Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

Torchwood Season 2 (2nd half)

I haven't given up on my New Who rewatch - on the contrary, I'm about to get to The Last Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith - but I am way behind on writing it up; three entries, to be precise, this one and the two I had planned for Season 3 of Doctor Who. Anyway, better late than never. These entries will be brief, with one exception for the story I really hated.

Reset begins with bringing back Martha Jones, which of course is a winner by any standards, and ends by killing Owen, a bold stroke - especially since he is killed by Mr Robinson from Neighbours (I never trusted that man). Martha going undercover was very reminiscent of Harry Sullivan in Robot. The Singularity Scalpel is pretty scary, especially when it's being used to save Martha from a gruesome fate.

Dead Man Walking is a bit weaker. Jack just happening to find the right weird little girl who knew where the spare Resurrection gauntlet was, hmmm. The giant reset button at the end to restore Martha back to health, hmmm. The bits in between were better; Owen adapting to his new existence, and the horror in the hospital, both well enough done.

But we are back on form with A Day In The Death, tremendously lifted by both Burn Gorman doing both comedy and pathos as dead Owen, and Richard Briers even though all he does is lie there dying. The biggest downside is Torchwood's peculiar approach to human resources issues, which hasn't improved since the end of the previous season. (I confess that I missed the references to Thomas Covenant, and will watch for them if I give this episode another go.)

And Something Borrowed shows Torchwood doing comedy and largely succeeding at it. I don't insist that Who and its spinoffs be serious all the time, but I do prefer it not to be half-hearted, and this episode compares rather favourably with the equivalent Buffy (Hell's Bells). Nerys Hughes is fantastic, especially as the shape-changing monster, and the Rhys/Gwen/Jack tension is done rather better than usual. Eve Myles gets a chance to really shine here.

I didn't much like From Out Of The Rain when I first saw it, but I think I must just have been in a bad mood. Like the other P.J. Hammond episode (Small Worlds) it's a bit of a step aside from the usual run, reaching back into a black-and-white past; but since Torchwood is supposed to be a decades-old organisation, and Jack a centuries-old time-travelling immortal, that's appropriate enough. Not trying to hard, yet succeeding. (the Ghostmaker turns up shortly in Who as Davros.)

Chris Chibnall is often the target of fan hostility, but Adrift is one of his better episodes. It's a bit surprising that a show set in the liminal surroundings of Cardiff Bay did not make much of the sea as a place of horror (some of the books, notably Another Life and Something in the Water, do use it). The idea of the island of secrets, itself one of Jack's many secrets, and the human consequences of its existence, is all basically sound and executed well.

If Adrift is one of Chibnall's better episodes, Fragments is definitely one of his worst. I sat through it basically scoring to see if it is as bad as End of Days. My verdict: not quite, but nearly. The idea of an entire bombed building collapsing on our team but in such a way that they are all able to walk away afterwards is offensively ludicrous.The origin stories for Owen, Toshiko and especially Jack are just offensive. The bit with Ianto and the pterodactyl is the only thing that lifts this dismal piece of work above End of Days, and not very far at that.

Finally, Exit Wounds is not brilliant but not awful either. The biggest problem is that Lachlan Niebohr as Jack's brother Gray appears to be asleep while acting, which is challenging if you are playing the mega-villain. The other big problem is that too much is packed in and we barely adjust to Spike Captain John Hart being the psychopath before we discover that it's actually Gray who is the psychopath. (So why did Spike Captain John Hart blow up the building last week then?) But one can forgive it a lot for the bold step of killing off Owen (again) and Toshiko. And the notion of Jack being frozen since Roman times is also rather good, so good that Moffat uses it for Who a few years later.

Apart from the abysmal Fragments, and with some reservations for Dead Man Walking and Exit Wounds, this run is of much more consistently decent quality than the equivalent run from the first season.

Edited to add: I forgot to do obituaries for Owen and Tosh, the first two regular characters in the Whoniverse to be killed off simultaneously (although for the second time in Owen's case).

Owen is certainly the more interesting character, converted from total slimeball for most of the first series, to heroic sidekick who sometimes dares to think for himself, to heroic corpse. I never quite liked him but I did become interested in watching him. Burn Gorman of course goes on to greater stuff.

Tosh, on the other hand, gets pencilled in as the geek with occasional disruptive bursts of sexuality rather early in the series, and stays there. What's noticeable is that she gets three romantic episodes to Owen's one (Greeks Bearing Gifts, Sleeper and Adam) but she effectively gets a character reset at the end of each, whereas Owen's romance in Out Of Time is transformative for him. It's not as important a character in the minds of the writers, and it shows; a Jenna effect, perhaps?

Coming next: Donna Noble!

< The Curse of Fatal Death | The Webcasts | Rose - Dalek | The Long Game - The Parting of the Ways | Comic Relief 2006 - The Girl in the Fireplace | Rise of the Cybermen - Doomsday | Everything Changes - They Keep Killing Suzie | Random Shoes - End of Days | Smith and Jones - 42 | Human Nature / The Family of Blood - Utopia / The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords & The Infinite Quest | Revenge of the Slitheen - The Lost Boy & Time Crash | Voyage of the Damned - Adam | Reset - Exit Wounds
Tags: doctor who: rewatch, doctor who: rewatch: new who, tv: torchwood

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