the night before to prompt Jack's "You shouldn't be here."

Sticking To The Mission Statement: Not really. Torchwood don't actually do very much in this episode; and by Jack's own admission the fairies aren't really aliens.

Best Lines:

JACK: She calls them fairies, I don't... they're part of us, part of our world, yet we know nothing about them. So we pretend to know what they look like. We see them as happy. We imagine they have tiny little wings and are bathed in moonlight.
GWEN: But they're not?
JACK: No. Think dangerous. Think something you can only half-see, like a glimpse, like something out of the corner of your eye, with a touch of myth, a touch of the spirit world, a touch of reality, all jumbled together. Old moments and memories that are frozen in amongst it, like debris spinning around a ring planet, tossing, turning, whirling, backwards and forwards through time.

IANTO: I blame it on magic mushrooms.
JACK: What you do in private is none of our business.

PAEDOPHILE: I've done wrong --
POLICEMAN: What d'you mean, you've done wrong?
PAEDOPHILE: And if it's God, I'm sorry, but I can't help it! It's little girls. It's their little bodies. It's their little smiles. They're bright as buttons. Look, I've been in trouble before, so just help me! Just -- lock me up! Please?

6: "Countrycide"

Written by: Chris Chibnall
Also Starring: Owen Teale as Evan Sherman, Maxine Evans as Helen Sherman

The One With The Cannibals. A tense, action-packed and, frankly, horrific story that uses all the characters well. This episode draws on slasher movies for its visuals and pacing; it gets a bit saggy towards the end, with the revelation of the nature of the threat coming too soon and Jack's rescue scene being very oddly edited -- it's probably meant to look like something from a John Woo film, but it falls short enough to look a bit ridiculous instead. However, there's a sting in the tail, with Owen and Gwen finally consummating their beautiful trainwreck of a relationship.

Cock-ups: Owen leaves the keys in the SUV, resulting in it being driven away with all their gear inside. D'oh! And anyone who's ever seen a horror movie surely knows that splitting up your party when you're in the middle of nowhere, with no means of communication and no car, is a Very Bad Idea.

Post-Watershed Moments: Lots of gore and nastiness here, from the flayed corpses left in the woods to the fridge full of human body parts to Gwen's wound to Jack's rescue avec shotgun. The team have a conversation about their respective last snogs, as a result of which it becomes clear that Tosh has an unrequited crush on Owen (she could do so much better), and Ianto either doesn't remember being kissed by Jack or is lying about it for his own reasons (preferring to guilt-trip them all about Lisa). Gwen and Owen have a tense little highly-charged tussle in the woods that almost ends in more snogging, but are interrupted; by the end of the episode, they're having sex, and we get to see Owen naked again.

Sticking To The Mission Statement: Not so much. They are investigating odd occurrences, but it turns out not to have anything to do with aliens. In fact, it's nothing the local police couldn't have dealt with if they weren't in on the scheme.

Best Lines:

OWEN: I hate the countryside. It's dirty. It's unhygienic. And what is that smell?
GWEN: That would be grass.
OWEN: It's disgusting!

JACK: No other race in the universe goes camping. Celebrate your own uniqueness!

IANTO: You're used to this, aren't you? That facial expression you all share when things get a bit out of control. Like you enjoy it. Like you get a high from the danger.
TOSH: You want me to apologise for that?
IANTO: Don't you ever wonder how long you can survive before you go mad, or get killed, or lose a loved one?
TOSH: It's worth the risk to protect people!
IANTO: And who protects us?

7: "Greeks Bearing Gifts"

Written by: Toby Whithouse
Also Starring: Daniela Denby-Ashe as Mary

The One With The Telepathy Pendant. The frequently-sidelined Tosh gets an epsiode to herself, and it comes off rather well. Interestingly, it plays off the fact that she gets sidelined, positioning this as a source of resentment for her. Daniela Denby-Ashe plays a slightly camp seductive villain, manipulating Tosh's fears and insecurities in order to set her against her team-mates. Mary's angelic appearance in her true form conceals a wicked heart, much as (to Tosh's dismay) the normal faces of the people around her conceal terrible thoughts.

Cock-ups: Owen misidentifies the skeleton's gender and cause of death (perhaps because he's distracted by Gwen).

Post-Watershed Moments: Tosh gets it on with Mary, an alien using the body of a 19th-century woman as a disguise; and Mary turns out to have been ripping out people's hearts for nearly two hundred years. Lovely.

Sticking To The Mission Statement: Although it's not the focus of the episode, Torchwood discover and investigate the transporter device that brought Mary to Earth.

Best Lines:

JACK: Once, just once, I’d like to walk into one of these tents and find it’s a party. You know, with food, and drink, people dancing; a girl crying in the corner.

IANTO: [Thinking] Can't imagine a time when this isn't everything. Pain so constant, like my stomach's full of rats. Feels like this is all I am now. There isn't an inch of me that doesn't hurt. [Out loud] I’m about to brew some of Jack’s industrial strength coffee. Would you like a cup?

TOSH: So I'm shagging a woman and an alien?
MARY: Which is worse?
TOSH: I know which one my parents would say.

JACK: What do bosses do in situations like these? Y'know, regular bosses. Do I get to beat people?
TOSH: We've got rules for that.
JACK: Grr! Red tape.

8: "They Keep Killing Suzie"

Written by: Paul Tomalin & Dan McCulloch
Also Starring: Indira Varma as Suzie Costello, Yasmin Bannerman as Detective Swanson
Variant title: They Keep Killing

The One Where Suzie Comes Back. The height of the season so far, this episode combines a twisty, scary, fast-moving plot with tense emotional currents and some serious moral/metaphysical questions about the nature and value of life. Indira Varma plays a blinder as the resurrected Suzie, and gives us our first hint of what's coming up in the finale.

Cock-ups: They get locked in their base... again. This time it gets played for laughs, and deservedly so. They really should install a backup generator. And maybe a back door.

Post-Watershed Moments: The initial bloody crime scene is suitably gruesome, as is Suzie's headwound (which she transfers to Gwen via the glove) and the multiple torso wounds that eventually kill her. Once she's properly dead, Jack and Ianto flirt over her corpse. Just what were they going to do with that stopwatch, anyway?

Sticking To The Mission Statement: Another case of clearing up a mess they were responsible for making, albeit indirectly.

Best Lines:

SWANSON: Are you always this dressy for a murder investigation?
JACK: What, you'd rather me naked?
SWANSON: God help me, the rumours are true.

OWEN: You know, we never gave it a cool name.
TOSH: I thought we called it the Resurrection Gauntlet.
OWEN: Cool name.
IANTO: What about... the Risen Mitten? [off their looks]...I think it's catchy.

JACK: I had a boyfriend that used to walk into rooms like that. The grand entrance. Got kind of boring. Though he was one of twins, so I put up with it. Twin acrobats... man, I gotta write that book, maybe even illustrate it. I can talk for a long time, a very long time...

SWANSON: The humble police helping the mighty Torchwood! Why don't you just help yourselves like you normally do?
JACK: Because we can't.
SWANSON: Why's that?
JACK: We're... sort of busy.
SWANSON: I'm busy, too. Try someone else!
JACK: No, no, no, it's just because we can't at the moment, because we're sort of... stuck.
SWANSON: In what way?
JACK: ...we're locked in.
SWANSON: You're locked in?
JACK: Just a bit.
SWANSON: Locked in where?
JACK: Um. In our own base.
SWANSON: You're locked inside your own base?
JACK: And it's not funny!

IANTO: If you're interested, I've still got that stopwatch.
IANTO: Well. Think about it. Lots of things you can do with a stopwatch.
JACK: Oh, yeah! I can think of a few.
IANTO: There's quite a list.
JACK: I'll send the others home early. Be in my office in ten.
IANTO: That's ten minutes [starts stopwatch], and counting.

To be continued...

Other articles by Katherine F:
Torchwood: The Fangirls' Delight
Torchwood Retrospective: Episodes 1-4

Posted by Drew Shiel at January 11, 2007 2:18 PM

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