Monday, November 05, 2007

“Lots of things you can do with a stopwatch.”: Torchwood catch-up

So, yes, I’m very behind on Torchwood. In my defence, this is the least interesting portion of the season, when the show is just starting to find itself but still isn’t quite good. So basically there's no laughably awful stuff as in the early episodes, but there’s not enough positive stuff either. Quickly though, here’s a round-up of the last three episodes.

When the show was first airing, around ten minutes into ‘Greeks Bearing Gifts,’ was the point at which I originally gave up on Torchwood. It’s not actually a bad episode – in fact, it’s the best since the premiere – it just opens very weakly. The teaser is cheap and uninteresting, and the main plot hinges upon the idea that Toshkio would trust a complete stranger, and spill Torchwood secrets to her almost instantly. I was happy to see Toshiko getting the focus for once, but the only thing we really learn about her is that she’s astonishingly stupid. All that said, the scenes with her reading peoples’ minds are very funny, and it is one of the more gripping stories Torchwood has produced. It’s simply a shame that writer Toby Whitehouse so abuses Toshiko, the only blank slate this show had left.

‘They Keep Killing Suzie’ is better. It brings back Suzie Costello (Indira Varma – excellent) in exactly the right way, by revealing that her suicide was just part of a grander evil plan that she had already set in motion. It’s silly in a way that works. Serious themes are touched upon, but rarely dwelt on long before something else exciting happens. The plot moves at such a frenetic pace that it’s often difficult to grasp what’s going on, but that doesn’t really matter when the ride is this fun. Obviously Torchwood’s basic flaws – uninspired dialogue, stupid characters (this week it’s Gwen) and a weak ending – still remain; they’re just that much more bearable in a story that grabs a hold of you and refuses to let go.

Finally, ‘Random Shoes’ is a sweet but ultimately pointless diversion. It takes a similar tack to the Doctor-lite episodes of Doctor Who, but just because the idea proved perfectly suited to Who didn’t mean it would work for Torchwood as well. Why, when characters like Toshiko, Ianto, and most of all Jack need attention, would you spend a whole episode on an entirely new character? Eugene is an okay protagonist, thanks largely to Paul Chequer’s lively, likeable performance. The episode itself is nicely written, occasionally touching, and gets a powerhouse performance out of Eve Myles. It’s also the most human, most heartfelt tale Torchwood has yet offered. Yet still I can’t shake the feeling of pointlessness. ‘Random Shoes’ could have justified itself as an examination of Gwen, but it’s unarguably an examination of Eugene in which Gwen happens to be involved. If only Torchwood could just do a nice, heart-warming story about one of the core characters, instead of feeling the need to invent a new one.

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